Halloween is upon us, and we’ve got just the thing for those of you who love books that have a little tingle in the spine. Ah, yes. If you love a good ghoulish read, then this list is right up your dark alley. Should you be brave enough to embrace the terror, take a look as we guide you through our great, ghastly list of horror books perfect for reading in the dead of night with a flashlight held to your chin just so. This edition of Have Books, Will Travel? To Hell & Back. MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAA…ahem. Let’s get started!
Arthur’s Halloween by Marc Brown
We get it. Not everyone takes an interest in terror. Some of you enjoy an adorable dose of silly spookiness and that’s all you can handle. As an honorable mention, we look no further than our favorite nearsighted aardvark, Arthur. In the Halloween installment of Marc Brown’s beloved children’s series, Arthur must face his fears (and he has a lot of them) and find the courage to save his little sister after she wanders aimlessly into the scariest house on the block. Is D.W. doomed to spend the rest of her days in Elwood City’s most haunted house? Something tells us her brother has what it takes to set the scary things aside and save the day.
Number of lights you’ll need to leave on: A single night light if you must, but you should sleep just fine.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
Alright, here’s where we get into the real thrills. One can hardly call themselves a horror buff without The Exorcist in their collection, and it’s no wonder given that spiritual and supernatural elements often create a higher level of fear. William Peter Blatty’s epic horror novel begins in Iraq, where we find that Father Lankester Merrin has discovered a small demon statue during an archaeological dig. Soon thereafter, he begins to witness a series of omens alerting him that something wicked this way comes.
Stateside, famous actress Chris MacNeil has noticed that her daughter is exhibiting a slew of strange behaviors after a series of weird noises and whatnot disturb their rented home. Chris’ first notion is to blame the behavior on good old-fashioned teenage rebellion, but once things get out of hand, she turns to pragmatic psychiatry and prescription drugs; all the while, her daughter’s behavior becomes more diabolical.
At her wits’ end, Chris enlists the help of her local priest. Problem is, he’s not even sure he believes in God anymore. After a few failed attempts at putting evil back in its place, his bishop deems him unqualified for the gig (obviously) and appoints a more experienced man. You guessed it, Father Lankester Merrin. Can Father Merrin’s expertise best the beast hanging out in Chris MacNeil’s kid?
Number of lights you’ll need to leave on: At least two. One in the bedroom and one in the bathroom down the hall. …you’ll wonder why you bought a place with a bathroom down the hall, but you’ll eventually get over it.
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
Fun Fearsome fact. The Silence of the Lambs is actually a sequel. Notorious, cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter makes his first appearance in Harris’ novel Red Dragon as the captive of a detective known for projecting himself into the minds of psychopaths. The next time readers are introduced to Hannibal, he’s giving FBI trainee Clarice Starling a run for her sanity.
The head of the psychological profiling division of the bureau has tasked Clarice with the tough job of presenting a questionnaire to Hannibal, who is currently serving nine consecutive life sentences in a mental institution as punishment for his heinous crimes. No big deal. With that much time on his hands, Hannibal could use a little extracurricular activity.
Enter new serial killer, a perpetrator dubbed “Buffalo Bill” for his affinity for skinning his victims and the real reason Clarice is sent to gather information from Hannibal. Turns out, Bill has a habit of giving the feds the slip and they need the help of a murderous mastermind to pin him down. Can Clarice get to the bottom of the innerworkings of Hannibal’s psyche in time to save Buffalo Bill’s next target? Or is she just a pawn in his game of Murder, May I? (…see what we did there?)
Number of lights you’ll need to leave on: One. The light in the kitchen. You know, just in case cannibals are looking for leftovers.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
Odds are, after reading Rosemary’s Baby, you’ll think twice about calling children “little demons”. Sure, your nephew may throw a tantrum or two, but he’s no Antichrist. Calm down. In Ira Levin’s bestselling horror novel, young couple Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse begin their new life as they move into a Gothic apartment in New York City. First sign of trouble? Guy is a struggling actor. Boy, if we had a nickel. Anywho, upon their arrival, the titular character and her starving artist of a spouse are welcomed by the building’s eccentric elderly couple.
As per horror-genre usual, Rosemary is wary of the neighbors’ unsolicited interest in their lives, but Guy wants to be best friends. He shares the difficulties of living out his dreams with them and before you know it, rival actors are mysteriously going blind and freeing up prime roles. After his career gets a jumpstart, he proposes the idea of starting a family. Rosemary decides to sleep on it, but she doesn’t sleep well. In fact, she has a horrendous nightmare that leaves her with inexplicable claw marks and a bun in the oven.
Things go downhill from there. As Guy becomes increasingly famous, Rosemary becomes increasingly ill and the true nature of those nosey neighbors is revealed. Can Rosemary cope with the evil that surrounds her? Will Guy get a clue…or a real job? Read if you dare.
Number of lights you’ll need to leave on: Three. Definitely one in the nursery. Add two more to your front lawn to keep the creepy neighbors on their side of the satanic street.
The Shining by Stephen King
Okay. We can all agree that, of the things on the NEVER DO THIS list, moving into a haunted hotel wherein which multiple occupants and workers have been murdered is pretty high up there, right? Right. Now that that’s out of the way, Stephen King is arguably one of the best horror writers of our time and The Shining is the perfect example of why he’s worthy of the title. Written shortly after his recovery from alcoholism, the book follows the hot-tempered, alcoholic patriarch of the Torrance family to a haunted resort hotel in search of a fresh start.
Aspiring writer Jack Torrance has recently been fired from his teaching job due to his anger issues and accepts a position as the winter caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, which means he, his wife and their telepathic son Danny, must move onto the premises. You know what that means. Free room and board! What happened to the former winter caretaker, you may wonder? Oh, just a family homicide/suicide situation. That’s all.
Given Jack’s recent troubles, he’s hoping that time in the secluded resort will help the family heal and bond, but Danny keeps seeing ghosts and visions what with his pesky telepathy and clairvoyance causing a stir. Turns out, the hotel is trying to possess the poor kid. That doesn’t quite work out and the Overlook settles for possessing Jack instead. A consolation haunting, if you will. Man, oh man, do things get terrifying. Jack becomes increasingly unstable. Mallets get involved. Topiary animals start attacking people. How will Danny and his mother survive? Will Jack come to terms with his failure to hold down yet another job? What, exactly, does one do to ward off murderous landscaping? This one’s not for the faint of heart, folks.
Number of lights you’ll need to leave on: ALL. OF. THEM. Ask your family and friends for their flashlights. Stock up on candles. Swing by Costco and grab the 82-gallon pack of dark roast…and make sure all the doors are locked. You’ll thank us.
Well, that wraps up this month’s list! Enough of our gabbing. We want to know about you. What makes your must-read horror book list this Halloween? What films are a part of your Halloween movie tradition? Let us know in the comments!