Spiders, ghosts, witches. Oh my! As the leaves change colour and the nights become cooler, we can all sense the Halloween season falling upon us. And with Covid-19 weighing heavily on our minds, Halloween festivities may look a little different this year.
Instead of costume parties and haunted houses, here are six spooky reads for this Halloween season. Each story will have you peeking over your shoulder.
Our first book recommendation is a title that has also become a popular Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Jackson is infamous for her gothic horror novels, and The Haunting of Hill House is no exception.
The story follows the lives of Dr. Montague, Theodora, Eleanor, and Luke. Dr. Montague is obsessed with the supernatural and is determined to find evidence of such activities at Hill House, an ancient sprawling estate. So, he rents the house for the summer and invites Eleanor and Theodora as his guests, both of whom have experiences with the supernatural. Luke, the heir to the house, hosts the three visitors. While the quartet expects to experience some ghostly happenings, they don’t yet realize that Hill House is harvesting its powers to entrap one of the four victims.
Another book that centres on the supernatural is Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. The dark fantasy novel follows 13-year-old Jim Nightshade and William Halloway. When Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show arrives in Midwestern Green Town, the two best friends cross paths with Mr. Dark, the leader of the mysterious carnival. They discover that he wields the power to grant the people of Green Town their deepest desires. But Mr. Dark isn’t what he appears to be. In fact, there are malevolent and evil forces at work behind his powers.
Bradbury wrote this book based on his encounter with a carnival magician in his childhood. His experiences bleed into his writing, and, as a result, he presents a spine-chilling mix of fantasy and horror.
While Bradbury intertwines genres, Stephen King digs into pure horror in The Shining. This classic novel takes place at the Overlook Hotel, an isolated resort with a haunting backstory. One winter, Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and their son Danny—who has psychic powers—move into the hotel after Jack receives a caretaker position. After a troubling past with alcoholism and anger, Jack hopes this opportunity will allow his family to reconnect once again. However, the family doesn’t know the powers the Overlook Hotel possesses. Danny’s visions become more disturbing and Jack becomes tormented by the hotel’s deranged past. A trip that was meant to bring the family together becomes a gruesome fight for survival.
Just as King is known for his horror novels, our next writer is famous for his gothic tales. The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe is unlike our other recommendations. This one is a short story—perfect for those seeking a quick fright. We begin with an unnamed narrator approaching the house of Usher to help his distressed friend, Roderick, who’s become weak and fearful of his house. His sister Madeline has also become mysteriously ill. Despite the narrator’s best efforts to lift his spirits, Rodrick becomes increasingly fearful. As the story develops, we see the mysterious hold the house has on our three characters crash down around them.
From poetry to prose, Poe has many classics and must-reads. If The Fall of the House of Usher is not to your taste, we also recommend looking through his other short story and poetry collections.
Our fifth book, another classic up our sleeves, is Dracula by Bram Stoker. We follow Jonathan Harker who travels to a Transylvanian castle to conduct business with Count Dracula. Little does he know the horrors that await him. At first, Jonathan sees the Count as an educated gentleman. However, as the days go on, he realizes three things: one, he is a prisoner in the castle; two, the Count possesses powers beyond human understanding; and three, the Count has vicious plans for Jonathan. As the novel begins to unravel further, we meet the notorious Van Helsing, who unites with other men to pursue the Count and end his terrifying reign.
Stoker was enthralled with theatre, having worked at London’s Lyceum Theatre for over 20 years. It’s no surprise that his love for the theatre remains in his writing, making Dracula a gothic horror with a dramatic flair.
Our last recommendation is Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, which tackles the psychological horror genre. The eponymous Tom Ripley grew up poor in New York City and developed an envy for the rich and their luxurious lifestyles. When the father of an old acquaintance offers Tom payment to convince his son, Dickie Greenleaf, to return home from Italy, Tom accepts the offer and sails off to Europe. Once in Italy, Tom becomes enthralled with the lavish life that Dickie and his friend Marge are living. As the two men become closer, Tom begins to imitate Dickie, wearing his clothing and copying his mannerisms. Marge dislikes the closeness between the two men and tells Dickie that Tom may have unrequited feelings for him. This worries Dickie, and so he distances himself, leaving Tom infuriated by the thought of losing his newfound lifestyle. But maybe Tom can truly assume Dickie’s identity.
Highsmith is an American novelist best known for her psychological thrillers and short stories. As a woman in the LGBTQ+ community, she made quite a progressive shift in literature and The Talented Mr. Ripley is no different.
On Halloween, there’s nothing like setting the scene with a rattling read. Although our recommendations come during the spooky season, these books are must reads year-round. Halloween may look different for all of us this year, but there are still safe and fun ways to embrace the season. Whether it be a small outdoor gathering, or eating candy from the comfort of your couch, The Medium wishes you a safe and happy Halloween.