This will be the fifth consecutive year that I’ve assembled a list of stories I feel capture the proper mood for Halloween. Below you’ll find links to each previous year’s list. I must say, I think this year’s may be the strongest to date. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!
The 2017 Stories List:
1. “The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce (1889) – A reclusive frontier hermit has a terrifying encounter following the death of his beloved wife in this classic horror tale with a chilling finale.
2. “A Bit Of The Dark World” by Fritz Leiber (1962) – A group of professional friends with an interest in the supernatural go to stay at a house where strange things have occurred. The trip starts off with a fascinating discussion on what constitutes, as well as some possible explanations for, the supernatural. Afterward, they see a bizarre figure made of shadow on their approach to the place. The group ends up catching a glimpse and suffering the effects of something vast and cosmic in scope, leading to a climatic, terrifying end. This horror novelette brings the characters into contact with an entity of such magnitude that their minds struggle to cope with it.
3. “The Grey House” by Basil Cooper (1967) – A successful thriller writer purchases an old, deserted estate house in Burgandy, France. While the writer is overjoyed, his wife feels uneasy there but stays anyway while he writes. A large, wall painting is uncovered during the extensive reconstruction. It depicts a man wearing clothes from a long bygone era dragging a young woman by her hair. The man in the painting turns out to have been a former lord of the manor with a treaturous history. The new lady of the house begins to notice a massive, malevolent cat with yellow eyes lurking in the orchards below the house. It often glares and makes terrible noises at her. More ominous discoveries are made around and about the house as the tale continues. This story kept me hooked throughout.
4. “Ceremony” by William F. Nolan (1985) – A hitman who suffers from triskaidekaphobia (fear of the number 13) takes a long bus ride to Providence, Rhode Island to eliminate a target. The bus is forced to stop early in the small town of Doour’s Mill due to engine trouble. The town is inhabited by a handful of skeletally-thin locals who keep wishing him “Happy Holidays” in reference to it being Halloween night. Each person he meets tells him he’s invited to a ceremony later that night. They seem to indicate his attendance is mandatory.
5. “The Other Room” by Lisa Tuttle (1982) – A man returns to the house he inherited from his long deceased grandfather who he never met in the flesh in order to search for a mysterious secret room he once found while very ill as a child. Upon doing so, he hopes to rescue his dying daughter by pulling her away from the long, pale white beings he found there so long ago. I love the unique type of specter found in this excellent story.
6. “The Dreaming In Nortown” by Thomas Ligotti (1991) – A college student relates the bizarre events he experienced after discovering his old roommate had become involved with an esoteric group experimenting with psychic dreaming. When the roommate’s dreams begin to seep into his own, he decides to follow him to learn more what’s going on. This is a masterful tale of surreal horror.
7. “Reading The Signs” by Ramsey Campbell (2013) – A man driving alone picks up another man walking down the street with a young boy perched on his shoulders. The hitchhiker says his car broke down and that they need a lift. He’s surly and seems to dislike the boy with him. To pass the time, the three of them play a disturbing game where they make up brief sayings that start with the three letters seen on the license plates of the cars they spot along the way. The man who picked them up starts to worry he may have made a dreadful mistake the longer he spends with them. This is another masterfully eerie tale by Ramsey Campbell.
8. “The Hotel Guest” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2014) – A man with anger control problems exits the elevator at the convention hotel where he’s staying to find the place deserted and covered in aggressive mold and rot throughout. As he searches for a way out, he begins to notice messages scrawled on the walls warning things like “Shhhhhh”, and “It will notice you.”
9. “Escape To Thin Mountain” by Jon Padgett (2016) – The parents of a young girl are drawn, by the eerie, evocative song she sings, to travel to a place called Thin Mountain. Her singing has the power to enchant those who hear it for good or for ill. As they near their destination, they begin to see an oddly dressed dwarf who dances and cackles at them.
10. “Leaves” by Peter Crowther (2016) – A husband and father begins to suspect something stemming from the foliage around his house has altered his family turning them into something insidious. He believes it wants to change him as well. This is a masterfully written tale of dread and unease.
Article by Matt Cowan