The spookiest time of the year is fast approaching: Halloween. Inspiration for the scariest of holidays can be found in movies, music, and even cocktails. But for some extra creep-factor in your life, turn to literature.
“The Yellow Wallpaper”
Written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, it’s the diary of a woman whose doctor/husband has brought her to a country house to live in an attic room. Her journal is a secret because her writing is a no-no lest it agitate her already troubled and overworked mind. She writes of her days spent there, and of the wallpaper covering the room. As she studies the wallpaper she notices a never-ending pattern… and a woman trapped inside.
It makes you hate the patriarchy and creeps you out at the same time. This truly is the journal of a mad woman. And you can read it online for free right here.
Nathaniel Hawthorne is probably best known for his novel The Scarlett Letter, but he has many short stories that’ll get you in the perfect Halloween mood. “Young Goodman Brown” paints a picture of distrust, while stories like “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and “The Birth-Mark” deal with science gone wrong.
Not necessarily scary, his stories have the atmosphere to make you feel like you’re deep in the woods of Salem on an October night. His allusions to real-life witches also bring to mind the horrors that can be found in the real world.
The Haunting of Hill House
A scientist invites three individuals to stay in a reportedly haunted house to document actual proof of paranormal events. The story is narrated by Eleanor Vance, one of the guests and a young lady on her own for the first time. Hauntings do ensue, but whether they’re real or not is left for you to decide.
The thing that often makes for effective horror is the unknown. Whatever is lurking around the corner or waiting outside your door is always scariest when you don’t know what exactly it is. Uncertainty is scary. And this is exactly what makes The Haunting of Hill House so eerie.
A young man moves out to rural Maine with his family for a new job at a university. Everything is perfect until his daughter’s cat is run over by an 18-wheeler traveling along the highway that runs in front of their house. The young doctor is then taken to the “pet semetary” that resides deep in the woods behind his house. Things only get worse from there.
Stephen King is undeniably a master of horror who’s brought us cursed cars, haunted hotels, and creepy clowns, but it’s Pet Semetary that many of his fans agree is the scariest. It scared King himself, making him hide it away in a drawer for years. The reason: the events of the novel were based on things that actually happened to him. This isn’t another book about a haunted place or some supernatural occurrences—it hits home and feels all too real, and makes readers think about death and what loss really is.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
This series of three books are technically for kids, but the pictures are sure to freak everybody out! Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3: More Stories to Chill Your Bones were all written by Alvin Schwartz and published in the 80s and early 90s. All stories are based off from basic urban legends that everyone has probably already heard at one point around a campfire or at a sleepover.
But anyone who’s read any one of those books can tell you that the illustrations were the thing that kept them up at night. You have to find the illustrations done by Stephen Gammell, though; a 30th anniversary edition was released in 2011 with illustrations by Brett Helquist, but they are nothing! Stephen Gammell’s original illustrations are where it’s at, in all their nightmare-inducing glory.
Creepypastas are those stories you can find on Internet sites that are like modern day campfire stories. And if you’re a pre-teen in Wisconsin, they inspire you to murder your friends! Yay Internet!
Some are really bad, but others are pretty good at keeping you up at night. The Slender Man mythos is probably the most widely known. My personal recommendations: Candle Cove, The Russian Sleep Experiment, The Keyhole/White with Red, and Where Bad Kids Go.
Halloween only comes once a year, so take advantage of it while you can! Get your freak on, drink all the pumpkin spice lattes, and take some time to indulge in an old-fashioned scare or two. Happy hauntings.