We have Halloween rituals in our family that have carried on through the years well into adulthood. Or at least what reasonably passes for adulthood in my case.
Every year we bake and decorate pumpkin cookies to look like jack o’lanterns.
Every year we watch a twenty year-old compilation VHS – taped from TV of course – of the Bugs Bunny Halloween special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and the first ever Simpsons Halloween special.
Every year we decorate the house and carve pumpkins, too.
Yes, I am twelve years old.
And every year, I try and read at least one scary book. This is where my two favorite worlds merge: horror and reading. Together at last.
A million years ago, when I was an editor of my high school’s puny monthly newspaper, I would take charge of compiling entertaining seasonal movie lists; “Seven Movies to Scare You this Halloween,” “Five Unexpected Christmas Movies to See This Season” and “10 Movies to Make You Feel Less Alone on Valentine’s Day” were some of the classics. I always took extra care with the Halloween list, seeing as it was a holiday near to my heart and I take my scary-movie recommendations seriously, yo! I saw it as my duty to educate my peers on the history of horror cinema at a time when The Blair Witch Project was cutting-edge and most kids hadn’t heard of The Changeling (not the one with Angelina Jolie, the one with George C. Scott. Completely different movie).
It never occurred to me to make a Halloween reading list for the Newstorch though, partially because when I was in high school no one except me read books. Also, most of the books I had read up to that point were written by Stephen King, so that list would have just been titled “My Twelve Favorite Stephen King Novels.”
Having broadened my horizons a bit in the decade+ since high school, I have expanded my repertoire of reading material, and have a few different suggestions to bring to the table.
I will, however, throw in a little King because…well, you know, Master-of-Terror and all.
The below list are just my favorites – I realize some of them are well-known and well-loved (and hated). Additionally, my definition of horror is looser than many’s – I prefer a disturbing atmosphere and an sinister psychological/supernatural story to typical blood-and-guts conceptions of “scary ” favored by the kids these days. Saw never would’ve made any of my top-ten lists in high school.
- Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone, Stefan Kiesbye
This year’s read for me was originally in German, translated into English. Granted, I’m no expert on German literature, but every time I’ve read a horror story by a German author, it’s usually based on the creepiest of simple premises, made more terrifying by the subjective tone and aided by eerily effective pacing. Kiesbye’s story is no different, and definitely did not disappoint in its unsettling effect. In a nutshell, children come of age in a small village that hides terrible secrets of human depravity and supernatural evil – and none of them escape the fate of those doomed to live there. The cover is creepy, too, in a Children of the Corn kind of way, so this book is the whole package.
- The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova
- Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
- The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty
- It, Stephen King
I don’t think a book has ever given me more sleepless nights. Every child’s worst nightmare – a shape shifting clown (clown! CLOWN!) turns children’s fantasies into their worst nightmares. I just wrote a sentence of why this book is so terrifying, but realized what a spoiler it was so just TRUST ME. Scary business going on. Although overly long and a bit overheated at parts, for sheer terror It has no rival. And I still have residual fear of sewer-systems and bathtub drains after having read it.
Yes I know these images are from the movie, but my fear of the book is inextricably linked to my phobia of Tim Curry…
So there you have it; assigned reading from your favorite blogger. You know, in case you end up having nothing better to do on the scariest night of the year.
What are some of your favorites?