We are psyched about Halloween, which is just around the corner. It’s growing in popularity outside the US, and most of us just see it as a bit of fun. But did you know, before Halloween became all about costumes and candy, it had its roots in things more soulful? Or dare I say, even morbid?
In the olden days, having a cemetery within walking distance was common. People lived quite close to death. Plagues, crop failures, and witch hunts were not novelties. Halloween scholars say perhaps this intimate association with incomprehensible things gave birth to Halloween later on.
As it often happens, someone got the idea to write a story that would “horripilate” people (if you don’t know, this word refers to the sensation you feel when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, either through fear or excitement). What followed was a genre of flesh-creeping, leg-numbing, throat-drying stories, then dramas, then movies.
When you saw the word flesh-creeping, a fleeting image may have just through your mind. Was that an image of a vampire? Legends of vampires terrified people for a long time, although maybe less so today.
In 1816, John Polidori won the famous ghost story competition with his novella The Vampyre. His horror defeated another well-known fictioneer, Mary Shelly, who later wrote Frankenstein. Ever since then, vampire and monster costumes and stories became a part of Halloween.
Whether Halloween influenced the beginning of the horror genre is a topic for another day. But what we know for certain is each year around this time we get to read some of the best horror writings by many talented writers. The genre has deviated from representing just monsters to include wizards and witches, zombies, friendly ghosts, and a lot more. But the fascination of the supernatural still keeps readers on edge.
To celebrate the upcoming Halloween, we’ve asked four of our writers to pick their horror favourites and share their own spooky books.
Isobel Blackthorn, from her book A Perfect Square: “A quick movement behind her, ahead of her, circling her, and she saw a pair of eyes, glinting red shards”
Isobel recommends Bob van Laerhoven’s Return to Hiroshima. “It as a must-read for lovers of noir thrillers who prefer the literature end of chilling.”
Patricia Leslie, from her book A Single Light: “‘I can’t help what I am,’ Carena said. ‘My hunger consumes me. I have to feed or go insane. I know no other way.'”
Patricia says: “Pet Sematery by Stephen King is the scariest novel I never read. I started but reached a point I could not bring myself to pass. I still haven’t read it all the way through, nor have I watched the movie – and I never will. The next scariest book was also by Stephen King – IT“
Shelley Russell Nolan, from her book Dark Justice: “The young woman screamed as the knife stabbed into her abdomen, a high-pitched scream that intensified when the freak thrust the bloodied weapon into her soft flesh over and over again.”
Shelley says: “Graced, by Amanda Pillar, offers a delicious amount of horror and snark, with a range of creatures that go bump in the night and a heroine who is about to discover there are worse things than monsters.”
T.R. Thompson, from his book The Forked Path: “A rushing tide. A swirling chaos. A deep coldness, an ache, reaching for warmth, for life. Dark depths, watching the lights far above, waiting to rise.”
Tom recommends The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft. “What has risen may sink, and what has sunk may rise. Loathsomeness waits and dreams in the deep, and decay spreads over the tottering cities of men.”
These are only a few of our writers’ picks, but there are many more fascinating stories we haven’t heard much about. Comment below with your favourite scary tales.