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Top 5 Weird Horror Books for Halloween

It's Halloween time again, and every website seems to be doing their 'Halloween books' list. If you're a frequent reader of horror, however, then these lists are frequently uninspiring. Yes, we know The Shining is great. No, we're not going to read IT for the fifth time. Frankly, life's too short.

Instead, we thought it might be interesting to celebrate the weird and the unusual for our list. We've asked some of the contributors to The Shadow Booth: Volume 1 - and journal editor Dan Coxon - to recommend something strange, unsettling, and not widely read for Halloween. This is what crawled out of the mist...

Hangsaman by Shirley Jackson
Recommended by Dan Carpenter

Her most discomforting novel by far, much more eerie and strange than The Haunting of Hill House, and far less direct than The Lottery. A campus novel about loneliness, and the disquiet of being alone for the first time. Francine Prose, in her introduction to the new Penguin edition wrote, 'The dangerous power of awareness, quotidian social brutality, loneliness, and existential fear propel Hangsaman toward the edge of becoming a psychological thriller, rather like one of Patricia Highsmith’s, only less physically violent, funnier, more lyrical, imaginative, and interior.' The novel has its roots in a strange missing persons case local to Jackson, as well as an old English counting song, from which the novel gets one of its oft repeating lines, 'One is one and all alone and evermore will be so'.

The Cormorant by Stephen Gregory
Recommended by Gary Budden

For a young couple, the small cottage tucked away in a quiet village in the mountains of north Wales, a legacy from a distant, estranged uncle, is a dream come true. The one condition of the inheritance is that they keep the uncle's beloved pet cormorant. They soon discover, however, that the cormorant is no mere bird, but a foul and malignant creature that may exact a greater price than they are willing to pay.

The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing by Nicholas Rombes
Recommended by Timothy J. Jarvis

A journalist tracks down Laing, a former university film librarian, notorious for burning the sole reels of some little-known movies by famous avant garde directors. He persuades Laing to give him accounts of those works. What follows is incredibly unsettling reading, ideal for Halloween - Laing's descriptions of the destroyed films are seared into my brain.

A Choir of Ill Children by Tom Piccirilli
Recommended by Annie Neugebauer

A very creepy, unsettling literary gothic horror novel, a stylized, difficult, exquisitely written novel. Definitely not for everyone, but probably for some Shadow Booth readers! Since his mother’s disappearance and his father’s suicide, Thomas has cared for his three brothers - conjoined triplets with separate bodies but one shared brain - and the town’s only industry, the Mill. Because of his family’s prominence, Thomas is feared and respected by the superstitious swamp folk. Granny witches cast hexes while Thomas’s childhood sweetheart drifts through his life like a vengeful ghost and his best friend, a reverend suffering from the power of tongues, is overcome with this curse as he tries to warn of impending menace. All Thomas learns is that 'the carnival is coming'.

Blood and Water and Other Tales by Patrick McGrath
Recommended by Dan Coxon 

Dark, unnerving and wickedly funny, Patrick McGrath's acclaimed short stories deal in the bizarre, the erotic and the unexpected. A failed writer meets an ageing gin-queen who claims he was once visited by an angel; a little girl finds a delirious, dying explorer from the Congo at the bottom of her back garden; a night-club is terrorized by a strange libidinous hand; and a young Victorian lady sails to India to find her fiance Cecil horribly transformed... This changed my view of what writing could be when I was a teenager, and it still packs an impressive punch. A largely-forgotten modern classic.

The Shadow Booth: Volume 1 is still crowdfunding on Kickstarter, but only for a few more days. If you like what you read here, please consider ordering a copy! It includes stories by Paul Tremblay, Malcolm Devlin, Richard Thomas and many others, as well as the authors above. Full Table of Contents can be found on the Kickstarter page. But hurry, time is running out!

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