Today marks the birthday of literature’s dark romantic and master of the macabre, Edgar Allan Poe. The mad, mustachioed author initiated the modern detective story, helped define early science fiction, and embodied the definition of “troubled writer” — but it was his horror stories that marked his legacy. It’s a testament to the power of his work that Poe was able to frighten his readers with fewer pages than most authors. Inspired by his gothic greats, we’ve handpicked ten short tales of classic terror you can read online right now.
“The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar” by Edgar Allan Poe
My attention, for the last three years, had been repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism; and, about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite suddenly, that in the series of experiments made hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most unaccountable omission: — no person had as yet been mesmerized in articulo mortis.
Poe’s 1845 story about a mesmerist who attempts to suspend a man’s life on the brink of death caused a huge sensation. His use of medical (and pseudoscientific) terminology convinced readers the story was real, and initially the macabre author didn’t refute the claims. It was eventually revealed to be a hoax. “M. Valdemar” was written during the spiritualist craze and traded Poe’s dark descriptors for overtly grotesque language.