Halloween is rushing towards us anew, which means you must be seeking more stories to set the proper mood for the season. Well, you’ve knocked on the right door to receive just such a treat! Below are ten stories that are either set during Halloween or hold its atmosphere at its core. Dig in and enjoy.
1.“The Hand” by Guy De Maupassant (1875) – An odd new arrival in town keeps loaded pistols at the ready around his house as well as a withered, severed hand pierced to a wall which he says is from his most hated enemy. He also claims that the hand often tries to escape its captivity. This would make an excellent counterpart to “The Beast with Five Fingers” by W.F. Harvey.
2. “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” by Clark Ashton Smith (1932) – A group of archeologists take shelter inside the ancient ruins in a desert on Mars in this novelette. They find disturbing hieroglyphics on the walls and discover strange, alien mummies entombed within; some of them are missing the tops of their heads. Later, after being separated, they find one of their colleagues with a slug-like creature devouring his head as he continues to shamble forth. This is an excellently campy, sci-if horror tale by Smith.
3. “The October Game” by Ray Bradbury (1948) – A man who hates his wife and has always been angered by the fact that their only child is a daughter who looks nothing like him but looks very much like her mother, devises a way to take revenge on his partner in a most terrible fashion. This is a very dark, Halloween story. It isn’t supernaural but remains unsettling to the end.
4. “The House By The Tarn” by Basil Copper (1971) – A writer of occult tales chooses to walk to the ruins of a house after a friend tells him about its deadly, haunted history. Four Winds House was built by a wealthy silk merchant for his family years ago. Hidden deep amongst the trees and high hills at the end of a long gravel road, all the windows and floors have fallen away. The silk merchant was encouraged to drain the lake after the lower areas became infested with strange purple mold that gave off a hideous stench. He elected not to do so and soon afterward a series of horrible deaths wiped out the entire family. Nearly every person who has entered the house since then has suffered a terrible demise as well. The writer believes he’s up to the task of facing whatever evil resides in the place, so he ventures forth and enters. This is a strong haunted house short story with great descriptions, atmosphere and backstory.
5. “The Companion” by Ramsey Campbell (1973) – A man who loves carnivals but suffers from anxiety is directed to an old, rundown carnival. Once there he ends up boarding the car of a Ghost Train ride in order to avoid some shady figures he believes are pursuing him. As the ride moves through, he’s reminded of his childhood fears. I love the fantastic ending of this atmospheric tale.
6. “Pumpkin Head” by Al Sarrantonio (1982) – Raylee is the new girl in her elementary school class. She’s shy and is mistreated by her cruel classmates but wins them over by telling them all a scary story during their Halloween party about a a boy with a bloated, pumpkin-shaped head who is similarly mistreated before going on a murderous rampage as revenge. Everyone is so impressed with her story that she’s invited to another student’s Halloween party that evening. Sarrantonio is masterful as ever at infusing his holiday tales with loads of superb sights and sounds of the season.
7.“The Old Tradions Are the Best” by Paul Finch (2008) – Accompanied by his parol chaperones, a young thief attends a festival in a city in Cornwall called Obby Oss. A large man wearing a garish painted horse costume moves through the crowd representing an ancient mascot of the town’s brutal protector. The thief decides to ditch his companions and find someplace to rob while everyone is away from their homes for the festival. This proves to be a terrible mistake.
8.“My Boy Builds Coffins” by Gary McMahon (2015) – A mother becomes concerned after she discovers a tiny coffin in her troubled son’s room while cleaning it. The coffin has the name “Dad” written on it. She and her husband become concerned the boy has suffering a relaps of troubled behavior he’d had in the past. When confronted about the coffin he mentions getting the dirt he put inside it from a “magic hole” near their house. Further investigation returns terrifying results.
9. “Nos Galan Gaeaf” by Bob Freeman (2017) – Two brother’s whose father is a prominent paranormal author go to investigate after one of them received a note written in Welsh telling them a black sow would be birthed to a witch between Goose Creek and Underwood Hill on Hallowe’en Night, and that it shouldn’t be missed. This leads them to encounter several terrifying things including the murderous sow.
10.“Reflections in Black” by Steve Rasnic Tem (2018) – When a lonely man hears the name of his former love called out on a crowded bus the night before Halloween, it spurs him to try and look up where she moved after they parted years ago. Initially, he believes she died but then receives a phone call from her mother out-of-the-blue asking him if he could come visit her as she’s sick and has been trying to reach him. He agrees to make the long trek out to her house on Halloween night but finds more than he bargained for when he arrives.
Article by Matt Cowan