When fall starts to move in, I always find myself gravitating towards scary books, and while I love reading scary books from any time period, there’s just something about the Halloween Classic that is not only spooky but also cozy. And I am ALL about the cozy!
Here are 10 recommendations – with a few more thrown in for good measure – of scary classics to read this Halloween that pair perfectly with a chilly fall night, a cup of tea, and the dimmed lights.
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The Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allen Poe
Classic, classic Poe – something you can never go wrong with. This is the story of two friends and revenge, told in Poe’s gothic and spooky way that fires up your imagination. Since this is quite short, another wonderfully spooky Poe story is The Tell-Tale Heart which has similar Poe storytelling but is psychological in its horror.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Perhaps you’ve seen the Netflix show based on this novel, but I highly recommend everyone reads the story. Whether you read it before or after watching the show, it’s still a creepy and subtly chilling story about a haunted house. It might seem light-hearted at first when we meet Eleanor, Theadora, and Luke as they gather at the house, but it takes a turn toward the haunted as the story moves on. Another wonderfully creepy book by Shirley Jackson is We Have Always Lived in the Castle, which is so atmospheric and gothic.
Carrie by Stephen King
This book might just be on the cusp of being considered a classic as it was published in 1974, but I think it can be regarded as so since it was the book that started Stephen King’s journey to becoming the Master of Horror. This is the story of Carrie, a teenager who has telekinetic abilities, and the traumatizing events that take place at school one day. This spirals into a horrifyingly scary novel that will have you longing to read King’s entire collection. If you finish this looking for more Stephen King, I highly recommend Pet Semetary to read next.
Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
So many books by Agatha Christie feature someone being murdered, but this story, in particular, has a murder that takes place during a Halloween party. The party vibes at the beginning of the story are so nostalgic for Halloween parties of the past, and when Poirot is called in to investigate the murder, it’s a mix of detective story and sinister atmosphere. If you enjoy detective stories with a spooky twist, Christie’s classic story And Then There Were None is an amazingly good read.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
This is Wilde’s only novel and one that I’ve read numerous times. It is the story of what happens to someone when they sell their soul to the devil for the promise of eternal youth and beauty. Dorian is such a great character and the book is so chilling and macabre that you will want to reread it every Halloween. Another Halloween story by Wilde is The Canterville Ghost, which might not be so spooky but it is still a ghost story and one that features Wilde’s addicting writing.
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
It is hard to come up with words to describe my love of The Yellow Wallpaper. This story is not very long, but it deals with so much. It’s not a ghost story per se, but there are ghosts and a descent into madness. The reasons for that descent aren’t creepy or scary at all, but something that nowadays would be classified as completely normal and common. The horrifying thing about this story is watching the main character descend into madness, knowing that the results would be much different in modern times.
Edith Wharton is such an amazing writer, and her words never cease to move me. One of my favourite books by her, Ethan Frome, might have a horrific ending, but this collection of ghost stories will transfix you. Some might not seem so scary, but others absolutely amazed me with their horror. My favourites in the collection are Afterward, Kerfol, and All Souls’.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
This book might lean a little more toward creepy science fiction, but it’s still perfect for Halloween. The Day of the Triffids follows Bill Masen, who wakes up in a hospital with his eyes bandaged up to realize he’s in a post-apocalyptic world where everyone has lost their sight. Not only that, but strange plants start to come alive! It is a scary story of survival that is definitely worth a read. If you like this one, Wyndham’s book Chocky is also worth a mention; it’s the story of a boy with an imaginary friend that takes a twisted turn.
Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
This story starts in the year 1900 with a group of schoolgirls and their teachers heading off to a picnic at a place called Hanging Rock, a volcanic rock formation in Australia. Some of the friends and a teacher wander off and after a while, the others are left to wonder what happened. The remainder of the story deals with the fallout of this event. But the real mystery of the story is: is it fact or fiction? This is the perfect book to curl up with on a fall afternoon — especially if you can finish it in a day.
Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
If you thought the vampires started with Bram Stoker, you’d be mistaken. Carmilla is the story of a family who takes in a young woman, Carmilla, who was injured in a carriage crash outside of their home. The young girl in the family, Laura, starts to become ill, getting sicker every night, and Carmilla becomes more secretive by the day. Laura and her father set out to solve the mystery of Carmilla and come to a terrifying conclusion. This gothic tale is ambiguous, sensual, and downright chilling.
Have you read any of these spooky classics? Are there any that I might have missed on this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these books, as well as any recommendations you might have!