For being known as an author of heavy tomes, Stephen King has a little-known secret. His short stories are hidden gems.

Many are well known. Movies, good and bad, have been made from them. But there are just so many of them! And some fantastic shorts have gotten lost. 

A lot of them. What was supposed to be one blog post about ten short stories has blossomed into a mini-series about fifteen short stories. Seeing as how we’re talking about Stephen King, that makes sense.

For today, though, here are five lesser-known Stephen King short stories that should be more known. Each one is eerie, creepy, gory, and guaranteed to stick with you.

Jerusalem’s Lot

From Night Shift, 1978

Often seen as a precursor for the much longer ‘Salem’s Lot, Jerusalem’s Lot can be seen as a test run. Or proof of concept.

Set in older, Victorian-like times of manservants and superstitious townsfolk, this story is about a man named Charles. He’s moved into an old family house with his manservant, Calvin. Together they discover rats and undead monsters dwelling in the walls.

Told in a diary entry and letter formula, the story reads like a love letter to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The atmosphere is eerie, the ending is bloody and gory. Truly a treat for anyone who loves a good old-fashioned vampire story.

Graveyard shift

From Night Shift, 1978

I don’t know what happened to King that caused such fear of rats. But after reading this story, I’m a little freaked out by them myself. 

In the bowls of a decrepit textile mill, rats have been breeding and evolving into horrifying sub creatures. Rats as big as cars, rats that can fly. Even a horrifying mother rat who is birthing out baby rats like a queen ant. The main character, Hall, and his monster of a supervisor are tasked with going into the basement and clearing the rats out. 

After they fail horribly and die terrible deaths another group is assembled to see what’s taking them so long.


From Night Shift, 1978

This short is the basis of the movie Maximum Overdrive. But don’t that stop you from reading it. 

The story itself is great. A group of people is trapped in a diner, ringed by sentient trucks that don’t like mankind very much. Many of the characters are only in the diner because they were run off the road by semis. They do their best to survive, trying to think of ways to defeat the giant metal machines intent upon crunching them under their already bloody tires.

Strawberry Spring

From Night Shift, 1978

Doesn’t this title sound nice? Strawberry spring is when you get a bout of unseasonably warm weather in late winter before proper spring begins. Imagine that sort of sweet, warm weather sinking into a college campus in the late ’60s, where most of the story takes place. It would bring out everyone from their long winter hibernation.

Strawberry springs don’t happen every year. And in this little campus, they bring with them a butcher called Springheel Jack. 

The story of the brutal on-campus killing spree is told from the point of view of our unnamed narrator. He’s an adult now, reading in the paper that Springheel Jack is back. And he, our narrator, doesn’t remember where he was last night.

Or why he’s afraid to open the trunk of his car.

Quitters Inc.

From Night Shift, 1978

Do you smoke? Wouldn’t you do anything to quit? 

That’s the situation that our main character, Dick, finds himself in. He wants to quit smoking, an admirable goal. So his boss tells him about the great way he quit, called Quitters Inc. They guarantee that you will, without a doubt, quit smoking. And you won’t gain weight, either. 

Or else they’ll torture your loved ones and make you watch. 

What’s scary about this story isn’t the description of what happens to Dick’s wife. What’s scary is thinking of how many people would be willing to sign up for this program.

Stay tuned next week for part two. 

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