Some of the most bone-chilling books were written in the last two centuries—so we're bringing you a selection of old school reads. Best of all: You can download them for free.
Note: This article was last updated on 2/3/20. Check back soon for more free books that thrill and chill!
A Book of Remarkable Criminals
This classic study profiles serial killers, gentleman murderers, and every stripe of madman in between
Benjamin Pitezel should never have trusted H. H. Holmes. In 1894, the two men conspired to fake Pitezel’s death for the sake of a $10,000 insurance settlement. But Holmes decided murder would be simpler. He killed his partner, kidnapped three of his children, and tried to claim the insurance money as his own. The scheme unraveled and Holmes killed the children as well. When he was caught, the police had no idea they had captured one of the vilest murderers in American history. The Pitezel murders were only the tip of a very bloody iceberg.
The chilling case of H. H. Holmes—famously recounted in Erik Larson’s award-winning bestseller, The Devil in the White City—is but one of the true crime tales contained in this remarkable work. Author H. B. Irving understood the public’s lurid fascination with murder, and in this seminal study he shows readers the many faces of evil.
The thrilling classic tale of a strange and sinister creature that stalks its prey mercilessly and changes shape at will
From the mysterious depths of Egypt comes a creature “born neither of God nor man.” This shape-shifting being has made its way to London seeking revenge for the crimes that have been committed against the order of its ancient religion—and the primary target of this merciless and relentless terror is politician Paul Lessingham. As panic spreads throughout the city, it falls to Paul and his friends to stop the beast once and for all.
Published the same year as the horror classic Dracula, The Beetle originally outsold Bram Stoker’s famous book. Richard Marsh’s story is a dark mirror of England at the end of the century, a tale of Victorian horror and mystery with a monster as dreadful and elusive as any in literature.
The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner
The haunting story of two brothers: one happy, the other tormented by demons
George and Robert are brothers, but their upbringings couldn’t have been more different. George was raised by his fun-loving father, while Robert was brought up in the stern Calvinist faith, taught to see Satan lurking around every corner. The siblings were always enemies, and when George is found with a sword buried in his back, Robert is named the culprit, beginning a strange and terrible journey that will take him out of his mind—and into the arms of the devil himself.
This unique novel, first published in 1824, is one of the most remarkable explorations of supernatural evil in Western literature. A gothic masterpiece told from multiple perspectives, its influence can be felt in the works of authors from Robert Louis Stevenson to Stephen King.
At the Mountains of Madness
This classic mind-shattering tale, which “ranks high among the horror stories of the English language,” plunges into the darkness of the Cthulhu mythos (Time).
In the uncharted wastes of Antarctica, an exploration party from Miskatonic University encounters a gory sight when they discover their advance team’s camp has been destroyed and its members slaughtered. There is no evidence of what happened except a series of burial mounds, six of which contain dead specimens of unknown species. Eight similar tombs are empty, but they haven’t been broken into—they’ve been broken out of.
What began as a search for knowledge soon becomes a terrifying confrontation with the true nature of the world and the universe in all its stark blackness and unyielding oblivion. For mankind is not—and never has been—the bright light of creation. It’s all a mistake, an insignificant stain of existence, forgotten by an unwitting and indifferent creator . . . until now.
The Book of the Damned
This fascinating chronicle of unexplained phenomena is a foundational work of paranormal science
In the early passages of The Book of the Damned, Charles Fort explains: “by the damned, I mean the excluded. We shall have a procession of data that Science has excluded.” Drawing upon countless articles, newspaper clippings, and arcane books, Fort assembles hundreds of real-life tales of the bizarre—from unidentified flying objects falling from the sky to the disappearance of several hundred people during the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 to rumors of poltergeists.
Rendered in the unique style that established Fort as a legend in the world of the paranormal, The Book of the Damned is an underground classic.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
The most infamous of horror stories—a disturbing examination of man’s capacity for evil
One pitch-black London morning, a ghoulish little man tramples a young girl and continues heedlessly on his way. Caught by a passerby and returned to the scene of the crime, the man is forced to pay £100 in restitution. He produces ten pounds in gold and a check for the remainder. Curiously, the check bears the signature of the well-regarded Dr. Henry Jekyll. Even stranger, Dr. Jekyll’s will names this same awful and mysterious little man, Mr. Hyde, as the sole beneficiary. Troubled by the coincidence, Dr. Jekyll’s attorney visits his client. What he uncovers is a tale so strange and terrifying it has seeped into the very fabric of our consciousness.
An immediate success upon its publication in 1886 and a cultural touchstone to this day, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one of the most disturbing stories ever told.
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