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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.