Welcome to Horror Delve’s third annual Halloween suggested reading list. As always, these stories don’t necessarily take place during Halloween, but I feel they help set the mood for the season.
1. “The Striding Place” by Gertrude Atherton (1895) – A man goes out searching for his best friend who’s gone missing. The search takes him to a dangerous forest waterfall called The Strid from which many have fallen and drowned in the past. There he discovers something most terrifying. This story is made by its surreal final line. This story also contains some interesting speculation on what would happen to a spirit traveling out of the body if it couldn’t find its way back.
2. “The Top Attic in Pringle’s Mansion, Edinburg” by Elliott O’Donnell (1911) – A hideous ghost haunts an attic chamber. Looking upon it nauseates and incites the protagonist to want to destroy it. The description of the nasty thing is superb.
3. “The Night-Wire” by H.F. Arnold (1926) – An uncannily adept radio operator types out reports of emergencies that come in from across the world. One evening he begins to receive transmissions from a town he and his coworker have ever heard of named Xebico which is being overwhelmed by an intense fog that coincides with strange colored skies. As the fog spreads, screams are heard coming from it. A local priest claims the fog originated from a nearby graveyard. Things grow more dire with each report.
4. “The Face” by E.F. Benson (1928) – A woman has a reoccurring nightmare about a man with a hideous face near a churchyard by the ocean. Many years of happiness pass without a recurrence of the terrible dream, but when the nightmare eventually does return, the man with the hideous face says he will come for her soon.
5. “The Window” by D.K. Broster (1932) – An Englishman falls in love at first sight with a French woman who owns a derelict old manor he always wanted to go explore. He puts off seeing the house as he enlists to fight alongside her brother for France once the war begins, primarily to please the woman. On leave one day, he goes to the house alone. It has a beautiful room with a large window looking out on the sunset. He decides to sketch it, but starts feeling he isn’t alone in the empty house. This is a fantastic ghost story. Highly recommended.
6. “Bad Company” Walter de la Mare (1955) – A man traveling on a London subway is simultaneously disturbed and drawn to another passenger who has a darkness about him. He follows this stranger and learns his grim secret in this great, atmospheric horror tale.
7. “Ladies in Waiting” by Hugh B. Cave (1975) – A woman and her husband return to a vacant house that’s for sale. During their previous visit, they became trapped in the house by a bad snowstorm. When the husband, who had bad feelings about the place, left his wife in one of its rooms to try and free the car, he returned to find her in a a state of shock. She claimed she saw something, and the room contained a strange masculine smell. They are able to leave the following day but several months later she begs him to return to the house. Reluctantly, he agrees. Upon arrival, it begins to seem the house itself wants them there.
8. “Night-Side” by Joyce Carol Oats (1977) – Two men working for a psychical research foundation attend seances to gather information on the practices veracity. During a particular case, one of the men is addressed by a disturbing voice from his past, instantly transforming him from skeptic to a fanatical spiritualist advocate. The despondent communications they receive from the seances that describe being lost and alone in a bleak spirit realm are chilling in this excellent read.
9. “The Trick” by Ramsey Campbell (1980) – A girl and her friend insult the crazy old woman living nearby who may be a witch. When they encounter her on Halloween night, they are forced to take the treat she offers.
10. “The Big House” by Al Sarrantonio (1999) – A pair of Trick-Or-Treaters named Biff and Buff race through a town besieged by animated costumes, pumpkins, and candies to the big house on a hill that’s causing the Halloween night maelstrom in this light-hearted horror tale.
Article by Matt Cowan