Sometimes reading a whole book or watching a two-hour movie just takes too long. Sometimes you’re just looking for a quick thrill. When this happens I reach for good ol’ Edgar Allan Poe because nobody does it like Poe. Halloween is only a couple of days away, so I thought I would share some of my favorite short stories by the master along their first lines, so you can get a taste for what they entail. Here are some of my favorite Edgar Allan Poe short-stories:
The Tell-Tale Heart:
“TRUE! –nervous –very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses –not destroyed –not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily –how calmly I can tell you the whole story.”
Spoiler alert: he’s definitely mad. Those interested can listen to actor Matthew Gray Gubler’s rendition of this short story here.
The Masque of the Red Death:
“THE ‘Red Death’ had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.”
Depending on how you look at it, Poe is very good and never shy when describing the nitty-gritty details.
The Pit and the Pendulum:
“I WAS sick — sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me. The sentence — the dread sentence of death — was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my ears.”
This story is like a nightmare come true.
The Fall of the House of Usher:
“DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”
Lesson learned: don’t help other people entomb bodies.
These chilling short-stories are sure to put you in the Halloween mood if you’re looking for a quick thrill. Other notable Edgar Allan Poe stories I like: The Black Cat and his most famous poem The Raven.