Hope everyone’s enjoying October’s monthlong trek toward Halloween. The leaves have started changing color, lurid specters have escaped their basement storage box dungeons to mingle among the living again, and Horror Delve’s Second Annual Halloween Reading List has emerged from the darkness. The stories on this list aren’t necessarily set during Halloween, but they are filled with a creepiness and atmosphere that’s tailor-made for this season.
1. “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1864) – A headstrong soldier, anxious to return home to see his wife, takes a ride inside an old stagecoach filled with disturbing passengers. The beginning of this tale meanders a bit, but the chilling end is worth the wait.
2. “The Red Lodge” by H.R. Wakefield (1928) – An artist, his wife and young son rent a place for a long vacation and soon begin to feel a dark presence. Their son sees a terrifying “green monkey” in the nearby river, the wife glimpses people in the house that shouldn’t be there, and the husband senses three evil specters psychically tugging at him to open windows at night. This is a wonderfully atmospheric ghost story filled with dread for the evil infecting the location.
3. “Couching at the Door” by D.K. Broster (1933) – A poet who spent his younger years writing things that shocked the general public begins to notice he’s being visited by a mysterious, fur boa. He realizes it’s after him due to a dark deed from his past. He devises a plan to transfer the boa’s attention to someone else. I particularly enjoyed the dream imagery in this dark tale.
4. “The Calamander Chest” by Joseph Payne Brennan (1954) – A man finds a large calamander chest cheaply priced. He buys it and takes it home. Over time he begins to see a long white finger protrude from the lid to tap and scratch at the chest with its hideous black fingernail. It vanishes whenever the man approaches, and the box is empty when he checks it. His attempts to get rid of the chest repeatedly fail for seemingly natural reasons. Things ramp up when he starts to dream of the finger beckoning him closer to the chest.
5. “Nobody Ever Goes There” by Manly Wade Wellman (1981) – John the Balladeer travels to a small town. The locals refuse to talk about the abandoned mill and the old house its workers used to live in before they all disappeared. Neither will anyone venture across the river to the abandoned site from which music is sometimes heard. A man dares to go there one night searching for the woman he loves who’s gone to learn its secret.
6. “In The Absence of Murdock” by Terry Lamsley (2011) – When successful mystery co-author Murdock suddenly vanishes from a room, Franz is asked to check it out. What he finds in Murdock’s house is bizarre and supremely creepy.
7. “The Case of the Lighthouse Shambler” by Joe R. Lansdale (2011) – A ghost hunter recounts a terrifying case she investigated that took place inside an old lighthouse. The malevolent entity haunting the place is quickly growing in power. Lansdale has a knack for building an intense dread for the unearthly beings inhabiting his stories.
8. “The Autumn Man” by Mark Justice (2011) – A harrowing tale about a young boy growing up in the 70’s dealing with a brutal bully and a dangerous supernatural force in the woods nearby. This is a very nostalgic, riveting tale that keeps the pages turning.
9. “At Lorn Hall” by Ramsey Campbell (2012) – Seeking to escape a rain storm, a man enters a rundown manor where he finds a set of headphones. He puts them on and proceeds to embark on tour of the house “guided” by the recorded voice of its old master whose image is depicted in the hanging portraits of every room. His eerie comments makes the trespasser think someone else may be inside the house with him just out of view. I loved this story! Great atmosphere that keeps you unsettled throughout.
1o. “10/31: Bloody Mary” by Norman Partridge (2013) – A teenage boy, struggling to survive in the world overtaken over by Jack-O-Lantern creatures, witches, and all sorts of Halloween beasties, meets another, more aggressive survivor, who calls herself Bloody Mary.
Hope you all have a fantastic Halloween!
Article by Matt Cowan