It’s almost Halloween: my favourite holiday of the year fo sho! I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare myself this year thanks to a certain wedding plus accompanying honeymoon, but I still have 10 days left to make the most out of it!
A crappy picture of one of the headstones in my front yard last year…
Mind you, I live in Holland where Halloween isn’t a big deal really. When I started to celebrate it about ten years ago and went trick or treating with my little niece and nephew for the first time, we got some pretty nasty reactions from people who didn’t have a clue about what was going on. One guy gave us five euros because he thought we were trying to raise money for the local gymnastics club. *shrugs* Not really the goal of dressing up as a scary witch, clown and vampire, but we weren’t complaining there. Another house which also topped the experience had a screaming woman lying in a bed that was put up in front of the window. I remember the joy I felt about someone ‘getting it’ and putting some real effort into the spirit of Halloween. No one opened the front door for us though and when we saw an ambulance arrive at the same house a little later, it turned out the woman had gone into labour, but no one could be arsed to close the curtains.
If you want to Halloween all the way, reading some scary books during that period of the year is a bare necessity. Here is my all time top 10 of scary books:
1. The Shining by Stephen King
“Danny was only five years old but in the words of old Mr Halloran he was a ‘shiner’, aglow with psychic voltage. When his father became caretaker of the Overlook Hotel his visions grew frighteningly out of control.
As winter closed in and blizzards cut them off, the hotel seemed to develop a life of its own. It was meant to be empty, but who was the lady in Room 217, and who were the masked guests going up and down in the elevator? And why did the hedges shaped like animals seem so alive?
Somewhere, somehow there was an evil force in the hotel – and that too had begun to shine…”
When I started to read books in English when I was about 12 years old, I started off with scary stuff, because I was really into the horror movie genre when I was a teenager. I’m pretty sure my first scary book in English was The Shining. I bought it in a little bookshop in Diever in the north of Holland and read it while I was camping in the vicinity with my parents. Lying alone in a tent at night when you have just read about a haunted hotel is not to be recommended when you’re 12. Or any age really. Then again, it’ll probably be even worse when you’re staying in an actual hotel.
2.Dracula by Bram Stoker
Left cover of a version published in 1927. Right one published in 1973. Horror book covers from the ’70’s look instantly creepy.
“When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries about his client and his castle. Soon afterwards, a number of disturbing incidents unfold in England: an unmanned ship is wrecked at Whitby; strange puncture marks appear on a young woman’s neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘Master’. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count Dracula and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing deeply into questions of human identity and sanity, and illuminating dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.”
Nuff said, this book is awesome. I can highly recommend the movie with Keanu Reeves as well. I’ve been in love with Gary Oldman ever since his Dracula performance here.
3.Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
“In a darkened room a young man sits telling the macabre and eerie story of his life – the story of a vampire, gifted with eternal life, cursed with an exquisite craving for human blood.”
I remember the fuss about Tom Cruise being cast as Lestat in the film version (on about the same kind of level as Ben Affleck becoming the new Batman). I also remember he showed those same people that prejudices are shit: he totally nailed it. Again, I strongly suggest watching this movie if you haven’t yet: it’s great!
4.Pet Sematary by Stephen King
“Sometimes dead is better….When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son — and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all…right down to the friendly cat.But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth — more terrifying than death itself…and hideously more powerful.”
5.Books of Blood: Volume One by Clive Barker
Six short horror stories full of gore:
· The Book of Blood
· The Midnight Meat Train
· The Yattering and Jack
· Pig Blood Blues
· Sex, Death and Starshine
· In the Hills, the Cities
If you have seen any of the Hellraiser movies, you know what to expect: brilliant horror which can give you nightmares for years. I read this when I was about 14 years old and still vividly remember the images I produced while reading Pig Blood Blues. Clive Barker should be featured in all scariest book lists!
6.The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
“The terror began unobtrusively. Noises in Regan’s room, an odd smell, misplaced furniture, and icy chill. Small annoyances for which Chris MacNeil, Regan’s actress mother, easily found explanations. The changes in eleven-year-old Regan were so gradual, too, that Chris did not recognise for some time how much her daughter’s behaviour had altered. Even when she did, the medical tests which followed shed no light on Regan’s symptoms, which grew more severe and frightening. It was almost as if a different personality had invaded the child. Desperate, Chris turned from the doctors to Father Damien Karras, a Jesuit priest who was trained as a psychiatrist and had a deep knowledge of such phenomena as satanism and possession. Was it possible that a demonic force was at large? If psychiatry could not help, might exorcism be the answer?”
You might have seen the movie and otherwise must’ve heard about it unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of decades (must be nice and peaceful circumstances for reading though); the book is just as good!
7.Dead until Dark by Charlaine Harris
“Sookie Stackhouse is a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She’s quiet, keeps to herself, and doesn’t get out much. Not because she’s not pretty. She is. It’s just that, well, Sookie has this sort of “disability.” She can read minds. And that doesn’t make her too dateable. And then along comes Bill. He’s tall, dark, handsome–and Sookie can’t hear a word he’s thinking. He’s exactly the type of guy she’s been waiting for all her life….
But Bill has a disability of his own: He’s a vampire with a bad reputation. He hangs with a seriously creepy crowd, all suspected of–big surprise–murder. And when one of Sookie’s coworkers is killed, she fears she’s next….”
The first book in the Sookie Stackhouse series. I absolutely loved it! In fact, I read it before watching the first season of True Blood (a series based on these books) and was quite disappointed with the adaptation; the books are better. Period. The quality of the series slowly deteriorates with each book, but is still enjoyable. The first book, though, is simply the best and scariest in my opinion!
8.The Vanishing by Tim Krabbé.
“Petrol gauge broken, anxiety and tempers flaring, young lovers Rex and Saskia, heading for the South of France, pull in at a service station to refuel. The moment they stop they make up and Rex buries two coins in the base of a fence post as a sign of their love. Saskia goes off to buy cold drinks and vanishes. Eight years later Rex is still haunted by her. Then one day he sees scrawled on the grime of a yellow car parked outside his window the words REX YOU’RE SO SWEET, and the obsession burns in his blood again.
The Vanishing has been filmed twice, once in Holland and once in the USA. Stanley Kubrick told the director George Sluizer that he thought the Dutch film of The Vanishing was even more frightening than his own film, The Shining.”
This doesn’t belong to the horror genre, but oh, my, god, what a nightmare! I chose for the Dutch cover of the book, because that’s the version I read.
9.The Historian by Elisabeth Kostova
“Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.”
I’ve read a lot of complaints about this book regarding it being too detailed, too long and/or too boring. Well, I fucking loved every word of it! If you dig the story behind Dracula, (the one of Vlad the Impaler to be specific), don’t mind a long build up, and if you like to travel and take in the scenery as you do so, you’re going to love this book. Or at least like it!
10.Weaveworld by Clive Barker
“WEAVEWORLD is an epic adventure of the imagination. It begins with a carpet in which a world of rapture and enchantment is hiding; a world which comes to life, alerting the dark forces and beginning a desperate battle to preserve the last vestiges of magic which Humankind still has access to.
WEAVEWORLD is a book of visions and horrors, a story of quest, titanic struggles, of love and of hope. It is a triumph of imagination and storytelling, an adventure, a nightmare, a promise…”
Described also as dark Fantasy, Weaveworld isn’t the typical Clive Barker novel. This has been my favourite book for a good while in my teen years and henceforth had to be on this list. I think it might even have been the book which kindled the spark in me when it comes to reading Fantasy books.
As a kind of bonus nominee: if you want to read something with a Tim Burton kind of atmosphere, but not being all too scary like the books mentioned above, I highly recommend reading Warren the 13th and the All Seeing Eye by Tania del Rio.
The expected publication date of it is November 24th, 2015.
Now, most of the books on my list are oldies. This is mainly because I haven’t been reading a lot of truly scary books lately, but also because these books just stuck with me ever since reading them for the first time. How about you? Have you read any of these books? And even better, do you have any sweet recommendations when it comes to more recently released scary books? I’d love to hear!
Also, as a side note: because I love Halloween so much, I decided to do a Halloween Giveaway somewhere at the end of this week. So, until then, keep an eye out for my post about it! *cheers*