Cemetery Dance Publications published this massive 2-volume anthology in 2011. Somehow, this set slipped past my radar until I discovered it by accident about a month ago. Yes, it’s taken me about a month to read all 100 stories (as well as reading other stuff).

John Pelan, a gifted editor and horror aficionado, works under some self-imposed rules in structuring this anthology. First, he would choose only ONE story per writer. So, that means there’s only one Stephen King story in The Century’s Best Horror Fiction instead of a dozen. Second, Pelan chooses ONE story per year that he considers the best. Given those constraints, I think Pelan does a fabulous job selecting representatives stories. And, I appreciated Pelan’s introductions to each story where he identifies contending stories that didn’t quite make the cut.

In Volume 1, my favorite stories were “Thirteen at Table” by Lord Dunsany, “The Outsider” by H. P. Lovecraft, C. L. Moore’s classic “Shambleau,” Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Dark Eidolon,” Robert E. Howard’s “Pigeons from Hell,” C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Words of Guru,” Manly Wade Wellman’s “Shonokin Town,” Theodore Sturgeon’s “Bianca’s Hands,” Shirley Jackon’s classic “The Lottery,” and Richard Matheson’s “Born of Man & Woman.”

In Volume 2, my favorite stories were Russell Kirk’s “Uncle Isiah,” Robert Sheckley’s “The Altar,” Robert Bloch’s classic “That Hell-Bound Train,” Charles Beaumont’s “The Howling Man,” Ray Russell’s “Sardonicus,” Robert Arthur’s “The Mirror of Cagliostro,” Karl Edward Wagner’s classic “Sticks,” Bob Leman’s “The Pilgrimage of Clifford M.,” Joe R. Lansdale’s horrific “The Night They Missed the Horror Show,” Elizabeth Massie’s “Stephen,” and Thomas Ligotti’s “The Glamour.”

All in all, you’ll not find a better 1571-page anthology of the 20th Century’s best stories! GRADE: A
One Hundred Years of Horror By John Pelan 9
1901: Barry Pain — “The Undying Thing” 11
1902: W.W. Jacobs — “The Monkey’s Paw” 29
1903: H.G. Wells — “The Valley of the Spiders” 39
1904: Arthur Machen — “The White People” 49
1905: R. Murray Gilchrist — “The Lover’s Ordeal” 79
1906: Edward Lucas White — “House of the Nightmare” 87
1907: Algernon Blackwood — “The Willows” 95
1908: Perceval Landon — “Thurnley Abbey” 135
1909: Violet Hunt — “The Coach” 149
1910: Wm Hope Hodgson — “The Whistling Room” 165
1911: M.R. James — “Casting the Runes” 179
1912: E.F. Benson — “Caterpillars” 197
1913: Aleister Crowley — “The Testament of Magdalen Blair” 205
1914: M.P. Shiel — “The Place of Pain” 227
1915: Hanns Heinz Ewers — “The Spider” 237
1916: Lord Dunsany — “Thirteen at Table” 257
1917: Frederick Stuart Greene — “The Black Pool” 265
1918: H. De Vere Stacpoole — “The Middle Bedroom” 285
1919: Ulric Daubeny — “The Sumach” 291
1920: Maurice Level — “In the Light of the Red Lamp” 301
1921: Vincent O’Sullivan — “Master of Fallen Years” 305
1922: Walter de la Mare — “Seaton’s Aunt” 317
1923: George Allen England — “The Thing From—”Outside” ” 343
1924: C.M. Eddy, Jr. — “The Loved Dead” 361
1925: John Metcalfe — “The Smoking Leg” 371
1926: H.P. Lovecraft — “The Outsider” 383
1927: Donald Wandrei — “The Red Brain” 389
1928: H.R. Wakefield — “The Red Lodge” 397
1929: Eleanor Scott — “Celui-La” 409
1930: Rosalie Muspratt — “Spirit of Stonehenge” 423
1931: Henry S. Whitehead — “Cassius” 429
1932: David H. Keller — “The Thing in the Cellar” 459
1933: C.L. Moore — “Shambleau” . 465
1934: L.A. Lewis — “The Tower of Moab” 489
1935: Clark Ashton Smith — “The Dark Eidolon” 501
1936: Thorp McCluskey — “The Crawling Horror” 523
1937: Howard Wandrei — “The Eerie Mr Murphy” 539
1938: Robert E. Howard — “Pigeons from Hell” 549
1939: Robert Barbour Johnson — “Far Below” 573
1940: John Collier — “Evening Primrose” 585
1941: C.M. Kornbluth — “The Words of Guru” 595
1942: Jane Rice — “The Idol of the Flies” 603
1943: Anthony Boucher — “They Bite” 623
1944: Ray Bradbury — “The Jar” 633
1945: August Derleth — “Carousel” 647
1946: Manly Wade Wellman — “Shonokin Town” 657
1947: Theodore Sturgeon — “Bianca’s Hands” 679
1948: Shirley Jackson — “The Lottery” 687
1949: Nigel Kneale — “The Pond” 695
1950: Richard Matheson — “Born of Man & Woman” 701
1951: Russell Kirk — “Uncle Isiah” 9
1952: Eric Frank Russell — “I Am Nothing” 25
1953: Robert Sheckley — “The Altar” 45
1954: Everil Worrell — “Call Not Their Names” 53
1955: Robert Aickman — “Ringing the Changes” 89
1956: Richard Wilson — “Lonely Road” 115
1957: Clifford Simak — “Founding Father” 125
1958: Robert Bloch — “That Hell-Bound Train” 135
1959: Charles Beaumont — “The Howling Man” 149
1960: Fredric Brown — “The House” 163
1961: Ray Russell — “Sardonicus” 167
1962: Carl Jacobi — “The Aquarium” 197
1963: Robert Arthur — “The Mirror of Cagliostro” 207
1964: Charles Birkin — “A Lovely Bunch of Coconuts” 235
1965: Jean Ray — “The Shadowy Street” 247
1966: Arthur Porges — “The Mirror” 279
1967: Norman Spinrad — “Carcinoma Angels” 287
1968: Anna Hunger — “Come” 295
1969: Steffan Aletti — “The Last Work of Pietro Apono” 307
1970: David A. Riley — “The Lurkers in the Abyss” 315
1971: Dorothy K. Haynes — “The Derelict Track” 325
1972: Gary Brandner — “The Price of a Demon” 333
1973: Eddy C. Bertin — “Like Two White Spiders” 343
1974: Karl Edward Wagner — “Sticks” 353
1975: David Drake — “The Barrow Troll” 371
1976: Dennis Etchison — “It Only Comes Out at Night” 381
1977: Barry N. Malzberg — “The Man Who Loved the Midnight Lady” 393
1978: Michael Bishop — “Within the Walls of Tyre” 401
1979: Ramsey Campbell — “Mackintosh Willy” 425
1980: Michael Shea — “The Autopsy” 439
1981: Stephen King — “The Reach” 471
1982: Fritz Leiber — “Horrible Imaginings” 489
1983: David Schow — “One for the Horrors” 535
1984: Bob Leman — “The Unhappy Pilgrimage of Clifford M.” 545
1985: Michael Reaves — “The Night People” 567
1986: Tim Powers — “Night Moves” 579
1987: Ian Watson — “Evil Water” 599
1988: Joe R. Lansdale — “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” 635
1989: Joel Lane — “The Earth Wire” 649
1990: Elizabeth Massie — “Stephen” 659
1991: Thomas Ligotti — “The Glamour” 681
1992: Poppy Z. Brite — “Calcutta Lord of Nerves” 689
1993: Lucy Taylor — “The Family Underwater” 701
1994: Jack Ketchum — “The Box” 707
1995: Terry Lamsley — “The Toddler” 717
1996: Caitlín R. Kiernan — “Tears Seven Times Salt” 735
1997: Stephen Laws — “The Crawl” 747
1998: Brian Hodge — “As Above, So Below” 773
1999: Glen Hirshberg — “Mr. Dark’s Carnival” 825
2000: Tim Lebbon — “Reconstructing Amy” 857


  1. Robert Napier

    I say I’m not a big fan of horror but some of these stories look pretty good to me! “Pigeons From Hell.” What a great title.

  2. Todd Mason

    “Pigeons from Hell” is easily the most famous Howard horror story, and it’s not bad.

    George–Stephen King”s best short fiction I’ve read is better than his best novels I’ve tried, but his worst short fiction is some of the worst I’ve read to see professional publication. You think a dozen of his short stories would make a reasonable cut for the best horror of the last century…a century of Robert Bloch, Fritz Leiber, Daphne Du Maurier, Muriel Spark, Theodore Sturgeon, Joanna Russ, Ambrose Bierce, M. R. James, Margaret St. Clair, Karen Blixen, Franz Kafka, Kathe Koja, Lisa Tuttle, and others represented and unrepresented above? Otherwise, I’m glad to see you finding and enjoying the books…

    Though Pelan choosing to leave out Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost”, one of the key horror stories of the last century, in favor of Kornbluth’s pleasant but minor bit of juvenilia “Words of Guru” as the 1941 entry is a most questionable selection, and not the only one. (David Hartwell did include at least two minor King stories along with “Smoke Ghost” in his THE DARK DESCENT, but that was, I’m pretty sure, a commercial decision between him and his Tor editor.)

    It is a good if too rigid approach for an anthology and does collect some interesting work not often seen, such as Anna Hunger’s story, and is by its nature an argument-starter.
    I previewed the Pelan volumes back in 2o10 in brief in the course of touching on the then-recent retrospectives by Ellen Datlow and Stephen Jones as well:

    1. Todd Mason

      And I have another item including Arthur’s “The Mirror of Cagliostro” forthcoming…one of the first short stories published in the field based on a teleplay by its author already broadcast…if not the first…

    2. george Post author

      Todd, I’m with you on “Smoke Ghost.” But I supposed Pelan went with a less well-known Leiber story, “Horrible Imaginings.” I prefer Asimov and Greenberg’s policy to include more that one story by an author…if they deserve it! They chose FIVE Heinlein stories for one of their THE GREAT SF volumes.

      1. Todd Mason

        Exactly. Its a cute but stupidly self-limiting choice. I suppose it does “help” in explaining to old friends why they’re included Only Once. Also it allows for some rather minor stories to be entered as The Only Possible Choices for a year with writers already included for another year marked off.

  3. Jeff Meyerson

    I give you credit for reading all 100 stories – inevitably, when I read a huge anthology like this there are stories I quit reading – and it does look like there are a lot of very good choices.

    1. george Post author

      Jeff, the quality of the stories kept up my reading momentum. But, I did take “breaks” to read other books. THE CENTURY’S BEST HORROR FICTION is a magisterial anthology. Easily the Gold Standard for Horror!

      1. Todd Mason

        I’ll counter-suggest there are better choices, but most of them the best of the year annuals from the latter half of the century.

        But there are other, earlier anthologies…including one by Dashiell Hammett…that are excellent surveys of earlier decades…

  4. Michael Padgett

    I was also unaware of this but notice that it appeared just two years after the last horror anthology of this size and scope that I did read, “American Fantastic Tales”. This was a two volume (around 1500 pages) Library of America anthology edited by Peter Straub. The two volumes were subtitled “From Poe to the Pulps” and “1940 to the Present”. There was no one-story-per-year requirement, but I believe it was limited to one story per author. I seem to recall that I read it over the course of about 18 months–I’m pretty slow on anthologies.

    Just glancing at the titles and authors I would have guessed that I’d read significantly more stories from the second volume than the first but, when I actually counted, the second volume won by a slim 12-11 score.

    1. george Post author

      Michael, Pelan blended well-known stories with more obscure choices. I enjoyed reading THE CENTURY’S BEST HORROR FICTION. I also own the LIBRARY OF AMERICA volumes of AMERICAN FANTASTIC TALES, too.

  5. Jerry House

    There’s a lot of gooseflesh-y reading there, George, and I’m not going to argue about the selections — Pelan gives us a pretty good (and varied) overview of the horror short story in the Twentieth Century. I’m glad he included one of my favorite stories in any genre, Lansdale’s “The Night They Missed the Horror Show” — a true gem

    1. Todd Mason

      I think I annoyed Lansdale recently by raising the notion that this brilliant story is not horror, since it’s not at all fantasticated. Ah, well. Neither is “The Lottery” nor such other brilliant stories as “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Doesn’t make them any less scary, to be suspense stories.

      1. george Post author

        Todd, I know what you mean with Horror having a supernatural element. But, Lansdale and Jackson achieve their scariness without resorting to magical elements…which is fine by me. Lovecraft evoked “alien” science to bring forth the Horror in some of his stories.

      2. Todd Mason

        Oh, I never discount suspense fiction. I just see it as having a similar, but different, approach and effect from horror fiction. Part of what makes PSYCHO as effective as it is is that it all could easily take place. What makes THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE as effective as it is is that we “know” it couldn’t happen…or we hope we know it couldn’t happen…but it still dangles the possibility we don’t know enough. The kind of existential horror that the Edwardians, including their US counterparts such as Ambrose Bierce, began to explore, and Lovecraft put at the heat of his fiction, and Bloch and Leiber as the more talented students of Lovecraft refined and applied in various new ways, among other who followed and were contemporaries, including Jackson and John Collier…

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