The eerie, ominous music. The knowing feeling that something at the corner of the screen is about to leap right into the foreground, sending waves of panic down your spine. The bloodcurdling screams thereafter. There’s something so entrapping and overwhelming about the full sensory experience that is the horror film or TV show, but some of us are just too duwag to see it through. Literature saves the day! If you can’t handle the visual adaptation of a filmmaker’s demented mind, then the alternative is to read words and make up your own horror film in your head. Below, in no particular order, is a selection of horror books you should check out over Halloween season while your friends are in the other room flailing and hollering at Lights Out or The Exorcist. Happy reading!
1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
If we’re talking essential horror, Dracula is it. Horror literature is Dracula and Dracula is horror literature. The grandfather of all succeeding vampire fantasy books (yes, including the insipid Edward Cullen), this novel pieces together the life and times of Count Dracula with the use of diary entries, ship’s logs, and newspaper articles.
2. The Stand by Stephen King
You’ve heard of The Shining. You’ve heard of It. But Stephen King’s most fantastic piece of horror writing is arguably The Stand, a mammoth of a book with over 1,000 pages to consume. In this post-apocalyptic world, a group of unlikely characters (representing ‘the good’) band together to defeat the forces of evil.
3. Goosebumps: Night of the Living Dummy II by R.L. Stine
In 2017, having a “share night” (AKA a family talent show) is completely unheard of, but back in the mid-90s it wasn’t that much of a stretch—and Amy decides to show off her skills as a ventriloquist. When her original dummy dies, her dad furnishes her with a pawnshop replacement, Slappy, who proceeds to make Amy and her family’s lives a living hell.
4. Tragic Theater by G.M. Coronel
The year is February 1999. A team of paranormal experts investigate the Manila Film Center after a series of reportedly unnatural events. Could they have been caused by the death of several construction workers, who were buried alive in Imelda Marcos’ haste to erect the building?
5. The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
Imagine hardened Nazi soldiers cowering in fear at the realization that an inexplicable force is killing them one by one...and that their only hope is a Jewish folklore expert. This stunning novel tells the tale of what happens when human evil comes face-to-face with real evil.
6. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Arthur Kipps, a newly widowed lawyer, visits a small village to help sort out the affairs of a dead man, but it seems like an unwanted visitor had been terrorizing him until his last breath. What does the woman in black want? Can Arthur stop her?
7. World War Z by Max Brooks
Gerry Lane is a United Nations investigator who finds himself trapped in a monstrous traffic jam. As it turns out, the rest of the world has descended into all-out madness after a planetwide epidemic turns humans into zombie-like creatures. It’s up to Lane to find the cure before the human race is completely wiped.
8. Goosebumps: Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
Imagine moving your family to a supposedly quiet, suburban neighborhood...only to find out that everyone in town is dead and the home you’ve moved into is just a little henhouse for the next victims they’re about to suck all the lifeforce out of. Compelling enough? Compelling enough.
9. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
If you’re fascinated by dual-personality syndrome or man’s constant battle with the id and superego, this one’s for you: the lawyer Gabriel Utterson is tasked to investigate Henry Jekyll’s uncanny ability to transform into the malevolent personality Mr. Edward Hyde. Hyde’s eventual takeover is so iconic that to this day, we say “Jekyll and Hyde” to refer to a morally fickle person.
10. The Fireman by Joe Hill
A deadly virus has afflicted the world, causing humans to grow scales of black and gold before they perish by way of spontaneous combustion. Only The Fireman has learned to control and use “Dragonscale” to his advantage, and it’s up to him to save the Earth before it’s all over.
11. It by Stephen King
Of course the King of Horror gets more than one mention on its list. Lurking in the sewers of a quiet suburb is Pennywise the clown, who emerges from the depths every few years to lure in a new child. Pennywise uses kids’ deepest, darkest fears to scare the living daylights out of them, but it’s not long before a group of misfits, aptly named “The Losers Club,” decide to fight back.
12. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
They say the shortest horror story goes like this: “The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There is a knock on the door.” This is the classic, novel version of that: Robert Neville, the only known man immune to a pandemic that has taken the world asunder, hunts and kills by day, then barricades himself at night. But he cannot remain doomed to this existence forever. Something’s gotta give.
13. Psycho by Robert Bloch
The origin of that oh-so-iconic shower scene in the 1960 film of the same name, this novel is centered on Bates Motel and the deaths that have occurred in it, which raises the question: Who is responsible? Could it be Norman Bates’ hot-tempered, senile mother? Or could another entity be hiding in the hallways...?