Reading Beyond the Raven: A Poe Sampler

It should come as no surprise to readers here that I’m a bit of a horror fan. Whether it’s scary short stories, Christmas ghost stories, Frankenstein picture books, or fictional plagues, I just love any story that can manufacture those chills down your spine. So, the fact that today’s list is all about the master of horror, Edgar Allan Poe, was somewhat inevitable.

I’m currently taking a leisurely stroll through The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Weighing in at a hefty 1026 pages, this book is certainly not for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for the complete Poe experience, or even if you just wanted to skim through all of his work, then this is the perfect volume. But, for those of you who just want a short collection that’s easy to carry, you might want to try something else. But, what else? Well, dear readers, that’s where I come in! I’ve put together a quick list of six of Poe’s stories that I think you should read if you’re looking for a little bit of a chill. These selections can obviously be found in the above-mentioned collection, or you can check them out through Hoopla as a digital download. For the purposes of this list, we’re only looking at short stories, so no essays (like “How to Write a Blackwood Article”) or poems (like “The Raven”). I’m also trying to avoid any of the “big name” titles that you’ve probably already read, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” or “The Fall of the House of Usher.” There are two stories here, however, that I feel fit into that category. But, they’re two of my favorites, so I’m listing them anyway!

We’re going to start this list off with my favorite Poe short story: The Cask of Amontillado. The premise of this chilling tale is quite simple: Montresor seeks revenge on Fortunato for reasons never completely explained. His plot? Luring the drunk Fortunato into the depths of the catacombs with the promise of good wine, before entombing him alive.

In The Masque of the Red Death, Prince Prospero, a cruel and heartless ruler, sequesters himself and a large group of special guests in the palace for a huge party, while a deadly plague ravages the people locked outside. There, he and his friends celebrate and make merry while his subjects suffer and die. But, the appearance of a strange guest turns the merriment to dread, as the reader will soon see.

A scientist attempts to cheat death by putting someone into a state of hypnosis just they pass away. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar tells the grisly aftermath of what happens to the man’s body and soul when he’s trapped in this suspended animation.

William Wilson is a perfect example of Poe taking something seemingly innocent and making it terrifying. William Wilson meets another young man who looks just like him, and is also named William Wilson. What starts off as a funny coincidence quickly becomes sinister.

I rarely ever hear people talk about King Pest. This tale features a couple of drunken sailors who stumble upon a most curious gathering at an undertaker’s shop, in an area that’s been blocked off due to plague.

And finally, Ligeia…a man has never loved a woman so much as he loved Ligeia, a love that continues even to the grave. So, when he remarries, something very curious happens.

Erin

I'm the Reader's Advisory Librarian at WPPL. My interests include old horror films, classic novels, manga and anime, paper-crafting, and plants. If you like my suggestions, you can request personalized recommendations from me on My Librarian page.