Halloween’s nearly here and we couldn’t be more excited — after all, what better time to read yourself into a fright? We’ve been gathering up a huge pile of spooky reads for you to check out. And, thankfully, there’s plenty of bone-chilling tales to choose from — whether your go-to read for spooky season involves witches or clowns; vampires or slashers.
But if your go-to scary read involves a ghost or ghoul (or two — or maybe three?), we’ve rounded up 12 spin-tingling stories to curl up with this Halloween.
The Haunting of Alma Fielding by Kate Summerscale
This page-turner, which explores the 1930s case of the “Croydon Poltergeist”, will have you hooked from the first page until the last.
In 1938, Alma Fielding — an ordinary young woman — starts to experience supernatural events in her home. Nandor Fodor, a Jewish-Hungarian refugee and chief ghost hunter for the International Institute for Psychical research, begins to investigate.
In doing so, he finds a different and darker type of haunting: trauma, alienation, loss — and the foreshadowing of a nation’s worst fears. As the spectre of fascism lengthens over Europe, and as Fodor’s obsession with the case deepens, Alma becomes ever more disturbed.
1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
A heart-stopping, chilling ghost story that you won’t be able to put down. Just make sure to leave a light on while you’re reading it.
Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House. The house, located at the end of a causeway, is surrounded by fog and mystery.
But it isn’t until the funeral, where Kipps sees a young woman dressed in all black, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold. And the feeling only gets deeper as he finds the locals reluctant to talk of the woman in black and her terrible purpose.
2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The inspiration for the 2018 Netflix series, Jackson’s atmospheric novel is absolutely unforgettable.
Alone in the world, Eleanor is delighted to take up Dr Montague’s invitation to spend a summer in the mysterious Hill House. They’ll be joined by Theodora, an artistic ‘sensitive’, and Luke, the heir to the house.
But what begins as a light-hearted experiment is swiftly proven to be a trip into their darkest nightmares — and an investigation that one of their number may not survive.
3. The Demonologist: the Extraordinary Career of Ed and Lorraine Warren by Gerald Brittle
Fans of The Conjuring film series won’t want to miss this one.
Ed and Lorraine Warren are considered the foremost experts on demonology and exorcism in America. With thousands of investigations to their credit, they reveal what actually breaks the peace in haunted houses and how it can happen to you.
In The Demonologist, the Warrens discuss many of their cases including Annabelle and the Enfield Poltergeist — those case files are the basis for the films, Annabelle and The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist. If you think ghosts are only responsible for hauntings, think again.
4. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
A frighteningly fascinating story that is a perfect Halloween read for fans of the genre.
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that, one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house.
However, the property — complete with boathouse and swimming pool — and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror, claiming that they had been terrorised by a paranormal phenomena.
5. A Face at the Window by Dennis McFarland
An eerie, read-in-one-sitting novel that is unlike any other ghost story you’ll ever read.
When their daughter leaves for college, newly minted empty nesters Cookson and Ellen Selway decide they’re going to escape the eerie quiet of their home and take a trip to London. But not long after arriving, it becomes apparent that the Selways have traded one unsettling locale for another. The Hotel Willerton, much like Cookson, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, has a disturbing past.
Decades ago, a young girl fell to her death from one of the hotel’s windows. Now, her ghost is haunting Cookson, slowly drawing him back toward the darkness that once consumed him. As Cookson descends into a spiral of self-destruction, he is joined by two more apparitions, each reflecting the worst parts of himself and forcing him to confront the mistakes of his past that have tormented him for years.
6. Hell House by Richard Matheson
Fans of spooky stories about haunted houses will be hooked on this book about the “Mount Everest of haunted houses.”
Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going to die. But when the wealthy magazine and newspaper publisher starts thinking seriously about his impending death, he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death.
Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, and the mediums travel to the Belasco House in Maine. It’s been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. And for one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House — learning exactly why the town folks refer to it as the Hell House.
7. American Ghost by Hannah Nordhaus
Part memoir, part historical research and a whole lot of ghost hunting — what more could you want in a novel?
La Posada was once a grand Santa Fe mansion. It belonged to Abraham and Julia Staab, who emigrated from Germany in the mid-nineteenth century. After they died, the house became a hotel. And in the 1970s, the hotel acquired a resident ghost — a sad, dark-eyed woman in a long gown.
And that’s when strange things began to happen there: vases moved, glasses flew, blankets were ripped from beds. Julia Staab died in 1896 — but her ghost, they say, lives on.
8. Ghostland by Colin Dickey
A bit of a different pick, compared to the others on this list. Ghostland dives into the history of some of the most haunted places in America and explores why we are still drawn to these stories.
Colin Dickey is on the trail of the ghosts of America. Crammed into old houses and hotels, abandoned prisons and empty hospitals, the spirits that linger continue to capture our collective imagination — but why?
Dickey’s own fascination was piqued by a house hunt in Los Angeles that revealed derelict foreclosures and “zombie homes”, leading him to embark on a journey across the continental United States to decode and unpack the American history repressed in the country’s most famous haunted places.
9. The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House by Steven LaChance and Laura Long-Helbig
Another one for fans of ghost stories rooted in real life, The Uninvited will give you absolute chills.
Steven LaChance was forever transformed by the paranormal attacks that drove him and his family from their home in Union, Missouri. When another family falls victim to the same dark entity, Steven returns to the dreaded house to offer aid and to try and find healing. Paranormal investigators, psychics, and priests are consulted, but no relief is found.
The demon’s presence — screams, growls, putrid odours, invisible shoves, bites, and other physical violations — only grow worse. Steven chronicles how this supernatural predator infects those around it. But the one who suffers most is the current homeowner, Helen. And when the entity takes possession and urges Helen toward murder and madness, Steven must engage in a hair-raising battle for her soul.
10. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
A bone-chilling story about a man who gets more than he bargained for when he purchases a suit belonging to a dead man.
‘Buy my stepfather’s ghost’ read the e-mail — and so, Jude did. He bought it, in the shape of the dead man’s suit, delivered in a heart-shaped box, because he wanted it: because his fans ate up that kind of story. It was perfect for his collection: the genuine skulls and the bones, the real honest-to-God snuff movie, the occult books and all the rest of the paraphernalia that goes along with his kind of hard/goth rock.
But the rest of his collection doesn’t make the house feel cold. The bones don’t make the dogs bark; the movie doesn’t make Jude feel as if he’s being watched. And none of the artefacts bring a vengeful old ghost with black scribbles over his eyes out of the shadows to chase Jude out of his home, and make him run for his life…
The Turn of the Screw tells the story of a a young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. But she soon becomes unsettled by a dark, menacing force within the house — and starts to suspect that something, or someone, is stalking the children in her care.
Is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence, or a manifestation of something else entirely?
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