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.
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.
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.
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.