I love autumn and I love October. As the nights draw in and darkness is more often our companion along with flickering candles and a crackling log on the fire the reading material needs to suit the mood and enhance the atmosphere, don’t you think! With halloween making a star appearance at the end of the month on top of this it really is time to crack open the spooky reads. So without further ado here is a list of my favourite terrifying tales!
- The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – the setting is a house remote from civilisation and often cut off completely from it. The former inhabitant has died and there is a need for her papers to be reviewed. The family solicitor sends a man up to go through everything. He is warned off of being at the house but he takes it all in his stride. Until it starts to effect him. The ending is truly terrifying! This is a great spooky read, you’ll be holding your breath at times and shouting at him not to open the door!
- The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson – Shirley Jackson is a great American writer with an penchant for the strange. Her short story The Lottery is said to have been the inspiration behind The Hunger Games and most American kids have read it. The Haunting of Hill House is my favourite of her body of work (that I have read so far, some of her short stories are a little odd!). The Haunting of Hill House sees an abandoned house rented for the summer by a paranormal investigator who wants to see whether its the house or the people that cause hauntings. He invites a group of strangers to join him there including Eleanor, the main protagonist. This book terrified me! I watched the film though and laughed at how silly it was. What it showed me is that there is nothing as terrifying as your imagination. The noises that Eleanor hears and the noises that I therefore “heard” were terrifying. The noises in the film sounded like my central heating going on! Read the book. Let your imagination run riot!
- Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – this is a ghost story set on a mountain. There is a bona fide ghost! I am a fan of books about Everest so have read a lot of accounts of mountain climbing and I found this book to not only be authentically written with regard to expeditions but also excellent with regard to building tension and making you just feel on edge. Paver has written another ghost story set in the Arctic (Thin Air) which is also excellent but I particularly love Dark Matter!
- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara – is a non fiction book about the hunt for the Golden Gate Killer. This is not about make-believe, this is a real life horror story and it is those that make you double check you locked the back door! (I did!)
- And whilst we are on the non-fiction – Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi is about the Manson family killings and the author is the prosecutor of the case. There is nothing like a good legal read to plainly lay in front of you the horrifying details of a crime with no need for drama! Without question Emma Kline’s debut novel The Girls is based on this book so I say, go to the source material and be terrified by real life!
- The Birds and other short stories by Daphne du Maurier – a great book of fantastic short stories, I loved every one of the five stories and all were quite spooky! The Birds though, wow! I jumped at the sound of the seagulls overhead whilst I was reading it! Definitely one to be read at night with the fire cracking next to you!
- The Man in the Picture by Susan Hill – Shirley Jackson writes a short story about a picture that ingests you and this novella by Hill just expands on the idea. It doesn’t take long to read but it is spooky as hell, she writes great dramatic settings and horrifying screams. A story that will live with you a long time.
- The Crucible by Arthur Miller – this is the play about the Salem Witch Trials and what is terrifying about it is not that there are witches but the fact that there are not and that some hysterical and attention craving young women set about convincing others that there are. This play is the best thing I have read about the Salem Witch trials and cleverly shows the hysteria and the effects. A fictional account of a real event that we should revisit to remind ourselves not to be dragged into something without leaving the drama at the door and checking the facts! The introduction of fake news?
- Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin. It’s not the first time Levin features in one of my top 10 lists. He didn’t write a lot but what he wrote was amongst the best fiction I’ve read. Rosemary’s Baby is terrifying. Absolutely terrifying. Rosemary moves into a New York apartment with her actor husband and starts to meet the neighbours. But who are they really and is she imagining things? She gets pregnant and is so ill during her pregnancy. But why? Surely it isn’t what she thinks? Surely the flashes of moments in time aren’t her actual memories. Surely her husband is the father of the baby???
- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. What could be spookier than the ghostly presence of a dead wife, mist over the cliffs of Cornwall and a terrifying housekeeper. If Mrs Danvers doesn’t scare the life out of you you should be a paranormal investigator!
So there they are, my top reads for the month of October. Spine tingling, breath taking and terrifying stories that should only be read at night if you don’t want to sleep! There are a few of these which will make you see and hear things differently afterwards, you know, where you just have that niggling recall that that noise might not just be the central heating. But don’t open that door, whatever you do, DO NOT open that door!!!!
What’s your top spooky read? Let me know in the comments so I can seek them out for next years list!!!