All these classic stories, novellas, and novels are in the public domain,
legally available free in their entirety online or as free ebooks
(1-31 October 2019)
A young woman is hired to be governess to two orphans at an isolated English country house. When she sees ghosts, she’s determined to protect her charges. Can she save them? Or has she gone mad?
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James #free #storieshttps://t.co/g4V39AgGJb pic.twitter.com/RIwd6fh9ZW
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 1, 2019
One evening during Carnivale, Montresor decides he must take a revenge against Fortunato for the thousand injuries borne him. But can Montresor carry out his heinous plan?
The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe #Free Scary #Stories@Poestorieshttps://t.co/Om0jsdKbp7 pic.twitter.com/b7MCKvLmA4
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 2, 2019
Giovanni loves Beatrice, and she wants to marry him: what dread secret keeps her a prisoner in her father’s strange garden?
Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne#Free Scary #Stories @UniofAdelaide
(Art: Soul of the Rose, John William Waterhouse) https://t.co/HtdmUk8cyd pic.twitter.com/ci4iL3wmF7
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 3, 2019
Late at night in a deserted wood, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane unexpectedly confronts the Headless Horseman. Surely, someone is playing a joke on him.
by Washington Irving#Free Scary #Stories @everywriter
(Headless Horseman & Ichabod Crane, by John Quidor)https://t.co/JuBh6bLpRN pic.twitter.com/OERA7x4f1g
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 4, 2019
Peyton Farquhar is about to be hanged after soldiers discover him tampering with a bridge. As the rope drops, he falls into the river below: can Farquhar escape his fate?
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge by Ambrose Bierce#Free Scary #Stories@everywriterhttps://t.co/zD5k7z8K8c pic.twitter.com/8QduILtbFJ
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 5, 2019
When Gregor Samsa wakes up, he has too many arms… or is it too many legs? Oh, no, there are way too many legs. He seems to be some sort of insect: what will happen if his family finds out?
Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka#Free Scary #Stories@gutenberg_org https://t.co/EdoJxLQQAc pic.twitter.com/3k73FE9EsX
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 6, 2019
Dr. Jekyll works all night in his laboratory, and the servants hear such strange cries, but after the cruel Mr. Hyde keeps showing up, they get truly scared.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson#Free Scary #Storieshttps://t.co/TUKPQTS7uD pic.twitter.com/dQV7WzGr07
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 7, 2019
Dorian Gray has everything a man could desire — youth, good looks, wealth. And he never seems to get a wrinkle or a grey hair. What is his terrible secret?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde#Free Scary #Stories@gutenberg_org https://t.co/SoWgOeyK2E pic.twitter.com/qehJzzacUe
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 8, 2019
After the birth of their child, a couple rents an old house, and the wife becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper in the bedroom: who, or what, is hiding behind it?
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman#Free Scary #Stories@gutenberg_org https://t.co/dJED3cHpLm pic.twitter.com/T3PCNf7HYv
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 9, 2019
Boris has a liquid that turns goldfish and flowers to marble. Why does Geneviève object to his next sculpture?
The Mask by Robert Chambers#Free Scary #Stories @wikisource_en
(Bust: Veiled Vestal by Raffaelle Monti)https://t.co/BGzWCSSITb pic.twitter.com/Qor3t2acvI
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 10, 2019
When a Transylvanian Count settles in Victorian England, the lives of Jonathan Harker & his fiancée Mina are turned upside down by the (totally non-sparkly) undead nobleman who wants Mina for himself.
Dracula by Bram Stoker#Free Scary #Storieshttps://t.co/ap4UznnEW2 pic.twitter.com/qVfrs0x2TL
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 11, 2019
In the midst of Plague, Prospero throws a masked ball for the followers who have walled themselves in his great palace, but what stranger dares dress himself all in red?
The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allan Poe#Free Scary #Stories @everywriter
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 12, 2019
When a newlywed follows his wife into the woods, he sees a gathering of witches awaiting the Devil. Or does he?
Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne#Free Scary #Stories https://t.co/bEo3F4YPrW @wikisource_en
Woodcut: The History of Witches & Wizards, 1720 (Wikimedia) pic.twitter.com/MMPbJcke7g
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 13, 2019
When Captain Walton rescues Victor Frankenstein, Walton is horrified to hear the doctor’s story: has he really created a human being from corpses, and has the Creature escaped?
Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley#Free Scary #Stories@gutenberg_orghttps://t.co/20GZ0upYSA pic.twitter.com/X9Oer1XeWS
— Dr. Alexandria Szeman Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 14, 2019
Aylmer loves his wife but he’s obsessed with the birthmark on her face. He makes a draught to remove it & convinces her to take it, but at what price?
The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne#Free Scary #Storieshttps://t.co/xQZmdD1RFP
Jason & Medea by Waterhouse pic.twitter.com/gfqEyrwSi0
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 15, 2019
After Christine disappears from the Opera House, Raoul suspects that she’s been kidnapped by the masked ghost rumored to haunt the building. Is Raoul too late to save his love?
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux#Free Scary #Stories@gutenberg_org https://t.co/ERbVZDDvKf pic.twitter.com/9GVSP3RtpY
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 16, 2019
Aubrey meets wealthy Lord Ruthven & becomes his traveling companion. By the time Aubrey notices Ruthven is dangerous, he wants Aubrey’s sister. Can Aubrey possibly save her?
The Vampyre by John William Polidori #Free Scary #Stories @everywriter https://t.co/yYVV3dJlkq pic.twitter.com/jSGBDDJ3lo
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 17, 2019
When Laura meets the beautiful Carmilla, they immediately have romantic feelings for each other, but what’s causing Laura’s mysterious blood loss?
Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu#Free Scary #Storieshttps://t.co/DcaSIDBm9p@UniofAdelaide
Art: Simeon Solomon’s Sappho & Erinna pic.twitter.com/i4qA17DdqF
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 18, 2019
Wilbur’s preternatural growth terrifies the neighbors, but what is hidden upstairs in his grandfather’s house scares them even more.
The Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft#free scary #stories https://t.co/WJcBrNaJWO @UniofAdelaide
Painting: Saturn Devouring his Son, by Goya 1634 pic.twitter.com/felO4bBDdq
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 19, 2019
When the Minister comes to church wearing a black veil, his congregation is upset: what secret forces him to hide his face, & why does his veil clutch at their own hearts?
The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne#free scary #stories @everywriter https://t.co/gM5WXq91E5 pic.twitter.com/8h2IsCBuN7
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 20, 2019
“If you don’t come to me,” a boy writes in Latin class without knowing its meaning, “I’ll come to you.” Why is the Latin teacher so terrified by it?
A School Story by M.R. James#free scary #stories@scaryforkidshttps://t.co/fzToVC7VLZ pic.twitter.com/SFWBaCMmNV
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 21, 2019
The narrator murdered an old man with a spooky eye, then hid the body beneath the floor. Now, the body won’t stay silent. Is he going mad?
The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe#free scary #stories@PoeMuseum https://t.co/Q9wB8Rm4PO pic.twitter.com/vjCBgi72Eh
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 22, 2019
The Old Farmer has visions of villagers going into the Wood of the Dead before they die, so he walks with them to calm their fear: who goes in tonight?
Wood of the Dead by Algernon Blackwood#Free Scary #Stories@wikisource_enhttps://t.co/79sJeLTPl4
Art: Bosch Death & the Miser pic.twitter.com/IH2eAVUFjp
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 23, 2019
Someone must be telling lies about Joseph K, because he’s been arrested, but he doesn’t know what crime he’s been accused of. What will happen to him?
The Trial by Franz Kafka#free scary #stories @gutenberg_org https://t.co/v9bUZGzVjl pic.twitter.com/1GkgMISvsK
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 24, 2019
After an old soldier tells a couple about a monkey’s paw which grants its owner three wishes, they are determined to have it for themselves, no matter the cost.
The Monkey’s Paw by W. W. Jacobs#Free Scary #Stories@scaryforkidshttps://t.co/AacRYjkxFh pic.twitter.com/VaZVLMnGJQ
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 25, 2019
Tired of grouse hunting and concerned about his missing friend, Weigall decides to hunt for Gifford himself, but can Weigall save his dearest friend?
The Striding Place by Gertrude Atherton#free scary #stories @wikisource_en https://t.co/kyyWsvuEjc
Painting: Goya, Quail Hunt pic.twitter.com/jPqzgVSikb
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 26, 2019
The narrator, living in a hotel, watches a strange but attractive pale man move from room to room: what is the man doing, and should management be told?
The Pale Man by Julius Long#free scary #stories @wikisource_en @drunkpenwriting https://t.co/DfO4WkTXwU pic.twitter.com/o8iATzXuRi
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 27, 2019
In the middle of the Pacific on a dark and starless night, George and his mate encounter an old man who tells them the frightening tale of what happened to him and his lovely fiancée.
The Voice in the Night by William Hope Hodgson#free scary #stories https://t.co/hU1l74S8rX pic.twitter.com/Nx26nh796o
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 28, 2019
Something strange is going on in Bellingham’s room, and rumors abound that he has brought back something from Egypt, something in a sarcophagus, something supposedly dead yet not quite dead…
Lot No. 249 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle#free scary #Stories https://t.co/nxbr4pAXqn pic.twitter.com/ZCrSBhmcQj
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 29, 2019
Lord Manfred is determined to subvert the prophecy that claims his family will not inherit the Castle of Otranto by marrying the lovely Isabella: will she escape the destiny he plans for her?
The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole#free scary #stories https://t.co/rXFOTJQs4w pic.twitter.com/h2wG3JLqft
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋🎃 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 30, 2019
Though she loves Valancourt, the orphaned Emily is being forced to marry someone else against her will. Can she escape the Castle of Udolpho in time to find her true love?
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Anne Radcliffe#free scary #stories @gutenberg_org https://t.co/mJC3w9PxR6 pic.twitter.com/KfDX4gHY86
— Dr Alexandria Szeman: Award-Winning #Author 📚🖋 (@Alexandria_SZ) October 31, 2019
Want more free scary classics?
See my entire list of scary stories, novellas, and novels.
Free Scary Classics in the Public Domain
Free in their entirety online or as free ebooks
(Note: Some of the classics on my list may no longer be free:
some sellers charge when work in the public domain become popular.)
A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
A Tale of Two Cities: Spoiler-Free Synopsis
In Paris, about a decade before the French Revolution, a traumatized and physically broken Dr. Manette is released from the Bastille after being unjustly imprisoned for eighteen years. He is reunited with his daughter, Lucie, who was born in France but grew up in England believing she was an orphan. While taking her father back to England to live with her, Lucie meets the young French émigré Charles Darnay.
In London, Darnay, who has rejected his aristocratic family’s heritage and changed his name, is arrested and put on trial for his life, accused of being a spy. One of the attorneys defending him, Sydney Carton, who is brilliant but cynical and disreputable, so physically resembles Darnay that it is remarked upon in court. Darnay and Carton become friends, and both men fall deeply in love with Lucie Manette. Lucie comes to love both men in return, but she cares for Carton maternally rather than as a potential spouse.
After the French Revolution breaks out and the Reign of Terror begins, a former family servant begs Darnay for help. After returning to France, Darnay is arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death despite his rejection of his family’s abusive exploitation of peasants. One of the most vengeful revolutionaries, Madame Defarge, who hates all French noblemen and who also knows the reason for Dr. Manette’s 18-year imprisonment, is insistent that Darnay be executed. Further, Madame Defarge plans to denounce both Dr. Manette and Lucie as “traitors” so that they will also be executed.
Can Carton, spurred by his love of Lucie and his friendship with Darnay, save them all from the guillotine?
Dickens at his desk, 1858. Photo by Watkins.
Author Charles Dickens
Dickens’ father John, who constantly lived beyond his means, was confined in Marshalsea, a debtors’ prison, and 12-year-old Charles, a voracious reader who was enjoying a private school education, was forced to quit school and go to work. At that time, there were no Child Labor laws nor even laws limiting any adult’s working hours. Dickens worked 10 hours a day at a blacking factory while paying for his own keep at a boarding house. Dickens later wrote (to his 1892 biographer) that he “wondered how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age.” After his father received funds upon his own mother’s death and was released from debtors’ prison, Charles’ mother wanted him to remain at work, and Dickens later wrote of this: “I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget.”
This early family grief, overwhelming adult responsibility at the age of 12, dreadful factory experience, and being forced to work to help support his mother and siblings because of his father’s profligate living were repeatedly portrayed in Dickens’ literary work. His grim portrayals of crime, poverty, and unjust but all-powerful social institutions deftly revealed some of the horrors of life for the working class in Victorian England.
1859 cover of A Tale of Two Cities. Photo © Christie’s Auction House
Critical Reception of A Tale of Two Cities
Beginning with the famous lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens’ best-known historical novel, about the period before and after the French Revolution. Many writers, like Tolstoy and George Orwell, praise Dickens’ writing as well as his social commentary, but some writers, such as Virginia Woolf and Henry James, bemoan the “lack of psychological depth and loose writing” in Dickens’ novels. Contemporaneous lawyer, judge, and critic James Fitzjames Stephen called the novel a “dish of puppy pie and stewed cat which is not disguised by the cooking.” Author Jorge Louis Borges quipped that Dickens was so much a British resident that, despite its title, A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens’ novel is really only about one city: London.
Despite the wide-ranging critical reactions, A Tale of Two Cities is considered the bestselling novel of all time, with an estimated 200 million copies sold worldwide. The novel has been adapted for film, television, stage, musicals, radio, and opera. The book was the acknowledged inspiration for the screenplay of the 2012 Batman story The Dark Knight Rises.
A Tale of Two Cities has become a classic, not only because of its complex characters but because the novel deals honestly and critically with social issues, especially those arising during times of great political upheaval and change.
Free Public Domain Versions of A Tale of Two Cities
A Tale of Two Cities is available in its entirety free online because it is in the public domain (the work was not originally copyrighted, the registered copyright has expired, or the author has been dead for more than 100 years; like the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, the book is considered to belong to the public). Since it is not possible to copyright a work already in the public domain, some publishers provide a short author BIO, an Introduction, or footnotes to the work; publishers can then copyright that particular edition of the public domain work.
Gutenberg, Standard Ebooks, WikiSource, and the University of Adelaide (where you can search by author or title) are all dedicated to keeping public domain books completely free of charge and available to all readers: you can search these sites by author or title of the book.
You can read A Tale of Two Cities online or download a copy from the following sites:
• Standard Ebooks provides a quality edited version with an artwork cover, available in ePub, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Sony editions. Detailed instructions for which version to download and how to put the book on your portable e-reader are included.
• The University of Adelaide provides a short biography of Dickens and has the complete book available to download, read online, or as ePub and Kindle books.
• Gutenberg.org provides HTML version (which can be read online) as well as PDF, plain text, ePub, and Kindle versions, all of which can be downloaded.
• WikiSource provides the 1898 edition, also called the Gadshill Edition, with the original illustrations, available 0nline, for any device, while Wikipedia’s Tale of Two Cities has several of the book’s original illustrations along with the plot summary and character list.
• Amazon currently has a free Kindle ebook, but before clicking Buy, make sure the price is still $0.00 as Amazon, which is not a non-profit organization, has a tendency to charge for any public domain books that are being frequently downloaded.
Looking for other classic poems, stories, novellas,
novels, or nonfiction books in the public domain?
See my Free Classics page
• Photo of Charles Dickens at desk, 1858, by Watkins. Photo @ Wikipedia
• Cover of 1859 edition of A Tale of Two Cities, published by Chapman & Hall.
Photo © Christie’s Auction House; Reproduction of Photo @ Wikipedia
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