…the temperature is dropping, leaves are changing colour. Halloween is approaching. I always associate this time of year with stories and reading. I read and write all year round, of course, but there’s something about the long evenings and the cold outside that awakens the hibernation urge, making curling up with a good story and a hot drink the best part of the day.
It also provides the perfect backdrop for everything spooky, atmospheric, dark and sinister.
To that end, please find below a list of my favourite spine-chilling tales that are at their best when read at this time of year, preferably by the light of an open fire with the curtains drawn and the wind howling outside. If you can arrange such things, of course. Otherwise a sofa and reading lamp serve just as well.
This book is dripping with atmosphere. The setting is wild, the characters evocative. The mood is the perfect mix of increasing desperation and just-out-of-reach redemption. It locked me in right away and didn’t let up until the gut-wrenching end. One of the best books I’ve read this year.
‘Maybe you’ve heard tales about Scarcross Hall, the house on the old coffin path that winds from village to moor top. They say there’s something up here, something evil.
Mercy Booth isn’t afraid. The moors and Scarcross are her home and lifeblood. But, beneath her certainty, small things are beginning to trouble her. Three ancient coins missing from her father’s study, the shadowy figure out by the gatepost, an unshakeable sense that someone is watching.
When a stranger appears seeking work, Mercy reluctantly takes him in. As their stories entwine, this man will change everything. She just can’t see it yet.’
A new twist on the classic paranormal thriller. Told in the format of a podcast similar to the popular Serial, Wesolowski (as well as being a good chum of mine) is an expert at keeping you engaged whilst slipping sinister details past your guard. He uses multiple timelines and cleverly-timed plot twists so you’re never quite sure what you know. Until it’s too late
‘1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who embarked on that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.
2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure. In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries’ mysterious death. And who’s to blame…
As every interview unveils a new revelation, you’ll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth.
A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.’
The master of the spooky, sinister and downright weird. M R James has been a favourite of mine for many, many years. There is something about his stories that is just so…out there. There’s a reason these stories are classics and continue to be popular to this day. A must for anyone craving chills and thrills.
‘Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M. R. James was an eminent scholar who spent his entire adult life in the academic surroundings of Eton and Cambridge. His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of the everyday, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches or the manuscript collections of great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace, from creatures seeking retribution and harm. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.’
Yes, I know there’s a movie with Daniel Radcliffe. Yes it’s jumpy, sinister, atmospheric. But honestly, the book is something else. Lower-key, but the spookier for it in my opinion, and an all-round more sinister conclusion, this one is a must for a rainy evening when you’re alone in the house.
‘Arthur Kipps, a junior solicitor, is summoned to attend the funeral of Mrs Alice Drablow, the sole inhabitant of Eel Marsh House. The house stands at the end of a causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but it is not until he glimpses a wasted young woman, dressed all in black, at the funeral, that a creeping sense of unease begins to take hold, a feeling deepened by the reluctance of the locals to talk of the woman in black – and her terrible purpose.’
Later, folks. Stay spooky