Season of Horror - Horror Classics | www.emmaperegrine.com

Season of Horror: Five Horror Classics

As the leaves curl and fall from the trees and the night creeps upon the day earlier and earlier, it is time to curl up in a chair with a blanket (and maybe a glass of wine) and read a tale or two of horror. Make sure the doors are locked and the windows firmly closed. And that creaking sound upstairs? That’s just the pipes of the central heating. Probably.

Right through to the week of Halloween, I will be giving a few horror recommendations to get you in the spirit (ghost) of the holiday: a season of horror, if you will. And sometimes, you just can’t beat the classics for good, old-fashioned scares. So here are my top five horror classics that will get under your skin this Halloween season:

Season of Horror - The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe

The narrator — who insists he is sane (the lady doth protest too much, methinks) — describes the motiveless murder of an elderly man with a penetrating eye that the narrator himself has committed. As the narrator’s fear that he might be caught builds he becomes increasingly manic.

Season of Horror - The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

The ultimate unreliable narrator tale. A governess is employed to look after a girl and a boy in a grand old house with a perpetually absent master. The more time the governess spends with the girl and boy, the more she begins to suspect they are being haunted by the ghosts of their previous governess and her lover.

Season of Horror - Oh, Whistle & I'll Come to You, My Lad by MR James

Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad by M. R. James

A university professor takes a holiday in a small seaside town in England and comes across an old instrument hidden among some old ruins. He blows into the instrument without much thought and it makes a whistling sound. A series of nightmares chase him as he sleeps, and when he comes back from an excursion he finds that one of the beds in his room — the bed he did not sleep in — is unmade, as though someone has twisted and turned in it during the night. He shares his terror with another guest in the hotel which does little to assuage him, only confirming his fears: the instrument has called something to him.

Season of Horror - Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

An obsession with the two natures of man — the public, moral side and the deeper, darker side — leads Dr. Jekyll to conduct an experiment where he manages to separate the two sides within himself, giving birth to his alter-ego, Mr. Hyde. As Jekyll more frequently changes into Hyde, the power of his devilish alter-ego strengthens, leaving Jekyll powerless to prevent the transformations.

Season of Horror - The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft

The Call of Cthulhu by H. P. Lovecraft

Following the death of his grand-uncle, the narrator finds a locked box containing notes, clippings, and a peculiar bas-relief sculpture unlike anything he has seen before. Looking through his grand-uncle’s notes, the narrator discovers that the sculpture was created by an artist based on hallucinations and nightmares the artist had spanning days of delirium. On reading further, it becomes apparent that various events were connected to the artist’s delirium — an earthquake, a shipwreck, and the discovery of a tribe who worship a being called “Cthulhu” — and the narrator begins to speculate that there may be something larger at play in the world.

Top 5 demonic and occult novels to read this halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

Season of Horror: Five Demonic and Occult Novels to Read this Halloween

As the leaves curl and fall from the trees and the night creeps upon the day earlier and earlier, it is time to curl up in a chair with a blanket (and maybe a glass of wine) and read a tale or two of horror. Make sure the doors are locked and the windows firmly closed. And that creaking sound upstairs? That’s just the pipes of the central heating. Probably.

Right through to the week of Halloween, I will be giving a few horror novel recommendations to get you in the spirit (ghost) of the holiday: a season of horror, if you will. Some you will likely have heard of but hopefully there are some you haven’t.

Devil worship, demonic possession, and black magic: what is it about these subjects that hold such a fascination in horror fiction? Perhaps it is because in Westernised Judaeo-Christian culture these represent the absolute antithesis to the commonly held beliefs, and by extension, they represent the forbidden. And oh my, there is nothing quite like knowing you shouldn’t read about something that makes you want to go right ahead and read it. Even for those who reject a religious stance in favour of one that is secular and atheistic, that nagging sense of the forbidden still follows and calls out from the shadows.

Season of Horror - Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill | www.emmaperegrine.com

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill

Aging rockstar, Judas Coyne, enjoys collecting macabre memorabilia. When an old suit, supposedly haunted by its deceased previous owner, comes on the market Judas decides to add it to his morbid collection. The suit arrives in a heart-shaped box but it soon becomes clear when strange things begin to happen around his house that this is no item simply owned for a laugh. This suit is haunted and its ghost is out to get him.

The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

Frank Cotton, in his pursuit of all things hedonistic, gets hold of a puzzle box that promises to bestow on its solver unimaginable sensual pleasure. Instead it opens up to another realm and the creatures who inhabit that place are unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between pleasure and pain and Frank finds himself trapped there.

After Frank’s disappearance his brother, Rory, and his wife move into Frank’s old house and the veil between the two realms begins to lift.

Season of Horror - A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Merry’s older sister, Marjorie, is acting weird. Their mother thinks it’s a symptom of a mental illness and takes her to see a therapist but their father is convinced that his daughter is possessed. Desperate to help their daughter, and with no money left, the pair agree to be part of a new reality show, The Possession, in the hope that they might excise their daughter’s demons. As Marjorie apparently descends into even stranger behaviour, Merry’s grasp of what is true and what is put on for the cameras starts to slip.

 

Seed by Ania Ahlborn

After a near fatal car crash on a deserted road, Jack Winter’s life slowly unravels as he realises that he cannot outrun the monsters he thought he’d left in his past. His own history seems to repeat itself when the evil presence that Jack knew from his childhood reveals itself to his daughter. Only by facing the secrets from his past can jack hope to save his daughter, and his family, from the creature in the shadows.

Season of Horror - Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

Rosemary and her husband, Guy, move into an old, Gothic revival apartment building with a rather nefarious history. To begin with, their neighbours seem well-meaning, if a little nosey. Then Guy manages to get an acting role when the man originally cast is suddenly struck blind, and after this Guy suggests that he and rosemary should try for a baby. Rosemary eventually falls pregnant but her neighbours begin to interfere and intrude, forcing her to take strange smelling drinks and lucky charms with odd herbs and Rosemary begins to suspect that there is something more sinister beneath their gestures of goodwill.

Season of Horror - Five monstrous creature novels that will keep you awake at night - halloween reading list | www.emmaperegrine.com

Season of Horror: 5 Monstrous Creature Novels that will Keep you Awake at Night

As the leaves curl and fall from the trees and the night creeps upon the day earlier and earlier, it is time to curl up in a chair with a blanket (and maybe a glass of wine) and read a tale or two of horror. Make sure the doors are locked and the windows firmly closed. And that creaking sound upstairs? That’s just the pipes of the central heating. Probably.

Right through to the week of Halloween, I will be giving a few horror novel recommendations to get you in the spirit (ghost) of the holiday: a season of horror, if you will. Some you will likely have heard of but hopefully there are some you haven’t.

This week is monster week. What is it about creatures, apparently not of this earth, that makes them so terrifying? Is it their unfathomability? Their size? The fact that nine times out of ten they come off as psychopathic? The mind boggles.

Grab yourself a coffee and sit tight while I run you through five horror novels featuring some of the most horrid creatures imaginable. I hope you are wearing brown pants.

Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley

Intelligent and rather macabre, Victor Frankenstein decides to play god while he studies at university. This would surely be his magnum opus, a creation to change the world. And indeed it is, but not the world as Frankenstein imagined it. He creates a living being from the dead parts of other creatures and—unsurprisingly—finds his creation absolutely abhorrent. A monster. But the monster is sentient, and feels Frankenstein’s horror and disgust, and decides to exact his revenge.

You probably read this in school—perhaps you hated it—but I highly recommend giving this classic work another read for the sheer joy of it.

The Deep by Nick Cutter

The world has gone to shit and most of the population have lost their marbles owing to a virus, known as the “Gets,” which leaves the infected unable to remember anything, not even how to breathe.

A potential cure for the virus may have been found and a team of scientists descends into the deep of the ocean to study it. But then the team on the surface lose contact with their undersea colleagues until one lone message drifts up from the deep.

It falls on Luke to brave the depths of the ocean to find out just what is going on with his brother and the team. When he finally gets down there, nothing could have prepared him for the claustrophobia and the strange behaviour of the scientists. A weird tale through-and-through, with many a nod to Lovecraft, that really gets under your skin.

It by Stephen King

Something is murdering kids in Derry: a clown, a mummy, a werewolf, or your garden variety lunatic? Whatever It is, the old members of the Losers Club must come back to the town of their childhood with all its ghosts of memories because they promised they would when they were children. Or at least they think they did. For some reason, they can’t quite remember.

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Never go to Boo’ya Moon after sun down. Things lurk there in the dark that are best left alone.

Lisey is dealing with the death of her author husband as best she can, but a crazed fan harasses her and becomes increasingly aggressive as she tries to sort through the boxes of her husband’s life’s work. As she works her way through his office she finds herself dragged away by the memories that just won’t stop coming; dragged away to the pool where we all go down to drink.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

A young solicitor is held captive by a bizarre Count, Dracula, in Transylvania whose castle is haunted by all manner of horrors. Dracula, having used the solicitor’s skills before locking him away, travels from Transylvania to England to conduct some “business”.

While the solicitor recovers from his ordeal, his fiancé’s best friend begins to act in the most peculiar manner and becomes increasingly ill. A doctor, Van Helsing, is called in to assess her health but he suspects there may be some malignant force at work, and he vows to stop at nothing to prevent its influence spreading.

Season of Horror: 5 Best Haunted House Novels - to read on halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

Season of Horror: Five of the Best Haunted House Novels

As the leaves curl and fall from the trees and the night creeps upon the day earlier and earlier, it is time to curl up in a chair with a blanket (and maybe a glass of wine) and read a tale or two of horror. Make sure the doors are locked and the windows firmly closed. And that creaking sound upstairs? That’s just the pipes of the central heating. Probably.

From this week until the week of Halloween, I will be giving a few horror novel recommendations to get you in the spirit (ghost) of the holiday: a season of horror, if you will. Some you will likely have heard of but hopefully there are some you haven’t. So, without further ado, here are five of the best haunted house novels to read this Halloween!

Season of Horror - The Elementals by Michael McDowell - to read on Halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

The Elementals by Michael McDowell

After the bizarre funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the two branches of the family decide to go on a little trip to their summer homes; a little cove in a place called Beldame on the Alabama coast where they spent many summers as children.

When they arrive, they notice that one of the three houses is slowly being consumed by a sand dune that reaches right up to the windows of the second floor. As the sand gathers, the family begin to realise that there might be something inside that house. Something from the family’s ancient past. Something inhuman.

Season of Horror: Hell House by Richard Matheson - to read on Halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

Hell House by Richard Matheson

Four brave (and/or mad) people—Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist with a passion for parapsychology; his wife; Florence Tanner, a mental medium; and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a physical medium who has abandoned his talents—are hired by a millionaire to investigate the question of life after death in the most haunted house in the world. The house is so haunted, in fact, that Benjamin was the lone survivor from a previous, unsuccessful exploration. The investigators get on with their research but strange things begin to happen around them: visions, apparitions and the like. Cracks appear in their relationships and their sanity as their little investigation spirals out of control.

Season of Horror: Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn - to read this Halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

A has-been true-crime writer, Lucas Graham, and his daughter move into a house that was once the scene of a grizzly, ritualistic murder. He holds onto the hope that the notoriously silent convicted murderer of the crime might grant him an interview and he can turn the fortunes of his family around (and win his wife back) by using the interview in what he hopes will be a bestselling true-crime book.

As Lucas’ relationship with his daughter becomes strained, both of them distancing themselves from each other, they both begin to see things that cannot possibly exist. And yet, they cannot shake the feeling that they might not be alone in the house.

You can read my full review here.

Season of Horror: An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman - to read this Halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman

The Naremores, like many clueless characters in traditional ghost stories, decide to move from the city to a quaint little patch of the British countryside: The Hollow, a beautiful country home in Somerset and once home to a successful novelist. What could possibly go wrong in this idyllic setting?

It all starts so well with the house seeming to bring the family a sense of peace and harmony, but as they regress into their old ways, the house (and its ghosts) turns against them, transforming their dream home into a labyrinthine nightmare and the Naremores soon realise you cannot run from your problems.

Season of Horror: Slade House by David Mitchell - to read this Halloween | www.emmaperegrine.com

Slade House by David Mitchell

In typical Mitchell fashion, the story of Slade House spans over three decades and features multiple narratives from many walks of life that twist and weave and converge at various points. It begins with an invitation to attend a recital at the lovely Slade House. Only Slade House is not at all lovely. Abandon all hope ye who enter through the small black iron door, you may never return.

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine by Ellen Datlow (Ed.) - Book Review | www.emmaperegrine.com

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine by Ellen Datlow (Ed.) – Review

Craft Notes:

  • Third Person Limited
  • First Person
  • Theme: Fear of the Unknown
  • Theme: Growing Up
  • Theme: Grief & Loss
  • Unreliable Narrator
  • Character Voice
  • Short Stories

With twenty-one tales of horror, varying from psychopathic killers (The Process is a Process all its Own by Peter Straub), to isolated towns that want to be left the hell alone (The Bad Hour by Christopher Golden), to a creepy arcade amusement machine (The House of Wonders by C. E. Ward) there is something for most horror fans.

As with all anthologies, there were some stories in The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine that I enjoyed more than others, but even those that didn’t jive with my horror preferences were still brilliantly written and a joy to read. The theme of the unknown was a strong element in a lot the stories in this anthology (and is prevalent in horror in general) and I have managed to whittle the stories down to my personal top three from the anthology.

Nesters by Siobhan Carroll

A strange event has caused the land around the Mackay’s farm, and a large part of the U.S.A. to become dust filled and barren, where the rain rarely falls and survival is the best they can hope for. All except the Dubort’s place, where the land is green and lush, and the fruits grow abnormally large. The kids call it the Devil’s Garden. But Mr. Dubort has gone missing, and two government officials show up to try and get to the bottom of where he is, but Sally Mackay’s Pa is distinctly cagey, along with all the other farmers in the area.

The story is told through Sally Mackay’s point of view and is a great example of character voice done well using the third person limited perspective. Sally’s is the cynical voice of a child who has been forced to grow up fast and is resigned to taking on the role she has been dealt in life. She is trying to get to grips with the world she lives in and in many ways she copes better than the adults she is surrounded by, perhaps because they are fixated on the world they have lost.

While the adults find solace in religion—Sally’s Pa never misses a service on Sundays—Sally is cynical of what she is told here too. Her musings and ideas are almost adult in their own way:

“The service was one of the usual ones, about the end times and how the dusters were the Nesters’ fault for ignoring the Lord’s will. Inwardly Sally was having none of it. it was a pretty poor God who visited misery on folk for drinking too much and taking his name in vain now and then.”

Throughout the story there is a sense of bleak, resigned dread that builds steadily. It gathers like the dust in the story and finds its way into the nooks and crannies of your subconscious as you read.

Fury by D. B. Waters

A crime scene investigator is called to the scene of a very unusual domestic disturbance. He finds himself drawn, like a magnet, to the bizarre happenings within the house.

Fury is an interesting take on the haunted house story and is a good example of the unreliable narrator character done well. The story is written in third person limited from the point of view of the crime scene investigator. As the story moves forward, it becomes difficult to know whether what the main character sees is actually happening, whether or not he is imagining these things, or—perhaps worse—is the house itself conjuring up these images for him. There are points where his perception of time seems to warp, which echoes what is happening in the house itself.

On These Blackened Shores of Time by Brian Hodge

A father watches his son fall into a sinkhole that opened in the middle of their street. When the authorities give up on their search in the mine shafts running beneath the street, the family take it upon themselves to try to find his body, believing they might somehow find him alive.

The first person narrative, written from the perspective of the father, gives us an intimate view into the grief and helplessness the father feels when his son disappears into the hole in the road. It also heightens the horror when the father discovers what is in the dark deep beneath the street, towards the end of the story.

Fear of the Unknown

A common theme of these three short stories is the fear of the unknown. Horror fiction often relies heavily on this innate fear, but what is it about the unknown that is so terrifying?

It is linked, in part, to our fear of the dark. It represents our inability to distinguish friend from foe. Our brains form patterns based on our past experiences, and we use this to go about our daily lives. When we encounter something unknown, our brain goes into overdrive trying to make it fit to the frameworks we have already established. When we can’t find a pattern, or can’t compare it to something else we have already experienced, it is only natural that this would elicit a fear response.

A study at Toronto University found that our fear of the dark elicits a lingering, foreboding fear, rather than a full-blown panic, which is precisely the sort of response our ancestors would have needed to keep them on edge and alert so they could be ready to run from or fight against a predator. And it is also this lingering response that authors of great horror fiction play with when they write about the unknown. Their work leaves us with a sense of foreboding and unease and it plays on our innate survival instincts.

 

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine gives us plenty of amazing examples of how to create a lingering fear of the unknown when we write horror fiction, with lots of different characters, voices, and narrative structures thrown in as well. The stories themselves are brilliantly written and there is something for all horror fans in this anthology.

 

The Best Horror of the Year Volume Nine is available for purchase from: Amazon, The Book Depository, Waterstones and other booksellers.

Have you read this book? I’d love to know your thoughts. Let me know in the comments below, or find me over on Instagram.