Every year since I began Horror Delve back in 2013 I’ve posted a suggested reading list for Halloween. As with each of these lists, not all of the stories are set during Halloween, but they all do evoke the feel of the holiday at their core (at least in my opinion). We have now arrived at the tenth iteration of The Horror Delve Suggested Reading List which seems kind of special. While this year’s list skews toward more recent stories, there’s still a fair amount of older offerings in the mix as well.
And, if you’d like a suggestion for some atmospheric music to listen to while reading these eerie tales, I particularly enjoy the Hides In The Shadows albumby Mac of BionighT: https://macofbionight.bandcamp.com/album/hides-in-the-fog-horror-tales-01
THE LIST (Listed by publication date order):
1. “The Eyes” by Edith Wharton (1910) – A writer tells a group about a haunting he endured by a ghost which manifested as a pair of sinister eyes at the foot of his bed. The timing of its appearances is odd and deeply disturbs him each time. This is a great story that draws you into the main character’s life and maintains a strong feeling of supernatural oddity involving the eyes.
2. “The Vow on Halloween” by Lillian Huntley Harris (1924) – After a woman rejects an unwanted suitor’s insistence she go for a ride with him on Halloween night, he vows she will take that ride with him one day. He then proceeds to die in a car crash immediately afterward. She believed that must surely put his vow to rest, but perhaps she’s been too hasty in that assessment. You can listen here for free: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/043-the-vow-on-halloween-by-lyllian-huntley-harris/id1506942338?i=1000540201240
3. “Room For One” by Frederick Cowles (1936) – While on a walking trip through Cornwall in October, a writer injures his ankle near the coast and is forced to seek out transportation to get him off his feet. He comes across a coach whose cowled driver says has room for one more, but what the man finds inside is horrific. This one has a nice Halloween feel to it. You can listen to it for free here: https://www.hypnogoria.com/gl_roomforone.html
4. “Ringing the Changes” by Robert Aickman (1964) – A man and his much younger wife go to a peculiar town for a vacation on October 31st, but when they arrive the place seems closed up and practically deserted. The whole time they are there they hear the loud tolling of bells from every direction. When asked about them, the innkeeper’s wife says they are “practicing”. As the day grows late the only other tenant in the inn informs them they have arrived on the night of a disturbing annual tradition.
5. “Wick’s End” by Joanna Parypinski (2017) – In a seedy bar on Halloween night, a man and a woman who’ve just met challenge each other to see who can tell the scariest ghost story. The loser has to buy the next round of drinks. Both trade spooky tales while keeping important secrets about their true selves from the other.
6. “Tights and Straw and Wire Mesh” by John Travis (2019) – An Englishman who moved to America for the past several years returns home to Lancaster, England to visit his dying mother. While there, he travels to a nearby scarecrow festival in Lune Valley. A throbbing headache begins to overwhelm him as he comes across a sign that reads ‘Eccles Scarecrows Ahead’. Following that path leads to a horrific night of being pursued by terrifying, animated scarecrows. Few things scream Halloween more than being chased by scarecrows through the night.
7. “Screen Haunt” by Orrin Grey (2020) – A filmmaker screens his new horror movie which is set during Halloween in the 80’s. It’s about three trick-or-treaters wearing old Ben Cooper masks who are aren’t what they seem. It turns out there are some unnatural guests in attendance at this screening. This is a good, Halloween-centric story. You can listen here for free: https://pseudopod.org/2021/10/29/pseudopod-781-screen-haunt/
8. “Two Shakes Of A Dead Lamb’s Tail” by Anna Taborska (2021) – While traveling to stay with her uptight husband and his parents in a old farm which has been converted into a vacation home in the Scottish Lowlands, a woman spots a flock of sheep grazing around an old, rotting ambulance. The sight sickens her for reasons she can’t put her finger on. She makes a horrifying discovery when she goes out for a hike alone the next day. This is an excellent, horror tale with some great twists along the way. This story was nominated for a 2021 Bram Stoker Award. You can listen here for free: https://talestoterrify.com/episodes/539-stokers-carol-gyzander-anna-taborska/
9. “The Haunting of Unit 409” by Tony Walker (2021) – A night watchman for a large storage facility keeps hearing what he initially thinks is possibly a radio playing from one of the storage units. There’s one particular unit he’s been told should never be open, Unit 409. As he knows he’s the only person in the building that October night, he’s shocked to find it standing wide open on his second walk through. He will soon come to find what terrors lie inside. This is a good, creepy tale, well-suited for a Halloween read. You can listen here for free: https://player.fm/series/classic-ghost-stories/s02e55-the-haunting-of-unit-409-by-tony-walker
10. “Someone To Blame” by Ramsey Campbell (2022) – A boy is bored while being drug along by his curator parents to an old Swedish church to examine its mausoleum. Unable to find anyone to grant them access, his parents simply let themselves inside. Once there, they discover a coffin which has lost one of its padlocks. When the boy touches the single rusty padlock remaining, it falls off as well. Afterward, something seems to begin following them on the journey back home. Ramsey wrote this excellent story as a sequel to the great M. R. James tale Count Magnus.
Previous Year’s Links:
Article by Matt Cowan