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There’s no better time to read spooky stories than in spooky season. The horror genre is packed full of imaginative stories of ghosts and ghouls that’s bound to get you in the mood for Halloween.
Dracula, Bram Stoker
The original vampire story was written in 1897 by Irish author Bram Stoker. The story was born out of anxieties at the time surrounding modernity, migrants, and sexual expression, particularly in females. The narrative follows Jonathon Harker, an English lawyer who travels to Transylvania to assist Count Dracula in purchasing land abroad. When he arrives and meets his client, he instantly realises something is off, and the Count’s plans have sinister consequences for humanity. If you love spooky stories, or just want to learn more about the mythology of vampires, Dracula is a great novel to get stuck into.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Written in 1817, it was scandalous that a woman had written a tale of such horror. Mary Shelley, married to the poet Percy Shelley, published Frankenstein after she lost her two week old daughter. This novel is worth a read during Halloween or not. When Doctor Victor Frankenstein creates life through dead matter, he doesn’t anticipate the dangers of such an act. This is one of the original spooky stories and its influence is witnessed every year at Halloween when people paint themselves green and stick fake bolts in their neck. Although this is not how the monster is described in the novel, it goes to show how much of an effect this novel had on the horror genre.
Carrie, Stephen King
The King of Horror, also known as Stephen King, has a reputation for being one of the best horror writers there’s ever been. His first novel Carrie, which he published in 1974, became a cultural phenomenon and has spawned countless film and TV adaptations, even becoming a musical. Carrie White is an isolated teenage girl who’s struggling with puberty, particularly with a God-fearing mother who refuses to teach her about her body. But there’s something different about Carrie, and her power is about to be unleashed. A classic horror tale that deals with the psychology of an abused and misunderstood youth.
The Shining, Stephen King
For someone of his reputation, a second Stephen King novel had to be mentioned here. The Shining, published in 1977, has become a cult classic and spawned the iconic film starring Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, recovering alcoholic who takes a caretaker job at the secluded Overlook Hotel in order to work part-time on his novel. He takes his family with him, but it’s clear there’s something unusual about The Overlook Hotel, and those who reside there. Jack, much as he tries to fight it, begins to change the more time he spends there, and no one will be safe once he changes completely. Truly one of the most famous spooky stories.
Edgar Allan Poe is known for his spooky stories. He proves in The Tell-Tale Heart, which you can read here, that horror fiction is often best told in small bites, or in the short story form. It was published in 1843 and is narrated by an unnamed character who is both trying to convince the reader of their sanity, while also describing a vicious murder and dismemberment. This chilling tale is worse as the narrator never tries to proclaim their innocence, just that they are not insane a the reader might think. This insistence is what makes the short story so creepy and perfect for a Halloween evening.
The Grown-Up, Gillian Flynn
The author of Gone Girl wrote this short story for George R.R Martin, the writer of Game of Thrones. He asked her to write a ghost story, and so she did. The Grown-Up follows a woman who has made a living working in a brothel posing as a fortune teller’s tent. She makes her living manipulating men, until one day one of their wives walks in, looking for help cleansing her haunted house. While our protagonist originally sees this as a way of making some extra money, she is soon worried she’s out of her depth. A strange but fun tale that’s perfect to read in a single spooky sitting.
The Hitch-Hiker, Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is known for his comedy and children’s tales, however, he has a wealth of adult fiction too, and horror fiction at that. The Hitch-Hiker is one of his spookiest stories, about the dangers of picking a stranger up, and the unknown catastrophe it can bring. Some other honourable mentions are The Landlady, The Way Up to Heaven, and Lamb to the Slaughter.
The Road, Cormac McCarthy
This post-apocalyptic novel is frightening mostly for what it doesn’t say. A father and son are walking the road, with no real purpose other than to survive. They walk in darkness, and have to avoid attacks and scavengers, happening upon some truly horrific sights on their travels. This is simply a wonderful piece of fiction, aside from the terrifying setting, and worthy of a read no matter the season.
The Woman in Black, Susan Hill
This 1983 novel was inspired by the old Gothic novel form. When Arthur Kipps attends a funeral, he is struck by a woman in black, who has an inexplicable menace about her. When he asks about her, no one is willing to speak up, which only adds to the uneasiness Kipps feels, and the desire to learn more.
The Crucible, Arthur Miller
Written in 1953, The Crucible is an allegorical play by Arthur Miller that portrayed the Salem Witch Trials in the 1600s. It was inspired by the movement of McCarthyism that was prevalent in America during the 50s, that had people spying on their friends and holding “witch trials” for those they believed could be communist spies. A story about witches and betrayal is a must read during this spooky season.
The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
This is a post-apocalyptic novel written in 1951 that depicts a world destroyed by a meteor shower. Biologist Bill Masen has been investigating the poisonous Triffid plant, suspecting them to have been engineered by the Soviet Union to be used as a weapon. After being temporarily blinded by the poison from the Triffid plant, and ending up in hospital, Masen realises everyone is suffering with their sight. A frightening tale about how something natural can cause our demise.
Short stories often make the best ghost stories, and The Demon Lover is no exception. A tale about a woman haunted, you only need an hour to digest Bowen’s story, where you’ll be sufficiently sucked in and spooked out. It’s set in WWII Britain, and Mrs. Drover has returned to her London home to collect her family’s things before fleeing. But when she arrives, there’s a letter for her, and it’s one she wishes she hadn’t opened. One of the best spooky stories for Halloween.
The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
Hannibal Lecter, the famous cannibal, was created by American author Thomas Harris. He first appeared in the 1981 novel Red Dragon, and his journey continues in The Silence of the Lambs. FBI Agent Clarice Starling is tasked with questioning Hannibal Lecter, who is serving life sentences back to back, in order to find another serial killer who goes by the name of Buffalo Bill. However, in their sessions together, Clarice and Hannibal share a unique bond, making this one of the most chilling spooky stories around.
If you have anymore spooky stories to add to our list, please leave them in the comments below!