Everyone loves a scary story.
Many authors have spun tales of haunted houses, ghosts and ghouls, and things that go bump in the night. But only a few can weave tales the leave you lying awake at night (and still checking under your bed) years after you first heard that soft creeeeaaak as the binding of the book swung open.
Searching the shelves at your local bookstore for a good Hallowe’en read can yield a lot of results, and a lot of rubbish. Every store puts those specials-of-the-month right on the end-caps to sell lots of copies. But the best isn’t always the most profitable and thus not always right out front. Often it is the buried treasures and hidden secrets that yield the most reward… if you dare journey to seek them out.
Dive into the catacombs with me and dust off a few old treasures to find a Hallowe’en read that will chill you to the bone:
Some may say weird, some may say odd, but if you like the classic Tim Burton brand of creepy, then Neil Gaiman is the author for you! How about a boy who grows up in a cemetery after his parents are murdered? Or a girl who slips into an “other” world of button-eyed freaks?
From short stories, to comic books, to full novels, both fiction and non-fiction, Neil Gaiman has a unique view of the world that will keep you wondering just what he was thinking… in a very good way!
If you say his name five times while looking in the mirror he will appear… or at least his character of the Candyman will. Spurting bloody titles like, The Midnight Meat Train, The Book of Blood, and The Damnation Game, Barker has been anointed by Stephen King as “the future of horror.” These tales will certainly get your guts churning with that queasy feeling that someone could be under your bed.
“When the fox hears the rabbit scream he comes a-runnin’, but not to help.” – Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Creating the character of Dr. Hannibal Lector, one of film and literature’s most hair-raising psychopaths, Thomas Harris has expanded his mythic character over four novels, each diving further into the twisted mind of the epic anti-hero. While it is hard to separate the book from the film, especially with Anthony Hopkins’ Academy Award-winning hissing, the books are so vivid in their description you’ll feel everything along with every character and even find yourself cheering for a cannibal.
The Scarlet Letter is frequently on a high school student’s required reading list, but don’t let reading Hawthorne become a chore. Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment warns of what can happen when you discover the fountain of youth. The House of Seven Gables may sound sweet and romantic, until you realize it’s about living with guilt, self-destruction, and witchcraft. Young Goodman Brown tells of a mysterious errand in the woods that leads to one man’s eyes being opened and his complete loss of faith in humanity. Just what happened out there? Let this classic author take you on a journey that will make your heart skip a beat, and second-guess everything around you.
If you won the lottery, that would be a good thing right? Not in Shirley Jackson’s world! Her classic story, The Lottery, tells of a town making sacrifices to help the fall crops. The Haunting of Hill House has been adapted into horror films not once, but twice! These stories that warn of the dangers of conformity and trusting your intuition make Shirley Jackson a surefire bet for a creepy read.
His Divine Comedy is a benchmark in world literature. With one epic poem, Dante solidified his place in history. Combining Dante’s words with Gustave Doré’s engravings, has defined our cultural imagery of Hell. If you want to witness the underworld in its most pure form, without visiting there yourself, take a peek at an illustrated Divine Comedy, if you dare!
Because of Orwell, one year is synonymous with a dystopian future and gave us all something to fear: 1984. And if that’s not enough, add in Animal Farm.
Telling tales of caution for our future, Orwell scared an entire generation… just, it seems, not enough to make the necessary changes to avoid the social structures he warned about. Assuming they were avoidable at all.
Edgar Allen Poe
A beating heart, a swinging pendulum, a cask of wine, and of course a raven. Poe’s name stands virtually synonymous with the idea of creepy. As gothic as they are violent, as shadowy as they are subtle, his work reads as tortured as his characters and his soul.
“Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.’”
Bram Stoker & Mary Shelley
All together separate, but unified together thanks to Hollywood, Stoker’s Dracula and Shelley’s Frankenstein are forever joined (and tied on this list) as classic mythical monsters. Thanks to gothic imagery, themes of humanity at its darkest, and of course the classic Universal Horror Films, Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley almost double-handedly defined nearly two centuries of horror. Look no further for a classic Halloween treat.
The legend himself. Not only will you find him on the best-seller list, and on those pesky profit-making end-caps, but his work will keep you looking over your shoulder.
From rabid dogs, to haunted cars, to hotels that make you go mad, King is the epitome of the horror genre. Carrie, The Stand, The Shining, Cujo, It, Pet Sematary, Night Shift, Firestarter, The Dead Zone… each a chilling classic. Need I go on?
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…
All work and no play…”
What scary books do you like to read at Hallowe’en? Please share your favorite horrifying tales in the comments section below.
Between his job as a video editor and his hobby as a digital creative, Eric Kuentz thrives on the continuous quest for self-improvement.