Grab your flashlight, crawl under the covers, and check out one of these scary reads!
October 19, 2020
You might be too old for Trick-or-Treating, you’re never too old for scary stories (or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.)
Whether you’re looking for a classic haunting (try The Family Plot), a cozy Halloween murder mystery (curl up with Vampires, Bones and Treacle Scones), or something with b-movie charm (John Dies at the End or Meddling Kids)… this list has something for everyone! So grab your flashlight, crawl under the covers, and check out one of these scary reads.
Or just skip straight to the Stephen King. You know you want to.
If you prefer your Halloween a little friendlier—and a little craftier—scroll down to the bottom for Halloween crafts and projects!
In this post: ghost stories, haunted houses, horror, Halloween homicide, Halloween crafts
The Big Book Of Ghost Stories
Edited by Otto Penzler
A collection of ghost stories by American and English authors. These spectral stories span more than a hundred years, from modern-day creations by Joyce Carol Oates and Chet Williamson, to pulp yarns from August Derleth and M.L. Humphreys, to the atmospheric Victorian tales of Kipling and Lovecraft, not to mention modern works by Donald E. Westlake and Isaac Asimov. Whether you prefer possessive poltergeists, awful apparitions, or friendly phantoms, these stories are guaranteed to thrill you, tingle the spine, or tickle the funny bone, and keep you turning the pages with fearful delight.
Collected Ghost Stories
Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, James’s stories draw on the terrors of the everyday. Documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot.
Connecticut Ghost Stories And Legends
Thomas D’Agostino and Arlene Nicholson
The emerald sheen illuminating the Sabbatarian burying ground, 8 Mile River’s misty figures which emerge at the Devil’s Hopyard, and flying demon skeletons on Charles Island these bizarre haunts are uniquely Connecticut. In the ghostly lore of the state, the ambient ramblings of the Leatherman still ring out in the caves of Harwinton’s forests and the former residents of the Hale Homestead continue to roam the attic at night. Join authors and Paranormal United Research Founders, Thomas D’Agostino and his wife Arlene Nicholson, as they recount bone chilling mysteries from Putnam, Canton, New London and many more shadowy corners of the Nutmeg state.
Ghostly: A Collection Of Ghost Stories
Edited by Audrey Niffenegger
Collected and introduced by the author of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry—including her own new illustrations for each piece, and a new story by Niffenegger—this is a unique and haunting anthology of some of the best ghost stories of all time. From Edgar Allen Poe to Kelly Link, M.R. James to Neil Gaiman, H. H. Munro to Audrey Niffenegger herself, this book reveals the evolution of the ghost story genre with tales going back to the eighteenth century and into the modern era, ranging across styles from Gothic Horror to Victorian, with a particular bent toward stories about haunting–haunted children, animals, houses. Every story is introduced by Audrey Niffenegger, an acclaimed master of the craft, with some words on its background and why she chose to include it.
Tom and Jenny Decker have to grow up fast when they lose their cheap Manhattan apartment. Leaving “the city” is hard, but the blow is softened when they stumble upon a surprisingly affordable house in the suburbs. For Tom, the bills, the mortgage, and Jenny’s unexpected pregnancy add up to terror. He’s not ready for this kind of responsibility. Then he finds the thing in the basement. It makes him feel like a winner even as it scrambles his senses. A new job soon has him raking in the big bucks–enough that Jenny can start making her entrepreneurial dreams come true. The Deckers’ dream home conceals more than one deadly secret. As Tom’s obsession with the basement grows, Jenny realizes that to save her family, she must expose everything. Before it destroys them all. No one ever really wants to grow up…but sometimes behaving like an adult is the only way to survive.
The Family Plot
Dahlia Dutton’s father is thrilled when the aged and esteemed Augusta Winthrow appears in his office and makes a deal for his company, Music City Salvage, to take over and liquidate her massive family estate in Chattanooga. He gives the job to Dahlia, who gathers a crew and a couple of trucks and heads for the estate–an ancient house, a barn, a carriage house, and a small, overgrown cemetery that Augusta Winthrow left out of the paperwork. She left out a lot of things. Although in unusually great shape, the empty house is harboring something angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. After all, there’s still room in the strange little family plot.
After his mother’s death, eleven-year-old Marcus is sent to live on a small South Carolina island with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. Aunt Charlotte, otherwise a woman of few words, points out a ruined cottage, telling Marcus she had visited it regularly after she’d moved there thirty years ago because it matched the ruin of her own life. Eventually she was inspired to take up painting so she could capture its utter desolation.The islanders call it “Grief Cottage,” because a boy and his parents disappeared from it during a hurricane fifty years before. Their bodies were never found and the cottage has stood empty ever since. During his lonely hours while Aunt Charlotte is in her studio painting and keeping her demons at bay, Marcus visits the cottage daily, building up his courage by coming ever closer, even after the ghost of the boy who died seems to reveal himself. Full of curiosity and open to the unfamiliar and uncanny given the recent upending of his life, he courts the ghost boy, never certain whether the ghost is friendly or follows some sinister agenda.Grief Cottage is the best sort of ghost story, but it is far more than that–an investigation of grief, remorse, and the memories that haunt us. The power and beauty of this artful novel wash over the reader like the waves on a South Carolina beach.
The Haunting Of Hill House
The story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a “haunting”; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers — and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
Home Before Dark
Bells that ring themselves. Record players that turn on an play music to empty rooms. Ghosts that can climb out of wardrobes…Maggie Holt doesn’t believe in these things, even though they are the details of the story that made her family famous. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved to Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent twenty days there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a horror memoir, House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with the malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon, rivaling The Amityville Horror in popularity-and skepticism. Maggie has lived her life in the shadow of her father’s book, so when she inherits Baneberry Hall after his death, she returns to renovate the house to prepare it for sale. However, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in the House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself-a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of Ewan’s book, she starts to wonder if what he wrote was more fact than fiction.
A chilling ghost story with a twist: the New York Times bestselling author returns to the woods of Vermont to tell the story of a husband and wife who don’t simply move into a haunted house, they start building one from scratch, without knowing it, until it’s too late… In 1924, a young mother, Hattie Breckenridge, is hanged from a tree in her yard by the town mob, accused of a crime that was actually committed by her daughter. Nearly a century later, a young married couple, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia to begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams on the same forty-four acres of rural land where Hattie once lived. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by Hattie’s story and the tragic legend of her descendants, three generations of “Breckenridge women,” each of whom died amid suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something elusive and dangerous in the present day.
I Remember You: A Ghost Story
In an isolated village in the Icelandic Westfjords, three friends set to work renovating a rundown house. But soon, they realize they are not as alone as they thought. Something wants them to leave, and it’s making its presence felt. Meanwhile, in a town across the fjord, a young doctor investigating the suicide of an elderly woman discovers that she was obsessed with his vanished son. When the two stories collide, the terrifying truth is uncovered.
At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests … When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween in one of the world’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemi Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find–her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemi knows little about the region. Noemi is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemi; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemi, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemi digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.
After her mother dies, Rachel sets off alone to pack up and sell off the remnants of her family’s isolated country house. But from the moment she steps through the front door, she feels that the house contains more than she had expected. Generations earlier, a young housemaid, Lizzy, called the same dwelling home. On course for a life of service no different from her mother and her mother’s mother before her, Lizzy’s world is upended by the arrival of a mysterious lodger. Interweaving the two narratives, Jo Baker—best-selling author of Longbourn—brings these women, both struggling against their stations and their duties, vividly to life.
The Widow’s House
Moving to a Hudson River valley community to revitalize their marriage and literary ambitions, Jess and Clare confront a dark pall that hangs over the crumbling estate where they work as caretakers before Clare begins to have hallucinations about the house’s anguished past.
While climbing Mount Ararat in Turkey, an avalanche forces a couple to seek shelter inside a massive cave uncovered by the snow fall. The cave is actually an ancient, buried ship that they speculate is really Noah’s Ark. But when a team of scholars, archaeologists, and filmmakers make it inside the ark for the first time, they discover an elaborate coffin in its recesses; the cadaver within is an ugly, misshapen thing with horns. Now a massive blizzard has them trapped in the cave thousands of meters up the side of a remote mountain… but the team is not alone.
A Cosmology Of Monsters
Monsters both figurative and very literal stalk the Turner family. The youngest child, Noah, narrates the family history: how in the late ’60s, his bookish mother Margaret marries Lovecraft-lover Harry against her better judgment. The couple has two daughters–Sydney, born for the spotlight, and the brilliant but awkward Eunice, a natural writer and storyteller.
Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker
It is 1868, and a twenty-one-year-old Bram Stoker waits in a desolate tower to face an indescribable evil. Armed only with crucifixes, holy water, and a rifle, he prays to survive a single night, the longest of his life. Desperate to record what he has witnessed, Bram scribbles down the events that led him here … A sickly child, Bram spent his early days bedridden in his parents’ Dublin home, tended to by his caretaker, a young woman named Ellen Crone. When a string of strange deaths occur in a nearby town, Bram and his sister Matilda detect a pattern of bizarre behavior by Ellen–a mystery that deepens chillingly until Ellen vanishes suddenly from their lives. Years later, Matilda returns from studying in Paris to tell Bram the news that she has seen Ellen–and that the nightmare they’ve thought long ended is only beginning. A riveting novel of gothic suspense, Dracul reveals not only Dracula’s true origin, but Bram Stoker’s—and the tale of the enigmatic woman who connects them.
Hex Life: Wicked New Tales Of Witchery
Edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering
Brand-new stories of witches and witchcraft written by popular female fantasy authors, including Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine and Sherrilyn Kenyon writing in their own bestselling universes! These are tales of witches, wickedness, evil, and cunning.
John Dies At The End
This may be the story of John and David, a drug called soy sauce, and other-worldly beings invading the planet. Or, it may be the story of two beer-drinking friends who live in an unnamed Midwestern town and only think something horrific is going on. But the important thing is, according to the narrator, “None of this is my fault.
The critically acclaimed cult novelist makes visceral the terrors of life in Jim Crow America and its lingering effects in this brilliant and wondrous work of the imagination that melds historical fiction, pulp noir, and Lovecraftian horror and fantasy. Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George—publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide—and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite—heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors—they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.
A Lush And Seething Hell: Two Tales Of Cosmic Horror
John Hornor Jacobs
Bringing together his acclaimed novella The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and an all-new short novel My Heart Struck Sorrow, John Hornor Jacobs turns his fertile imagination to the evil that breeds within the human soul. A brilliant mix of the psychological and supernatural, blending the acute insight of Roberto Bolaño and the eerie imagination of H. P. Lovecraft, The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky examines life in a South American dictatorship. Centered on the journal of a poet-in-exile and his failed attempts at translating a maddening text, it is told by a young woman trying to come to grips with a country that nearly devoured itself. In My Heart Struck Sorrow, a librarian discovers a recording from the Deep South -which may be the musical stylings of the Devil himself. Breathtaking and haunting, A Lush and Seething Hell is a terrifying and exhilarating journey into the darkness, an odyssey into the deepest reaches of ourselves that compels us to confront secrets best left hidden.
The summer of 1977. The Blyton Summer Detective Club (of Blyton Hills, a small mining town in Oregon’s Zoinx River Valley) solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster–another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. 1990. The former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask…The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.
A People’s History Of The Vampire Uprising
Raymond A. Villareal
The body of a young woman found in an Arizona border town disappears from the town morgue. Then more bodies, dead from an inexplicable disease that solidified their blood, are brought to the morgue, only to also vanish. An epidemic of vampirism sweeps first the United States, and then the world. With heightened strength and beauty and a steady diet of fresh blood, these changed people, or “Gloamings,” rapidly rise to prominence in all aspects of modern society. Soon people are beginning to be “re-created,” willingly accepting the risk of death if their bodies can’t handle the transformation. But when a charismatic and wealthy businessman, recently turned, runs for political office– well, all hell breaks loose.
Welcome To Night Vale
Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor
From the creators of the wildly popular Welcome to Night Vale podcast comes an imaginative mystery of appearances and disappearances that is also a poignant look at the ways in which we all struggle to find ourselves…no matter where we live. Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge. Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked “KING CITY” by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can’t seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels. Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton’s son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane’s started to see her son’s father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it. Diane’s search to reconnect with her son and Jackie’s search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: “KING CITY”. It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures…if they can ever find it.
Candy Corn Murder
Covering the town’s annual Giant Pumpkin Fest during the Halloween season, reporter Lucy Stone follows leads to a local general store-turned-Internet hotspot when her husband, Bill, is framed for a friend’s murder.
The Cottage On Pumpkin And Vine
Kate Angell, Jennifer Dawson, Sharla Lovelace
Welcome to Moonbright, Maine…Where the scents of donuts and cider waft through the crisp night air…with just a hint of magic. It’s time for the annual Halloween costume party at the cottage on Pumpkin and Vine, the perfect place to celebrate the pleasures of the season. Guests return to the picturesque B & B year after year to snuggle up in its cozy rooms, explore the quiet, tree-lined streets and enjoy all the spooky fun of the holiday. But local legend whispers that it’s also a place where wishes have a strange way of coming true. For three unsuspecting revelers, it’s going to be an enchanted weekend of candy corn kisses and midnight black kittens, along with some real Halloween surprises–the kind that make your heart skip a beat–for many more celebrations to come…
When Claire Cooper was eight years old her mother mysteriously vanished during Hop-tu-naa, Halloween on the Isle of Man. At fourteen, Claire is still struggling to come to terms with her disappearance when she’s befriended by a group of five teenagers who mark every Halloween by performing dares. But Claire’s arrival begins to alter the group’s dynamic until one year a prank goes terribly wrong, changing all their futures and tearing the friends apart. Six years later, one of the friends is killed on Halloween in an apparent accident. But Claire, now a police officer, has her doubts. Is a single footprint found near the body a deliberate taunt? As another Halloween dawns, bringing with it another death and another footprint, Claire becomes convinced that somebody is seeking vengeance. But who? And which of the friends might be next? If she is going to stop a killer and unlock the dark secrets of her past, Claire must confront her deepest fears, before it’s too late.
The Fifth Petal
When a teenage boy dies suspiciously on Halloween, chief of police John Rafferty suspects it may be linked to the triple homicide twenty-five years earlier involving three descendants of Salem Witch Trial victims.
Haunted House Murder
Leslie Meier, Lee Hollis, Barbara Ross
In this trio of novellas, tricks and treats keep the Halloween spirits alive in coastal Maine. But this year the haunted house theme is getting carried a little too far– strange noises, missing persons, and murders!
Lord Of The Wings
Reluctantly volunteering her home after a haunted house exhibit burns down during her town’s over-the-top Halloween festival activities, Meg Langslow is challenged to save the day upon discovering a real murder victim among the creepy displays.
Shatter The Night
An enthralling, atmospheric new novel from the author of acclaimed debut Inherit the Bones, featuring Colorado police officer Gemma Monroe. It’s Halloween night in Cedar Valley. During the town’s annual festival, Detective Gemma Monroe takes a break from trick or treating with her family to visit an old family friend, retired Judge Caleb Montgomery, at his law office. To Gemma’s surprise, Caleb seems worried–haunted, even–and confides in her that he’s been receiving anonymous threats. Shortly after, as Gemma strolls back to her car, an explosion at Caleb’s office shatters the night. Reeling from the shock, Gemma and her team begin eliminating suspects and motives, but more keep appearing in their place, and soon another man is killed. Her investigation takes her from a chilling encounter with a convicted murderer at the Belle Vista Penitentiary, to the gilded rooms of the renovated Shotgun Playhouse, where Shakespeare’s cursed play Macbeth is set to open in a few weeks. Yet most disturbing of all is when Gemma realizes that similar murders have happened before. There is a copycat killer at play, and if Gemma can’t stop him, he’ll carry out his final, deadly act.
The Spook In The Stacks
Halloween in North Carolina’s Outer Banks becomes seriously tricky when librarian Lucy Richardson stumbles across something extra unusual in the rare books section: a dead body. Wealthy businessman Jay Ruddle is considering donating his extensive collection of North Carolina historical documents to the Bodie Island Lighthouse Library, but the competition for the collection is fierce. Unfortunately, while the library is hosting a lecture on ghostly legends, Jay becomes one of the dearly departed in the rare books section. Now, it’s up to Lucy Richardson and her fellow librarians to bone up on their detective skills and discover who is responsible for this wicked Halloween homicide.
Vampires, Bones And Treacle Scones
Halloween is approaching and newlywed Liss MacCrimmon Ruskin is tapped by the Moosetookalook Small Business Association to organize a community fundraiser. Liss throws herself into plans to turn an abandoned mansion into a “haunted house.” And then, to Liss’ horror, the fake skeleton she’s acquired for a special effect is replaced with a real body — and it’s someone she knows.
Wicked Witch Murder
As Halloween rolls around again in Tinker’s Cove, Maine, a murderer is dishing out some very nasty tricks. It’s up to intrepid reporter Lucy Stone to unmask the killer.
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