Ghosts and ghouls, witches and warlocks, monsters and mythological beings, and yes – even you, the one at the back who stumbled in here because they took a wrong turn. Take off your shoes, get comfy. Grab a blanket.
Halloween has come and gone, but some of us (myself included) aren’t quite ready to let go of the best part of Autumn just yet. As far as I’m concerned, November is fair game and I’m not ready for Christmas until the first of December. Besides, there are far too many books to read that fall into the ‘scary’ category.
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
I first found out about this spooky story when I was a kid. Every year, Cartoon Network would show essentially the same set of seasonal cartoons, and there was one called The Halloween Tree that I’d watch with the same enthusiasm every single year. Give me a break, this was before Netflix and all those newfangled streaming tools we have now. Anyway, I Googled it one day and was delighted to find that it was actually a 1972 novel by none other than Ray Bradbury, who also lends his voice to the animated version. Pretty cool.
When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die.Ray Bradbury, The Halloween Tree
The Halloween Tree takes you through the rich history of Samhain and Halloween through one eventful night shared by a band of costumed boys rushing to meet their friend, Pipkin. Led by the mysterious Mr Moundshroud, the boys go on a journey through the past to save their friend while learning the true meaning of Halloween. Oh, and the whole thing is illustrated with hauntingly beautiful drawings.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
This one’s a real pop-culture classic and comes with a great 1968 film adaptation starring Mia Farrow.
Like so many unhappinesses, this one had begun with silence in the place of honest open talk.Ira Levin, Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary and Guy are a young couple trying to build a life together in New York. How do young couples do that? Apparently by buying a strange apartment in a creepy building that is literally a hotbed of death and bad juju. Anyway, everything seems to be going well for them: Guy’s acting career is picking up, they’ve befriended their eccentric, nosy neighbours, and the two are finally ready to start a family. What could possibly go wrong, eh? Spoiler: plenty.
Child of God by Cormac McCarthy
If you’re interested in true crime, serial killers, and love a narrative loaded with suspense, this one’s for you. If you’re not interested in any of that, well…here’s why you should give this a read anyway.
To watch these things issuing from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.Cormac McCarthy, Child of God
Child of God is arguably McCarthy’s boldest portrayal of human brutality and outright depravity so it’s not exactly a relaxing bedtime read. The protagonist, Lester Ballard, is a social outcast – a murderer and necrophile reminiscent of the real-life killer Ed Gein. In terms of the narrative, McCarthy’s bare style carves out a quick, gripping read you won’t be able to put down (or forget about) easily.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
If you’ve never read this classic gothic novel before, now’s the perfect time to jump in. If you have already read it, now’s the perfect time to get re-acquainted Wuthering Heights and get lost in the misty Yorkshire moors once more. Bring a coat.
I gave him my heart, and he took and pinched it to death; and flung it back to me. People feel with their hearts, Ellen, and since he has destroyed mine, I have not power to feel for him.Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights
In short, the novel is one of searing revenge. And I mean serious long-game revenge, not your regular store-bought kind; when you get to know a bit more about Heathcliff’s backstory, it becomes pretty clear why the guy’s pissed off. Knocked down into the role of a servant by his adopted family, Heathcliff is devastated when Catherine Earnshaw – the woman he loves – basically marries a man out of her desire to move up in society. After a long absence, Heathcliff returns rich, educated, and angry. He’s dead set on getting back at the two families he feels have taken his soulmate away and ruined his life.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
This classic needs no introduction, but we’ll do it anyway because we’re thorough that way. I still can’t believe that Shelley wrote her best work at the age of 18. Do you know what I was doing when I was 18? Me neither. Exactly.
Beware; for I am fearless, and therefore powerful.Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Frankenstein is a Gothic masterpiece about an eccentric scientist named Victor Frankenstein and the ‘monster’ he creates – though reading the novel will leave you questioning who or what the real monster is here. Through the first-person accounts of one Captain Walton, Victor, and his monster, we learn a little about what it means to be ‘human’ and are left asking a lot of questions about the oh-so-fine lines that separate humanity from inhumanity, if they can ever truly be seen as separate at all.
What are your favourite spooky tales and bone-chilling horror stories? Add to my to-be-read pile and pop your suggestions in the comments!