31 Shots of Shock: Rob needs your help!

31 Shots of Shock If you were reading RobAroundBooks at any time during the month of October last year, then you may have noticed a distinctly creepy atmosphere around the place, as I joined Memory over at Stella Matutina, on her 31 Tales of Terror reading challenge, which saw participants reading a horror related short story every day throughout the month of October, in the run up to Halloween.

Unfortunately Memory has been too busy to organise a similar reading challenge for this year (boo hoo!), but because I enjoyed it so much the last time around, and because Memory has given her blessing, I’m going to take on the challenge myself (and so I’m not totally stealing Memory’s idea I’m using a different name for it – 31 Shots of Shock; a homage to my 100 Shots of Short reading challenge).

I’ve already spoken about doing this short story reading challenge in a recent Daily Bookshot, featuring Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters (Canongate). I’m adding the nine stories found in that collection to the list of 31 I want to read, but I still have space for 22 other stories. Some story slots I’ve reserved already (including three for stories that were recommended to me a few weeks ago, although I’m still trying to source them – more on that later), but I wanted to pass over to the collective mind of my wonderful readers, so that I could harvest suggestions on favourite horror shorts, so that I may add them to the challenge list and read them.

Before you do offer up any suggestions though, I’ve a couple of points to make. Firstly I’m already doing an Edgar Allan Poe reading challenge (iPoe) so I don’t need any Poe story suggestions. Secondly, I obviously don’t want to reread any of the 31 horror shorts I read last year, so I’m listing these below (together with links to my review of each story, which in turn links to an online version of the story – so you can enjoy them yourself if you wish), so that you know I’ve already read them:

As you can probably tell Memory’s story preference was for Victorian/Edwardian Gothic :), and I’ve got to say that that’s my preference too. However, I’m not against ‘tale of terrors’ from any period of time, so don’t think I’m only looking for vintage horror short story suggestions.

A couple of other things. Firstly I’m not sure if I should publicly open up this reading challenge like Memory did last year. If I do then there’s a problem with the nine shorts I’ve added from the Kelly Link’s Pretty Monsters, because not everyone has this book, and I’m sure the stories won’t be easily sourced online. For these nine however, I could suggest online alternatives, so there’s a workable way around the problem if need be. I guess it all comes down to interest. So if I get enough of interest then I certainly will open up this reading challenge publicly, and also root around for a few giveaways for the most active participants.

Secondly, and most importantly (for me), back to those three stories that I’m having a problem sourcing. They were recommended a few weeks ago by a student doing a research paper on Blackwood’s Magazine (how cool is that), but I’ve never heard from her again and can’t find the stories anywhere. So any help in finding any of the following would be very much appreciated:

  • The Executioner by William Godwin Jr.
  • The Man in the Bell by William Maginn
  • The Spectre-Smitten by Samuel Warren

So there we have it. My 31 Shots of Shock reading challenge announced, and your assistance in selecting stories canvassed for. That was the main aim of this post but please do let me know if 31 Shots of Shock (reading one short story every day throughout October) is something you may be interested in ‘signing up’ for.

Now get those short stories suggested good people. I’m beside myself with excitement here 🙂

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).


  1. My absolute favourite collection of creepy stories:


    Says it’s for children, but there are some genuinely Very Scary Stories in there (warning: does include some Poe). Sadly out of print… my copy is at my mum’s or I’d pick some gems out and list them for you.

    It’s not quite horror, but how about Wilde’s Canterville Ghost?

  2. Hi Rob,
    I found a couple of sites where there are scary stories available to read online.

    http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/horrorindex.html (states they are all short stories)
    http://www.horrormasters.com/index.html (some short stories)


  3. Joyce Carol Oates has two collections of horror stories out, Haunted and The Collector of Hearts. One of them has a retelling of James’s The Turn of the Screw. Also, Sarah Waters lists her favorite ghost stories here: http://www.sarahwaters.com/top-tens.php I’m planning to read most of them this October. There’s also a collection by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya titled There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby: Scary Fairy Tales. I’ve read two in The New Yorker and Harper’s and they were both amazing.

  4. Not officially a ghost story, but one that has terror and a high creep factor: O’Connor’s A Good Man is Hard to Find

  5. I read a couple that I liked last year in an anthology collected by Roald Dahl —
    I’m sure those stories are all available elsewhere.

    Also, I got my copy of Pretty Monsters today so I will read along with you! 🙂

  6. You should submit this to Novel Challenges. Lots of people would be interested in this.

  7. I’m reading 20th Century Ghosts and it has some definitely disturbing stories in it, but for older fiction I loved Isak Dinesen’s short story “The Supper at Elsinore” (originally published in Seven Gothic Tales). It’s a ghost story-not scary but satisfying.

  8. Frances (Twitter: nonsuchbook)

    How about a Daphne Du Maurier short story? Some very creepy, sinfully well-written choices that I think match your taste.

  9. I agree Du Marier short stories work very well.

    Aslso check the following link. You will some good ones there:


  10. I’m glad you’re taking up the mantle, Rob!

    There are tons of great ghostly tales out there; the tough part, as you’ve said, is finding them online. (That’s the main reason I stuck to Victorian/Edwardian stuff last year. I needed stuff that was in the public domain. Even then, though, I had trouble finding a few choice tales on the internet). As Christine pointed out, Horror Masters is a great source for classic horror. They’ve got hundreds of stories, including many by major authors. You may be able to find some modern horror through Free Speculative Fiction Online, too.

    If you do decide to keep the challenge personal, (meaning you don’t necessarily need to find the stories online), I highly recommend Sarah Monette’s THE BONE KEY. It’s a fairly recent publication, with the earliest of the stories dating back to 2003, but stylistically it’s quite similar to the sort of work that was published back at the start of the 20th century. If you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, Robertson Davies’s HIGH SPIRITS both satirizes and celebrates the classic ghost story by reworking some of the standard tropes in a more humorous way. And each volume of THE YEAR’S BEST FANTASY AND HORROR, which ran for twenty-one years, contains tons of great horror. I credit Ellen Datlow, who edits the horror half of the volume, with reviving my interest in darker fiction.

    And of course, there’s always M.R. James. I know you’ve read a couple of his stories already, but his COLLECTED GHOST STORIES is well worth checking out.

  11. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    I’m a little pushed for time this evening but I just wanted to jump on to thank everyone for their suggestions so far. Awesome! I really do appreciate it. Keep the suggestions coming and I’ll drop by tomorrow (hopefully) to respond more fully.
    Love you all

  12. Neil Gaiman had a short story in his collection Fragile Things called “Closing Time” that is truly creepy. While I didn’t like most of the stories in the book – this one I still think about sometime. The other one would be “October in the Chair” in the same collection.

    Also, anything by H.P. Lovecraft is always a good choice.

  13. I love anything HP Lovecraft

  14. I almost forgot – Flannery O’Connor has some short stories that my qualify as horror (even Southern Gothic). A Good Man is Hard to Find, particularly. And here it is online:


    When I read this story I realized how much Cormac McCarthy was influenced by her.

  15. Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

    Thanks again for the suggestions guys. I’ll thank you more thoroughly in my ‘final 31’ post.

  16. I am very late, will have to do double.

  17. Why didn’t I see this post! I would have loved to join you in doing this. You have a great list already and I will check that out first!!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Wow talk about bringing up an old post Veens :). Yeah I did this in the lead up to Halloween. Shame you didn’t see it at the time. I would have liked more participants.

      Still, I’ll be doing it again this year so if I remember then I’ll give you a ‘heads up’ closer to the time.


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