As the season of my favorite holiday rolls around again, another list of fitting suggested stories has been assembled for your enjoyment. Each of these tales captures the spirit of Halloween, even if some may not be set during it. The final two selections on this list can be found in the recent anthology The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories edited by Stephen Jones ( The Mammoth Book of Halloween Stories ).
- “The Story of the Spaniards, Hammersmith” by E. And H. Heron (1898) – Legendary occult detective Flaxman Low investigates a friend’s haunted house. The spectral entity seems to take an odd, amorphous form which attempts to suffocate people who sleep in one of its rooms. The house is called the Spaniards, and when Flaxman sleeps in its haunted room, he experiences the ghost’s attack first hand. You can listen to an excellent reading of this one over at the Hypnogoria podcast: http://hypnogoria.blogspot.com/2018/07/great-library-of-dreams-57-story-of.html
- “Look Up There!” By H.R. Wakefield (1929) – While attempting to convalesce away from work on orders from his doctor due to mental stress, a man encounters a strange pair of men, one large and the other small. The small one keeps looking high up on the wall of any room he’s in, even though there’s nothing there. He eventually learns the smaller man’s story of the time when he spent New Year’s Eve at a house rumored to be the site of a terrible ghostly manifestation on that night every year. What he saw there has deeply scarred him ever since. This is another fantastic ghost story by Wakefield.
- “The Fly-By-Night” by R. Chetwynd-Hayes (1975) – A father’s adult daughter becomes attached to a strange, bat-like little creature their cat brings into the house. The father notices the creature seems to enjoy whenever he argues with his daughter. He tries to convince her to get rid of it, but she refuses leading to another big fight. The creature quickly grows larger and flies into the town where acts of violence skyrocket. This is a fun tale which introduces a unique monster.
- “Lonely Train A’Comin” by William F. Nolan (1981) – This story follows a rugged cowboy who’s driven to discover what happened to his beloved younger sister who disappeared just after sending him a letter excitedly telling him about the old steam locomotive she was about to board on her way to the big city. No one else seems to have seen this train and no one uses steam powered engines anymore either. His investigations into the case leads him to discover a series of strange disappearances. He’s able to determine when and where this mysterious train will appear again in its search for new prey and positions himself to ensure he can board it when it returns. This is a fantasticly creepy tale which would have made for a fun Night Gallery or Tales From the Darkside adaptation.
- “Masks” by Douglas E. Winter (1985) – At the funeral for his mother, a young boy insists that the body in the casket isn’t really her but something masked to appear as her. After his father meets and marries someone new, the boy struggles with her demanding rules and the way she treats him. As Halloween night roles around, he finds himself confined to his room while his father is working late again and his brother is out trick-or-treating with friends, leaving only he and the new woman who insists he calls her Mom, in the house. When repeated knockings at the door go unanswered, he investigates, finding the house empty and no one at the door, but eventually he learns that something is indeed actually there.
- “Happy Hour” by Ian Watson (1990) – Two married couples meet with a beautiful but secretive woman named Alice at an old bar called The Roebuck every Friday night to share drinks and jokes with each other. The men of the group suspect Alice is something more than human — an ancient supernatural being, such as a fae, or a witch, or perhaps a lamia (a female spirit that preys on travelers), but she never uses her powers on them because she likes them. The group sits beneath a device in the ceiling called an Xtractall which activates to suck up cigarette smoke out of the air. It also isn’t what it seems to be. In my opinion, this is a true masterpiece of horror. It starts off as a subtle, but intriguing exploration of ancient forces exerting their influence on a modern world that has largely forgotten them, but it quickly becomes a terrifying story with a truly horrific monster.
- “Treats” by Norman Partridge (1990) – A mother lives in fear of her son whose eyes have gone black and who now leads an army of tiny creatures intent on carrying out an evil plan during Halloween night.
- “Hallowe’en’s Child” by James Herbert (1991) – After struggling for years to have a child together, the day finally arrives when a man has been sent home from the hospital to await their call, as his wife is in labor, but the birth is still several hours away. It’s late on Halloween night when he gets the call to head back for the delivery. On the frantic drive, he has a terrifying encounter on the road with a hideous goblinoid creature that threatens dire things to come to for him.
- “Her Face” by Ramsey Campbell (2015) – A young boy is sent by his mother to help a woman named June who’s taken over running her family store following the recent death of her mother. It’s close to Halloween, so there are several creepy masks in the front window that sometimes appear to move of their own accord. June seems unnerved in the place and somewhat frightened to be left alone as she deals with not having her domineering mother to rule things anymore. This is a good, creepy Halloween tale that incorporates the inherent creepiness of masks.
- “White Mare” by Thana Niveau (2018) – After being forced to move from her hometown in America to a remote village in England for a few months with her father, Heather struggles to be accepted by the locals. She and her father, who’s been raising her alone following the mysterious disappearance of her mother, are only going there for a few months to sell an old farmhouse full of antiques they inherited from a recently departed aunt. Heather’s misgivings about the move are swiftly eased once she discovers the place has a beautiful horse with which she instantly falls in love. When she asks around about Halloween, she is mocked by the local kids and is told that what they have is very different than what she’s used to, but that she’ll find out for herself soon enough. The arrival of Halloween night brings a terrifying horde to their door, where a bizarre ritual takes place. This is another great story with a superbly eerie play-on-words involved which I don’t want to give away here.
Here are the links to the previous year’s lists if you need some more:
Article by Matt Cowan