Halloween has arrived and there’s never a more appropriate time to scare yourself silly. For me, I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch anything scary, but I don’t have the same view when it comes to reading scary material. I’ve rifled through my bookshelves to pull out the four most Halloween-appropriate reads.
Hex, Thomas Olde Heuvelt.
I managed to snag myself a proof copy of this (thank you Goodreads!), which is the Dutch author’s first works to be translated into English.
The story focuses on the town of Black Spring, found in New York. However, if you’re reading the Dutch version, you’ll find yourself reading about Beek, in Gelderland.
Townspeople use the HEX app on their smartphones to track the whereabouts of resident ghost, Katherine van Wyler, who likes to appear at random places throughout the town. Known as the Black Rock Witch, her eyes and mouth had been sewn shut and this is how she appears. Locals have become so accustomed to her that they can go about their lives, ignoring her. There are two rules when it comes to Katherine- no outsiders can learn of her existence and you must never remove her stitches.
You know the thing about rules… they’re made to be broken.
Just to make things worse, if you decide that you’re fed up of having a ghost lurking in your dining room and you’d like to leave town, doing so will more than likely result in your suicide.
The book mixes the very old, dated idea of curses with modern technology to help try to keep a handle on the problem. It’s a grim read that will keep your spine chilled this Halloween. If you finish it and think to yourself, Wow, this would make a great film, you’re not wrong; Warner Brothers have the filming rights.
The Shining, Stephen King.
I’ve read a few of King’s novels, and this is one of the better ones (Under the Dome, not so much). I saw the film adaptation many years ago but it was only when the sequel, Doctor Sleep, came out that I wanted to pick up the book. I’m sure many of us are familiar with the episode of Friends where Joey has to keep his copy locked in the freezer. After reading it, I’m sure you’ll agree with him.
Having seen the film first, it was easier for me to imagine the characters and be scared. It was the same for The Woman in Black (below). I always feel it’s worth reading the book a film is based on to find out how the story was originally envisioned by the author. TV or film adaptations often change so much (Like The 100 or True Blood). It doesn’t mean it’ll help you sleep afterwards however…
The Shining sees Jack Torrance and his family packed off to the Overlook Hotel for winter as he accepts the job of off-season caretaker. As the snow rolls in and the family of three are cut off from the outside world, cabin fever starts to take hold… The mental well-being of the family is just a bump in the road, until Jack’s son, Danny, starts seeing the full technicolor horrific history of the hotel, brought to life by the resident ghosts.
Jack is affected the worst by being cut off and the spirits from the hotel have their own plans for him… as he’s a recovering alcoholic, I do mean both the supernatural form, and the liquid form. Will the family be able to survive through the winter?
The Woman in Black, Susan Hill.
Originating as a novella, this has been adapted for the stage, as well as the big and small screens. I’m very fortunate to have seen the stage production in my local theatre, with a very small cast, and I highly recommend it. It’s worth noting that the film starring Daniel Radcliffe, the stage production, and the book are all slightly different. The play unfolds in a different way, and the film has it’s own ending.
Arthur Kipps, now retired, is sat at home with his family, who encourage him to tell a ghost story. For the first time, he allows himself to re-live a horrible experience from his youth and begins to chronicle the events on paper.
As a solicitor, he was called to Eel Marsh House when it’s owner, Mrs Alice Drablow, passes away. While sorting through the mess of papers that has been left in her islolated and neglected home, Arthur realises that Mrs Drablow had a few secrets. From local townspeople, he discovers unfortunate things that happen to their children. Things go bump in the night and Arthur pieces together the horrible history of what happened to Mrs Drablow… learning what keeps her ghost, dressed all in black with a pale white face, tied to the house.
The Strain, Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan.
Enough of ghosts. This is the first of a trilogy of books about vampires. These aren’t your glittering kind however; these are the truly gory, end-of-humanity kind. You won’t be falling in love with them. Sequels The Fall and The Night Eternal follow, with a TV adaptation also available for your bloody viewing pleasure.
A plane lands at JFK International Airport and “goes dark”- no-one on the plane can be contacted, the lights are off and there’s no sign of life. Upon investigation, crew and passengers are found dead, but with no obvious cause. CDC official, Ephraim Goodweather, is summoned to check the bodies for signs of contagion. Only four remain alive but have no explanation for this worrying twist of events. A coffin filled with dirt is found in the hold, but isn’t listed on the plane’s manifest. Eph and his colleague, Nora, are warned by an elderly gentleman that they must destroy the bodies from the plane.
The survivors are released without further question and they continue with their lives… for a short while. Before long, bodies from the plane start going missing from the morgue as the deceased decide they’d like to pop home and have a snack while they’re there…
As the story unfolds, an unlikely group of people are brought together to hunt down the vampires, or strigoi as they’re known here. All human life is at risk and heads will roll…
There are no weird love triangles to be found among these pages.
What are your favourite Halloween reads?
Is there anything in particular that you’ll be picking up this Halloween to delve into? I’d love to hear your Halloween recommendations in the comments.