Today is the day. If there’s one thing that the absolute chaos of 2020 thus far has been building up to, surely it is this, the scariest day of every year: Halloween. There’s no blame if you hardly need anything to get you in the spooky spirit this time, but if you’re still looking for a way to dig into the eerie atmosphere, why not turn to literature? Here are five of the most terrifying texts you can peruse today, to get you in the mood for tonight.
- The Black Cat, Edgar Allan Poe: Classics are sometimes classics for a reason, and it’s no coincidence that black cats are one of the most indisputably eerie images in our cultural consciousness. On Halloween, at parties all around the world, black cat costumes are ten-a-penny, but they’re not only scary because of what they indicate in the sexy/scary costumes trend. Horror icon Edgar Allan Poe shows us perfectly here how scary black cats can truly be, as he explores concepts of guilt, innocence, and insanity in this short story.
- Lamb to the Slaughter, Roald Dahl: Not exactly spine-tingling on the scary-scale, but an absolute classic that has horror in its bones. Most of us know Roald Dahl for his magical children’s fiction, but he also turned his talents to short stories aimed at adults. Lamb to the Slaughter is probably one of the most famous, thanks to its unique problem met with an unpredictable and ridiculously satisfying pay-off.
- The Turn of the Screw, Henry James: There’s nothing spookier than a big mansion and some creepy children, especially when there are ghosts involved! So much of our cultural language when it comes to horror can be found, and has a foundation in, The Turn of the Screw. Without it, the landscape of horror would be quite different. The best bit about this particular choice is that if you don’t feel like reading, you can simply check out the Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix, which is based on this book.
- The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon, Stephen King: If I’m honest, I’m not super literate in Stephen King, but what I do know is that you absolutely can’t have a list of top horror writing without his name. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon is the only King novel I’ve read, and it is absolutely incredible. More of a psychological thriller, this book exhilarated and frightened me, and left me unable to walk through the woods alone ever again.
- Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin: It doesn’t matter if you’re a horror fan or not, Rosemary’s Baby is an absolute must-read on my count. When I originally read it, I went in blind. I didn’t know the story at all, and it was spellbinding. Levin weaves an incredible psychological landscape, and the thrill of realisation as you track the narrative is brilliant. Another absolute classic of the horror world, Rosemary’s Baby will highlight to you where so much of our horror language comes from, and ground you in the genre.