This time of year is the best time of year. You move from the gaiety of Summer into the comfort of Fall. This is the time of year that people come together. This is the time of year that people gather around the kitchen table, or the fire place and talk and tell stories. This is the time of year for mystery and imagination. This is the time of year for ghosts, goblins, witches and ghouls, but it is also the time for wonder, love, and mystics.
So this list of recommendations is for Halloween. Bear in mind that Halloween is not about Horror, although that plays a part. Halloween is a celebration of the unknown. It is an aknowledgement of our fears and an accumulation of love for those close to us and those we have lost.
Halloween is Gothic. Halloween is mysterious. Halloween is horrifying. Halloween is fun.
So here is your list…enjoy…if you dare!
10. “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce
Set during the end of the Civil War, this decidedly Gothic tale follows a Confederate soldier who miraculously escapes his execution. Beautifully told, remarkably human and emotional, and yet powerfully cruel, this short story will put your brain in the right mindset for the coming holiday. With a brutal twist ending that will shock you.
This story was the only “Twilight Zone” episode filmed in Europe and one of the very, very few that were not written by Richard Matheson, nor Rod Serling.
9. “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
Subtext abounds in this morality tale. More about the duality of human nature than an actual monster tale, but then again thats what Halloween is all about. Dressing up as something else to trick others. The real question in the book though is which one is the real person, is it Jekyll…or Hyde?
8. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde
Another story about the masks we wear. Dark and absolutely Gothic, this book is beautifully told and very nearly asks to be read by candlelight. A faustian like tale that can spark the imagination, and with a full moon shining in through the window, you’ll get the full effect of Halloween.
7. “Hell House” By Richard Matheson
Matheson absolutely has to be on this list and I’ve chosen this one because horror is a staple of Halloween and this is the most terrifying book I’ve ever read. It follows a group of Scientists trying to debunk a haunted house. With a twist ending that will keep you up through Halloween, you have to read this book…but only if you aren’t feint of heart.
6. “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
To follow up Matheson’s haunted house tale, is Shirley Jackson’s masterpiece. Beautifully told, this story is less a horror story and more of an American Gothic story. Dont get me wrong, there are still horror elements to the tale, but this one is much more subtle and a bit more haunting. This is the perfect book to read on Halloween night.
5. “Salems’ Lot” by Stephen King
I struggled with the idea of putting Stephen King on this list because it just seemed so obvious, but this is the book to be on a Halloween list if there ever was one. Everything takes place in the town and the horror just rises as the story progresses. It even has an expedition to a potentially haunted (though it was much more malicious than that) house, which, in my youth was a Halloween staple.
4. “Halloweenland” by Al Sarrantonio
This is actually the third book int he series of Detective Bill Grant, but it’s enough of a stand alone that I thought it more prudent here. This book has it all (though not as well written or produced as some of the other books on the list), A carnival, Halloween night, and Samhain himself (though under a different name). Just a fun way to get in the mood for Halloween.
3.”Dark Harvest” by Norman Partridge
The October Boy comes alive…This book is very short, but extremely fun. The winner of the Bram Stoker award in 2006, this book is about The October Boy, or a creature who rises from a pumpkin patch and tries to kill (He even has a jack-o-lantern head). The catch is the young men in the town are also trying to kill him. An excellent morality tale and a book which throws classic horror standards on their head.
2. “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury
There is nothing like a Carnival to bring you into the mood of Halloween. Especially a supernatural carnival. Another book which is beautifully written and does a spectacular job highlighting the mood for young people and for bringing the nostalgia of the wonder and imagination back to the adults who read it.
1. “October Dreams” edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish
The Ultimate Halloween book. This book has a number of short stories which are collected by Chizmar (The editor/operator of Cemetery Dance Magazine: http://www.cemeterydance.com), nostalgia and October dreamer extraordinaire. This book not only has short stories from the leaders in the horror genre, but it also has the favorite memories of some of these genre giants. Ever wonder what Ray Bradbury remembers best about Halloween? Here it is.