I’m not a Halloween fan in the least–come to think of it, I’m not a holiday fan at all. But since it’s nearing All Hallows Eve, I thought this post might create the appropriate atmosphere for the cold and dark season ahead.
My favorite scary stories are not the usual horror books about serial killers hidden somewhere in the house on a dark and stormy night with their horrifyingly graphic descriptions; you can read true crime that is scarier. But I do enjoy ghost stories, always have, even though they usually scare me to death. Here are my favorites.
The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons. Stephen King put this on his list of best horror novels; I’m not a King reader (I could not finish The Shining, even in daytime, because I was just too scared). But unlike your typical haunted house story, this house is a newly-built house, not an ancient castle or creepy Victorian mansion. Nothing but tragedy touches the lives of the three different families who occupy the new house next door to Colquitt & Walter Kennedy and, as the horrors escalate, they decide to take matters into their own hands. Set in 1960s suburban Atlanta, this book grabbed me from beginning to end and I’ve re-read it several times since. Note: this is Siddons’ only horror novel; she usually writes genteel Southern fiction.
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. A close friend of Charles Dickens, Collins wrote sensational fiction (a combination of mystery and suspense) and this is considered by many to be among the first mystery novels. A young art teacher, Walter Hartright, traveling to meet his new students, encounters a strange and mysterious woman in a graveyard dressed in white. When he tells his students, the Fairlie sisters, of his vision, he discovers they may have some connection and together they set out to solve the mystery.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. I once took a film class in college and we watched Deborah Kerr in The Innocents, based on James’ eerie novella. A lonely governess is employed by a wealthy man to take care of his niece and nephew in the isolated English countryside with the stipulation that she not bother him at all no matter what situations may occur. The children, Miles and Flora, seem to have been traumatized by the illicit behavior of the former governess and her lover, but her time there is spent keeping the children (and herself) safe from their presence of evil. Is it all in her head or are there really ghosts?
Julian’s House by Judith Hawkes. A newly married couple, professional parapsychologists, move into a Victorian mansion to document supernatural sightings. What they don’t expect is that the hauntings will eerily coincide with their own fears and feelings, causing them to question themselves and their marriage. I enjoyed the descriptions of the field of parapsychology as well as the actual story.
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. In 1972 Amsterdam, a teenage girl lives with her father, a history professor. One day he disappears and, in her search for him, she discovers that he was engaged in the research (on vampires) of his former professor and mentor, who also mysteriously disappeared nearly twenty years before. In suspenseful and elegant language, Kostova takes you on a whirlwind search for truth amid a legend of horror and evil told in three time periods, across Eastern Europe, all in the quest for Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula. This book will be enjoyed by lovers of both literature and history, specifically the history of Dracula.
~Maria, who is already longing for spring and summer, seasons of light!