Be very afraid: Scary books for Halloween

halloween pumpkins

 

As a librarian, I do not like to say books can be scary but the truth is sometimes…they are. I remember a story I read as a child: three girls find out ghosts also get scared during thunderstorms. The story was sweet and only mildly scary, yet 20 years later, it still sends a chill down my spine. Horror stories can do that.  They are designed to instil fear in us readers using an invincible weapon: our minds.  It is us who take the words of the author and create an image a lot scarier than anything we could see in a movie. The images we conjure stay with us, making their appearance on dark stormy nights, sending our pulse into a frenzy, making us hide under the covers.

 

One might wonder why we do this to ourselves. Are we just a bunch of masochists? Maybe we just enjoy the adrenaline rush; maybe we’d like to sample life on the dark side for a while. Whatever it is, we are not alone. The horror genre is more popular than ever, our imaginations a lot more prolific.  The craving gets stronger as we approach Halloween so, to satisfy it, here’s a list of horrifying suggestions to share and scare.

 

Abandon all hope ye who read below…

 

 

The Classics

 

I often find the classics, with their lack of technology and old school themes, a lot scarier than newer works.  While the time frame for “the classics” is a little wider than in other genres (well into the 1970s), these stories are still utterly horrifying.

 

Anything by Edgar Allan Poe will chill your blood. Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, with its headless horseman, is positively terrifying. Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked Comes This Way will make you sleep with the lights on. Women authors are also popular in this genre. Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein are just some examples of their contribution.

 

Like movies? Many classics have become book-to-screen hits such as William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

 

 

Ghosts

 

If ghosts are more your thing, Stephen King and Alexandra Sokoloff are a must. If you are new to the genre and want to sample different authors check  Haunted Legends (edited by Ellen Dalton and Nick Mamatas), a collection of ghost stories by popular authors. If you find the thought of child ghosts terrifying, like I do, try Douglas Clegg’s Mischief, Ray Garton’s The Loveliest Dead and John Saul’s Nathaniel to get your scare on.

 

 

Vampires

 

Thanks to books and TV shows like Twilight and True Blood, the popularity of vampires has skyrocketed. Such is their fame that there is now a sexiness attached to the vampire tale.

 

To quench your thirst for these blood-sucking creatures try David Wellington’s Laura Caxton Series and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles (which includes the popular book Interview with the Vampire). Other gems include John Ajvide Lindquist’s Let Me In, Kent Jasper’s Twelve and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian. If you are looking for comic relief, be sure to check out Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

 

 

Real Life Monsters

 

These stories are probably the scariest of them all.  In these stories writers no longer venture into the fantastic to scare us. They use flesh-and-blood villains, making their stories a lot more plausible and horrifying. Robert Bloch with his famous Psycho is a master of this subgenre as is Dean Koontz with books such as Intensity and Face of Fear.

 

Are you scared yet?  No? Trust me, you will be.

 

Photo by Petr Kratochvil

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