Hidden Gems from horror anthologies. Here are the best scary stories from little-known or obscure short story collections.
(From Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures)
When I was a little girl, I read a terrifying, horrific, mesmerising short story called The Patchwork Monkey. I remember how it absolutely terrified me, and it still freaks me out when I think about it today. It was about a girl who was babysitting her younger brother. She resents him because of all the attention he gets from the family. An old woman gives the brother a present of a sock monkey doll. Over the course of the evening, when the girl and her brother are at home by themselves, the patchwork monkey grows and becomes heavier and changes locations and starts growing claws. The story ends with the girl being confronted by the doll at the top of a staircase. My God, that story scared me. For weeks afterwards it haunted my dreams. I have never forgotten the power it had to scare me into submission.
The Burr Woman
(From Monsters You Never Heard Of by Raymond Van Over)
This story is about a man who is in the desert or southwestern US with his unpleasant boss. Some kind of tiny
creature woman jumps on the boss’s back and digs in so deep it can’t be removed. The creature feeds off him, leeching nutrients and whispering in his ear until the man can’t take it anymore and he kills himself by jumping off a cliff.
(From Stories of Ghosts, Witches and Demons by Freya Littledale)
The reason the book stands out in my memory is the story The Demon of Detroit, which scared the ever-living crap out of me. It was a a true ghost story about a house in Detroit, Michigan that was haunted by a demon that came out of a locked closet at night. The illustration was of a caped skeleton with horns on his forehead. At any rate, this story fascinated me and really spooked me out. It appears I’m not the only one because I have seen the story mentioned by other people on the Internet.
The Rose-Crystal Bell by Robert Arthur
A woman finds a bell in an antique shop and the owner of the shop tells her it is cursed. When the bell is rung, it can bring a dead person back to life, but someone else must die in their place. Her husband is a doctor and they have a son together. In the middle of the night, the woman receives the terrible news that her her son has been killed in a horrible car accident. She rushes down to the hospital and rings the bell. Her son comes out and greets her, telling her that there was some kind of misunderstanding because he had been in a different car and wasn’t killed in the accident. She drops the bell in shock and it shatters into pieces, but according to the legend about the bell, someone else still needs to die.
Mandy Kiss Mommy by Lance Salway
Possibly the scariest story I ever read was “Mandy kiss mommy” by one Lance Salway. I found it in a collection of ghost stories for juvenile readers, called Shades of Dark. The story was really a pretty traditional evil doll story, but it was extremely creepy and still is, 15-20 years later. I’ve only once been able to bring myself to read it again once and it still had the power to creep me out. I think the disturbing thing about it was that it was able to convey how terrified the main character got during the story in a really visceral way.
Also known as Do You Believe in Ghosts, this is a scary story about a radio DJ named Danny who decides to do a special live show where he will spend the night in a haunted house, shackled to the bed. He tells the listeners about the rumors regarding the house and an evil presence that comes out of the pond at the back of the house. As the audience listens to the host telling his tale, it seems as if it is coming true. He ends the tale with the thing coming up the stairs and towards his room and all the listeners hear in the end are the panicked screams of the radio DJ and the mysterious sound of something slithering in the background. Of course, it’s all staged, but because the listeners believe the story, afterwards it actually does come true.
(From Scary Stories for Stormy Nights)
Three young girls are walking home one day when they see a woman in the woods, washing blood-stained clothes in a creek. This is the Bean-Nighe, a ghost from Scottish folklore and according to the legend, she is an omen of death. They discover that if anyone sees the Bean Nighe, it means they will soon die.
Footsteps Invisible by Robert Arthur
It starts with a blind newspaper seller who can identify people by the sound of their footsteps. One stormy night, the blind man hears strange footsteps, but nobody is there. Later, a man comes by and asks the newspaper seller to come up to his hotel room. The man tells him he is an archaeologist and he has been running for his life for the last 5 years. After entering an Egyptian tomb, he has been chased around the world by a powerful invisible enemy who he can only identify by the sound of his footsteps.
I had a book called Scary Stories for Sleepovers. One of the scariest stories in the book is The Girl of Their Dreams. It’s about a vampire masquerading as little girl who moves in across the field from a brother and sister. The vampire lures them into her house to see all the beautiful furniture and expensive jewels inside, but the sister slowly come to realize that it’s all an illusion. When I read the part where the sister tries to run away across the field and accidentally runs right back to the vampire’s door, I was DONE!
(From The Scariest Stories You’ve Ever Heard Part III)
A group of boys are camping out in the woods and one particular kid tells a scary story about a house in the woods. According to the story, there was a young boy who lived there named Mac Tolliver. He murdered his whole family then he hung himself in the woods but his body was never found. The boy telling the story then dares the others to go to the house and explore it. One by one, they start to disappear. One boy is searching for his friends and in the upstairs bedroom, he sees the kid who was telling story. On the wall behind him is his name, “Cam Revillot”, written in blood. When he looks in the mirror, the boy realizes that “Cam Revillot” was actually “Mac Tolliver” backwards… The name of the boy in the story who murdered his family. I remember reading this book when I was about 10 or so and I got so scared about it this story.
A Bowl of Biskies Makes a Growing Boy by Raymond F. Jones
(From The Other Side of Tomorrow)
It’s set in the future and it’s about a young boy who is studying chemistry. He notices that all of the foods he eats have one ingredient in common. Curious about what this food additive does, he tries to do some research, but all the books containing information on it have been destroyed. Then, a very suspicious accident happens while he is on an escalator and he believes this was an attempt to murder him. He tries eating only organic food, but then he experiences violent withdrawal symptoms. He suspects that the government is manipulating the populace by doping the food, keeping everyone dumb and controlling them by sending subliminal messages over the airwaves. Finally, the boy is arrested and shipped off with other “juvenile offenders” to a special school, where they are force-fed a combination of drugs. Eventually, the boy is reduced to a mindless drone with the mental level of an imbecile. The last sentence of the story has the boy eating breakfast and laboriously picking out the words on the side of a cereal box: “A bowl of Biskies makes a growing boy”. It simply says, “Those were the last words he ever read.” This story really gave me the creeps the first time I read it. It left me very frightened about abuse of authority, especially the government.