18 spooky stories from Stephen King + more you can read for free

Contributed by
Oct 14, 2014, 11:10 AM EDT

Two years ago, as part of our annual Halloween celebrations here at Blastr, we rounded up a collection of scary short stories from great horror writers available to read for free online. We had so much fun that we came back and did it again with a new crop of stories last year. So we saw no reason not to keep the tradition going for Halloween 2014, and we went out and found a few more spooky tales that you can go read right now, for free.

This year's tales come from icons of the past like H.P. Lovecraft and Bram Stoker, from living legends like Stephen King and Robert McCammon, and from modern and rising stars like Kelly Link and Sarah Langan. They include classic weird fiction, dark fantasy, Bram Stoker Award-winning horror and more, and they're all just a click away. Check out the stories below, and get ready to stay up all night reading.

"Herman Wouk Is Still Alive" by Stephen King

The King of Horror is always a welcome part of our Halloween reading. Check out this 2011 Bram Stoker Award-winning story about 11 lives that come crashing together.

"The Lady of the Shroud" by Bram Stoker

From the author of Dracula comes this novella about a man who inherits a fortune but must live in an ancestral castle for a year in order to claim it. During his stay, he meets a mysterious woman and suspects she might be undead. 

"Wolfshead" by Robert E. Howard

Best known as the creator of Conan the Barbarian, Howard contributed many stories throughout his career to the legendary Weird Tales magazine. This one, a werewolf tale, is one of his earliest.

"Varney the Vampire" by James Malcolm Rymer and/or Thomas Preskett Prest

Though its authorship is somewhat disputed, there's no disputing the influence of this serialized vampire tale. It predates Dracula by 50 years, and even came before J. Sheridan Le Fanu's highly influential Carmilla. Many of the tropes we attribute to vampires now start right here.

"The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains" by Neil Gaiman

Gaiman's always good for a compelling dark fantasy, so check out this haunting story, which earned the writer a Locus Award and a Shirley Jackson Award.

"Ma Perkins Comes to Stay" by Ray Bradbury

From the late, great Ray Bradbury comes this strange tale of a husband and wife trying to determine whether the title character is more than she seems, less than they imagine, or not real at all. 

"The Oval Portrait" by Edgar Allan Poe

It wouldn't be Halloween without a Poe story, but since he's one of the most widely read authors of spooky tales ever, we went for one you might not have visited yet.

"Catskin" by Kelly Link

Link's short fiction has earned her World Fantasy Awards, Nebula Awards, Hugo Awards, Locus Awards and more. She's a modern master of the form, and it's evident in this spooky tale of a witch and her cats. 

"Nethescurial" by Thomas Ligotti

Ligotti is a modern cult hero in horror fiction, and his challenging, cerebral tales have earned him multiple Bram Stoker Awards. If you haven't discovered him yet, take the time. He'll worm into your brain and never leave. 

"Trapped Inside the Stoker" by Jack Ketchum

Ketchum is a contemporary horror master who's been steadily growing a fanbase and becoming one of the most decorated authors in the genre for decades. He wrote this little metafictional yarn in celebration of the 2014 World Horror Convention, and it's both funny and scary. 

"Dissolution" by Sarah Langan

Sarah Langan is one of horror's brightest new stars. She won Bram Stoker Awards for her novels and short fiction three years in a row in 2007, 2008 and 2009, and she continues to flourish. If you haven't gotten to know her work yet, she put this free story up on her website just for you.

"The Last Man" by Mary Shelley

Though best known for Frankenstein, Shelley wasn't done with haunting science fiction after that book. She also wrote this post-apocalyptic tale about a world ravaged by plague. It wasn't well received when it was published, but it takes on new meaning and importance given the many similar stories that followed.

"Magdala Amygdala" by Lucy A. Snyder

Snyder is another of horror's rising stars, and she proved it when she won the 2013 Bram Stoker Award for Short Fiction with this tale. If you haven't read her work yet, it's a great place to start.

"Strange Candy" by Robert McCammon

The author of classics like Swan Song and Boy's Life, McCammon is one of the most influential writers working in horror today, and he's been at it for decades. This spooky little Halloween-themed tale is available for free via his website.

"Mexican Moon" by Karen E. Taylor

From the author of The Vampire Legacy series comes this mesmerizingly creepy tale of obsession, death and a narrator who's an echo of someone now gone. 

"The Goblin's Collection" by Algernon Blackwood

Blackwood is one of the finest writers of weird fiction who ever lived. Enjoy this tale of a hotel were things go missing, supposedly only to pass into the hands of a creature.

"The Repairer of Reputations" by Robert W. Chambers

Earlier this year, HBO drama True Detective brought new attention to Chambers' story collection The King in Yellow, and the attention is well deserved. It's a classic of weird fiction, and this is one of its best stories.

"The Rats in the Walls" by H.P. Lovecraft

We end our journey with a tale from one of the most influential horror writers of them all, in which a man hears rats behind the walls of his ancestral home and investigates, only to find something far fouler.