Growing up, there were few things I loved more than a good ghost story. From sleepovers with friends in which we’d share scary stories, to reading my way through as many R.L Stine’s and Point Horror’s as I could stomach, little would trump a dark and stormy night curled up under the covers with a seriously scary book.
And while the Goosebumps series might not have the same effect on me as it once did, there are certainly a number of scary books for when I’m in the mood to be spooked. And with tonight being the scariest of the year, with strange goings-on a-plenty and all things ghostly in their Halloween best, I thought I’d put together some of my very favourite scary books.
One of literature’s most renowned horror stories, Count Dracula is the father of all gothic villains, in spite of it being one of the last Gothic fiction novels to be written. The decaying castle in which the book begins is testimony to the eeriness that follows, and the novel offers an exploration of all things paranormal and supernatural. Nail-biting from the very start, Dracula is one of the finest formidable tales on offer. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
One of gothic fiction’s most famous classics; Wuthering Heights Yorkshire Moors’ setting provide the perfect backdrop to this tale of woe. Simmering, spooky and abundant with pathetic fallacy at its finest, few love stories are quite so haunting as the tale of Cathy and Heathcliff. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
One of my all-time favourite authors, many of Du Maurier’s novels have a gothic-esque sentiment that lends itself well to all things horror. From the chilling Rebecca to the brooding Jamaica Inn, Du Maurier has a sinister style of writing down to a fine art. Perhaps, however, her most menacing tale is short story Don’t Look Now. Disquieting, dark and deeply disturbing, its haunting climax stayed with me long after I turned the final page. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
It – Stephen King
While the film may be more widely known than the book, there’s little doubt that It by Stephen King is one of literature’s most haunting tales. Set in a Derry – a small and uninteresting town – It follows the lives of seven teenagers who are now grown-up men and women, and have all gone on to gain success and happiness. But an inherent force draws each of them back to Derry, to face the nightmare that plagued their lives as teenagers. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
Frankenstein – Mary Shelly
The perfect combination of a gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein is a spooky story that tells the tale of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein. An instant bestseller and an important ancestor of both the horror and science fiction genres, not only tells a terrifying story, but also raises profound, disturbing questions about the very nature of life, and makes for an eery Halloween read. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
This aptly named ghost story from Shirley Jackson is a eerily haunting tale, perfect for Halloween. First published in 1959, it has been cited by many as a perfect work of unnerving terror. Telling the tale of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House – Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House, their stay seems destined to be a spooky stay with inexplicable phenomena. Highly regarded as a milestone in horror writing and in the way it portrays the imposing Hill House and the suspense built throughout the novel, it’s one of the ultimate spooky reads. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The Complete Ghost Stories of Charles Dickens – Charles Dickens
Best known for his beloved classic, A Christmas Carol, Dickens’ natural inclinations toward drama and the macabre made him a brilliant teller of ghost tales and in this collection, the full range of his gothic talents can be seen. Fusing chilling scenes with characteristically grotesque comedy Dickens’ collection of ghost stories includes tales of revenge, insanity, pre-cognition and dream visions, as he indulges also in some debunking of contemporary credulity. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The finest teller of ghostly tales, Susan Hill’s Woman in Black is undoubtedly her most famous – having since launched both on-stage and screen adaptations since its first publication in 1983. Threatening and ominous in equal parts, The Woman in Black is the ultimate ghost story, eerie to its frightening finale, and one of the ultimate scary books. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The Winter Ghosts – Kate Mosse
Another of my very favourite writers, few people do description quite like the wonderful Kate Mosse. And so, when she pens a haunting tale such as her 2009 offering – The Winter Ghosts – it’s little wonder that it’s both evocative and atmospheric in nature. Stirring and affecting, it’s a beautifully written tale about love, loss and murder, and perfect for All Hallow’s Eve. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The most contemporary novel on my list, All Things Cease to Appear is the perfect combination of noir and gothic fiction, with a chilling backdrop as prominent as any of the characters that lie therein. A tale of murder of the most sinister sort, the author weaves an intricate plot spanning two time frames that will chill its reader to their very core. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The Silent Companions – Laura Purcell
A Victorian ghost story that evokes a most unsettling kind of fear, this is a tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect. A deeply unsettling story inhabiting by ghosts, and the fearsome, scary, silent companions it’s an ideal book to read around Halloween. A story of family secrets and the traumatic history of a house that is no stranger to death and tragedy, Purcell’s writing is atmospheric, with a subtle and complex narrative that leaves the reader wondering what to believe. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
The Book of Ghost Stories – Roald Dahl
Better known for his much-loved children’s books, as an extensive reader of ghost stories, Roald Dahl selected fourteen of his favourite by such authors as E.F. Benson, Rosemary Timperley, and Edith Wharton, to create this unnerving collection of spooky stories. With a taste for the creepy and disturbing in his ghostly reading, this book also presents tales of redemption, forgiveness, and healing friendship from beyond the grave. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs
A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. The story opens with a horrific family tragedy that sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. Buy it on Amazon or from Waterstones.
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