From well-known writers like Edgar Allan Poe to lesser-known contemporary writers, each poet on this list has written bone-chilling and spine-tingling content. These poems are sure to bubble up and give you a fright right before its time to turn off the lights!
- 1 The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
- 2 Windigo by Louise Erdrich
- 3 The Vampire by Conrad Aiken
- 4 I felt a funeral, in my brain by Emily Dickinson
- 5 The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
- 6 The Witch by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
- 7 The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe
- 8 Omens by Cecilia Llompart
- 9 The Apparition by John Donne
- 10 All Hallows’ Eve by Dorothea Tanning
The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
‘The Raven’ is Poe’s most popular poem. It’s a fairly long, supernatural, dream-like piece that makes use of Poe’s most frequently visited themes. There is loss, death, fear, and, and above all else, the haunting presence of the talking raven. The creature cries throughout the text, a single word: “Nevermore.” This poem is surely one of scariest examples of writing in the English language and a great place to start if you’re looking to have a terrifying night in.
Windigo by Louise Erdrich
This poem begins with a definition of the title creature, the windigo. It is defined as a “flesh-eating, wintery demon with a man buried deep inside it”. It can only be released by forcing “boiling lard” or fat down its through and melting the human man out of the core of ice. The text of the poem describes this wintery creature coming for a young child through chilling and memorable images. The windigo takes the child off into the night and may or may not devour it.
The Vampire by Conrad Aiken
In ‘The Vampire’ Aiken explores the coming of great evil and the choices made by men in its wake. The poem begins with the speaker, and his fellow men, observing the arrival of a great being. A woman who has power over darkness. The world is brought to a stop and the woman, a vampire, spreads horrifying darkness across the sky. Although jumbled at first, her words are eventually made clear. She speaks of the wonders that await those who join her, and the unholy deaths that deniers will face. Eventually, the violence ends, the night recedes, and the aftermath is revealed. There are bodies strewn across the field and trees splattered with red blood
I felt a funeral, in my brain by Emily Dickinson
This poem is a great introduction to the world of Emily Dickinson. She wrote prolifically about her own struggles with mental health as can be seen within the short lines of this poem. Within the text she uses various metaphors, concerned with life and death, to discuss endings, beginnings and the deep, unshakable fear of losing one’s mind. The speaker depicts the slipping away of her sanity through the image of mourners wandering around in her head. They are in a cycle of sorts, unable to break out or change their pattern.
The Haunted Palace by Edgar Allan Poe
‘The Haunted Palace,’ which was used in Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher, is a terrifying, and extremely realistic depiction of insanity. The text describes a structure that slowly degrades as do its residents inside. The house is used as a metaphor for a human mind. As the house falls apart, so does a mind. Poe sought to draw comparisons between these two different structures.
The Witch by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
“The Witch” is a short narrative poem in which the initial speaker of the poem, the witch, is describing the trial she has endured and all of the hardships she faced as she wandered around the earth. The speaker’s account is haunting and at first the reader feels bad for this “little maiden”. But, in the last stanza, things change. The perspective switches and the homeowner who lets the witch into his house narrates the poem. He speaks about how he lost something integral to his life/home when he let the witch in. She took something undefined from him, making the narrative even scarier.
The City in the Sea by Edgar Allan Poe
This piece was first published under a different, equally interesting title, The Doomed City. It is considered to be one of the best Poe ever wrote, certainly in the early part of his career. It speaks on a city a reader will certainly not want to visit. It is doomed for disaster, ruled by the personification of death. The descent of the city into the sea is a haunting image that brings up the darkest images of hell and damnation
Omens by Cecilia Llompart
A strange and chilling poem, ‘Omens’ by Cecilia Llompart brings together dark and entrancing images to speak on omens, oracles, nostalgia, and dreams. The speaker moves from into the first person in the second half of the poem and takes the reader through haunting dreams that leave them desperate for air. The poem concludes with the speaker asking two rhetorical questions. They are concerned with the future, what is to be lost and what has already been left behind in the past.
The Apparition by John Donne
In this poem, Donne relays the interaction between two lovers. The speaker addresses his lover, telling her that he is going to come to her “bed” after he is dead. He won’t comfort her as she’d like to be comforted and will instead refuse to explain the situation to her. The speaker asks that she repent, admit what she’s done wrong, or face this fate later.
All Hallows’ Eve by Dorothea Tanning
A short fourteen-line poem, ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ takes the reader through a series of images of night, darkness, and pain. Tanning makes use of sticking words like “shreds” and “pulverize” as she describes bones cracking and doom creeping “in on rubber treads”. She speaks on insanity in housewives and lipstick as a way to “tranquilize / general dreads”. The poem ends with a series of alliterative words, references to “tasty antidotes” and even a metaphorical werewolf.