So I was browsing on my phone recently, and Google clued me in to an article on the Publishers Weekly website: “10 Scariest Horror Stories.” Naturally, I clicked right on over. Now, I understand that any compiled list is inevitably subjective, and part of the fun is seeing what the selector actually chose and had to say about those items, so I don’t want to be too contentious here. But what I read did bother me. Writer/scholar/editor Victoria Nelson (who admits that the bulk of her list is culled from the classic volume Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural) exhibits a strong bias towards late-19th/early-20th Century British fiction. The implication, then, is that the scariest stories were written long ago, and seldomly by American writers (H.P. Lovecraft and C.L. Moore are the two exceptions cited by Nelson). There’s no hint here of Stephen King or Peter Straub, let alone Laird Barron, Jack Ketchum, Glen Hirshberg, Stephen Graham Jones, or Joyce Carol Oates. Perhaps the issue is ultimately one of false advertising: the superlative article title “10 Scariest Horror Stories” suggests comprehensive consideration (“…Of All Time”), but the headnote to the list does qualify that these are simply “10 scary stories recommended by Nelson.”
I’d have to devote some more thought before compiling my own list of the 10 Scariest Horror Stories (American or otherwise), but if anyone has specific pieces they would vote for, feel free to leave a comment below.