It’s that time of year again when we voluntarily scare ourselves witless. Let me help you along the way with this Halloween reading list.
Yesterday, I listened to this wonderful Guardian Books podcast with Susan Hill, one of the most well-known and successful ghost story writers of modern times. The author of the terrifying Woman in Black talked about how she gets ideas for her ghostly tales and why we like to be scared. It’s a fascinating listen for fans of the genre.
Hill also spoke about her new collection of short stories The Travelling Bag: And Other Ghostly Stories which contains four spooky tales perfect for devouring on All Hallows Eve. (It’s only £1.99 on Kindle if you fancy a peek.).
It got me thinking about which other ghostly stories could be read tonight, the evening when our imaginations are the most susceptible to a good fright. Join me on a journey through my Halloween reading list…if you dare (insert evil laugh here).
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
I’ve mentioned this already and it’s genuinely terrifying. As I’m an utter fool, I read this alone one Halloween night and had to sleep with the light one(I was 30 at the time).
It utilises all of the best tools in the classic ghost story arsenal and will have you hooked until the grisly end.
The Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
No Halloween reading list would be complete without this guy. From the haunting poem ‘The Raven’ to his disturbing short stories, Poe gets to the harrowing heart of fear and takes the reader through love, loss and terror on every page.
You can read several of these in a night. I’d recommend ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ to start. Keep going if you can bear it.
The Turning of the Screw by Henry James
This 86-page novella looks harmless. It’s not.
A Victorian governess, two orphaned children, a prickly housekeeper, a manuscript read by the fireside. I’m getting scared just typing these things. It’s a masterclass in Gothic fiction and a sublime example of a chilling ghost story. I’ll be reading this one tonight so it’s me you’ll hear screaming. Sorry.
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter
None of my reading lists are complete without Angela Carter on them. I love her. It’s true.
This collection combines fairy tales, ghost stories and fantasy, and will torment your imagination long after reading. Carter was magnificent at entwining darkness and sensuality, the familiar with the bizarre, and this body of short stories does just that.
Grab a blanket, wrap yourself in it and don’t move until you’ve finished.
Don’t be fooled by the petite size of these tales. They may be poems, short stories or novellas but every word is designed to terrify your very soul. And they will.
Make your selection from my Halloween reading list this evening and let me know if you manage to get any sleep.