The Essential Works of Horror Fiction

A reader suggested a list of what I thought were the essential works of horror fiction.  I’ve probably overlooked some titles that should be included, but here is at least a reasonable start.  This is not a list of my favorites, or of the work I think is best written.  It is a combination of what I think are classics of the genre, representatives of sub-genres, and odds and ends about which I think the seasoned horror reader should be aware. And I’ll probably add to it a lot because I’m sure I’ve forgotten many that will occur to me later.

Novels by Year. 


The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole


The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe


Frankenstein – Mary Shelley


The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson


The Picture of Dorian Gray – Oscar Wilde


The King in Yellow – Robert Chambers


Dracula – Bram Stoker

The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells


The Turn of the Screw – Henry James


The Boats of the Glen Carrig – William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland – William Hope Hodgson


The Lair of the White Worm – Bram Stoker


The Green Eyes of Bast – Sax Rohmer

Claimed – Francis Stevens


The Hands of Orlac – Maurice Renard


The Werewolf of Paris – Guy Endore


The Devil Rides Out – Dennis Wheatley


The Edge of Running Water – William Sloane


The Uninvited – Dorothy MacArdle


Donovan’s Brain – Curt Siodmak


All Hallow’s Eve – Charles Williams


Great Mischief – Josephine Pinckney


Fear – L. Ron Hubbard

Ringstones - Sarban


Conjure Wife – Fritz Leiber


The Dollmaker - Sarban


I Am Legend – Richard Matheson


The Invasion of the Body Snatchers – Jack Finney


The Ka of Gifford Hillary – Dennis Wheatley


The Dreamers – Roger Manvell

A Stir of Echoes – Richard Matheson


The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson

The Monster from Earth’s End – Murray Leinster


Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury


Rosemary’s Baby – Ira Levin


Black Easter – James Blish


Fengriffen – David Case


The Exorcist – William Peter Blatty

Hell House – Richard Matheson

The Other – Thomas Tryon


Burnt Offerings – Robert Marasco

The Night Stalker – Jeff Rice


The Search for Joseph Tully – William H. Hallahan

The Sentinel – Jeffrey Konvitz


Audrey Rose – Frank DeFellita

The Manitou – Graham Masterton

Salems’ Lot – Stephen King

The Killing Gift – Bari Wood


The Fury – John Farris

Interview with a Vampire – Anne Rice

The Omen – David Seltzer


The Howling – Gary Brandner

The Shining – Stephen King

Watchers – Dean R. Koontz

Suffer the Children – John Saul


Dagon – Fred Chappell

The Black Castle – Les Daniels

Fallen Angel – William Hjortsberg

Wolfen – Whitley Strieber


The Dead Zone – Stephen King

Ghost Story – Peter Straub

Hotel Transylvania – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro


The Land of Laughs – Jonathan Carroll

The Vampire Tapestry – Suzy McKee Charnas

Cold Moon over Babylon – Michael McDowell

Bellefleur – Joyce Carol Oates

The Orphan – Robert Stallman


The Jonah Watch – Jack Cady

The Jonah – James Herbert

The Hunger – Whitley Strieber

The Keep – F. Paul Wilson


The Nestling – Charles L. Grant

Fever Dream – George R.R.Martin


The Predator – Anthony John

Christine – Stephen King

Phantoms – Dean R. Koontz

The Armageddon Rag – George R.R. Martin


The Ceremonies – T.E.D. Klein

Usher’s Passing – Robert R. McCammon

The Color Out of Time – Michael Shea

The Witches of Eastwick – John Updike

The Tomb – F. Paul Wilson


Requiem – Graham Joyce

Ghosttrain – Stephen Laws


It – Stephen King

Necroscope – Brian Lumley

The Light at the End – John Skipp & Craig Spector


Valley of Lights – Stephen Gallagher

Flesh – Richard Laymon

On Stranger Tides – Tim Powers


Roofworld – Christopher Fowler

Little Brothers – Rick Hautala

Resurrection Dreams – Richard Laymon

The Empire of Fear – Brian M. Stableford

The Suiting – Kelly Wilde


Ancient Images – Ramsey Campbell

Sunglasses After Dark – Nancy Collins

Beneath Still Waters – Matthew J. Costello

In the Land of the Dead – K.W. Jeter

The Wolf’s Hour – Robert R. McCammon

Carrion Comfort – Dan Simmons


Rune – Christopher Fowler

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett


Boys’ Life – Robert R. McCammon

Summer of Night – Dan Simmons

Vampire$ - John Steakley


Chiller – Randall Boyll

Bad Brains – Kathe Koja

Anno Dracula – Kim Newman


The List of Seven – Mark Frost

Guilty Pleasures – Laurell Hamilton

Blood of the Lamb – Thomas F. Monteleone

The Golden – Lucius Shepard


Bride of the Rat God – Barbara Hambly

Resume with Monsters – William Browning Spencer


Relic – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child


Crota – Owl Goingback


The Green Mile – Stephen King

The Ignored – Bentley Little

The Chosen Child – Graham Masterton

Reliquary – Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Fog Heart – Thomas Tessier


The Uncanny – Andrew Klavan


Strangewood – Christopher Golden

The Descent – Jeff Long


Dead until Dark – Charlaine Harris

City Infernal – Edward Lee

Declare – Tim Powers


Prey – Michael Crichton

Demons – John Shirley


Lost Boy, Lost Girl – Peter Straub


Lost Echoes – Joe Lansdale


The Terror – Dan Simmons

Short Stories.    This is a real challenge because I can’t remember a lot of individual stories but I’ve listed those that are the most memorable.  Starred names mean the author has produced a significant body of short horror fiction of equivalent interest.

Aickman, Robert *

Pages from a Young Girl’s Journal

Ringing the Changes

Arthur, Robert*

The Footsteps Invisible

Satan and Sam Shay

Bangs, John Kendrick

The Water Ghost of Harrowby Hall

Barker, Clive*

The Hellbound Heart

In the Flesh

Rawhead Rex

Beaumont, Charles*

The Crooked Man

The Howling Man

Perchance to Dream

The Vanishing American

Benet, Stephen Vincent

The Devil and Daniel Webster

Benson, E.F.

Mrs. Amworth

Bierce, Ambrose*

The Damned Thing

The Incident at Owl Creek Bridge

Bishop, Michael

Seasons of Belief

Bixby, Jerome

It’s a Good Life

Blackwood, Algernon*

The Empty House

Old Clothes

The Wendigo

The Willows

Blish, James

There Shall Be No Darkness

Bloch, Robert*

The Cheaters


The Feast in the Abbey

The Hellbound Train

Hungarian Rhapsody

Lucy Comes to Stay

The Opener of the Way

The Skull of the Marquis de Sade

Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

Bond, Nelson

The Monster from Nowhere

Boucher, Anthony

They Bite

Bowen, Elizabeth

The Demon Lover

Bradbury, Ray*

The Crowd

The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl

The Man Upstairs

The October Game

The Skeleton

The Veldt

Brennan, Joseph Payne

The Calamander Chest


Broster, D.K.

Couching at the Door

Bulwer-Lytton, Edward

The Haunted and the Haunters

Cady, Jack*

The Night We Buried Road Dog

The Sons of Noah

Campbell, Ramsey*

The Chimney

Cave, Hugh


Clark, Curtis (Donald Westlake)


Collier, John*

Green Thoughts

Thus I Refute Beelzy

Collins, Wilkie

The Haunted Hotel

The Terribly Strange Bed

Crawford, F. Marion

For the Blood Is the Life

The Upper Berth

Cross, John Keir

The Other Passenger

Dahl, Roald*

The Man from the South

Royal Jelly

William and Mary

De Maupassant, Guy

The Horla

Derleth, August

Logoda’s Heads

Mr. George

Wild Grapes

Dickens, Charles

The Signalman

Disch, Thomas N.


Du Maurier, Daphne

The Birds

Ellison, Harlan


Etchison, Dennis

The Dark Country

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins

The Yellow Wallpaper

Hartley, L.P.

The Traveling Grave

Harvey, William Fryer

The Beast with Five Fingers

Hichens, Robert

How Love Came to Professor Guildea

Hodgson, William Hope*

Horse of the Invisible

The Thing Invisible

The Voice in the Night

Hopkins, Brian

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Howard, Robert E.

The Cairn on the Headland

Pigeons from Hell


Irving, Washington

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

Jackson, Shirley*


The Lottery

One Ordinary Day, with Peanuts

Jacobs, W.W.

 The Monkey’s Paw

James, M.R.*

The Ash Tree

Casting the Runes

Count Magnus

Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad

Jerome, Jerome K.

The Dancing Partner

Keller, David H.

The Thing in the Cellar

Kersh, Gerald

The Extraordinarily Horrible Dummy

King, Stephen*

Children of the Corn

The Crate

The Mist

The Raft

Sometimes They Come Back


Kipling, Rudyard

The Mark of the Beast

The Phantom Rickshaw

Kirk, Russell

The Surly, Sullen Bell

Klein, T.E.D.*

The Events at Poroth Farm

Nadelman’s God

Lansdale, Joe*

God of the Razor

The Night They Missed the Horror Show

On the Far Side of the Cadillac Desert

Tight Little Stitches in the Dead Man’s Back

Lee, Tanith

Elle Est Trois (La Mort)

Le Fanu, J. Sheridan


Green Tea

Leiber, Fritz

The Automatic Pistol

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes

Smoke Ghost

Ligotti, Thomas*

The Last Feast of Harlequin

Long, Frank Belknap

The Hounds of Tindalos

Lovecraft, Howard Phillips*

At the Mountains of Madness

The Call of Cthulhu

The Color Out of Space

Cool Air

The Dunwich Horror

The Lurking Fear

Pickman’s Model

The Shadow over Innsmouth

The Shunned House

Machen, Arthur*

The Bowmen

The Great God Pan

Marryatt, Frederick

The Phantom Ship

Martin, George R.R.

The Pear Shaped Man

Matheson, Richard*

The Doll That Does Everything


Little Girl Lost

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet


McCammon, Robert R.*

Night Calls the Green Falcon


Middleton, Richard

The Ghost Ship

O’Brien, Fitz-James

What Was It?

Onions, Oliver*

The Beckoning Fair One

The Rosewood Door

Poe, Edgar Allan*

The Black Cat

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The Pit and the Pendulum

The Premature Burial

The Tell-Tale Heart

Priestley, J.B.

The Grey Ones

Quinn, Seabury

(Any sample of the Jules de Grandin stories)

Rainey, Stephen Mark*

Fugue Devil

Rice, Jane

The Idol of the Flies

Russell, Ray



The Open Window

Sredni Vashtar

Schow, David*

Pamela’s Get

Serling, Rod*

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

The Odyssey of Flight 33

Sturgeon, Theodore

Bianca' Hands



A Way of Thinking

Wakefield, H. Russell*

He Cometh and He Passeth By

Wellman, Manly Wade*

The Devil Is Not Mocked

The Valley Was Still

Wells, H.G.

The Flowering of the Strange Orchid

The Sea Raiders

Valley of Spiders

White, Edward Lucas


Whitehead, Edward S.


Wilson, David Niall*

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

Non-Fantastic Horror Novels of Note

Bloch, Robert – Psycho

Gallico, Paul – Too Many Ghosts

Gilbert, Anthony - Willard

Goldman, William – Magic

Harris, Thomas – Silence of the Lambs

Ketchum, Jack – Offspring

Koontz, Dean R. - Intensity

Leroux, Gaston – The Phantom of the Opera

Lowndes, Marie Belloc – The Lodger

Miller, Rex – Slob

Raven, Simon – Doctors Wear Scarlet

Slade, Michael – Ghoul

Sturgeon, Theodore – Some of Your Blood


Writers Who Ought to Be on This List and Probably Will Someday:  Too many to list, but offhand I’d mention Braunbeck, Gary, Brian Keene, Elizabeth Hand, Greg Gifune, and Tanararive Due for starters.

And thanks to Kelly Shaw for suggesting this.