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

More Like This

On the Accidental Art of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater

The video game subcommunity gave Jeremy Klemin working language to better understand literary craft

Sep 22 - Jeremy Klemin

7 Dark and Thrilling Novels about Women Who Kill

Laura Picklesimer, author of "Kill for Love," recommends stories that subvert the serial killer trope

Sep 22 - Laura Picklesimer

On The Edge Of The Abyss, Putting Our Skincare Creams On

Mona Awad, author of "Rouge," on the insidious cult of skincare and the transformative power of fairytales

Sep 22 - Chelsea Davis
Thank You!