The Pit and the Pendulum
by Edgar Allan Poe
Horror: the word appears thirteen times in "The Pit and the Pendulum," and with good reason. It's the very thing the story is meant to evoke. What could be more horrible, really, than a dank dungeon, a bottomless pit, a killer pendulum, and the scariest contracting room this side of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope?
But here's the thing about horror: it's all about the anticipation. When you watch a horror movie, not much really happens until the very end, right? It's just about what we think might happen. That's what has us holding onto our seats and wishing we weren't too old for a diaper.
And boy does Poe nail this. If you think about it, nothing really happens in this story. No one dies, or even gets hurt, and other than some rats nibbling at our guy's fingers, there's really no blood, gore, or general grossness. It's all about the possibility. And that's what makes horror stories so, well, horrifying.