The best collections of classic ghost stories

The Books I Picked & Why

The King in Yellow

By Robert W. Chambers

Book cover of The King in Yellow

Why this book?

Robert Chambers (1865-1933) was one of the bestselling authors of the early twentieth century for novels - now largely forgettable - about shopgirls and adventurers. His fame in our century rests entirely on this book, which includes the four terrifying stories that make up the "King in Yellow" mythos, as well as several other haunted and haunting tales. This edition includes an introduction by Nic Pizzolatto, who included references to the book in his magnificent series True Detective.


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The Face in the Glass: The Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon

By Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Book cover of The Face in the Glass: The Gothic Tales of Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Why this book?

Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915) may not be known by most contemporary readers...and that's a shame because her stories often include pointed observations about human nature that remain as relevant today as they were when first published. This wonderful collection, part of the superb British Library Tales of the Weird series, begins with an eerie and tragic ghost story, "The Cold Embrace," and ends with the lengthy "Good Lady Ducayne," which is often classified as an early vampire tale. 


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Gothic Tales

By Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell

Book cover of Gothic Tales

Why this book?

Famous during her life for her social commentary novels like North and South, Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865) was also a spectacularly gifted author of ghost stories (Charles Dickens, in fact, frequently included her ghost tales in his periodical Household Words). This collection would be worth it for "The Old Nurse's Story" alone - considered to be one of the finest ghost stories ever written - but it contains other bone-chilling classics as well. 


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Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

By M.R. James

Book cover of Ghost Stories of an Antiquary

Why this book?

Ask any scholar of horror fiction to name the greatest ghost story writer of all time, and chances are good they'll come up with M. R. James (1862-1936). James, who is also highly regarded for his scholarly works and translations, was a provost at King's College, Cambridge who entertained students during the Christmas season with his ghost tales (honoring the old English tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas). His classics include such justifiably famous stories as "Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and "Casting the Runes" (which was adapted into the classic 1957 movie Curse of the Demon). This edition also includes a superb introduction by David Morrell.


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The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

By Edith Wharton

Book cover of The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

Why this book?

Fans of literary fiction may not even realize that Edith Wharton (1862-1937), author of novels like The Age of Innocence and Ethan Frome, also loved to write ghost stories, which often revolve around themes of class and gender. This collection includes such gems as the truly unnerving "The Lady Maid's Bell," the eerie yet poignant "Afterward," and "All Souls," one of the most unusual Halloween tales ever penned.


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