Category Archives: classic horror stories

Ghost Story Aficionados

The Haunted House  by Pliny the Younger  (1000 AD)

An Ancient Ghost Story,   Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   January 3, 2017

Ghosts are and have been a permanent feature in our human history, whether you believe in them or not.

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‘And this, my friend, may be conceived to be that heavy, weighty, earthy element of sight by which such a soul is depressed and dragged down again into the visible world, because she is afraid of the invisible and of the world below-prowling about tombs and sepulchers, in the neighborhood of which, as they tell us, are seen certain ghostly apparitions of souls which have not departed pure, but are cloyed with sight and therefore visible.  -Plato’s Phaedo

 

Portrait of Plato. Luni marble. Roman copy after a Greek original of Silanion. Inv. No. MC 1377. Rome, Capitoline Museums, Museum Montemartini.

Portrait of Plato

Are we in good company with Plato? I think so. Let’s take a moment in this new year, apply a bit of philosophy, and believe in ghosts. Let’s go back to ancient Roman times. You may have heard of this gentleman Pliny the Younger (Pliny the Elder was his uncle). Pliny the Younger (in Latin Gaius Plinius Caecilius Secundus) was a Roman author of 9 books of letters, which described ancient Roman life. He was a lawyer, philosopher, financial wizard, famous orator, and a Roman Senator.

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If you pride yourself on being a ghost story aficionado, you must read this one; it’s probably the very first ghost story ever written.  The Haunted House is from Pliny’s correspondence and begins …

“There was at Athens a mansion, spacious and large, but of evil repute and dangerous to health. In the dead of the night a noise, resembling the clashing of iron, was frequently heard, which, if you listened more attentively, sounded like the rattling of chains…”

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Come read the story of Athenodoros and the haunted house from the turn of the second century AD, in a letter from Pliny the Younger to his friend Sura.

 

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Read The Haunted House by Pliny at Gutenberg.org.

Scroll down to LXXXIII — To SURA (9-minute read)

 

Listen to the audio at TheVoiceBeforeTheVoid.net  (7 minutes)

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

The Kill Zone

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

Kirkus Mystery & Thrillers Reviews

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

WISHING YOU HAPPY  READING IN 2017!

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, ghost stories, Ghosts, haunted houses, Hauntings, horror blogs, mysteries, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural mysteries, tales of terror

Absolute Evil, Hawthorne Style

Absolute Evil by Julian Hawthorne  (1846–1934)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  November 8, 2016

 

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Julian Hawthorne, an American Writer, was the son of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was well known for writing mystery fiction, essays, and travel books. Absolute Evil is one of his most famous short stories.

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We have a spinster on summer vacation. A remote island. Rumors linger that the island is haunted. Haunted by what exactly? Follow the footprints and listen to the strange howlings.

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“Every once in a while something peeped forth from the shadows of those eyes of his that made me jump—interiorly, of absolute evil;  I was woman of the world enough to betray nothing. It was as if somebody I knew very well had suddenly peeped out at me from a window in a strange place, where that face was the last I should have expected to see.”

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Do you believe people can be changed into beasts?

 

Read it here at Story of the Week. Scroll down passed the introduction and click on the PDF link at the bottom: http://storyoftheweek.loa.org/2016/10/absolute-evil.html

 

Come Read More Stories! ENTER …

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View the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery, ghost stories, and supernatural. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

The Kill Zone

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    

   Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian      The Story Reading Ape Blog

Kirkus Mysteries & Thrillers

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

Thriller Author Mark Dawson http://markjdawson.com/

Dawson’s Book Marketing site: http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, Hauntings, horror blogs, literature, mysteries, paranormal, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, supernatural thrillers, tales of terror, weird tales, werewolves

Poe’s “Some Words With a Mummy”

Some Words With a Mummy  by Edgar Allan Poe  (1850)

 Tuesday’s Tale of Terror    October 25, 2016

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Mummies are not all that scary are they? These days we tend to poke fun at them  with corny jokes (What did Pharaoh say when he saw the pyramid? “Mummy’s home.”).  Poe may have been one of the first to create amusement at such dead things  in this wackiest of his short stories.

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The story begins with our narrator describing his dull evening at home, when a “furious ringing at the street-door bell, and then an impatient thumping at the knocker, which awakened me at once.

This is the invitation he receives from Dr. Ponnonner:

“Come to me, by all means, my dear good friend, as soon as you receive this. Come and help us to rejoice. At last, by long persevering diplomacy, I have gained the assent of the Directors of the City Museum, to my examination of the Mummy — you know the one I mean. I have permission to unswathe it and open it, if desirable. A few friends only will be present — you, of course. The Mummy is now at my house, and we shall begin to unroll it at eleven to-night.”

Come to this “unwrapping party” and meet the mummy Count Allamistakeo. Even his name is cute! This mummy is not only revived but he can articulate. And the rest is history … Egyptian history that is. American vanity vs. Egyptology vs. science in full Poe style. This is one Poe story you might have missed.

No doubt Poe became inspired to write this adventure from when he observed a mummy on display in the Virginia State Capitol—at the age of 14, he was certainly impressed creatively.

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If you really want a vintage literary experience, listen to the storytelling on audio:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDH4RJNWXMg

Read the short story at Virginia.Edu:

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~hyper/poe/mummy.html

 

 

 

 

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Want more Poe literature? Visit these sites:

Edgar Allan Poe Museum website.

Edgar Allan Poe Stories website.

The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe (Smithsonian).

The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.

Halloween’s coming soon … and more ghostly literature for next week!

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 180 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

 Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

 

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Filed under classic horror stories, Edgar Allan Poe, fiction, Halloween stories, horror blogs, literature, quiet horror, Reading Fiction, science fiction, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, tales of terror

Carnacki, the Ghost Finder

The Whistling Room  by William Hope Hodgson (1912)

 

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  October 11, 2016

 

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“Then I heard it, an extraordinary hooning whistle, monstrous and inhuman, coming from far away through corridors to my right.”

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October is the month for ghost stories. We love stories about luminous skulls or cavernous tombs, haunted grounds, haunted castles. These other worlds draw us in. Can you hear the call? Is it hovering behind your ear? Chilling your neck? Come into the world of Carnacki the ghost finder.

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Do you believe there could be a  hidden mischief in  silence? Carnacki is a ghost hunter. He is invited by  Mr. Tassoc, owner of  Lastrae Castle in Ireland, where a room is said to emit an evil whistle that drives all away in horrific fear. Carnaki agrees to spend a few weeks at the castle to solve the mystery.

“This room had just that same malevolent silence—the beastly quietness of a thing that is looking at you and not seeable itself, and thinks that it has got you. Oh, I recognized it instantly, and I whipped the top off my lantern, so as to have light over the whole room.”

 

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This is one of William Hope Hodgson’s  (1877-1918) most famous ghost story and it delivers all the haunting elements of paranormal phenomena.  He wrote novels and short stories and many explore the borders of human existence and beyond. Lovecraft  said  that Hodgson was ‘second only to Blackwood in his serious treatment of unreality.”  Hodgson certainly deserves revival these days, as he has long been forgotten as one of the most skilled writers of  supernatural mysteries.

Read it at Gaslight.mtroyal.ca:

http://gaslight.mtroyal.ca/carnack3.htm

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I loved the audio of this story. Settle back and listen to this ghostly storytelling in the spirit of Halloween (30 minutes).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlZQ7jhM_c8

 

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week! Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine   Parlor of Horror

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

EZindiepublishing

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, ghost stories, horror blogs, paranormal, Reading Fiction, short stories, short story blogs, tales of terror

The Annotated Dracula, A Close Reading Strategy

Dracula by Bram Stoker, Annotations by Mort Castle (Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics)  [And The Annotated Jane Eyre]

Book Review and Commentary  July 5, 2016

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If you’ve never read an annotated novel, that is a close and intimate read of the story, you’re missing out on a highly instructive look inside the mind of the writer. In this case, Bram Stoker.

Annotated novels are like a mini course in storytelling and create a deep understanding of fiction from all aspects. Mystery, suspense, and horror writers, this annotated version of Dracula explores the clever structure, techniques, themes, characterization, plot, setting, and dialogue of the most famous and esteemed novelist of our time.

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Mort Castle, a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award and recipient of the Black Quill Award has been in this writing business for some fifty years and has published novels, short stories, articles in the horror genre. So his expert analysis of Dracula is not only a formidable task but a comprehensive one.

I began reading this annotated version because I wanted to get into the head of a mystery writer of the occult. Who better than Bram Stoker.? Some readers today find Dracula (written in 1897) to be melodramatic, overwritten, and dry at times. When I first read it many years ago, I did find some of that to be true.  So, what will you as a writer gain from reading this annotated version? Or as a reader?

Begin here:

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In epistolary fashion, Stoker opens the story almost in medias res.  Mort Castle points out where and how Stoker seeds the suspense elements into the opening narrative. It is a skilled use of understatement and linking of the supernatural into the real world. And I didn’t see it until Castle discusses it in his marginal red notes.

Castle goes on to isolate the layers of the suspense within the text, identifying the pace as it picks up, and how Stoker slows it down to heighten the suspense. The chapters, as they wrap up, are enlightening in how Stoker chooses to end certain chapters on an up or down note, or on a neutral tone but still gives the reader enough pulse to make you turn the page. The patterns in Stoker’s writing were a surprise to me and in a novel this long, it really illustrates the intricacies of how he weaves them into the plot, and, Castle points out how best to use these patterns.

Characterizations of Harker, Mina, Van Helsing, Dr. Seward, and Renfield are iconic.  They all have a unique role to play and yet Dracula himself becomes the center of the narrative. Part of the trick is balancing all these characters’ points of view and their evolutions, including Dr. Seward’s hero’s journey that is paced into the subtext. Very smooth.

If you know the story, you could read only the red annotations in themselves and still get a rich insight to the writing. Some of Castle’s remarks are witty and precise; others are a little corny and too cute. I can tell you this, the book is a literary tour for vampire fans and devoted horror writers.

Bram Stoker wrote 11 novels in his lifetime.

To be totally honest, though, I preferred the Annotated Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Annotations by K.M. Weiland for a superb analysis into storytelling.

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Weiland gets quickly into the “dramatic question” and how Bronte weaves and bobs this question throughout the story and flows it into the soul of the character Jane. A series of seamless moves by a master writer. Foreshadowing? Bronte uses everything from the five senses to weather as a mirror to the settings, and Weiland’s remarks are highly instructive on how Bronte crafts it. I especially like how Weiland handles “the lie” that all characters believe at the beginning of a story. Narrative arc, doubt, false peace, curiosity all play into the suspense to address this lie.

Bronte’s “Three Plot Points” are really clear from the annotations: First plot point is the catalyst that rocks Jane to react. Second plot point is the centerpiece where Jane gets knocked down. Third plot point is the highest point of crisis for Jane and she must go forward.

Want to learn how Bronte creates suspense in five steps? Weiland gives you this: 1. Something happens or will happen. 2. Withhold explanations. 3. Tease the readers with hints. 4. Promise you will tell the readers, then stall with logical delays. 5. Raise the stakes that will put the character at risk.

Literary analysis is an adventure in itself. If you are a writer like me, a writer who is always looking to improve your skills and write the best novel you can with memorable characters, annotated novels is one way to go. An annotated novel pulls a story apart at the seams to expose the separate pieces and puts it back together so you can view the whole masterpiece. And all for under $25.00.

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Do leave a comment!

My Recommended List of the Best Writing Books I’ve Read.

How to Write Like Chekhov, Advice and Inspiration, Straight From His Own Letter and Work. Edited by Piero Brunello and Lena Lencek  (book review here)
Steering the Craft, A 21st-Century Guide to Sailing
     the Sea of Story, Ursula K. Le Guin (book review here)
Writing Wild, Tina Welling (book review here)
Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg (book review here)
Method Writing, Jack Grapes (book review here)
Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury (book review here)
On Writing, A Memoir, Stephen King (book review here)

Writing Fiction, A Guide to Narrative Craft, by Janet Burroway. All the basics of how to write: the writing process, show vs. tell, characterization, fictional atmosphere and place, story structure and plot, point of view, theme, and revision.
Story, Robert McKee
Story Trumps StructureSteven James
The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass
The Art of Fiction, John Gardner (I reread this book once a year, it’s that good)
Making Shapely Fiction, Jerome Stern
The Art of Character, David Corbett
Getting into Character, Brandilyn Collins
The Secret Miracle, the Novelist’s Handbook, edited by Daniel Alarcon
Becoming a Writer, Dorothea Brande
The Faith of a Writer, Life, Craft, Art, Joyce Carole Oates
If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland
Reading like a Writer, Francine Prose
Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Best Editing Books for Writers:
Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Renni Browne & Dave King
A Dash of Style, Noah Lukeman
The Grammar Bible, Michael Strumpf & Auriel Douglas
Line by Line, Claire Kehrwald Cook
The Careful Writer, Theodore M. Bernstein
Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Second Edition, Ernest Gowers
Chicago Manual of Style
Words Into Type, Third Edition, Skillin & Gay

 

NEXT WRITING CRAFT BOOK ON MY LIST TO REVIEW IS

Dialogue, The Art of Verbal Action for the Page, Stage, and Screen

by Robert McKee  

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, Fiction Writing, horror, horror blogs, literary horror, psychological horror, Reading Fiction, short story blogs, supernatural, vampires, werewolves

Our Vampires, Ourselves

The True Story of A Vampire by Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock

(Studies in Death, 1894)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror  May 10, 2016

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Our vampires, ourselves. All vampires are alike, yes or no? Do we draw vampires to ourselves through our personal styles and desires? Through our imagination maybe. Or, maybe through nature. What if your vampire wants more than your blood? What if your vampire desires something deeper and more rewarding? Are you willing?

Count Eric Stanislaus Stenbock wrote The True Story of a Vampire in 1894. And while this short story won’t win any prizes for writing, it’s a story that you won’t let go until you reach the last words.

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We are in Styria where vampires generally “arrive at night, in carriages drawn by two black horses. Our vampire arrived by the commonplace means of the railway train, and in the afternoon.” Don’t laugh. This is serious business. Come meet the Wronski family, who live in a castle. Their guest arrives, Count Vardalek, a Hungarian.

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 [Sukanto Debnath “Smile at Night” WikiMedia.]

 

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Read Stenbock’s The True Story of a Vampire at Gutenberg.net.au.

Listen to the audio from Librivox.org by James K. White.

Find more of Stenbock’s writings at Guide to Supernatural Fiction.com.

 

 

 

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Stenbock was born in Estonia. He wrote poetry, prose, and short stories. He loved Buddha and Shelley. After his death in 1895, Stenbock was buried at the Brighton Catholic Cemetery. Before burial the heart was extracted and sent to Estonia, preserved in a glass urn to be stored in the wall of the church. At the time of his death, the story goes that his uncle, back in Esbia, saw an apparition of Stenbock’s tear-stained face at his study window. [This is probably not a true account but I thought it kind of fun anyway.]

 

Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every other week!

Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Slattery’s Art of Horror Magazine

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine    

 HorrorAddicts.net     Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com     

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com 

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, horror blogs, short stories, short story blogs, supernatural, vampires, weird tales

Hauntings at Ockram Hall

The Dead Smile   by Francis Marion Crawford  (1899)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   March 15, 2015

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Let’s go to Ireland for the month of March as we near St. Patrick’s Day. Come to this Irish castle, ivy-covered, deep windows, a chapel, and a vault with the dead.

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Enter Ockram Hall and meet Sir Hugh Ockram.

‘Sir Hugh’s face seemed, at best, to be made of fine parchment drawn skin-tight over a wooden mask, in which two sunken eyes peered from far within. The eyes peered from under wrinkled lids, alive and watchful like toads in their holes, side by side and exactly alike. But as the light changed, a little yellow glare flashed in each. He smiled, stretching pale lips across discoloured teeth in an expression of profound self-satisfaction, blended with the most unforgiving hatred and contempt.’

I can write no better introduction to Ockram Hall than the above opening to The Dead Smile. Family secrets, the patriarch near death, his son Gabriel, and a beautiful young cousin, Evelyn.  One thing you need to know before reading this compelling story: the history of old Sir Vernon Ockram, an ancestor who lies within the family crypt.

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 ‘Sir Vernon was beheaded for treason under James II. The family brought his body back from the scaffold in an iron coffin with heavy locks and put it in the north vault. But ever afterwards, whenever the vault was opened to bury another of the family, they found the coffin wide open, the body standing upright against the wall, and the head rolled away in a corner smiling at it.’

 

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The writing and language in this ghost story is the best you’ll read, and I think rivals Poe. Author Francis Marion Crawford was born in Bagni di Lucca, Italy in 1854.

He is most famous for his short story The Screaming Skull.

 

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Read the short story The Dead Smile online at Gutenberg.net.au 

You can listen to a podcast about The Dead Smile at  H. P. Lovecraft Literary Craft (there are spoilers in this discussion but so worth a listen after you’ve read the story).

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Don’t forget to view the INDEX above of more free Tales of Terror. This is a compendium of over 170 short stories by over 100 master storytellers of mystery,  supernatural, horror, and ghost stories. Join me in reading one short story every week!

 Comments are welcome.

 

Other Reading Web Sites to Visit

Books & Such   Bibliophilica    Lovecraft Ezine     HorrorAddicts.net  

Horror Novel Reviews    HorrorSociety.com

Monster Librarian     HorrorNews.net     HorrorTalk.com

 Rob Around Books      The Story Reading Ape Blog

For Authors/Writers:  The Writer Unboxed

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Filed under classic horror stories, fiction, Hauntings, horror blogs, quiet horror, short stories, short story blogs