3 More Disturbing Short Stories If You Can’t Stop Thinking About “The Lottery”

Unsettling short stories – they’re dark, strange, and far from new. If you read ‘The Lottery’ in school and said, ‘I’m not sure why I loved reading that – but where can I find more?,’ this article is for you.

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It’s been over seven decades since “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson was published, and people are still talking about it. I first read this chilling story in an English class four years ago, and I know I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. For those who also crave disturbing pieces of media and literature, here are three recommendations (plus some fun analysis).

Why Do We Like Stories Like This?

Before jumping into the recommendations, I want to discuss a little bit about why people like disturbing, gory, creepy pieces of media. I cannot deny that I have long indulged in this ‘guilty pleasure’ (I was an avid Hunger Games stan in the 5th grade, after all). I love a good psychological thriller and anything that will mess with my mind. I think this comes from three main reasons. 

Firstly, life can be boring sometimes. What could be better to break up the mundane than a piece of literature that will have your jaw dropped and your eyes about to pop? Secondly, there’s something oddly interesting about the ‘what if’. The ‘what if I was in this situation – what would I do? How would I survive?’ It’s a strange phenomenon, but if you have ever taken a “Would You Survive the Hunger Games?” quiz, you cannot deny that it exists. Thirdly, these pieces of media and literature often comment on societal issues. By viewing such issues like these through a different lens, it can be easier to understand them.


Where Does “The Lottery” Fit In?

“The Lottery” itself follows a town that holds a raffle drawing once a year. Whoever’s name gets drawn is then stoned to death by the rest of the community. Through this premise, Jackson comments on issues of blindly following tradition, gender roles, and violence. One thing I found very intriguing is the date Jackson chose for this annual lottery: June 27. “The Lottery” was first published in the June 26th, 1948 issue of The New Yorker. By choosing a date so soon after the publishing date, Jackson is almost warning the reader that this fate could be just around the corner. And sure, maybe this only holds up if you read this story the day it was published.

But what else could the lottery’s date being June 27th mean? June 27th is about a week after the summer solstice, a day of celebrating achievement and new opportunities. This could represent how the town views the lottery as something normal and possibly, even exciting. They associate this tradition with a time of warm weather, the ending of school, and a change in season. It might be a stretch, but the man running the lottery is literally named Mr. Summers, so who knows.  

No matter how you interpret “The Lottery,” if it left you wanting more- I’ve got you covered. So, join me as I spiral into a coffee fueled, internet rabbit hole full of stories you might not want to read with the lights off.

1. “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


In this story, a depressed woman has been prescribed a “rest cure” Essentially, the cure is isolated bed rest. Her husband (who just so happens to double as her doctor) takes her to a private estate. Forbidden to do anything active, the woman begins writing in a secret journal. The story is told through these journal entries. As her imagination runs wild, this unreliable narrator seems to see some disturbing things. But what if she’s really just crazy? The more you read this story, the more you might spiral too. It’s an interesting commentary on mental health mixed with an ending you just need to read yourself to fully interpret.

2. “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison


If you’re interested in the potential consequences of technology, I 1000% recommend watching Black Mirror on Netflix, which I could talk about for hours. But, if you’re more of a reader (like most of us here at Bookstr), “I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream” by Harlan Ellison has a similar feel. The story follows a supercomputer called ‘AM.’ ‘AM’ somehow gains self-awareness and commits mass genocide, killing everyone on Earth except four men and one woman. ‘AM’ receives pleasure from torturing the group. The narrative of the story centers largely around the group’s quest to find food in the underground complex they are kept in. During this journey, chaos and violence ensue. I do not want to give away the ending, but let’s say you’ll most likely let out a big “ohhhhhhh, so that’s what the title means” after finishing this harrowing tale. 

3. “The Veldt” by Ray Bradbury


This one really gives me the chills, you guys. In this story, Bradbury lays out a future in which there are automated homes that help families cook, clean, and take care of the children. In the house is a nursery equipped with virtual reality technology that allows the kids to ‘visit’ wherever they want. The children, Peter and Wendy, have chosen an African grassland setting for the nursery, which their parents find strange. In the VR grassland are two lions munching on some carcasses – which is even more strange.

The parents start to question if they should let their kids rely on technology so much. Has the technology caused them to crave such a violent scene to witness? With input from a child psychologist, they decide to turn off the house and move away. Then the children beg for one last look at the nursery. And what happens next will have you hiding under the covers and questioning your own existence. I knew technology was ‘bad for us’ but wow.

I hope I haven’t scarred you too much, but if your mind isn’t boggled enough, click here for some disturbing novels to check out.