The Halloween tradition continues! What follows is Horror Delve’s Eighth Annual Suggested Reading List for Halloween. Not all of these stories (listed by their publication date) take place on Halloween, but each evokes the proper feel for the season. Happy Reading and Happy Halloween!
1. “Apparition” or “A Ghost” by Guy de Maupassant (1883) – A solider goes to the abandoned chateau of his friend, who’s wife has passed, to retrieve some letters from her room. He arrives to find the place in disrepair, and once inside the room, he discovers the ghost of the dead woman who asks him to comb her hair. This is largely left unexplained by the story’s end, which I rather liked as it leaves open so many possible reasons for the bizarre events. Read it here for free: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/3083/3083-h/3083-h.htm#link2H_4_0015
2. “The Judge’s House” by Bram Stoker (1891) – In order to study for an upcoming examination, a young scholar goes to a small town where he takes residence in a large manor house that once belonged to a judge known for his love for sentencing people to hang by the noose. The scholar likes that the house is secluded and spurned by the locals who believe it’s haunted. He doesn’t believe in haunting and insists on being left alone. He discovers the place has a terrible rat problem, one of them which is particularly large and disturbing looking. This is an excellent, classic haunted house story by the author of Dracula. Read it here for free: http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks08/0800771.txt
3. “The Man in the Bottle” by Gustav Meyrink (1912) – Mohammed Darasche-Koh, a Persian prince, puts on an opulent fete (festival). It’s filled with a variety of costumes, a garish marionette show, and a giant elephant which places a man dressed as a Perriot inside a giant glass bottle, which it then closes and finishes by putting the Prince seated atop it. A sedan chair was also brought out and set near the bottle. The reason for this bizarre show is not revealed until the very end. Read it here for free: https://www.poetsandprinces.com/gustav-meyrink-the-man-on-the-bottle/
4. “Clairvoyance” by D. K. Broster (1932) – A wealthy man who collects rare artifacts wants to learn the history of a beautiful Katana he’s obtained. When he realizes one of the girls playing with his children seems to be clairvoyant (psychic), he tries to use her abilities to obtain the information. The serene, everyday start of this excellent tale is sharply contrasted by its violent, bloody conclusion. This is my favorite D.K. Broster story. Read it here for free: https://books.google.com/books/about/Couching_at_the_Door.html?id=wwpN-wd9ISoC
5. “Randall’s Round” by Eleanor Scott (1975) – During a brief stay at a remote town in the Cotswolds on All Hallow’s Eve, a man witnesses an odd ritual dance with some disturbing iconography. He determines to learn more about its origins and finds it harkens back to ancient sacrificial ceremonies around some nearby burial mounds. This is an excellent example of folk horror. You can listen to a magnificent reading of this story by Jim Moon for free here: https://hypnogoria.libsyn.com/great-library-of-dreams-62-randalls-round
6. “The House at the Top of the Hill” by John Everson (2002) – On Halloween night two young boys enter the decrepit house on the hill which is reputed to be haunted by a father who hung himself inside it after he murdered his three sons. They soon find that the place is indeed haunted by a cruel ghost, and one of them is forced to play a trio of grim games with it in order to escape alive. This is an excellent tale for the Halloween season!
7. “October In the Chair” by Neil Gaiman (2002) – The embodiments of each of the twelve seasons gather together to tell stories. It’s October’s time to be in the lead chair, which leads to a somber, eerie tale about a small, young boy nicknamed the Runt who runs away from home to a deserted, forgotten town. There he meets and talks to the ghost of another young boy. This is a well told, eerie story dedicated to Ray Bradbury.
8. “Hoxlip and After” by Christopher Harman (2012) – While on vacation alone in the Cotswolds, Kevin reluctantly goes on a bus tour which stops at various locations. He becomes intrigued by one of the tour guides, an attractive woman named Kate, as she talks of an old town called Hoxlip which somehow vanished from existence from a wooded area where they stop. Despite her eccentricities, such as the fact she always wears a sheepskin coat regardless of the outdoor heat, that she sews together creepy, stuffed “Cotswold Devils” and has cool, detached personality, Kevin pursues a relationship with her. At first I struggled with the writing-style of this tale, often having to re-read sections, but I ultimately became engrossed in it. This is an excellent piece of folk horror!
9. “The Dancers” by Simon Kurt Unsworth (2018) – A man named Minahane purchases a piano which survived a fire that destroyed most of Lowther House and burned its elderly owner Ellie Winfell to death. Ellie was a wealthy but not well-liked resident of Martledge. Despite being in her late 90’s, people would hear her loudly playing her piano into the wee hours of the night before her death. When Minahane brings the piano into his house, he begins to hear it playing on its own, accompanied by the footfalls of disembodied people dancing to its rhythm. Things become even more disturbing when he begins to see these spectral dancers for himself. This is another tremendous, creepy ghost story.
10. “The White Stone” by Jim Moon (2020) – A flash drive discoveredabandoned in a library turns out to contain a text file recounting the author’s encounters with what appears to be a wandering open grave and tombstone. This is another well told, eerie tale by Jim Moon with a unique menace at its core.
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Article by Matt Cowan