5 macabre stories from "tales at the campfire"
Updated: Apr 19
Since the dawn of time, humans have sat around fires, telling stories to each other. This is a tradition that has continued throughout all of human history. It transcends cultures, races, and religions. On Tales at the Campfire, I, Asher Wertheimer, continued this tradition. Throughout this semester, I got on the radio and read a short story or poem, told you what I thought of the story, gave you background information on the story and its author, and played music that I felt captured the ambiance of the story. I even had campfire sound effects! But maybe you missed the shows, and, now that you are stuck at home, you need something to entertain yourself. Well, look no further. Below is the ranking of the top five stories read on Tales at the Campfire. If you’re bored at home, or need to come down after a long day as an essential worker, then give these short tales a read. Ok, let’s toss some logs on the virtual fire and get started…
5: The Well by W.W. Jacobs
Written by the same author as the more well known The Monkey’s Paw, The Well is a fantastic short story that leaves the reader questioning what really happened at the end. A young man has a dispute with his cousin over money, and, after his cousin threatens to blackmail him, the man takes matters into his own hands. Straightforward enough, but it is the namesake of this story that adds the element of horror that sticks with the reader long after it’s over.
Read The Well here: https://americanliterature.com/author/w-w-jacobs/short-story/the-well
4: One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts by Shirley Jackson
Coming in at Number Four is Shirley Jackson’s slow burning tale of a philanthropic man walking about town, seemingly with no point at all. It is only at the end that we see the reason behind his escapades, and are horrified. One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts is a very slow story that may seem boring at first, but stick with it for one of my favorite pay-offs in short story history. Shirley Jackson is well known for her short stories, as well as her novels, including The Haunting of Hill House, which, if you know me, is my favorite horror show. One Ordinary Day, With Peanuts manages to take a completely uneventful day, and make it chilling.
3: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson snags Third place as well, for her world renowned story, The Lottery. If you think you know twists, then you have not read this story. The seemingly peaceful town described in the story has an undercurrent of something more sinister, and it is only until the end that we realize what the longstanding tradition of the Lottery really is. The story is enjoyable as a simple horror story, while also doubling as a poignant social commentary that is still relevant today. First published in The New Yorker in 1948, the story remains one of the most famous short stories ever written. You’ll have to read to see why.
Read The Lottery here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1948/06/26/the-lottery
2: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce
Set during the American Civil War, this story tells the tale of a Confederate patriot who goes to sabotage a Union bridge, is caught, and summarily sentenced to hang from that very bridge. That is where the story begins. Where it ends, is quite a shock. If you enjoy the plot twist at the end of The Lottery, then An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is right for you. The wonderful descriptors used in this story certainly places one right in the deep south during a time when brothers fought brothers. I will say no more, as the least you know about this one, the better.
Or watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zk8KO0jZzbk
1: The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe
Taking first prize is Edgar Allen Poe’s masterfully macabre poem of a young scholar, mourning his lost love on a “midnight dreary”. Don’t be intimidated by the concept of this being a poem, and not a direct narrative. The story is fairly easy to track, and there are several brilliant readings on YouTube that make it easier to understand. The first time I heard this story was actually in this manner. I was walking dogs at night, close to Halloween, listening to Christopher Lee recite the poem. Read or listen to this poem, and you will never look at the night the same way.
Read it here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48860/the-raven
Or listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BefliMlEzZ8&t=15s
Thus concludes the Top Five stories read on Tales at the Campfire. Stay inside, stay healthy, and stay safe.