When it comes to Halloween we tend to concentrate on gory movies to get the chills running down our spines. This year why not read some scary books to get into the mood for Halloween?
As a lover of books, probably more than films, I couldn’t but consider why in the lead up to Halloween horror films are all over the cinema billboards and litter the TV schedule, while classic gothic literature is relegated to dusty library shelves. Granted, scary movies boast something of a cult following, and its much less committal to watch a movie than read a book, yet few are actually good films. Damsels in distress walking around a dark haunted house in their underwear, werewolfs, zombies and vampires rising from the dead and hungry for blood are the basic scary movie preambles.
In truth there are few seminal movies of the horror genre which have made cinema history, but there are plenty of dark literary works, that well, are true masterpieces. Take a trip into the western canon of literature and come out the other side, scared and more cultured.
The Woman in Black, Susan Hill, 1983
The novella recounts the close encounters with the ghost of a woman, the Woman in Black, who haunts an entire village seeking revenge for the death of her child.
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James, 1898
Two ghosts with a history of sexual misconduct hovering around a gothic country estate, maintaining a strange and unknowable connection to its children — or is it all in the governess’s mind? Solitude can do strange things to people, dead or alive.
The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson, 1959
Definitely the most terrifying haunted house story ever written, Jackson’s classic horror story never fails to leave us looking suspiciously at our walls, listening for whispers.
The Castle of Otranto, Horace Walpole, 1764
Driven by insatiable greed, Lord Manfred sets into motion a tragic story of reveal that always comes too late. The novel is considered the English first gothic novel, its subtle mysticism and eerie plot were widely copied by Walpole’s successors in the genre.
The Tell-Tale Heart and The Raven, Edgar Allan Poe, 1843, 1845
Poe, master of the horror tales wrote a large number of novellas, one scarier than the next. Often more psychological than gory his works are amongst the best in the genre, and these two tales his most terrifying.
Dracula, Bram Stoker, 1897
A seminal work of gothic horror, Dracula has everything you might be looking for in a horrifying night in: suspence, terror, love, gore, friendship, and a vampire.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, 1820
Comprising one of the prime examples of early American literature still enjoyed today, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set in a Dutch Settlement in around 1790 haunted by a post Revolutionary headless horseman.
Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, Mary Shelley, 1818
Possibly the most important classic horror novel of all time, it mixes gothic and romantic styles, as well as being considered the first work of science fiction. A must for any lover of the genre or of a jolly good read.
The Amityville Horror: A True Story, Jay Anson, 1977
A true story or not, the book is based on the paranormal experiences of the Lutz family, who, in December 1975, moved to Amityville. After 28 days, the Lutzes left the house, claiming to have been terrorized by the phenomena while living there.
Melmoth the Wanderer, Charles Maturin, 1820
Considered the last of the classic English Gothic romance works, this is the horrific story of a creature (half man, half devil), who exchanged his soul for the wealth of power.
It is said that our imagination can do more than any multi million-dollar special effects team, so take on the Halloween slash film industry and pick up one of these chilling reads.
Oh, and what was that creaking I just heard?
Written by: Valentina Zannoni
Credits: Vintage Hill