You can read good, scary dark fantasy and horror fiction all year long. There are no set rules that tell you only during autumn. But with pumpkins in grocery stores and Halloween decorations and candy fighting for space on shelves, there’s just something about reading a few spooky novels, nonfiction ghost books, and short stories. So though there is plenty of good reads out there, here are only ten you can start with.
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson: This is the only book I read in my life that one scene out of it scared the bejesus out of me, while I was in a classroom full of students in 8th grade.
2. Ask the Bones: Scary Stories from Around the World, edited by Arielle North Olson and Howard Schwartz: There’s soemting about folklore. Blurb: What is real and what is imaginary? Do evil creatures lurk in the shadows? Do demons attack the helpless? Are there such things as invisible men? For generations, storytellers have given substance to our worst fears. In Ask the Bones, master storytellers Arielle North Olson and Howard Schwartz retell a varied selection of the world's most frightening folktales. Be warned-these stories could scare you to death!
3. It by Stephen King: This and his other book, Salem’s Lot, scared me while reading alone at night. Blurb: They were just kids when they stumbled upon the horror within their hometown. Now, as adults, none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them all back to Derry, Maine, to face the nightmare without end, and the evil without a name...
4. Seed by Ania Ahlborn: Blurb: With nothing but the clothes on his back—and something horrific snapping at his heels—Jack Winter fled his rural Georgia home when he was still just a boy. Watching the world he knew vanish in a trucker’s rearview mirror, he thought he was leaving an unspeakable nightmare behind forever. But years later, the bright new future he’s built suddenly turns pitch black, as something fiendishly familiar looms dead ahead. When Jack, his wife Aimee, and their two small children survive a violent car crash, it seems like a miracle. But Jack knows what he saw on the road that night, and it wasn’t divine intervention. The profound evil from his past won’t let them die…at least not quickly. It’s back, and it’s hungry; ready to make Jack pay for running, to work its malignant magic on his angelic youngest daughter, and to whisper a chilling promise: I’ve always been here, and I’ll never leave. Country comfort is no match for spine-tingling Southern gothic suspense in Ania Ahlborn’s tale of an ordinary man with a demon on his back. Seed plants its page-turning terror deep in your soul, and lets it grow wild.
5. The Haunted by Bentley Little: Blurb: The Perry family's new house is perfect-except for the weird behavior of the neighbors, and that odd smell coming from a dark corner in the basement. Pity no one warned the family about the house. Now it's too late. Because the darkness at the bottom of the basement stairs is rising.
6. The Supernaturals by David L. Golemon: Evil doesn't always look scary... Built at the turn of the twentieth century by one of the richest and most powerful men in the world, tucked away in the pristine Pocono Mountains, Summer Place, a retreat for the rich and famous, seems the very essence of charm and beauty, "a scene borrowed from a wondrous fairytale of gingerbread houses, bright forests, and glowing, sunny meadows." But behind the yellow and white trimmed exterior lurks an evil, waiting to devour the unwary... Seven years ago, Professor Gabriel Kennedy's investigation into paranormal activity at Summer Place ended in tragedy, and destroyed his career. Now, Kelly Delaphoy, the ambitious producer of a top-rated ghost-hunting television series, is determined to make Summer Place the centerpiece of an epic live broadcast on Halloween night. To ensure success, she needs help from the one man who has come face-to-face with the evil that dwells in Summer Place, a man still haunted by the ghosts of his own failure. Disgraced and alienated from the academic community, Kennedy wants nothing to do with the event. But Summer Place has other plans... As Summer Place grows stronger, Kennedy along with the paranormal ghost hunting team, The Supernaturals, sets out to confront...and if possible, destroy...the evil presence dwelling there. But sometimes in a paranormal investigation, the ghosts hunt you...
7. The Manor by Scott Nicholson: Blurb: Ephram Korban was an admirer of the human creative spirit, dedicated to collecting art in its many forms--literature, photography, painting, and sculpture--before he took his own life. Nestled in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains stands the home he built as a retreat for artists to hone their craft, perfect their skills...perhaps even produce a masterpiece. Isolated from the outside world in the electricity-free mansion, artists gather to court their muses for six weeks, undisturbed. Anna Galloway has no interest in art and even less in the people who produce it. Her sensibilities are more in tune with the realm beyond the physical, where the souls of the deceased reside and visions reveal secrets. She has included herself among the elite artistes in residence at Korban's retreat because she has seen the manor in her dreams--and believes Korban's ghost may be wandering its halls. Now, a blue moon is on the rise in October, opening magical pathways to conjure up something unimaginable. Something feeding off the energies of those in the house. Something seeking everlasting life--at any cost...
8. Complete Stories and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe: You can’t go through October without reading Poe.
9. H. P. Lovecraft: Complete Fiction by H. P. Lovecraft: While Poe writes about terrors of the mind, Lovecraft brings us the physical monsters.
10. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury: Only Bradbury can writes tales of the October Country so well, and this novel is one of his best dark fantasies. Read the book, then rent the movie based on it—it will get you in the Halloween mood. Blurb: A carnival rolls in sometime after the midnight hour on a chill Midwestern October eve, ushering in Halloween a week before its time. A calliope's shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two inquisitive boys standing precariously on the brink of adulthood will soon discover the secret of the satanic raree-show's smoke, mazes, and mirrors, as they learn all too well the heavy cost of wishes -- and the stuff of nightmare.
Ten is all I have put down here, but there are many more. Others I have enjoyed are Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz, Wolfen by Whitley Strieber to graphic novels of The Walking Dead and 30 Days of Night, The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan (novels, but coming in graphic form), I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, and We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. From ghosts to vampire to werewolves to aliens to Bigfoot and other frightening things, you are sure to find something to give you heart-palpitating jitters.
Besides my four nonfiction ghost books, which included my new release, Haunted Richmond II, I also have a collection of short dark fantasy and horror stories, Spectre Nightmares and Visitations, published by Under the Moon and available both in print and as an eBook.
Just tell yourself that they're only stories.
Werewolf for Hire Chapter
It was after sunset and the unemployment office was still open. A tall young man with long brown hair walked in. He went up to an empty window where on the other side an unemployment clerk stood, looking bored. The clerk looked up when he heard the footsteps stop and smiled automatically.
“How may I help you?”
“I need a job,” the young man said.
“Well, that’s what we’re here for. Your qualifications?”
“Well... I’m five-hundred years old. I like to howl at the full moon, eat little children—they’re sweeter-tasting than adults–dance in graveyards, and, in general... be the werewolf I am!”
“Yeah-right! Sir, your teeth look a little sharp. I really think you need to see a dentist.”
“Oh, for those good old days! That’s when I used to go to parties at the mausoleum, dance with other werewolves and she-ghouls, and have a howling good time.”
“Sir, you seem to be getting hairy. I think you need a shave.”
The young man sighed and shrugged his shoulders.
“I really need a job. It’s hard to be scary these days. It used to be that I would just howl, and people would get the shivers. But nowadays if I howl all I ever get is an old shoe thrown at me.”
“Sir, you’re getting a tail—I think.”
“I’m a has-been, a—”
“I do believe I see a full moon rising,” the clerk broke in with a frown etched on his face, “and by my watch it’s also time to close. Let me get another appointment for you.”
The loup-garou, whose shape seemed to be changing, and long silky hair sprouting over his face and body, stared out a nearby window. The sky had deepened into shadows of the night, an unrelenting shade of black. The only light that bathed the scene came from the round yellow moon that rose high in the sky. The shape shifter’s face longitudinally metamorphosed into a wolfish snout. He turned back to the clerk writing on an appointment card and who seem unaware of what was transpiring.
“Sir, I think it’s time for you to leave, but here’s an appointment time for you to come—”
* * *
The unemployment clerk patted his bulging belly and picked his teeth with a toothpick. He completely changed into a large black wolf that loped away, leaving the building. The doors closed shut behind him, locking securely for the night.
Find the print version of Spectre Nightmares and Visitations at Amazon and at Genre Web Shop, too. The download is only available in PDF at Genre Web Shop and the last short story, “Dark Eyes,” is a separate eBook there too.