10 Scary Stories for Grown-Ups

There’s been a lot of talk lately of literature’s power to increase our capacity for empathy. When we read a story, we’re living another life, and that helps us practice the skill of putting-yourself-in-someone-else’s-shoes. But what happens when you read a story that already resembles your reality?

These 10 free stories from Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading will remind you of the horrors of failed relationships, house-hunting, and dysfunctional families, proving that nothing is as scary as real life.

1. “Wintering Over” by Jason Brown — A writer and his wife retreat to a quiet town in Maine. It’s like The Shining except without kids.

2. “The Monster” by Ali Simpson — A lonely young woman finds herself cohabitating with a narcissistic monster — just like any normal relationship.

3. “The Cottage on the Hill” by J. Robert Lennon — Here, J. Robert Lennon captures the trauma of spending time with your family.

4. “The Knowers” by Helen Phillips — In this philosophical horror story, Helen Phillips considers how knowledge of your mortality affects your marriage.

5. “The Unraveling” by A.N. Devers — If apartment hunting wasn’t scary enough already, this story of an eccentric and domineering real estate agent takes the process to a psychologically disturbing extreme.


6. “Orange” by Tarah Scalzo — If you’re considering living a nice quiet life in the suburbs, this story will make you think again.

7. “Birds in the Mouth” by Samanta Schweblin — In this story, a father learns of his daughter’s peculiar eating habits, and shows how far we’re willing to go to please our children.

8. “Valentine” by Alexander Yates — A woman in a small town is pursued by a stalker who sends her romantic messages, some in the form of cow organs.

9. “Firewood” by J. Robert Lennon — After a devastating relationship, a man searches desperately for his wife and sobriety.

10. “The Sub-Leaser” by Adrian Van Young — The only thing scarier about living with a stranger is what they leave behind.

Bonus! Here are 6 more (less domestic) stories to keep you up at night.

“The Devil’s Treasure” by Mary Gaitskill — A little girl wanders into her backyard and then into the bowels of Hell.

“The Adventure of the Space Traveler” by Seth Fried — You know that movie Gravity? Seth Fried did it first. And he didn’t need 3-D to make it good.

“The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis” by Karen Russell — From her new collection, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Karen Russell proves that even bullies are creeped out by scarecrows.

“A Questionable Shape” by Bennett Sims — This excerpt from Bennett Sims award-winning novel takes a look at life in the post-zombie apocalypse.

“Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster” by Lucy Corin — From Lucy Corin’s collection of apocalypse stories, California is inexplicably reduced to an inferno.

Our Education” by Lincoln Michel — Nothing is scarier than unsupervised children.

Photo by Christoph Geilen

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