Five unsettling short stories to read for spooky season

We are not entering spooky season, as we get close to Halloween and immerse ourselves in the fall spirit. In honour of spooky season, I’ll be sharing a variety of books and stories that could be considered “spooky” either by having supernatural elements or having thriller/horror elements. Enjoy!

For this week, I wanted to share some unsettling short stories or collections of short stories that will get you in the mood for spooky season.

I personally love short stories. They’re a great way to get a taste of a specific author or tiptoe into a new genre that you’re not super familiar with.

These short stories and collections can be a way to get in the mood for spooky season, especially if you’re not a big fan of horror or thriller books. They will give you a taste of something unsettling without putting you too far out of your comfort zone.

These stories are not what you would typically think of for Halloween, but they all have some kind of unsettling element.

I’ve also included a variety, from being published across many different decades and from authors around the world.

Let me know what you think in a comment below!

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

Five unsettling short stories

Here’s a list of five short stories or short story collections to get you in the mood for spooky season.

  1. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
  2. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (1915)
  3. Someone Like You by Roald Dahl (1953)
  4. Apple & Knife by Intan Paramaditha (2018)
  5. The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (2019)

Keep reading to find out more about each one.

The Yellow Wallpaper (1892)

by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

  • Year Published: 1892
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, horror, short stories, dark, mysterious, fast-paced
  • Considered an important early feminist work based on it’s portrayal of women’s mental health

First published in 1892, The Yellow Wall-Paper is written as the secret journal of a woman who, failing to relish the joys of marriage and motherhood, is sentenced to a country rest cure. Though she longs to write, her husband and doctor forbid it, prescribing instead complete passivity. Narrated with superb psychological and dramatic precision, this short but powerful masterpiece has the heroine create a reality of her own within the hypnotic pattern of the faded yellow wall-paper of her bedroom–a pattern that comes to symbolize her own imprisonment.

This key women’s studies text by a pivotal first-wave feminist writer, lecturer, and activist (1860-1935) is reprinted as it first appeared in New England Magazine in 1892, and contains the essential essay on the author’s life and work by pioneering Gilman scholar Elaine R. Hedges.


Metamorphosis (1915)

by Franz Kafka, translated by Stanley Corngold

  • Year Published: 1915
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, magical realism, philosophy, dark, reflective, medium-paced
  • One of Kafka’s best-known work

Waking after a night of troubled dreams, Gregor is surprised to find himself trapped in the body of a hideous man-sized bug. As he lies on his shell and gazes into space, his mother and father begin calling to him from outside his bedroom door. He must get out of bed, they tell him. He has to go to work. They need his money to live.

Gregor replies to them nervously, his voice sounding strange to his ears.

He’ll be out very soon, he says. He’s just getting ready…

But he can’t keep saying that forever.


Someone Like You (1953)

by Roald Dahl

  • Year Published: 1953
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, classics, horror, short stories, dark, fast-paced
  • Note, Roald Dahl is considered a problematic author, you can read more here. If you choose not to read his work, I completely understand.

In Someone Like You are fifteen classic tales told by the grand master of the short story, Roald Dahl.

Here, in Roald Dahl’s first collection of his world famous dark and sinister adult stories, a wife serves a dish that baffles the police; a harmless bet suddenly becomes anything but; a curious machine reveals a horrifying truth about plants; and a man lies awake waiting to be bitten by the venomous snake asleep on his stomach.

Through vendettas and desperate quests, bitter memories and sordid fantasies, Roald Dahl’s stories portray the strange and unexpected, sending a shiver down the spine.


Apple & Knife (2018)

by Intan Paramaditha, translated by Stephen J. Epstein

  • Year Published: 2018
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, horror, short stories, dark, medium-paced
  • Language: Bahasa Indonesia
  • You may want to check content warnings before reading

Inspired by horror fiction, myths and fairy tales, Apple and Knife is an unsettling ride that swerves into the supernatural to explore the dangers and power of occupying a female body in today’s world.

These short fictions set in the Indonesian everyday—in corporate boardrooms, in shanty towns, on dangdut stages—reveal a soupy otherworld stewing just beneath the surface. Sometimes wacky and always engrossing, this is subversive feminist horror at its best, where men and women alike are arbiters of fear, and where revenge is sometimes sweetest when delivered from the grave.

Mara finds herself brainstorming an ad campaign for Free Maxi Pads, with a little help from the menstruation-eating hag of her childhood. Jamal falls in love with the rich and powerful Bambang, but it is the era of the smiling general and, if he’s not careful, he may find himself recruited to Bambang’s brutal cause. Solihin would give anything to make dangdut singer Salimah his wife – anything at all.

In the globally connected and fast-developing Indonesia of Apple and Knife, taboos, inversions, sex and death all come together in a heady, intoxicating mix full of pointed critiques and bloody mutilations. Women carve a place for themselves in this world, finding ways to subvert norms or enacting brutalities on themselves and each other.


The Test (2019)

by Sylvain Neuvel

  • Year Published: 2019
  • Storygraph Categories: fiction, dystopian, challenging, dark, emotional, fast-paced

Award-winning author Sylvain Neuvel explores an immigration dystopia in The Test

Britain, the not-too-distant future.

Idir is sitting the British Citizenship Test.

He wants his family to belong.

Twenty-five questions to determine their fate. Twenty-five chances to impress.

When the test takes an unexpected and tragic turn, Idir is handed the power of life and death.

How do you value a life when all you have is multiple choice?


Final thoughts

I hope you found something of interest in this list of short stories.

I’m always looking for more suggestions of books and stories to read. I’d love to know which stories you love or that you would recommend. Let me know in a comment below!

Have you read any of these stories? What did you think of it?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below.