11 Scary Books To Read For Halloween

Halloween is my favorite holiday, hands down. I love dressing up and playing around. I love handing out candy. I love horror movies and scary books.

I was looking back and realized I’ve never done a Halloween book list. How is that even possible?

I have no idea, but I’m fixing it now.

In no particular order, 11 fun and scary books:

Unknown-5Salem’s Lot, by Stephen King

This is classic vampire horror set in a claustrophobically small town. As more people become vampires, a small group needs to figure out how to survive. The body count is high and the vampires are nasty. If you’ve never read it, it’s held up to the test of time pretty well.

Unknown-10The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson

It’s a terrifying story about a haunted house, and demonstrates beautifully how an author can use a reader’s imagination against them.

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Rebecca, by Daphne duMarier

It’s a classic for a reason. The unnamed narrator is stuck in a creepy house with the shadow of her husband dead first wife and a housekeeper who hates her. What really happened to Rebecca?

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Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs gets more love, but I found the first novel in the series to be the creepiest. A serial killer is killing families, and Will Graham has come out of retirement to hunt him. Alternating between Graham’s point of view and the serial killer’s, the book ups the tension until the terrifying climax.

Unknown-7Hell House, by Richard Matheson

This book combines two of my favorite things, haunted houses and psychological horror. Not only do people go into this house voluntarily to investigate creepy things, but the house begins to attack their sanity.

Unknown-1The Girl From the Well, by Rin Chupeco (YA)

Okiku is a restless spirit who kills people who kill children. She’s single-minded and perpetually furious. But then she meets Tark, a teenaged boy whose body contains a barely contained evil spirit. Okiku decides to help him fight this spirit contained inside him. This is more creepy than terrifying, but it is fantastic.

Unknown-6House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski

Reading this book is a serious commitment.  Not only does it clock in at 705 pages, but it’s also got footnotes, pages that need to be turned to be read, and other weird things. It’s a crazy story of a guy who finds a manuscript referring to a haunted house that gets larger than it should be, and what happened to a family who tried to investigate their new house. The manuscript says it really happened, but as Johnny tries to find out more about if the haunted house really existed, he becomes more obsessed with the manuscript and begins to lose his mind. It’s crazy and creepy and a fantastic reading experience.

Unknown-2Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (YA)

It’s a YA anthology of short stories. Many of the stories are creepy and pull zero punches. It’s good, solid horror that runs the gamut from bloody to psychological (and some of the best stories had both).

Unknown-4The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black (YA)

When Tana wakes up after a party, she finds everyone there dead except for a chained up vampire and her ex-boyfriend (who’s been bitten). For reasons she can’t even fully understand, she rescues them both and takes them to Coldtown, where vampires have been quarantined. The vampires there have their own TV show, and while the present a glamorous, sexy face to the world, the truth is that their world is just as bloody and terrible as you’d expect from a bunch of vampires.

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And the Trees Crept In, by Dawn Kurtagich (YA)

Like House of Leaves, this is another book written in an odd style, with journal entries and odd formatting. When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s house, all they know is that they were fleeing from their abusive father. They didn’t know that the house was cursed or their aunt was crazy. After their aunt retreats to the attic, Silla and Nori try to keep the land going, but nothing grows. And the trees are creeping closer. It’s magnificently creepy, especially if you live surrounded by trees, as I do.

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The Mask, by Dean Koontz

When Jane ran out in front of Carol’s car and had no memory of where she came from, Carol and Paul immediately feel connected to her, and take her in. But as strange things begin happening, they realize that maybe there’s more to Jane than they originally thought.

 

Obviously, this isn’t an exhaustive list. I could do an entire list of just Stephen King books. And I left off all the classics, like Dracula and Frankenstein because those are too obvious.

What are your favorite scary books?

What Scares Me

img_6722I often tell people that the only movie that ever scared me was the Blair Witch Project.  I suppose that’s not entirely true.  As a kid, I caught Children of the Corn on TV, and I remember it giving me nightmares.

Not everyone who saw Blair Witch thought it was scary.  But I saw it back in 1999, when it first came out in theaters, before “found footage movies” were a thing.  Someone told me it was true, and I believed them.  I was living in Pennsylvania at the time, in a rural area, with a scary, dark forest in my back yard.

While all that scared me, what really did it for me with that movie was the fact that you never actually see the witch.  All these movies that conjure up monsters with teeth and claws and dripping blood make me laugh.  Because for me, it’s not what I can see that’s scary; it’s all the things I can’t see.

I don’t find comedies funny, but if you show me most horror movies, I’ll laugh and laugh.  The Ring had potential up until the bad guy was a little girl, crawling out of the TV.  With that scene, it went over into silly for me.  Intellectually, I found the first Paranormal Activity scary, but it didn’t make my heart speed up or give me any gut-wrenching moments.  It was more that I knew it was scary rather than I felt it.

Maybe that’s because I worked in mobile crisis for awhile, where bad things could actually happen to us.  I got lucky, and nothing ever did.  But other teams I worked with had some scary stories.

Nothing I can see is scary.  Blood and guts and gore don’t do it for me.  What scares me are the things I can’t see.  The monster who stays off-screen and won’t show it’s face, or the human monster who looks just like the rest of us.  Psychological horror, where something’s going on, and we don’t know quite what, but it’s messing with my head.

The Shining, by Stephen King, is one of the best examples of psychological horror.  Because yeah, there are ghosts or demons or whatever, but it’s what they do that’s so wonderfully horrible.  They make this mess of a man, who’s really trying to be better, devolve into someone who almost kills his wife and son.  That’s horror.

What scares you?

 

 

Scariest Movie Endings

Photo Credit: RJS Photography

Photo Credit: RJS Photography

Classic horror movies never go out of style.  Special effects and make-up keep improving, but the original Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, and The Exorcist will never be topped.  Why?  Because they were originals, and any remake done of them will just be a remake.  It might be a good remake (I liked the new Nightmare on Elm Street), but the originals will still stand alone.

Brian Enk wrote an article about the scariest movie endings, and I have to agree with him that the endings were pretty great.  Here’s the link to the article.

And these are my top 10 horror movies.  They haven’t changed, though I will add Insidious to the list.  If you haven’t seen it, it’s a good mix of thrill horror and psychological horror.