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by Emposia Writing Team November 19, 2019
Halloween might be over, but that doesn't mean you can't relive its spooky vibes. There is nothing better at getting you into the Halloween spirit than by reading a spooky thriller, mystery or horror book.
Imagine this. It's October. That's right. The season when we start feeling the crispy temperatures, the leaves start changing colours, and the air starts smelling like fall (in some way, the air smells like apples...I don’t know the science, it just does).
Now what if I told you that you can re-live those spooky Halloween October vibes in November, December, or even in the middle of July? How?
If you're an avid reader like me, then you know that books are like magic portals. Once you're hooked by a good book, you temporarily forget about the outside world. The season around you doesn't matter anymore. You're part of the story now.
And what better way to pair that experience than with a good spooky read? That's why I created a list of 16 spooky books recommendations that will put you in the Halloween spirit, no matter the season! Ha, see what I did there?
*Read at your own risk: The books mentioned below will send chills down your spine and may lead you to hear creepy voices. To be read after sunset for the ultimate spooky reading experience.*
|Dracula by Bram Stoker
|Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
|The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
|And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
|The Shining by Stephen King
|IT by Stephen King
|The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
|The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
|The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
|The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe
|Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
|The Whisper Man by Alex North
|Carrie by Stephen King
|3 Quick Book Recs
Similar to Hotel Transylvania’s Dracula who *doesn’t* say, “Blah blah blahhh,” Dracula is *THE* classic vampire novel in bookish history.
Published in 1897, this Gothic horror classic follows Jonathan Harker, a young English lawyer who has been summoned by none other than nobleman Count Dracula to conclude a real estate transaction in Transylvania.
The novel is written in the point of view of Jonathan’s journal, and his fiance, Mina Murray’s, diary. While Jonathan is on his way to meet Count Dracula for the first time, he is given crucifixes and other charms to protect from evil by local townspeople while they murmur a strange word, which Jonathan translates as “vampire.” It isn’t until he actually meets the Count and observes strange activities within the walls of the mansion that Jonathan begins to believe he is in the presence of real evil. It also isn’t until Mina’s best friend, Lucy, falls victim to the Count’s vampire ways that Mina discovers that her fiance is in danger...and so is she.
We meet werewolves, vampires, and even the legend Van Helsing in this captivating and elegant story of the most iconic vampire in literature’s history - you know, before we met the shiny Cullens.
You know the guy with the really square head with the bolts in his neck and he kinda makes a “muhhhhhh” sound?
Yep. That’s Frankenstein.
According to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the Frankenstein that we all know and love is, in fact, a lie. Mary Shelley’s story follows the story of Victor Frankenstein who grew up encouraged by his parents to find a greater meaning to the world via chemistry.
After the death of his mother, Victor decides to use chemistry and science as a way to deal with his grief and, ultimately, creates the Creature, who we know as Frankenstein. Victor’s purpose was to create a beautiful humanoid, but instead creates an eight foot tall, hideous creature who ends up escaping Victor’s clutches once it has awoken; Victor, after realizing the Creature has escaped, goes out in search of it. However, we learn in the story that the Creature has human emotions and desires. The Creature basically ends up bribing Victor to create a female counterpart for him to love or else he will kill all of Victor’s friends and family.
The story of Frankenstein is an interesting twist of the concept of human creation and human emotion. Sure, it involves a “monster” who has feelings, just like Monsters, Inc. or Hotel Transylvania.
Don’t we all love the scene in the movie when Regan’s head turns completely 360º? Or when she starts yelling really vulgar things at the priests? Or when she vomits all over the place?
Ah, good times.
Unlike me, you probably knew the Exorcist movie was based off the novel with the same name by William Peter Blatty. I only found this out this year and once I heard, I HAD to read it.
This story begins with Father Lankester Merrin, a Jesuit priest who finds a little statue of the demon Pazuzu while doing an archeological dig in Iraq. Father Merrin also encounters some omens that tell him he is about to confront a very dark evil that he has encountered years before in Africa. While the Father is being warned of this evil, we meet our protagonist, Regan MacNeil, who begins to exhibit some strange behaviours and a complete personality change.
Her mother, who is an atheist, decides to consult a local Jesuit priest when she realizes the psychological and psychiatric help she’s been providing her daughter does not help. Ultimately, it is discovered that Regan is possessed by a demon and a crazy exorcism ensues.
I don’t want to reveal the ending if no one has seen/read the book...but let’s just say something tragic and beautiful happens. There’s also some crazy drama hidden in this book and makes you question life.
Interestingly, there’s some factual basis behind this novel - Father Lankester Merrin was loosely based on the British Archeologist Gerald Lankester Harding who excavated the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were located. William Peter Blatty met Harding and decided that he was the embodiment of Father Lankester Merrin.
Has anyone seen Identity with John Cusak and Ray Liota? If you have, this books closely resembles this movie...or vice versa.
Agatha Christie is the QUEEN of mystery, and this book proves it. A group of eight (8) strangers get invited to a mansion for the weekend off the coast of Devon by a ‘U.N. Owen.” When they all arrive, they are met by the butler and cook-housekeeper, which makes ten (10) total guests. While they are all tending to dinner, a recorder is played accusing all of them of hiding a guilty secret.
That night, one of them is murdered. U.N. Owen is nowhere to be found. So who is the killer? They all start to realize that one of the group is the killer and is planning on striking again...and again… and again. Until there is no one left.
What makes this story even creepier is the nursery rhyme called “Ten Little Indians” that hangs in all the rooms, accompanied by figurines of the Ten Little Indians that sit on the dining room table. As each guest is killed, another figurine goes missing. If there are only 10 guests and all fall dead by the end, how do we figure out who the killer is?
This story is so addicting. This was my first Christie novel and it BLEW ME AWAY. I couldn’t stop thinking about it for days; how clever Christie was in fooling her audience. I guarantee you this book will keep you on the edge of your seat.
And then you’ll find yourself in all the used bookstores or Barnes and Nobles or independent bookstores or Facebook Marketplace trying to buy all her books. I did. I have no regrets.
“Here’s Johnny!” Actually, here’s Stephen King. You can’t go wrong with reading Stephen King around Halloween. In fact, that may be a requirement of any bookish fan of his.
This story follows Jack Torrance, his wife Wendy, and five-year-old son Danny who move into the haunted Overlook Hotel as Jack has been taken on as winter caretaker.
Okay, moving into a deserted hotel during the winter seems like any kids’ dream - that means exploring all the nooks and crannies of the hotel and, if you’re an introvert like me, finding one spot that you can claim as yours for when you just need to recharge your social battery.
So, you guessed it, Danny decides to roam around the hotel...but starts seeing ghosts and other frightening visions. Danny realizes that his presence in the haunted hotel makes the supernatural life existing inside even stronger. When the supernatural existence fails to possess Danny, it instead possesses Jack, making him easily frustrated and convinced he should kill his family.
This story is so intriguing and thrilling and frightening. It’s so much these things, that you won’t want to stop reading. It’s also Stephen King and he’s basically the King of horror...ha, that’s ironic. So...why NOT read it?
Yes, Georgie, they all float. And you’ll float too!
With the second instalment of the recreation of It out in theaters, this is really a must-read...even if it takes you months to read the 1,000 plus page book. This book basically takes a normal childhood fear and takes it up a notch.
A clown who eats kids? A clown who follows you into adulthood and reminds you of all your fears as a human being? A clown who lures you back to Derry, Maine because one of your best friends from childhood dies? Whoops. I may have said too much. But you don’t hear about that until the children are adults.
Here, we have The Losers Club who comprise of Eddie, the asthmatic hypochondriac; Bill, who has a nasty stutter and rides a bike he calls “Silver;” Richie, the comedian; Stan, the academic; Ben, the new kid in town; and Beverly, the abused female of the group. The kids are constantly being bullied, not just by Pennywise, but also by Henry Bowers, the school’s biggest bully.
A string of child killings occurs in the town of Derry and The Losers Club knows that Pennywise the Clown is responsible. They gather in the sewer, where Pennywise resides, and decide to fight him off themselves. When they succeed, they make a pact that they will return to Derry if Pennywise comes back.
Fast forward 27 years and guess who has returned to Derry? Pennywise. The Losers Club returns to Derry in the hopes of finally finishing off Pennywise for good.
This books brings all your childhood fears to light and makes you confront them without even meaning to. While it’s an insanely thick book, it’s a really fun read.
Question: If you’ve seen the original film and the new adaptations of It, which do you like better?
Imagine being invited to live in a gigantic mansion for a whole summer to study supernatural occurrences that are said to occur within the walls of said mansion. Would you go?
Dr. John Montague succeeds in having as guests two extra people, Eleanor and Theodora; Luke is also present, but he is the heir to Hill House as well as the host of the visitors. Hill House’s caretakers, Mr. and Mrs. Dudley, are on premises, but only during daylight as they refuse to be on the property after dark. It isn’t long before the guests start experiencing hearing noises, seeing ghosts, seeing strange writings on the wall, and other frightful events.
Eleanor seems to be the one experiencing the supernatural occurrences the most, and it’s implied that she either starts to lose touch with reality or that she has telekinetic abilities that may be the cause of the supernatural activity. The characters soon believe that Hill House is beginning to possess Eleanor and they begin fearing for her safety.
I won’t reveal the ending, but this book will make you think about whether Hill House had the ability of such control over a human being or whether mental illness played a large part in what Eleanor was experiencing.
If you’ve seen The Haunting of Hill House show featured on Netflix, it is similar to the book in some ways, but it’s different in a lot of other ways. I suggest reading the book AND watching the show as they are both very entertaining.
If haunted houses and spooky supernatural occurrences interest you, this is the book for you to read.
Another haunted house, yay!
This story is based on true events of the Lutz family in the 1970s. George and Kathleen Lutz inquired about purchasing a Dutch Colonial home on the south shore of Long Island, New York in December 1975 for a whopping $80,000.
They were both notified of the DeFoe murders that occurred 13 months prior and decided that was not an issue and went ahead to purchase the home. The day before the Lutz family moved in, they decided to have the house blessed by a Catholic priest, Father Ray. Father Ray recalls hearing a deep masculine voice yell, “Get out!” after spraying the first drop of holy water; however, Father Ray failed to mention this encounter to the Lutzes. After moving in with their three children and a dog, they only lasted 28 days before deciding to leave the house permanently.
One of the creepiest experiences they had, in my opinion, was solely experienced by George Lutz - he would consistently wake up at 3:15 am every morning and go outside to check on the boathouse. Later on in the story, George would learn that 3:15 am was the approximate time of the DeFoe murders.
I’m honestly surprised the family lasted 28 days. The first time I experienced one tiny thing, I’d be GONE. Also, if any kind of ghost wanted to scare my fur child, that would be the end of that house *insert swooshing of the hands here.*
Ichabod Crane. Johnny Depp. Ichabod. Johnny. They’re both the same, right?
This story, set in haunted Sleepy Hollow tells a tale of Ichabod Crane, a superstitious schoolmaster from Connecticut who begins to compete with Brom Bones for the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel’s hand in marriage at a local party. However, Brom wants to compete via physical altercation while Ichabod does not. Ichabod leaves the party having failed to obtain Katrina’s hand in marriage back to Sleepy Hollow where he resides for the evening. As Ichabod rides back to Sleepy Hollow, he comes face to...neck(?) with the Headless Horseman and suddenly disappears without a trace.
The legend involves two alternatives: 1) Brom acted as the Headless Horseman as he was an agile rider to scare off Ichabod so he could win Katrina’s hand in marriage and 2) that Ichabod’s disappearance was at the mercy of supernatural occurrences.
Washington Irving is a brilliant story-teller and this story is so spooky.
Sleepy Hollow starring Johnny Depp has a bit of a different ending than the story; if you haven’t seen the movie, I won’t spoil that for you, either. What I can tell you is that the ending of the film is utterly creepy.
Edgar Allan Poe, a pure genius. This creepy story sheds light on human emotion, guilt, and mental illness.
The narrator of this story insists to us readers that he is sane but really suffers from severe nervousness. The narrator reveals that he lives with an elderly man who has a clouded, “vulture-like” eye that frightens the narrator so much that he plans on murdering this man.
For several nights, the narrator opens the door to the man’s room to see whether the vulture-like eye is open; when he discovers it is closed, he concludes that the eye needs to be open in order to commit the murder.
One night, the narrator’s hand slips making a loud noise which awakens the man; the narrator finds that the lantern he has is lighting on the eye, so he decides to commit the murder at that moment by suffocating the man and chopping him into pieces and sticking him remains under the floorboards. Ultimately, the supposed sound of the victim’s beating heart rattles the man’s conscience to the point where he confesses to the murder.
This play on guilt and shame and mental health is such an intriguing story. Even though the narrator struggles with mental health, he also knows the difference between right and wrong. The scary part about this story is the idea that our brains can trap us into confusion.
Let's take a break from all the thrillers and horrors for a second.
What a cozy Halloween read the Harry Potter series is. The first instalment in the series involves trolls, dragons, witches and wizards (obviously), centaurs, unicorns, giants (or half-giants, since we’re talking about Hagrid here), floating pumpkin heads, giant three-headed dogs, magic, and, of course, Voldemort.
Alright, let’s activate our imaginations a little here. Imagine you shockingly receive a letter in the mail - you NEVER get mail! Your “family” won’t let you read said letter and all of a sudden your house is filling up to the ceiling with letters and you meet a giant man who tells you you’re a wizard/witch and that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
I know, I would be SUPER EXCITED, too. But imagine how scary that is. Your 11 years on the planet have been filled with nothing but public school, baggy clothes, rude family members, a spoiled cousin, and a bunch of Muggles and you’re about to be immersed in a world that is the complete opposite of that. Having to learn all the magic lingo, having to be stared at because of this cool lightning scar on your forehead, learning how your parents really died. I can imagine at age 11 that would be so frightening. Well, that’s what this story is about.
I honestly feel that Harry Potter is such a spooky Halloween-type read, but a cozy one. Not a super creepy, scare you right out of your pants (in the words of Jack Skellington), and haunting read. If this is more up your alley, then go ahead and binge those Harry Potter novels. They’re worth it.
Okay, this is BY FAR my favourite Halloween read in 2019. I’ve mentioned a lot of classics, and this is the only one that was published recently.
Picture it. Your bedroom. You’re about 7 years old. You’re sleeping soundly in your bed and you hear your name whispered outside your window. What do you do? Yeah, I’d scream and run to mommy and daddy and beg them to sleep in their bed forever, too.
Taking place in a town called Featherbank, Tom and his son Jake move to a new house to start over after the wife/mom died. Featherbank was haunted by the Whisper Man twenty years prior when five young children had been abducted and killed. What Tom and Jake don’t realize is that they are walking right into the Whisper Man’s grasp by moving to Featherbank.
This book involves love, father-son relationships, past trauma, and childhood emotional abuse. I really enjoyed my personal experience reading this book. I’m a huge fan of horror/thrillers and there were moments that I had to stop reading this book at night because it creeped me out that much.
Alex North is a wonderful writer and this is a FANTASTIC debut novel. I raved about this one for days, and I still do. This is one I will definitely be purchasing and keeping on my shelves.
It just makes sense that there is more than one Stephen King book on this list. I am a fan and he’s the King of Horror...ha, I did it again.
Sixteen-year-old Carrie lives with her fanatically despotic religious mother in a small town in Maine and is severely bullied by her classmates. After she is bullied in the locker room for not knowing what a menstrual cycle is, she discovers that she has the power to make things move across the room.
Her mother, Margaret, accuses Carrie of sinning and locks her in a closet and forces her to pray for forgiveness. The classmates who bullied Carrie are sentenced to detention and ultimately suspension and exclusion from attending prom if they refuse to fulfill their detention assignments. One student, Chris, defiantly leaves detention and is told she is not to attend prom. Another student, Sue, decides to let her boyfriend, Tommy, take Carrie to prom.
Prom starts out fine for Carrie. She’s with a boy who is really cute. Tommy is attracted to Carrie. Carrie is crowned prom queen and receives a bouquet of flowers. Carrie probably believes the bullying has ended. Until Chris decides she wants to enact revenge on Carrie for making her miss prom by dumping a bucket of pig’s blood all over her while she wears the crown. This is the end of the humiliation for Carrie and she allows her powers to completely take over.
This is such a sad and scary story. First off, her mother is probably the scariest character in this book. Thinking her daughter is a sinner and has been possessed by a devil all because she is growing a womanly body and has started her menstrual cycle? What a whack-job. But it’s also terrifying to have such power over your surroundings; imagine if someone in your school or in your place of work had the ability to lock doors, set fires, stop someone’s heart without even moving an inch.
This is a short novel, but terrifying.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King is for those souls who appreciate loving pets and haunted cemeteries.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice is for those who crave reading about classic vampires, complicated relationships, and of humanity and the human soul.
1984 by George Orwell is for those who enjoy dystopian reads that color a world of chaos and ultimate control. Although it’s not technically a ‘horror” novel, it’s still a bit creepy.
Here's Olivia, from Oliviareadsalatte, with a Spooky Audiobooks Recommendations vlog:
Halloween reading is one of the most exciting reading events of the year. There are so many books to choose from and so many talents out there to scare the begeezus out of you.
But Halloween season might be a busy time of year for you to fully dive into spooky books. Plus, it passes too quick. One night it's Halloween. The next it's countdown to Christmas. That's why I created this guide to help you pick a read that will make you feel like it's Halloween all over again no matter the actual season outdoors.
Who cares if it’s July and you’re in the mood for Halloween? So go grab that mug of tea, that cozy blanket, that cozy sweater, that wonderful furry reading buddy and cozy up with one of the 16 creepy Halloween reads to get into the spirit. You may want to turn up the air conditioning to feel the fall temperature, though.
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Let’s Meet in the Comments
Alright. Tell me. Which book, or books, do you read to get in the spooky & chilly Halloween spirit? What are your yearly must-read Halloween books? And which books do you read to get in the spooky and chilly Halloween spirit no matter the actual season outdoors?
Stay Cozy & Happy Reading,
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