All Hallows’ Eve is upon us once again! That means costumes, candy, and a bounty of blood-curdling books that will surely make you want to sleep with the lights on for weeks to come. After all, despite the prominence of macabre motion pictures, it’s literature that’s ultimately responsible for the horror genre’s existence over the past century.
In honor of October’s frightfully festive holiday, we here at Epicstream decided to put together a list of spooktastic scary stories that are sure to get you into the Halloween spirit. Go ahead and grab some candles, some flashlights, and some blankets to hide under, if necessary, because here’s our list of 10 horror books to read this Halloween season:
Author: Stephen King
While Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot are some of Stephen King’s seminal stories, it was his third novel – The Shining – that cemented him as one of the most preeminent authors in the horror genre. It’s the story of Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and his son Danny, who move into the unsettling Overlook Hotel when Jack becomes the new caretaker. However, the family’s respite from the outside world soon becomes a nightmare when the hotel begins to come to life and Jack begins to slowly lose his mind. The fact that King takes his time building the horror makes the scary scenes that much scarier. This isn’t a horror novel full of jump-scares and monsters. It's effective by drawing us deep into the minds of the characters, overhearing their innermost thoughts, and freaking out right along with them.Advertisement
The Witching Hour
Author: Anne Rice
The first in Anne Rice’s Lives of the Mayfair Witches series, The Witching Hour recounts the tale of a woman named Rowan Mayfair, who was given up for adoption as a child but managed to lead a fairly normal life. That is until she discovers her true familial history, at which point we’re transported back in time to learn the chilling backstory of the Mayfair witches, whose occult practices span as far back as the 1600s. Admittedly, the 300 or so pages detailing the 12 generations of Mayfair family history can be a bit tedious, but aside from that, there are plenty of compelling twists and turns in the plot to keep you interested, and the suspense is drawn out to perfection. Those willing to put in the time to give this nearly 1,000-page novel a chance will certainly be rewarded with complex characters, beautiful prose, and a memorable, spellbinding tale of historical and occult fiction.
Author: William Peter Blatty
The novel that served as the inspiration for the eponymous 1973 film was itself inspired by a 1949 case of demonic possession and exorcism that author William Peter Blatty heard about during his time at Georgetown University. The result, of course, was The Exorcist, which is a quintessential, supernatural allegory for good versus evil. For the uninformed, the novel is about a 12-year-old girl who becomes possessed by an evil, demonic spirit, and the priest who tries his damnedest to save her while also struggling with his own faith. For fans of the film, this novel will certainly help expand upon many of the concepts and characters depicted on-screen. As for newcomers, be prepared, because The Exorcist will push your faith, comfort level, and courage to their absolute limits.
The Haunting of Hill House
Author: Shirley Jackson
Arguably the best literary ghost story of the 20th century, Shirley Jackon’s The Haunting of Hill House is the story of an investigator who invites three individuals with a history of paranormal experiences to stay with him at the titular Hill House in hopes that this will help him prove the existence of the supernatural. Published in 1959, this book set the template for the countless haunted house tales that would soon follow, though the amount that manage to match the psychological brilliance of Jackson’s tale are few and far between. This is largely because the story expertly ties the mysterious events taking place in the house to the psyches of the characters, leaving you questioning whether or not there are truly any supernatural forces at work, or if it’s simply all in their imagination. The Haunting of Hill House is a story that keeps readers on their toes throughout, and rest assured that your diligence will absolutely be rewarded with a satisfying conclusion.
The Amityville Horror
Author: Jay Anson
Much like The Exorcist, The Amityville Horror also spawned a film franchise two years after the novel was published, so many fans unjustly glossed over the source material in favor of its big-screen counterpart. However, the book – based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family upon moving into a home where a man murdered his family – raises far more intriguing questions about the validity of the Lutzes claims than the films could ever hope to. Still, even if you ignore the overshadowing debate about whether or not the events in the story actually happened, you’re still left with one of the most engaging and utterly terrifying haunted house stories ever written.
Author: Stephen King
In 1975, Stephen King published his second novel, ‘Salem’s Lot, in which Ben Mears returns to his titular hometown only to discover that the residents are somehow becoming vampires. It’s one of the most successful early attempts at taking the classic vampire lore and placing it in a contemporary setting, never mind a small, secluded town. In fact, the small-town setting is actually one of the highlights of the story, with the unsettling element of the awfulness hiding behind smiling faces and familiarity conjuring up just as many scares as the vampires, themselves. In terms of characterization, this is far from King's best work, but if you haven't yet made yourself familiar with Bram Stoker's masterpiece and wish to make the acquaintance of vampires who give rise to pure spine-tingling, bone-chilling terror, this book is definitely for you.
The Graveyard Book
Author: Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book is a bit lighter in tone than the other entries on this list, though not by much. The story focuses on a boy named Nobody (“Bod” for short), who is raised by the ghosts and other supernatural residents of a graveyard after his family is brutally murdered. While Neil Gaiman could have presented this all-ages story as overly sweet or overly morbid, he manages to avoid either extreme, resulting in a tale with the perfect blend of whimsy and suspense. Seeing the world depicted through the eyes of a very human boy raised is a very non-human place gives The Graveyard Book a unique charm that you’d be hard-pressed to find in any “traditional” horror novel, so don’t let the “Young Adult” rating keep you from experiencing this hauntingly beautiful story.
Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe
Author: Edgar Allen Poe
If you want to experience the finest work from one of literature’s most prolific icons, consider picking up Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Containing such renowned short stories as The Tell-Tale Heart and acclaimed poems as The Raven, this anthology is an absolute must-read for not just fans of Poe’s mystery and horror work, but also his fantasy and satire tales. There really isn’t much more to say short of reviewing each individual piece collected in this book, but your time would be much better spent reading it all for yourself, especially as Halloween draws nearer.
Author: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
Author Mary Shelley’s seminal novel tells the tale of a young scientist named Victor Frankenstein, who creates a monstrous being from stolen body parts in a highly unorthodox experiment. A horror story at its core, Frankenstein is also a story of romance, as well as a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, and some consider it to be literature’s first true science fiction story. However, despite its sci-fi classification, the thematic elements of “playing God” and the relationship between creator and creation are still at the forefront of this surprisingly realistic and emotional narrative. Naturally, the story will have you constantly questioning who the real monster is, but one thing that goes without saying is that Frankenstein’s significance in not just the horror genre, but literature as a whole, cannot be overstated.
Author: Bram Stoker
Nearly 80 years after Mary Shelley introduced the world to Frankenstein’s monster, author Bram Stoker gave readers the book that laid the foundation for every vampire story, in any medium, that’s come since: Dracula. Yes, John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819) first provided the sophisticated take on the bloodsucking beings, but it’s the 1897 novel Dracula that provided the basis for the modern vampire legend. Unlike traditional novels, this story is told in epistolary format, with various journal entries, newspaper articles, and ships’ logs entries shaping the narrative, and the viewpoints of the various narrators helping to create the kind of suspense that suits the gothic tone of the novel perfectly. If you have even the slightest appreciation for vampires in modern media, you owe it to yourself to add this undeniable classic to your Halloween reading list.