Reading is an all-year-round thing for me but becomes extra special when the season changes and begins to cool down. It gives you a credible excuse to cozy up in your thick flannels and bury yourself in mounds of pillow and fuzzy blankets which a cup of hot herbal tea with your favorite book. It also gives you the perfect excuse to gorge yourself with classic horror novels while the outside world begins to hibernate; narratives of spooky ghosts and lurking devils, shadowy witches and hollow-boned vampires. Tales of men who morph into woolen beasts at the light of the full moon and stories of foreign beings from the stars that skulk along the borders of corn crop, shifting the movement of the dried stalks and breaking the silence of still air with the sound of a dying harvest. It’s a time to allow your mind to devour texts that give you chills, sending your imagination into a wild frenzy and forcing you to scrunch your feet close to your body so as to be sure they don’t hang off the end of the bed. There’s nothing like provoking the imagination with painted pictures of abandoned houses and enchanted forests, cemeteries and musty, forbidden basements. All of these things are enjoyable the whole year round but become even more appropriate at this autumnal time.
My spooky suggestions for a season of haunting reads:
Stacy Schiff’s The Witches: Salem, 1692
This is NOT a light read, yet I couldn’t seem to stop turning the pages. This book is unique in the sense that, though it is more of an informational and historically accurate text, Schiff has a way of beefing up the facts so that the content never runs dry. The Salem Witch Trials were a shutter-worthy part of American history. Think about all of the innocent people who lost their lives because of how fearful the Salem community was. Every little out-of-the-ordinary occurrence, every suspicious sickness or livestock kidnapping, every secluded hermit-like behavior was blamed on witches and witchcraft. People pointed fingers at their own daughters, mothers, fathers and friends for being involved in the act of sin, not because the accusations were necessarily true or because the accuser had evidence, but because of fear. Fear of the unknown, the unexplainable.
We all know the story but maybe not the whole story. That is why I love this text so much; it is wonderfully written and fills in the historical gaps. The book doesn’t embellish on the stories but gives readers a realistic understanding of how the events in Salem got so out of hand. If you are just as obsessed with the history of this trying time from our past, then this is a must-read for you. You will most definitely have enough knowledge on the subject that you could win any Salem Witch Trivia (if there ever is such a thing).
Adam Nevill’s The Ritual
Where do I begin with this incredibly brilliant book? Let me start by saying that Nevill has a knack for being able to paint the most vivid pictures in the imagination with his descriptions – and believe me, those pictures will send you racing to your bed and pulling those covers over your head. The story line is very reminiscent of the Blair Witch Project; the stranded hikers, the deep, murky, forbidden forest, the creature that hunts, stalks and feeds on the fear of its prey. Is it a beast? A witch? A half-man-half-monster? What is hanging dead animals in the trees in an otherwise seemingly uninhabited wood? It sends your mind racing. It’s an enthralling read that you simply cannot put down….that is, if you can handle intense suspense.
If you only have the time to read one book this Halloween season, read this one. It will scare the pants right off you.
Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood
Though this is not a book you would consider a “classic horror”, it is terrifying nonetheless. Capote creates a realistic and thought-provoking narrative that catches the breath of anyone who reads it. Capote reconstructs and brings to life the events that occurred during and after the murder of the Clutter family, a true and chilling event that took place in Kansas of 1959. Capote captures his audience as he recreates the events of the murder while also educating his readers about the investigation that proceeded. But the real twist that makes this book truly horrific is the focus it takes on the minds of the men who committed the murders. Capote recalls every thought and every emotion that went on in the minds of the murderers themselves, men who were waiting like sitting ducks on death row. He gives a voice to the men who had seemingly no motive to commit the horrendous crime and paves a road for readers to enter into the minds of true, murderous horror. With real interviews and interrogations of the men arrested for the crime, you can be sure that every chilling quote you read was based off of the real words from the accused themselves. If that doesn’t give you the creeps, I don’t know what will.
Jennifer McMahon’s The Night Sister
…and really, ANY of Jennifer McMahon’s books. Her writing is mesmerizing, the way she intertwines fantasy and reality, fairy tales and raw human crime, you get lost in the worlds that she creates. However, The Night Sister holds a special place in my heart. It was the first of her books that I devoured and I haven’t stopped reading her work since. She has a talented way of mixing folk lore and myth with real human experience. I don’t want to ruin a single bit of the book for you, not even with a brief review, because I want you to experience the terrifying narrative like I did, because that’s what makes the experience magical.
Marie Eyre’s The Absence
Probably not the most well known Gothic Romance but still a goodie in my book. The Absence slowly injects a sense of dread in the reader’s mind as each chapter comes and goes. The story takes place in a secluded, cold and vastly enormous cliff-side mansion. As a young, beautiful woman named Adrian grieves the death of her ex-actress mother, she is whisked away to “vacation” with a family who claims to have been very close to her late mother. The death of Adrian’s mother raises many questions in her grief-fogged mind as she deals with the pain of loosing a loved one. However, as her stay at the mansion grows longer, many ghostly and suspicious events begin to happen, making our young heroine question her”generous” hosts’ true motives and what the REAL story is behind how and why her mother died. Some may call this book “corny” but I like corny horror; it’s endearing and classic.
Next on my reading list: Anton Myrer’s The Intruder
To be honest, as I was riffling through my bookshelf, I found this read tucked away, forgotten about. I remember I had picked this one up from a free book pile and sort of stored it away. By the looks of the title, it sounds like a fantastically perfect read for the season (Also, do you like how I use scrap book paper to line the bindings of my books so they are more aesthetically pleasing and color coordinated whilst sitting on the shelf?). Seeing as the book was published in 1965 and reading reviews of the author himself, I have a strong gut feeling that there may be some undertones of sexism weaving in and out of the words which, frankly, turns me off big time. But I like to at least give everything a hearty chance so I’ll try it out and see how I get on.
What are some of your favorite novels that give you nightmares?