Share 14 Down-Right Scary Novels to Read This Halloween

14 Down-Right Scary Novels to Read This Halloween

Sarah Jane Abbott is an associate editor for Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, imprints of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.  She grew up having NANCY DREW books read to her by her father, and is now an avid reader of mystery, thriller, and horror, along with everything from literary fiction to poetry to personal essays.  She graduated from Bucknell University with a degree in English and a concentration in creative writing.  Sarah Jane is an advocate of quasi-destructive book love—her best-loved volumes are highlighted, scribbled in, dog-eared, and wavy from being dropped in the bath tub.  

I’ve been a lover of horror since I was a kid; I spent countless childhood hours under the covers with a flashlight reading books like CORALINE and SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. Horror, to me, is so much more than just chills that make the blood run cold. It’s a genre that uses ghosts and monsters and haunted houses to delve into myriad weighty issues: racism and misogyny, bioengineering gone wrong, the legacies of brutal acts, dark family secrets, and the terror that lurks in the depths of the human soul. Here are some horrifying tales that will have you sleeping with the lights on, mulling over them long after the last page is turned.


Something Wicked This Way Comes
by Ray Bradbury

Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show arrives in Greentown, Illinois, under cover of night the week before Halloween. The town is delighted, but something seductive and sinister lurks in the smoke and mirrors. Two young boys will discover that all is not as it seems and that wishes have a heavy cost as they descend into the horror that await them at this carnival.

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Something Wicked This Way Comes
Ray Bradbury

The show is about to begin.The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. The shrill siren song of a calliope beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. In this season of dying, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. And two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes. . .and the stuff of nightmare.

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The Woman in Black
by Susan Hill

This bone-chilling ghost story centers on Arthur Kipps, a young lawyer who leaves London for the isolated, foggy English moor to settle the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Soon the routine paperwork he expected is derailed by a series of terrifying, unexplained occurrences: a chair rocking in an abandoned nursery, a child’s scream through the fog, and the dreaded woman in black herself.

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The Woman in Black
Susan Hill

A modern classic of Gothic horror, Susan Hill drew upon the rich tradition of British ghost stories to craft this atmospheric tale of a mysterious specter whose appearance heralds the death of a child. Who is the terrifying woman in black and why does she haunt the halls of the isolated Eel Marsh House?

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NOS4A2
by Joe Hill

Vic McQueen has a special gift for finding things—whenever she rides her bike over the rickety covered bridge in the woods, she emerges in the exact place she needs to be. So when she goes out looking for trouble, she finds it in Charles Talent Manx, a not-quite-human terror who kidnaps children in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith. Vic escapes his clutches, but years later, when Manx returns and takes something irreplaceable from her, she will have to face him down once and for all.

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NOS4A2
Joe Hill

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It
by Stephen King

Derry, Maine, is a cursed place—a town that has been terrorized by an ancient evil for generations. Seven teenagers encounter this entity—sometimes in the form of a clown known as Pennywise, sometimes in the form of their deepest and most personal fears—and seemingly defeat it. But 28 years later, when the evil resurfaces, the seven will have to make good on their childhood pact and return to Derry to defeat It again.

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It
Stephen King

For fans of “Stranger Things”

Teeming with the best kind of ‘80s nostalgia, the perfect follow-up read to this summer’s Netflix hit “Stranger Things” is Stephen King’s classic thriller IT. Seven adults are forced to revisit the horrors they once experienced when they were teens, battling an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. With the town’s terrible history repeating, they must once again face the evil monster.

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Ring
by Koji Suzuki

The basis for the horror movie franchise, this Japanese chiller tells of a mysterious videotape that warns the viewer he or she will die in one week unless a certain, unspecified act is performed. When four teenagers die one week after watching the tape, journalist Asakawa undertakes an investigation that leads him from the bustling city of Tokyo to rural Japan, where a mountain resort and a countryside clinic are haunted by the past.

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Ring
Koji Suzuki

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Frankenstein
by Mary Shelley

No list of horror novels would be complete without the great-grandmother of them all, Mary Shelley’s masterpiece. The story of a young scientist whose experimentation with creating life from death gives birth to a hideous creature who must walk the earth looking for his place in a world that reviles him as a monster and who is driven to seek vengeance on his creator.

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Frankenstein
Mary Shelley

One of my favorite things about the Jurassic Park franchise is that it raises such provocative questions about the ethics of science and creation, a la Dr. Ian Malcolm’s observation that “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could [create dinosaurs] that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Mary Shelley’s masterpiece of scientific horror also explores this moral quandary.

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The Haunting of Hill House
by Shirley Jackson

In one of the most iconic haunted-house novels, four people arrive at the notorious Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for evidence that the house is haunted; his assistant Theodora; a friendless, fragile young woman named Eleanor; and Luke, the heir to Hill House. As they spend more and more time in the house, it gathers its sinister powers to plunge them into the depths of terror.

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The Haunting of Hill House
Shirley Jackson

For fans of “American Horror Story”

Though visually stunning, “American Horror Story” is pure nightmare fuel. Borrowing from the classic horror tropes that precede it, AHS is comparable to Shirley Jackson’s classic supernatural thriller THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE. Four seekers arrive at the notoriously unfriendly Hill House, where they experience powerful encounters with inexplicable phenomena. (shudders)

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Fledgling
by Octavia E. Butler

This masterful tale centers on an apparently young amnesiac with disturbing, inhuman needs and extraordinary abilities. She makes a shocking discovery: she is actually a genetically modified 53-year-old vampire. Desperately trying to uncover what she can about her origins and former life, she is pursued by parties who are hell-bent on destroying her.

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Fledgling
Octavia E. Butler

From one of the greatest voices in science fiction, FLEDGLING is a vampire story unlike any other. The lead vampire, Shori, is genetically modified and appears to be only 10 years old, but is in fact over 50. Overwhelmed with hunger, Shori embarks on a stunning and complex journey that will change how you view these classic monsters forever.

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Lovecraft Country
by Matt Ruff

This chilling novel blends historical fiction, pulp noir, and plenty of Lovecraftian horror while examining the specter of racism in America. When his father goes missing, 22-year-old veteran Atticus Turner, along with his uncle and childhood friend, embarks on a road trip across Jim Crow America to find him. Along the way, he encounters horrors both mundane and fantastical.

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Lovecraft Country
Matt Ruff

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White is for Witching
by Helen Oyeyemi

This unforgettable mystery examines race, nationality, and family legacies. The Silver family house in the closed-off town of Dover, England, has been home to four generations of Silver women, who all share a mysterious, strong connection. When Lily Silver dies suddenly, her daughter, Miranda, begins suffering from strange ailments. Then Miranda brings a friend to stay with her, setting off a chain of chilling events.

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White is for Witching
Helen Oyeyemi

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The Troop
by Nick Cutter

In this horrifying mash-up of LORD OF THE FLIES and 28 DAYS LATER, Scoutmaster Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness on their annual weekend hunting trip. But when an emaciated stranger consumed by an unnatural, voracious hunger, Riggs and the boys are exposed to a bioengineered terror that will have them fighting for survival against disease, the elements—and one another.

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The Troop
Nick Cutter

Every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite, Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror: the human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare.

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Through the Woods
by Emily Carroll

In this hauntingly beautiful collection of graphic horror stories based on the webcomic sensation, Emily Carroll offers up a stunning variety of thrills and chills. These are fairy tales gone terribly wrong, where houses hold terrible secrets, no one is who or what they seem to be, and the woods are full of unknown terrors.

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Through the Woods
Emily Carroll

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The Devil Crept In
by Ania Ahlborn

The small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, searches for a boy—Jude Brighton, who has been missing for three days. His best friend and cousin, Stevie, knows from watching cop shows that the first 48 hours are critical, so he embarks on his own investigation, delving into the history of his small town, which has been haunted by disappearances and strange, unsolved crimes.

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The Devil Crept In
Ania Ahlborn

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14 Down-Right Scary Novels to Read This Halloween

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Ink and Bone
by Lisa Unger

Finley Morgan is haunted by voices no one else can hear and prophetic dreams she can’t understand, so she seeks help from her grandmother Eloise, a psychic who lives in The Hollows, New York. Merri Gleason, at the end of her rope after ten months of searching for her missing daughter, turns to private detective Jones Cooper, who sometimes works Eloise. As winter descends on The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the mystery and into the dark past of the town itself.

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Ink and Bone
Lisa Unger

New York Times bestselling author Lisa Unger “builds a sense of place for The Hollows that rivals Stephen King’s Castle Rock for continuity and creepiness.” —The News & Observer (Raleigh, NC)

“For fans of dark and twisty psychological suspense, Ink and Bone is not to be missed.” —Lisa Scottoline, New York Times bestselling author of Most Wanted

A young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl's disappearance.

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams she has never been able to control or understand, Finley is terrified by the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle—and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices—she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

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