October is the official month of all things horror. Plenty of people do 30 Days of Halloween with scary movies. For those who prefer to read rather than watch television, here’s a list of books that are sure to give you a fright.
10) “Haunted” by Chuck Palahniuk
Chuck Palahniuk is best known for his book “Fight Club.” The book (and the eventual film adaptation) landed him an instant cult following. His skill has improved with each book, and it certainly shows in this book. “Haunted” is a collection of short stories written by fictitious authors who attend a writing retreat only to learn that there is no escaping the building. The sordid tales the characters scribble are a reflection of how the strive for success and fear of failure can impact the human mind. The first short story in the book, entitled “Guts” has reportedly caused fans to pass out during book readings. Think you can handle it? Pick up a copy and check it out!
9) “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft
H.P. Lovecraft is considered to be yet another master of horror. Like with Poe, I could have simply listed a book of his collected work but thought it would be best to pick just one story for this list. “The Call of Cthulhu” is arguably Lovecraft’s most famous piece of work and one of the best horror stories of all time. Written from the point of view of a secondary source, the reader is exposed to documents written in the first person that tell the story of the ancient, evil creature known as “Cthulhu.” Dark magic can be used to awaken Cthulhu. You’re sure to feel a bit of apprehension once you realize this terrible beast has been awoken before and can easily be summoned again.
8) “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson
Richard Matheson’s “Hell House” may have already made it onto the list, but no horror story list would be complete without his masterpiece novel “I Am Legend.” Not only is this one of the best vampire stories of all time, it’s one of the best horror stories period. If you’ve seen the film adaptation then you already know the story: Richard Neville is the last human alive in a world full of vampires. By day, he hunts them down. In his spare time, he tries to find a cure for the virus that caused the outbreak. At night, he drinks and tries to hold onto his sanity while his undead friends and neighbors try to call him out of his house. Yes, there is some physical action in this book but the true horror is psychological. It’s a very short and quick read, and the book is definitely better than the film. If you haven’t read it, you should find yourself a copy.
7) “Wolf’s Trap” by W.D. Gagliani
“Wolf’s Trap” is the first book I ever read that truly terrified me. I could not read certain pages without cringing and feeling a general sense of disgust. The story is about Detective Nick Lupo, who happens to be a werewolf. A few years after he was first bitten, he murdered a woman while in his wolf form. The incident changed him forever. He held back his impulses and fought his second nature, keeping it a secret from everyone, except for Martin Stewart. The woman Lupo killed happened to be Martin’s sister. Her death turned Martin into a disturbed little boy who grew up to be a rapist-serial killer with an odd fetish for lipstick. Though Lupo may be the “monster” in this story, Martin is much more terrifying. This book is a great work of horror and fantasy, with some thriller elements.
6) “Hell House” by Richard Matheson
You know a book is bound to be scary when even Stephen King refers to it as “the best haunted house novel ever written.” “Hell House” is about a newspaper publisher named Rudolph Deutsch who sets out to learn the secret of what happens after death, but once he learns he is going to die. His quest leads him to a house in a small town that is rumored to be haunted. The local residents refer to it as the Hell House. Deutsch, a team of scientists, and a group of paranormal investigators set up home in the house. The recount of their time spent in the Hell House is sure to send a chill down your spine.
5) “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe
Edgar Allen Poe is another master of the horror genre. I could have included his entire collection of short stories and poems, but decided to pick a single story instead. “The Tell-Tale Heart” is, in my opinion, one of Poe’s best. This is another classic story that I’m sure you’re all familiar with. Who could forget the old man with his “vulture eye” or his subsequent murder and burial? This truly is a great story. Read it again this Halloween!
4) “Salem’s Lot” by Stephen King
No horror story list would be complete without Stephen King. He is, after all, hailed as the modern master of horror. Over the course of his career, King has published over 50 novels, so I had plenty of options to choose from when creating this list. I could have easily picked “Misery,” “It,” or “The Shining,” but I decided to go with “Salem’s Lot.” The evil vampire may not show up until the middle of the book, but the beginning is so beautifully written and full of tension that I had to choose this book over his others.
3) “Let The Right One In” by John Ajvide Lindqvist
Many literary critics have hailed Lindqvist as the new Stephen King. I would have to agree with them. “Let the Right One In” is an extremely well written book and a great horror story. This instant-classic vampire story has inspired two amazing film adaptations, the original Swedish version of the same name and the American remake, “Let Me In.” The book is about a young boy named Oskar who is brutally bullied at school on a daily basis. When a young girl named Eli moves in next door, the two quickly strike up a friendship that eventually becomes a moving love story. Eli sees herself as Oskar’s protector and helps him find the courage to stand up to his bullies. This isn’t just another vampire-human romance novel, though. There are some truly terrifying scenes in this book, and Eli makes a great monster. While I enjoy both film versions of this story, the book really is better.
2) “Dracula” by Bram Stoker
You all know the story of the famous Count Dracula: Jonathon Harker arrives at the Count’s castle in Transylvania under the belief that he will be working with a new client. Once he arrives, he is not allowed to leave. Dracula locks Harker in his castle and heads to London, where he meets the beautiful Mina, the best friend of Harker’s fiancé, Lucy. Dracula feeds off of Mina and eventually turns her into a vampire. Dr. Van Helsing is called to investigate the situation. Van Helsing confirms that Mina had been killed by a vampire, and must be put down before she can kill anyone herself. After Van Helsing kills Mina, Dracula turns his attention to Lucy, who Johnathon had married after escaping the Count’s castle. The men all group up to track down the Count before he can kill Lucy. There’s a reason this book is such a classic. “Dracula” is arguably one of the greatest vampire stories ever written, if not the best. If you’ve only seen one of the many film adaptations and haven’t read the original book, go out and pick up a copy. You won’t regret it.
1) “House of Leaves” by Mark Z. Danielewski
Once you read this book, you will never forget it. The story is familiar enough- a family moves into a house in a small town only to discover that strange things are happening inside their new home. That’s where the familiarity ends. “House of Leaves” is a truly unique book, in story, genre, and format. A blind man named Zampano writes a story about a documentary film about a man who moves into a house with his family only to discover that the inside is bigger than the outside and the walls tend to bleed. Sound confusing? It is. The format of the book can also be pretty confusing. Lines of prose are written in random spots on the page, paragraphs are crossed out, and the narrative is presented in columns or square boxes. The plot and format combine to make one truly innovating and frightening story that you won’t soon forget. More than just a well-written book, “House of Leaves” is a work of art. A story like this can only be fully appreciated in paperback form. An e-book simply would not do it justice.