It is that time of the year again, when the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead become blurred. With Halloween looming, restless ghosts, insatiable immortals and other creatures of the night transcend from another world to roam freely among us. For those of you who would rather chase the shadows in books, we have selected 13 spine-chilling stories to fuel your imagination. Best read in the candle-lit room past midnight.
This petrifying ghost story, which has inspired a myriad of films and plays around the world, follows the life of an old schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. Bedazzled by the beauty of an 18-year-old Katrina Van Tassel, the impoverished Colonel decides to court the wealthy heiress. Unluckily for Ichabod, the coquettish young lady has captivated the hearts of many bachelors in town, including rowdy "Brom Bones" who is determined to secure Katrina's hand in marriage at any cost. Despite the fierce rivalry between the poor pedagogue and the burly brute, Ichabod remains steadfast. However, following his ill-fated marriage proposal, the schoolmaster becomes the victim of his own superstition, when the apparition of a legendary headless horseman in the woods coincides with Ichabod’s mysterious disappearance.
From Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Twilight saga, the vampire myth has been explored in many novels fuelling the reader’s fascination with bloodthirsty creatures for centuries. However, in this beautifully-written story, the creator of Frankenstein offers a different perspective on the subject of immortality. Having taken a love-curing potion in secret from his master alchemist, Winzy learns the shattering truth about the nature of the elixir. The shocking revelation exposes his deep-rooted fears of death, eroding every facet of his life. Three hundred years later, Winzy paints immortality as a soul-killing curse rather than a portal into the joyful eternity condemning the human shadows to perdition.
Written in the best traditions of Gothic fiction, this subtle, yet profound story is centred around Prince Prospero, who, in order to escape the plague, also known as “Red Death”, invites his noble friends to hide in his sprawling abbey. This absorbing tale of terror is enriched with disturbing descriptions of the menacing rooms, bizarre guests and the ebony clock symbolising the forthcoming death. The master of macabre, Poe creates a perfect setting, which helps build up a real sense of apprehension and foreboding, unnerving the reader.
When an eligible London bachelor offers a position to a young governess, she accepts without hesitation — a decision she will soon come to regret. As she assumes her new responsibilities supervising the upbringing of two beautiful, yet distant siblings, she falls under the spell of the grand estate with its luxurious appointments. However, a seemingly dream job turns into a ghastly nightmare, when a helpless young woman comes to the realisation that the house is haunted by a beckoning evil. What follows next can only be described as series of spectral events of “uncanny ugliness, horror and pain”. The consummate storyteller, Henry James skilfully captures all attributes of a traditional ghost story — suspense, mystery and psychological unease endure throughout the novel keeping the readers at the edge of their seats.
Written in the 17th century, Macbeth exposes all-destructive political ambition to rise to the power and tyranny. Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy tells the story of a Scottish general who receives a prophesy from three witches predicting a royal future for the soldier. Driven by dark desires and spurred on by his wife, Macbeth unleashes his deadly obsession with power setting in motion his murderous plan to fulfil his ambition to the throne. Notorious for its superstition and witchcraft, Macbeth is often considered to be cursed by many actors.
When a faint howl turns into a menacing roar, make no mistake — a werewolf is on the loose! Following a scandalous episode in Vietnam, Marlowe Higgins is discharged from the Army to return to civilian life. However, his newly found freedom is short-lived, as he finds himself thrown behind bars time and time again. The curse of the full moon turns Marlowe into a ferocious beast driven by bloodlust and his desire to feed. After years of being on the road, the twist of fate brings the main character to the small town in Tennessee where he soon discovers a fiendish sadist who is responsible for the string of murders around the county. Will he turn a blind eye to the prowler or will he channel his inner wolf to fight the greater evil?
If the sight of blood sends you into a frenzy, then this Gothic novella is guaranteed to satisfy your nocturnal cravings. Published long before Bram Stoker’s Dracula saw the light of day, “Carmilla” represents a prelude to all other vampire-based stories written in the 19th century. LeFanu’s sordid tale of horror is centred around the ghoulish Countess of Karnstein and the object of her desires — Laura, whose innocence the vampire finds impossible to resist. Garnished with disturbing descriptions of violence and Gothic scenes of seduction, the author doesn’t spare any details of this intoxicating lesbian liaison.
Purposely provocative, this legendary masterpiece will become a mouth-wateringly guilty pleasure that readers will be eager to sink their teeth into.
Someone Like You is not your ordinary collection of short stories. The master of macabre, Roald Dahl displays genius for creating seemingly impossible life scenarios and developing them into sinister plots. The author lifts the veil of an ugly face of a nefarious world exposing the human weaknesses and perversion. Here, a cold-blooded killer cooks up an evidence, while a sadistic gambler collects some bone-chilling tokens from the unfortunate game losers. From short and poignant tales to dark and morbid accounts, these fifteen classic tales mystify and challenge the reader, sending a shiver down the spine.
You may have seen the excellent film adaptation or the impressive stage production, but for goose bump value, neither of these can match the Wharton’s original tales of supernatural. Chilling hauntings and human cruelty seep from the pages of this elegant book of terror, evoking unsettling moods of darkness. Inspired by the author’s fascination with spirits, these blood-curdling spectral stories have the power to creep into your subconsciousness and manifest themselves in dreams of dread and unease without a warning.
This Darren Shan series, featuring circus freaks and vampires, is presented as a true story, which some young readers may find confusing. As you'd expect from any vampire series, there's violence, and some characters die, but things only get gory at the end of each book. The most notably violent moments are when limbs are bitten off and characters lose their stomachs to attacks. By the third instalment, a crazed creature is on the loose killing indiscriminately.
The Witching Hour is an extremely long novel, but don't let that put you off reading as once you open the first page you soon find yourself completely absorbed in the chilling tale of the Mayfair Witches. This novel is a spellbinding, engrossing, well-written tale with complex and mysterious characters. The settings of each generation of the family, from the plantations on Haiti to the modern day gothic mansion in New Orleans, are so richly described that you can easily imagine yourself in those places. There are plenty of compelling twists and turns in the plot to keep you interested and the suspense is drawn out to perfection.
A terrifying epic of supernatural horror, by the million-selling author of The Manitou. New York City. Friday Night. Mrs Greenberg’s furniture starts to slide across the room all by itself. When Mr Greenberg get home he finds the furniture in a heap, his wife reduced to a state of catatonic terror and a strange, hunched shadow on his dining room wall that shows no signs of moving. Harry Erskine, self-taught fortune teller, reluctantly agrees to investigates. He soon realises that the Greenbergs’ horrifying experience is only the beginning of something far greater and more terrible — he knows there is a connection between the pungent, sour smell in the Greenbergs’ apartment and the pit of mutilated bodies found in a used car lot in Arizona. Harry understands with a sick, chill terror, because he has seen something like this before…
The iconic, “extraordinary” collaboration between the number one bestselling author Stephen King and Peter Straub — an epic thriller about a young boy’s quest to save his mother’s life.
Why had twelve-year-old Jack Sawyer’s mother frantically moved the two of them from Rodeo Drive, to a New York City apartment, to the Alhambra, a fading ocean resort and then to a shuttered amusement park in New Hampshire? Who or what is she running from? She is dying … and even young Jack knows she can’t outrun death. But only he can save her — for he has been chosen to search for a prize across an epic landscape of dangers and lies, a realm of innocents and monsters, where everything Jack loves is on the line.