Look around any shopping centre and dispersed between the premature Christmas decorations you’ll see flashes of orange, purple, and black… no, your favourite shops haven’t forgotten how to dust off cobwebs – Halloween fever has well and truly hit Australia!
Readers have been fascinated by the scary and the macabre since Dante published the first volume of his Divine Comedy, Inferno all the way back in 1307.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Macbeth brought horror and gore to the English stage in the early 1600s, and Horace Walpole published what is considered to be the first Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, in 1765.
In 1818 Mary Shelley changed the genre again with Frankenstein, and then readers were introduced to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 1885.
Halloween is fast approaching, and if reading your thrills and chills is more enjoyable than watching them on the big screen, we have some excellent picks for you!
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
First published in 1983, Pet Sematary is considered by many King aficionados as his scariest, most spooky book.
The Creed family moves to the small town of Ludlow and befriends their elderly neighbours, Jud and Norma.
Many months after moving, while Rachel and the children are visiting family in Chicago, Louis is unable to prevent the death of his daughter’s cat.
Jud takes Louis deep into the pet cemetery (misspelled sematary) behind the Creed house to an ancient burial ground that mysteriously brings animals back to life.
As more misfortune befalls the Creed family, Louis starts to rely on the sematary with increasingly horrific consequences.
The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
Adapted for film in 2012, starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Arthur Kipps, a solicitor, is called to a small town on the coast of England to attend the funeral of a client and to get her affairs in order.
As the story progresses, Arthur endures multiple unexplained noises, visions, and appearances that all link back to a woman he saw at the funeral of the client, who was all dressed in black.
When Arthur finally realises who the woman in black is and, more importantly, what she wants, will he be too late to save those closest to him?
One of the finest spine-tingling ghost stories in recent decades.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Jude Coyne, former rock star, lives on a farm in New York with his younger girlfriend, his pets, and a wide range of macabre collectibles, including sketches from serial killers and a used hangman’s noose.
His assistant alerts him to a suit for sale online that allegedly comes with a ghost attached, Jude bids immediately and wins the suit.
It arrives in a heart-shaped box and is indeed haunted by the vengeful spirit of an old man who seems determined to take Jude to the very edge of his sanity.
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel (2007), the Locus Award for Best First Novel (2008), and was a British Fantasy Award Nominee for Best Novel (2008)
Hill doesn’t allude to his thrills and chills – this book is vividly described and wildly terrifying
1922 (novella), in Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
If diving in to a full Stephen King novel is too daunting, he has an extensive back catalogue of novellas and short stories.
None of his novellas have affected me like 1922 in the 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars.
The novella was nominated for the 2011 British Fantasy Award for Best Novella.
The story is a first-person account by Wilfred James, who writes a lengthy confession for the murder of his wife, Arlette.
Wilfred enlists his son to help murder Arlette when she makes clear her intention to sell the land they live on and move to Omaha.
Wilfred dumps Arlette’s body in their well, then purposefully has one of his old cows fall in the well to justify filling it in.
What follows is Wilfred’s descent into madness, and has one of the creepiest endings to a story that I have ever read.
If horror stories and ghost stories aren’t your cup of tea, perhaps some home-grown crime thrillers will be more entertaining!
I don’t find many things more terrifying than stories of gruesome murders set in familiar locations
Below are three particularly excellent crime thrillers set in Sydney, the Sunshine Coast (QLD), and Brisbane respectively.
Hades by Candace Fox, Promise by Tony Cavanaugh, and A Time to Run by J.M. Peace
Spooky books for young booklovers
You can’t go past the master of kids’ horror, R L Stine. In 2015 Goosebumps was brought to life on the big screen and has re-ignited sales of Stine’s popular 1990s series.
Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline and The Graveyard Book) is also a popular choice for young readers looking to dabble with slightly spookier stories.
This is a sponsored post by Dymocks, Australia’s leading book retailer. All opinions expressed by the author are authentic and written in their own words.