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Spooky Stories to Read for Halloween

on Thu, 10/27/2016 - 17:15

On Halloween, I love to sift through my bookshelf to find stories that terrify me and make going to sleep nearly impossible. I convince myself afterward that what is likely the sound of some ancient monster crawling around beneath my bed is just the house “settling.” I don’t know how often a house actually “settles,” but it’s a better option than imagining a Scary Thing that probably lives off of human blood.

Although I do love reading about monsters and other creepy creatures, I also enjoy reading stories that induce paranoia, uncertainty, and fear. I’ve included some of those in this list, as well, since they often scare me even more!

Here are some recommendations for stories to read if you want to be even more terrified on Halloween!

 

Hamlet William Shakespeare

I know that Hamlet may not be considered as scary as standard mystery or horror stories, but it’s just so unsettling. I love to reread it during the fall, because there’s such a coldness in the play and its characters. It’s disturbing, comedic, and terrifying in equal measures. 

Even though the focus often diverts from Hamlet’s father, this is definitely still a ghost story. The ghost always seems to loom in the background of the play. Like many ghost stories, Hamlet thrives on the uncertainty and paranoia of both the characters and the reader.

GHOST:

I am thy father's spirit,

Doom'd for a certain term to walk the night,

And for the day confined to fast in fires,

Till the foul crimes done in my days of nature

Are burnt and purged away. But that I am forbid

To tell the secrets of my prison-house,

I could a tale unfold whose lightest word

Would harrow up thy soul, freeze thy young blood,

Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres,

Thy knotted and combined locks to part

And each particular hair to stand on end,

Like quills upon the fretful porpentine:

But this eternal blazon must not be

To ears of flesh and blood. List, list, O, list!

If thou didst ever thy dear father love--

HAMLET:

O God!

GHOST:

Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

 


 

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” Joyce Carol Oates

The first time I read this story, I felt like I couldn’t breathe during the entire second half of it. I will never forget the surreal, creepy description of Arnold Friend, a mysterious man who visits a teenage girl, Connie, at her house on a summer afternoon.

Joyce Carol Oates perfectly sets up an atmosphere of dread for the reader to experience at the same time as Connie. When Connie tries and fails to figure out who Arnold Friend is and where he comes from, so do we. Reading this story feels like being in the middle of a horrible nightmare where you can’t tell if what you’re experiencing is real or imagined.

“He laughed incredulously. He placed his sunglasses on top of his head, carefully, as if he were indeed wearing a wig, and brought the stems down behind his ears. Connie stared at him, another wave of dizziness and fear rising in her so that for a moment he wasn't even in focus but was just a blur standing there against his gold car, and she had the idea that he had driven up the driveway all right but had come from nowhere before that and belonged nowhere and that everything about him and even about the music that was so familiar to her was only half real.

‘If my father comes and sees you—’

‘He ain't coming. He's at a barbecue.’

‘How do you know that?’

‘Aunt Tillie's. Right now they're uh—they're drinking. Sitting around,’ he said vaguely, squinting as if he were staring all the way to town and over to Aunt Tillie's back yard.”


 

The Shining — Stephen King

This one is obviously a highly-praised staple in the canon of horror novels, but it’s absolutely thrilling. The Shining has a lot of sentimental value for me, as it was one of the first full-length novels I read in middle school. I remember bursting into tears as I read the part when Danny is in the hedges:

“His breath stopped in a gasp. An almost drowsy terror stole through his veins. Yes. Yes. There was something in here with him, some awful thing the Overlook had saved for just such a chance as this. Maybe a huge spider that had burrowed down under the dead leaves, or a rat... or maybe the corpse of some little kid that had died here on the playground. Had that ever happened? At the far end of the concrete ring, Danny heard the stealthy crackle of dead leaves, as something came for him on its hands and knees.”

Bonus “scare” points if you watch the Stanley Kubrick film right after finishing the novel. They’re very different, but they’re both effective in sustaining tension and fear. They both contain truly terrifying imagery that will stick with you for a long time


 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark — Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell

 

 

It’s hard to believe that this is for children! I can’t even look at the cover of this book without feeling scared. This book contains folk tales, ghost stories, and urban legends that have been retold and adapted. Some of these stories involve creepy creatures, cannibalism, and mysterious entities.

 

The book also contains some of the most terrifying illustrations I’ve ever seen. Here are some examples…

 

 

...And now it looks like I'll be forced to postpone my bedtime tonight.

Read and reread some stories that will send shivers down your spine! What are some of your favorite stories to read around Halloween?

 

Natalie Jones is a student at Southern New Hampshire University. She is working as Literary Editor for the New Hampshire Writers' Project.