- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Associate Editor
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
October 9, 2014
Ironically, nothing warms my heart like the month of October—even though, so far this year, the first full month of fall has been downright hot. Although I love the cooler weather and changing leaves October typically brings, it’s Halloween that I really adore. From pumpkins to scary movie marathons, I love everything about October 31. While I have never been a huge fan of literary horror, I decided a few years ago that, in order to celebrate the holiday more thoroughly and widen my horizons a bit, I would only read scary books from October 1 to October 31. I have a few books checked out already—The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Bad Seed—but here are some of the most frightening tales I’ve read so far.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. When I was younger, my top three fears were 1) my mother dying, 2) sticking my hand into the garbage disposal, and 3) demonic possession. I’ve gotten over the first two, more or less, but the idea of losing control of my mind and body to an evil spirit still is frightening. Naturally, the first book I decided to read during my inaugural “Spine-tingling October” in 2012 was one of the most horrific fictional accounts of possession ever written. I actually got a lot done during that October since I slept for a total of thirty-two hours the entire month.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. This is not your typical horror novel, but the dystopia it presents is possibly one of the scariest alternative realities I can imagine. Women aren’t allowed to read, to own money—really to do anything other than procreate once a month with their assigned male partner. Even more unsettling than the book itself is that Atwood was inspired by the real-life ideas of reactionary leaders during the 1980s.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind. If the description of the protagonist’s birth in the middle of a filthy fish stall, his abandonment, and the subsequent hanging of his mother for doing so that opens this book doesn’t induce feelings of disgust and horror in a reader, I’m not sure anything will. Things only get darker from there, as Jean-Baptiste Grenouille ventures around France murdering innocent girls in his quest to create the perfect scent. Thinking about Grenouille’s complete lack of humanity still chills my blood.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Although this is technically a children’s book, I would have been absolutely terrified if I had actually read it as a child. The story begins innocently enough: A girl is tired of being ignored by her parents and is elated to discover a parallel universe where a whole other set of parents want nothing more than to dote on her. But, as children are often warned, Coraline soon learns to be careful what she wished for. Coraline’s “Other Mother” attempts to keep her in the other world by cutting her eyes out and sewing buttons into their empty sockets.
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King. While The Shining certainly creeped me out, its sequel actually gave me nightmares. Many a night, I would have to put the book down in the middle of a chapter and ask my husband, an avid Steven King fan, “what is wrong with that guy?” The villains of the book—who refer to themselves as “the True Knot”—maintain a sort of immortality by sucking the souls out of small children and living forever off of that “steam.” I’m not a huge fan of children, but that is the kind of image that will haunt me for a long time.