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Dan Chaon's 6 favorite collections of terrifying tales
The award-winning author admires spooky stories by Edith Wharton, Ray Bradbury, and Joyce Carol Oates
 
Dan Chaon is the award-winning author of "Await Your Reply" and "Among the Missing." Several suspenseful and haunting new stories appear in his latest book, "Stay Awake."
Dan Chaon is the award-winning author of "Await Your Reply" and "Among the Missing." Several suspenseful and haunting new stories appear in his latest book, "Stay Awake."
Ulf Anderson

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton (Scribner, $17). Having been forced to choke down Ethan Frome in high school, I resented Wharton until I discovered her mysterious and coolly menacing stories of the supernatural. My favorite is the beautifully subtle shocker "Afterward," in which Mary Boyne is told that her house is haunted — but that she won't realize she's seen a ghost "till long, long afterward."

The October Country by Ray Bradbury (Del Rey, $8). Reading these stories is like visiting a Midwestern county fair after midnight, knowing that something bad is lurking on the darkened midway. Though Bradbury is thought of as a science fiction writer, I think these dark fantasy tales are his real achievement.

Blow-Up and Other Stories by Julio Cortázar (Pantheon, $15). I love the way that the uncanny slowly encroaches into the world of Cortázar's characters. The story "Blow-Up" was the basis for Michelangelo Antonioni's mod, groovy Hitchcockian film of the same name. Other stories, like "Axolotl" and "Continuity of Parks," are even more deeply hallucinatory and unsettling.

Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver (Vintage, $15). Just because the ghosts don't actually materialize out of the shadows doesn't mean they aren't there. Carver is classified as a realist, but the stories in his first collection are infused with such a strange, ambient sense of dread that they seem like ghost stories by default.

Haunted: Tales of the Grotesque by Joyce Carol Oates (out of print). Oates can do anything, but this collection of unsettling psychological horror stories distills some of her best tricks. "Extenuating Circumstances" burrows so deeply into the character of a terrifyingly crazy mother that you want to hide your eyes at the end.

Open Secrets by Alice Munro (Vintage, $15). Munro is a naturalistic writer if there ever was one, but she's fascinated by mystery, too. As the title suggests, these stories explore the unknown and unexplainable in the lives of ordinary people, and show how truly mystifying and spooky the workings of the human heart can be. There's at least one (maybe two) actual ghosts tucked into these pages, too.

Dan Chaon is the award-winning author of Await Your Reply and Among the Missing. Several suspenseful and haunting new stories appear in his latest book, Stay Awake.

 

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