Inspired by the horror phenomena, The Backrooms, I decided to scour the internet for free stories about liminal spaces and uncanniness. What I found was strange, spooky, and mysterious – exactly what I was craving. If you’re craving that too, look no further than this list of creepy tales set in strange places.
Please note: These are horror stories. They contain content that isn’t child-friendly, including violence, crime, murder, death, claustraphobia, and scary situations.
What Is A Liminal Space?
A liminal space is not any one place. It describes a feeling or a state of a particular place. Generally, this is a feeling of being in-between, of being at a threshold. In fact, that’s where the name comes from. Liminal comes from Latin limen, meaning ‘threshold.’ It’s that eerie sensation of being neither here nor there – of being in a state of transition. Places that are liminal can include elevators, hotel rooms, and even airports, especially as these places provoke a sense of travel. It can be anywhere that isn’t quite home, but isn’t quite foreign either. Perhaps because of this uncertainty, liminal spaces have been connected with dark tourism, the urge we have to travel to places associated with death or tragedy, and interestingly enough become places were morality is challenged, making them the perfect home for horror.
Disclaimer: To my knowledge all the stories featured on this list are either in the Public Domain or have been graciously shared with the author’s permission. If it comes to light that any of these stories are pirated and a link to a non-pirated copy of the story isn’t available, that story will be unlinked and a note added. I do not support piracy, I support authors and writers.
1. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Possibly more relevant these days than ever, The Yellow Wallpaper follows the detoriating mental health of a woman isolated in a room decorated by yellow wallpaper. With little to occupy her, the protagonist becomes obsessed with the yellow wallpaper and soon believes that there is a woman in the paper watching her.
2. A Strange Place by Patrick Martinez
Like all good stories, this one begins with a life changing course. An unnamed man wakes in a crator and, within, finds a house. Soon after entering the house, the man loses his sense of time and soon after that he finds the him and the house being encroached on by creepy creatures. That barely scratches the surface of the bizarre happenings in this short story. Truly, a strange place.
3. All You Can Do Is Breathe by Karron Warren
Claustraphobia warning. A man is trapped in a mine for several days, living off bugs and drinking… well, you can imagine what. Unable to escape from this creepy place, he keeps himself occupied by revisiting memories and keeping to something of a routine. The true scares, however, come after the rescue party has arrived.
4. The Red Room by H.G Wells
Another room plagued by a popular primary colour, The Red Room is another one of those settings that doesn’t quite feel right. Determined to prove that ghosts aren’t real, the narrator of this tale chooses to spend a night in haunted room, the titular Red Room. The resulting harrowing night has him grappling with his understanding of reality – truly the most liminal of all spaces to find oneself.
5. The Staircase by Gerald Daniels
A being stands watch at the bottom of a staircase that leads to the afterlife. The clash of life and death is the most profound of transitionary periods, so it’s no surprise that liminal spaces are often those associated with death. Yet in these spaces we find the familiar – which is exactly how this story ends.
6. The Cellar Door by Rebecca Laura
This 2,000 word creepy short story begins with a person looking for a new place to live. The titular cellar door is broken, but that’s a drawback the main character is willing to accept in exchange for a place to live. Not long after moving in, she learns that her new place is anything but ordinary. A broken cellar door becomes the least of her troubles.
7. Going Up? The Elevator by Darius Razzle Paciente
This is a flash fiction following a creepy inhuman creature as it stalks a woman. On every floor the elector stops, the creature is there, watching her. It doesn’t take her long to realise that her life is in danger and the only barrier protecting her is the elevator doors – and they won’t stay shut for long.
In truth, all stories put us in a liminal space because fiction is about change. That said, stories like these seldom let you leave that space and that’s what truly makes them liminal stories.
If you enjoyed this list, be sure to leave a like and share with other fiction lovers! Find more short story recommendations here. If you’re looking for a story with a particular trope, mention it in the comments below and I’ll put together a list just for you!
Take a look at the lists already available: