A spooky season calls for a spooktacular to-be-read list! Here we are with the list of books that’ll make you turn your head to check if someone is breathing down your neck!
1. Something Wicked This Way Comes
“Something Wicked This Way Comes” is a dark fantasy novel by Ray Bradbury, published in 1962. The story chronicles the lives of two 13-year-old best friends, Jim Nightshade and William Halloway. Their nightmare begins with a scary storm in the guise of a travelling carnival coming to their hometown in Illinois every October 24. Their excitement for the festival leads them to Mr Dark, who’s the leader of the carnival and an antagonist of the story.
Unaware of the impending doom because of the carnival, the kids visit it for all the fun and games. Little did they know that their lives would be in and out of danger with all the sinister happening during the show. They must fight to survive the demons overshadowing their town and its people. The smoke, maze, and mirrors add to the spooky atmosphere, adding to the feeling of the reader experiencing the chilly and eerie feeling.
2. The Haunting of Hill House
This masterpiece is written by Shirley Jackson is a gothic horror book published in 1959. The heir to the Hill House, Luke Sanderson, invites four main characters to investigate the paranormal happenings around the house. The very first paragraph of the book sets the tone of the entire book. The house stands in all its grandeur silently, but “…whatever walked there, walked alone” is enough to petrify you.
Doctor John Montague is a psychic researcher who is intrigued by the paranormal activities at the Hill House. He teams up with Eleanor Vance, Theodora, and Sanderson himself. While the team is exploring the gothic house and eerie happenings, the quiet place with unseen entities is getting ready to suck away one of their own.
“Dracula” is a gothic novel by Bram Stoker, published in 1897. The story is based on various letters and telegrams written by the main characters. As the name implies, the story is about Count Dracula. An English lawyer, Jonathan Harker, travels to Transylvania to meet with Count Dracula for business dealings. He recognizes the terror on people’s faces when he mentions his final destination to be Castle Dracula. He’s unaware of the secrets hidden in the Castle, and that’s what he is getting into.
Upon learning about his true identity, Harker flees the Castle, followed by the Vampire to England on a vampire-turning spree. Armed with all the information about the vampire, Harker teams up with his friends to fight the Count. They get their hands on the Boxes crucial to Dracula’s life. They destroy all of them but one on the way to the Castle. They fight for their lives for the box and finally succeed, with Quincey stabbing Dracula once and for all.
4. Salem’s Lot
“Salem’s Lot” is a horror novel written by Stephen King in 1975. It is set in a small American town being overrun by vampires. Ben Mears is a writer who returns to Jerusalem’s Lot to write his autobiographical book. He also plans to face the fears that have haunted him since childhood. His arrival is marked by the disappearance of a kid and a dog killed brutally.
The events that unfold after are as morbid as previous ones. It makes him realize that he has to fight off the evil forces to protect his town. He gathers up a team and convinces them to fight with him. The foreboding tension and horror of the creatures responsible for all the gruesome deaths were enough to convince them. They try to fight the old and new vampires, but their effort to eradicate them is all in vain.
5. Night in the Lonesome October
“Night in the Lonesome October” by Roger Zelazny is a spine-chilling book written in 1993. It’s narrated in the first person through the eyes of Snuff, Jack’s dog. The unique thing about the novel is that most of the characters are those we have known, like Jack the Ripper, Count Dracula, Sherlock Holmes, etc.
Once in a few decades, the “Blue Moon” happens on Halloween when the veil between the two worlds is thin. Two forces, the Closers and the Openers, are at war to open or close the veil. The opening will result in the dead ones roaming the world and making it their own, while the closing will maintain the calm. The Openers have never won, but October 31 is the primary date to decide the world’s fate.
6. The Graveyard Book
“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman is a young adult novel published in 2008. It narrates the story of the boy Nobody “Bod” Owens, who is adopted and reared by the supernatural entities living in the graveyard after his family is murdered. He meets Sleer, whose protector of some treasures: a brooch, a goblet, and a knife. He leaves for an adventure with the ghouls when he is six.
He is scared when the ghouls suggest turning him into a ghoul but is saved by Miss Lupescu, his new caretaker. When Bod was eight, he met Liza Hempstock, a witch buried without a headstone. He takes a brooch from Sleer to trade for a tombstone but gets in trouble. Upon turning 15 years old, Bod starts to lose communication with the dead. His caretakers tell him it’s time to join the world of the living, and he leaves knowing they’ll be missed badly.
7. The Turn of the Screw
“The Turn of the Screw” is a horror novella by Henry James, published in 1898. The story starts on Christmas Eve. A narrator and some friends gather around a fire, sharing ghost stories. Douglas shares an account written by his sister’s late governess, who went to live with two children at a remote estate.
She describes her paranormal experiences of watching a dead valet and their former governess, who appear to her occasionally. When the kids are aware of their presence, she feels uneasy because of their effect on the children, and she tries her best to keep them safe. It’s a hair-raising story perfect for a Halloween to-read list.
8. Dark Harvest
“Dark Harvest” is a horror novel published in 2006 by Norman Partridge. It is set in 1964, on Halloween night, in an unnamed town. Pete McCormick is a teenager excited to participate in the annual harvest ritual, the Run. He has to chase and kill a living pumpkin-headed scarecrow known as “The October Boy” and “Sawtooth Jack.”
Anyone who manages to do it before he reaches the church wins prizes for him and his family. Pete is all ready to win this time, even if he has to break some rules. He soon learns that the Run is not just fun but also dark. He might even be happy if he loses, too.
9. The Pet Sematary
“The Pet Sematary” (1989) is another bone-chilling horror book by the King of Horror Fiction, Stephen King. The story follows Dr. Louis Creed, his wife, Rachel, and his children to relocate to Maine from Boston.
While exploring the place, they discover a mysterious burial ground hidden from the world in the woods nearby. Jud Crandall, their neighbour, inclines the doctor towards a task so perilous that it unleashes a chain reaction with terrible consequences.
10. Carnival of Fear
“Carnival” of Fear by J.G. Faherty is a horror fantasy book published in 2010. Like in a typical town or country, the Halloween carnival is the perfect way to spend a Friday night. But it’s a town inhabited by demons ready to unleash at midnight.
At the carnival, there are places to visit, especially the haunted mansion. A group of teenagers gets trapped in the haunted mansion, which leads them to the demons and their wrath.
“Misery” is another scary but award-winning masterpiece by Stephen King, published in 1987. It explores the themes of addiction and its adversity. The book starts with Paul Sheldon, the best-seller author of the romance novels featuring Misery Chastain. After he’s finished writing the last instalment of the manuscript, he gets drunk and drives to LA, resulting in an accident.
He wakes up in the care of Annie, who nurses Paul at home. She’s also the reader of his books, especially the Misery series. Upon learning that Paul has killed off her favourite character in the book, she begins tormenting into writing a new one. She even amputated his door to ensure that he could not move. He tries to escape the house when he learns that Annie is a serial killer who may kill him.
12. The Shining
“The Shining” (1977) horror novel by King is worth mentioning. Joey Tribbiani (Friends ) wasn’t kidding about putting The Shining in the freezer because IT’S SCARY! This is a tale of a troubled man, Jack Torrance, hired to care for a secluded mountain resort – Overlook Hotel when it shuts down during winter.
He has anger issues and is an alcoholic. His wife, Wendy, is always worried about his mental health. Their five-year-old son named Danny is gifted with an unusual ability called “Shining.” The tale unfolds, letting the readers know the secrets of the Overlook and its deadly history.
13. The Exorcist
“The Exorcist” is a 1971 horror novel by American writer William Peter Blatty. The book is about the demonic possession of eleven-year-old Regan MacNeil and the two priests who attempt to exorcise the demon. The story is based in Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and revolves around a young girl, Regan MacNeil, and a troubled priest named Father Damien Karras.
Regan is the daughter of successful actress Chris MacNeil. She notices changes in her daughter, including aggression, profanity-laden outbursts, and disturbing physical contortions. After she’s fed up with medical treatment, she summons priests to rid her daughter of the demons. The exorcism scarred Regan but also saved her from demonic possession.
“Rebecca” is a 1938 Gothic novel by English author Daphne du Maurier and adapted from Jane Eyre. The novel depicts an unnamed young woman working as a lady’s companion. Her miserable life changes course when she meets Maxim de Winter, a handsome widower who proposes to her out of the blue.
She accepts the proposal, leaving glitzy Monte Carlo for dark and mysterious Manderley. She then learns that her husband and his house are both haunted by the memory of his late first wife, Rebecca, whose memories are kept alive by Mrs Denvers.
15. Stalking Jack the Ripper
“Stalking Jack the Ripper” (2016) by Kerri Maniscalco is a mystery novel. A lord’s daughter, Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth’s life is filled with wealth and privilege, social tea, and silky dresses. But this doesn’t stop her from leading a secret life. She’s often seen to slip away to her uncle’s laboratory to study forensic medicine. She’s working on brutally killed corpses when she’s pulled into the serial murder investigation. The unexpected twists inculcated with some actual pictures make it more sinister and scary.
16. Mexican Gothic
“Mexican Gothic” is a 2020 gothic horror novel by Mexican-Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It tells the story of a young woman investigating claims made by her cousin that her husband is trying to murder her. The story is set in 1950s Mexico. Noemí Taboada receives a frightening letter from her cousin, which leads her to High Place in the countryside. She has to deal with her cousin’s husband and his father, who seem to hide a secret. She’s haunted by the demons of the secluded house, making it uncertain whether she’ll succeed in finding out the truth.
17. The Hunger
“The Hunger” (2018) by Alma Katsu is a horror-historical book. This is a brilliant retelling of the ill-fated Donner Party with a supernatural twist. The Donner party was composed of a group traveling west to California in the winter of 1846. Shortage of food, quarrels, and the death of a little boy added to the madness of the journey.
Lack of food, bitter disputes, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to get terrified that something hungry is waiting for them in the mountains to devour them once and for all.
18. Hallowe’en Party
“Hallowe’en Party” by Agatha Christie. Hallowe’en Party” is a classic murder mystery novel by Agatha Christie in 1969. It features the famous detective, Hercule Poirot. Joyce is a thirteen-year-old who claims to have witnessed a murder during a Halloween party. She storms off angrily when no one believes her.
Her body is found sometime later, still in the same house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. Hercule Poirot is called in to find the `evil presence’ which compelled this hideous act. He is successful in connecting the dots and uncovering the secrets of Joyce’s death. In addition to the mystery, “Hallowe’en Party” explores themes of jealousy and deception.
19. Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween
This book is written by Lisa Morton (1997). In Trick or Treat, Halloween enthusiast Lisa Morton provides a fully-fledged history of the spookiest days. She starts with how the Celtic and British festivals of Samhain and Guy Fawkes have merged into the modern Halloween we know today.
She lists down the haunted attractions around the world. She also examines the effect Halloween has had on popular culture with films like Halloween and The Nightmare Before Christmas and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons.
20. The Halloween Tree
“The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury is a book that should not be omitted from the list. It’s a family read for this special day. It’s about a young boy, Pipkin, who’s taken away into the dark Halloween tree. His eight young friends learn about the origin stories of Halloween with an older man named Moundshroud on the quest to rescue him.
21. The Thief of Always
The Thief of Always is a novel by Clive Barker that was published in 1992 and turned into a comic book. The haunting story of the book follows Harvey, a bright 10-year-old suffering from winter depression, a creature who fulfils his wish and takes him to a place full of fun and Christmas every night. Apart from being a happy place, there’s something evil behind the scenes. The story has a simple moral: Be careful what you wish for.
It follows the story of young Coraline Jones, who moves into a new house. She’s bored with her family and wants to explore. One day, she discovers a strange door in her house opening up to a corridor that leads to a parallel universe.
She seems to be very happy there because, in this other life, her Other Father and Other Mother are so attentive and caring for her. She’s so sucked up into this that the Other Parents force her to stay with them. She has to fight with wit and courage to leave the parallel world but with valuable lessons.
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