Some people absolutely adore Halloween (e.g. my housemate who spent several hours searching for the perfect pumpkin, and then several more deciding how to carve it), but I’m not one of those people. As miserable as it sounds, I’ve just never really participated in the whole holiday, from the trick or treating to the parties and dressing up, so it’s fair to say it has always just passed me by.
One thing I do like to do at this time of year though is indulge in the odd spooky story. Horror isn’t really my thing (I’m not great with gore!), but ghosts and the supernatural I like, and now that it’s always so dark and cold out there’s nothing quite like snuggling up in a blanket of an evening and freaking yourself out with a good old scary story!
So here’s five that I recommend you check out this Halloween, and handily seen as they are all really old, you can read them on the internet for free by clicking on the links in the titles. Enjoy!
In this classic ‘be careful what you wish for’ tale, the White family come into possession of a mysterious, supposedly cursed monkey’s paw that offers the owner three wishes…but these wishes have a terrible price!
“And has anybody else wished?” inquired the old lady.
“The first man had his three wishes, yes,” was the reply. “I don’t know what the first two were, but the third was for death. That’s how I got the paw.”
Grave robbing and the supernatural combine to chilling effect in Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic short story, The Body Snatcher. A young medical student named Fettes finds himself being drawn into the shady world of grave robbing and body snatching by the older and more reckless Wolfe Macfarlane. However, neither is prepared for the even more sinister turn of events…
‘They were so nearly at an end of their abhorred task that they judged it wisest to complete it in the dark. The coffin was exhumed and broken open; the body inserted in the dripping sack and carried between them to the gig.’
Whilst a little slow-going due to Dickens classic, overly wordy style, the spooky ending of this story is well worth the effort. Set on the railway in its early days, the narrator comes by chance upon an isolated cutting, and there meets a signalman who repeatedly sees a strange apparition which usually heralds tragedy…
”What is its warning against?’ he said, ruminating, with his eyes on the fire, and only by times turning them on me. ‘What is the danger? Where is the danger? There is danger overhanging, somewhere on the Line. Some dreadful calamity will happen. It is not to be doubted this third time, after what has gone before. But surely this is a cruel haunting of me.”
As one of the earliest works of vampire fiction (it’s said to have influenced Dracula author Bram Stoker), Carmilla is a deeply unsettling tale about a young girl who goes to stay with the protagonist Laura and her family in a remote castle. To the eyes Carmilla is sweet, innocent and extremely appealing, yet all is not what it seems…
‘What she did tell me amounted, in my unconscionable estimation—to nothing. It was all summed up in three very vague disclosures: First—Her name was Carmilla. Second—Her family was very ancient and noble. Third—Her home lay in the direction of the west.’
No list of spooky tales would be complete without an entry from the master of macabre, Edgar Allen Poe. Any number of his stories (and poems) could have made this list, but The Fall of the House of Usher is his most famous, and in my opinion, one of the creepiest. It opens with the unnamed narrator arriving at his friend Roderick Usher’s austere home, and from there the tension and sinister atmosphere builds until the shocking conclusion.
‘During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.’
So what are your favourite spooky stories?