If you are struggling for some scary Halloween reads this week, look no further! Here are my favourite creepy books to get you in the mood for pumpkin carving and apple bobbing…
- ‘Collected Ghost Stories’ by MR James
MR James is the absolute undisputed MASTER of the ghost story, and every single one in this collection is guaranteed to provide spine tingles and/or feelings of intense anxiety. Look out particularly for ‘The Mezzotint’ and ‘Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad’; also ‘The Runes’ which sees the hero pursued by a curse cast on him via eerily marked relics.
- ‘Pet Sematary‘ by Stephen King
Can there even be a Halloween reading list without Stephen King on it? No! The answer is no. Pet Sematary benefits from the urban legend of being the book that King himself thinks went too far. It all begins with an unconsecrated burial ground on the outskirts of town. When Lou’s cat dies, it makes sense to lay him to rest there. But he makes an unexpected – and unwelcome – return…
- ‘The Woman in Black‘ by Susan Hill
I read this at university, curled up in a bower window overlooking a garden swirling with low mist. An appropriate setting for this classic gothic horror about a lawyer who heads to a remote house to deal with his late client’s estate. The house itself is cut off from the mainland by the tide, leaving the hero to spend rather too long a time exploring the Eel Marsh House. This short but punchy novel has bump-in-the-night scares galore – and inspired the Daniel Radcliffe film and jumpy London stage production.
- ‘The Haunting of Hill House‘ by Shirley Jackson
All haunted house horrors bow down before this, the original and still the best. The set-ups suffer for seeming a bit cliched now, purely because so many imitations have followed, but it’s important to remember that this book is the source of most of the tropes. Unidentifiable banging? Mysterious scuttling noises? The house locking people in and out of it? Check, check and check. Worth stating also that the original story has pretty much nothing in common with the Netflix version.
- ‘The Little Stranger‘ by Sarah Waters
Not a classic horror so much as a slow-burning gothic mystery, ‘The Little Friend’ makes the list for the gloriously creepy ‘ghost’ which haunts Hundreds Hall. Home to the (formerly) rich Ayres family, the Hall attracts the admiration of our narrator Dr Faraday. The real question is: who is creepier – the living or the dead? Be prepared for unreliable narration, flipping perspectives and nothing being quite as it seems…
Good luck readers… lock your doors!!
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