Looking for a socially distanced way to spend Halloween without missing out on the spooky spirit? Here are five Halloween reads that will make you feel less alone this Halloween. Make sure to check under the bed and in the closet every few pages.
-Andrew Pluta, Daily Book Review Editor
“The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson is perhaps one of the most famous authors to turn to on Halloween, or any time one is in need of an expertly crafted horror story. Published just over 60 years ago, “The Haunting of Hill House” has not withered in its ability to spook or induce a sense of lightheaded nausea; while Jackson incorporates the classic horror tropes (everything is fine during daylight until the night falls and the terror begins), she also intertwines psychology into her prose, begging the reader to question the ambiguity of the setting and the characters’ actions: she will not decide anything for us.
The story takes place at Hill House, a foreboding and ominous home with an evil reputation. It intrigues Dr. Montague, an old professor and investigator of psychic disturbances. He invites the telepathic Theodora; the heir of Hill House, Luke; and Eleanor Vance, our main character, to join him and witness the hauntings of Hill House. Eleanor is increasingly disturbed and affected by the home and its dark power. Her story unravels quickly and ends even faster, leaving readers with a chilling sense that they had imagined it all.
—Lilly Pearce, Daily Arts Writer
“The Turn of the Screw” by Henry James
Impress your friends this Halloween by tossing around terms like “new criticism.” Despite being 120 odd years past publication, “Turn of the Screw” remains a classic of the Gothic genre; frightening and ambiguous. This novella is an essential text of “new criticism,” a literary movement that tries to analyze and interpret art in isolation, ignoring the author’s biography. Millions have read this novella and come out with their own disparate theories about what exactly happens in its 114 pages. Recently adapted into TV form by the same producer who adapted “The Haunting of Hill House,” “Turn of the Screw” is an enduring spooky classic. Following a young governess, “Turn of the Screw” recalls the woman’s experience at a remote manor where she increasingly detects malevolence directed at her two charges Miles and Flora. As she falls deeper in love with the children, the governess becomes convinced that their personhood and souls are unsafe. Armed with her best intentions, the governess goes to war against mysterious and possibly imagined evil forces.
Read for the psychological horror and questionable narrators. Stay for the hours of post-reading analysis and general confusion.
—Elizabeth Yoon, Daily Arts Writer
The Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe
There are so many wonderful full-length horror novels — unfortunately, though, Halloween always seems to coincide with mounting piles of homework and extracurricular responsibilities. Luckily, one of the fathers of the horror genre has short stories that are free, easily accessible on the internet and able to be read during breaks between assignments. Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories are digestible morsels of horror that offer a little jolt of fear, a small peek into the mind of a madman, all within a few pages. The craft of the short story is subtle, and Poe perfects the art of the Gothic variant. He manages to crystallize many of the classic aspects of horror, like the haunted house or being buried alive, while reminding the reader of why those tropes exist in the first place. For example, in “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Poe describes a house with “vacant eye-like windows” and a feeling of “the hideous dropping off of the veil” — descriptions reminiscent of the archetypal, quintessential haunted house. Poe also writes the internal monologue of a madman suspiciously well, as with his narrator in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” who beseeches the reader to “Hearken! and observe how healthily — how calmly I can tell you the whole story.” Many of his narrators are interesting simply because of their fragility of mind. Of course, the tragic life story of Poe himself adds to the eeriness of his stories; after all, a tortured soul is particularly suited to create a masterfully sinister story.
—Emilia Ferrante, Daily Arts Writer
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip. K Dick
Maybe you want a different kind of horror story this Halloween. Maybe you want to try something a little off-beat, something that’ll scare you in a deeper, existential sense. Or maybe you just love a perfect title, in which case this is the novel for you.
Known as the inspiration for the landmark sci-fi film “Bladerunner,” “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” enthralls the reader with its dark, paranoid ambience. The novel is a kind of philosophical horror story, following bounty hunter Rick Deckard as he chases down androids — lifelike humanoid robots used for physical labor — who are attempting to blend into human society. Technological advancements have made androids almost indistinguishable from humans, and Deckard must use an “empathy test” to detect the fugitives. But the novel abandons all confidence in reality when it suggests that the empathy test may not be reliable.
Can Deckard know who’s human, and who isn’t? Can he know if he himself is human? Each time you think you know what’s real and what isn’t, the novel does a somersault and throws you off your feet. Phillip K. Dick manipulates existential spookiness to perfection in this sci-fi classic.
—Julian Wray, For The Daily
“House of Salt and Sorrows” by Erin A. Craig
We open with the death of Eulalie Thaumas, one of twelve sisters. Her death is grim and bleak, for though there were initially twelve sisters, only seven remain. Rather than properly grieving for Eulalie, the question circling in everyone’s mind is, who will be next?
Annaleigh, our main heroine, refuses to believe that her sister’s death was an accident. Her sisters attend glamorous balls every night through an enchanted cave, but she isn’t convinced that the handsome strangers with whom her sisters glide into nights of feverish dancing are what they seem. Or even if they are truly human. The lines quickly blur, and Annaleigh questions her sanity. The House of Salt and Sorrows spins a new story for the twelve dancing princesses, showcasing how children’s tales hold a darker, more sinister truth.
Erin Craig revitalizes the classic Grimm’s tale into a dark, young adult fairy tale retelling. Her writing focuses on creating harrowing scenes of confusion, mind-bending and suspense, leaving the reader with goosebumps. Craig presents a bone-chilling story of jealousy, greed, pride and, of course, forbidden magic. She paints a foreboding picture throughout the story, and when it all comes together, the end is even more nefarious than one could have expected.
—Zoha Khan, For The Daily