It’s the most wonderful time of the year… almost. Autumn/Fall doesn’t officially begin until September 23, but when my favorite farm stand (Isom’s in Athens, Alabama if you’re ever in the area) starts picking apples and pressing them into my much beloved apple slushies and cider, it’s fall for me. And that happened last week, along with B&B releasing their Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin scent, so I’m dying for a chance to slip into my favorite cozy sweater, enjoy a hot cider, and read something a little spooky.
I decided to make a big reading list in honor of my favorite season and stretch it out over two months since I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump since June (the REAL horror, tbh) and because September and October are such busy months for me. Between football and theater, there are a ton of hometown festivals (Depot Days, Riverfest, Oktoberfest in Huntsville and Cullman), birthdays galore (seriously… was everyone in my family born in September/October??), my birthday (Halloween!), the Athens Storytelling Festival (another MUST is you’re in the area), Fiddler’s Convention (yes, I am THAT southern person), and… Halloween itself. Throw in a train ride through the Cumberland Plateau, visiting real haunted houses, and spending time with my godkids and work- it’s just a busy time, pals.
I picked out 23 books. Some of them are ones I’ve already read. Some of them I already owned but haven’t read. Some of them are from my preorders of this season’s most anticipated releases. I hope I get to them all… but I’m also not sweating it if I don’t. I’m in a Halloween mood all year long!
1. HOCUS POCUS AND THE ALL NEW SEQUEL by A.W. Jantha. Shortly after moving from California to Salem, Max Dennison finds himself in hot water when he accidentally releases a coven of witches from the afterlife. Max, his sister, and his new friends (human and otherwise) must find a way to stop the witches from carrying out their evil plan and remaining on Earth to torment Salem for all eternity. Twenty-five years later, Max and Allison’s seventeen-year-old daughter, Poppy, finds herself face-to-face with the Sanderson sisters in all their sinister glory. When Halloween celebrations don’t quite go as planned, it’s a race against time as Poppy and her friends fight to save her family and all of Salem from the witches’ latest death-defying scheme.
2. DARK HARVEST by Norman Partridge (my favorite Halloween book!!). Halloween, 1963. They call him the October Boy, or Ol’ Hacksaw Face, or Sawtooth Jack. Whatever the name, everybody in this small Midwestern town knows who he is. How he rises from the cornfields every Halloween, a butcher knife in his hand, and makes his way toward town, where gangs of teenage boys eagerly await their chance to confront the legendary nightmare. Both the hunter and the hunted, the October Boy is the prize in an annual rite of life and death. Pete McCormick knows that killing the October Boy is his one chance to escape a dead-end future in this one-horse town. He’s willing to risk everything, including his life, to be a winner for once. But before the night is over, Pete will look into the saw-toothed face of horror–and discover the terrifying true secret of the October Boy.
3. CREEPYPASTA VOL 1 by Mr. Creepypasta. There are stories that scare you. And then there are the dark and disturbing creepypasta stories that will leave you seriously freaked out. The Creepypasta Collection is an unsettling anthology of terror, full of nightmares and dangerous creatures–from unearthly supernatural beings to the murderously disturbed. So, lock the doors, check under the bed, turn up the lights, and get ready for an unforgettable, up-all-night journey into the heart of darkness.
4. CREEPYPASTA VOL 2 by Mr. CreepyPasta. The Creepypasta Collection, Volume 2 delves into the depths of the absolute best short stories from the darkest corners of the Internet. You won’t be able to sleep with the light off after experiencing the misadventures of our heroes and heroines, who encounter everything from the highly suspicious to the incredibly disturbed. With stories that range from the unforgettable “Jeff the Killer” to the fear-inducing “Smiling Dog,” this collection is the perfect gift for Creepypasta fans and horror enthusiasts alike.
5. BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage. Afflicted with a chronic debilitating condition, Suzette Jensen knew having children would wreak havoc on her already fragile body. Nevertheless, she brought Hanna into the world, pleased and proud to start a family with her husband Alex. Estranged from her own mother, Suzette is determined to raise her beautiful daughter with the love, care, and support she was denied. But Hanna proves to be a difficult child. Now seven-years-old, she has yet to utter a word, despite being able to read and write. Defiant and anti-social, she refuses to behave in kindergarten classes, forcing Suzette to homeschool her. Resentful of her mother’s rules and attentions, Hanna lashes out in anger, becoming more aggressive every day. The only time Hanna is truly happy is when she’s with her father. To Alex, she’s willful and precocious but otherwise the perfect little girl, doing what she’s told. Suzette knows her clever and manipulative daughter doesn’t love her. She can see the hatred and jealousy in her eyes. And as Hanna’s subtle acts of cruelty threaten to tear her and Alex apart, Suzette fears her very life may be in grave danger
6. UNIVERSAL HARVESTER by John Darnielle. Jeremy works at the Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s a small town in the center of the state—the first a in Nevada pronounced ay. This is the late 1990s, and even if the Hollywood Video in Ames poses an existential threat to Video Hut, there are still regular customers, a rush in the late afternoon. It’s good enough for Jeremy: it’s a job, quiet and predictable, and it gets him out of the house, where he lives with his dad and where they both try to avoid missing Mom, who died six years ago in a car wreck. But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets—an old movie, starring Boris Karloff, one Jeremy himself had ordered for the store—she has an odd complaint: “There’s something on it,” she says, but doesn’t elaborate. Two days later, a different customer returns a different tape, a new release, and says it’s not defective, exactly, but altered: “There’s another movie on this tape.” Jeremy doesn’t want to be curious, but he brings the movies home to take a look. And, indeed, in the middle of each movie, the screen blinks dark for a moment and the movie is replaced by a few minutes of jagged, poorly lit home video. The scenes are odd and sometimes violent, dark, and deeply disquieting. There are no identifiable faces, no dialogue or explanation—the first video has just the faint sound of someone breathing— but there are some recognizable landmarks. These have been shot just outside of town. In Universal Harvester, the once placid Iowa fields and farmhouses now sinister and imbued with loss and instability and profound foreboding. The novel will take Jeremy and those around him deeper into this landscape than they have ever expected to go. They will become part of a story that unfolds years into the past and years into the future, part of an impossible search for something someone once lost that they would do anything to regain.
7. KILL CREEK by Scott Thomas. At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests… When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country’s most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won’t be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.
8. SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN by R.L. Stine, et al. R.L. Stine—the godfather of Goosebumps—and some of the most popular authors today bring an unrivaled mastery of all things fearsome, frightening, and fantabulous to this terrifying anthology of all-new scary short stories. Scream and Scream Again! is full of twists and turns, dark corners, and devilish revenge. Collected in conjunction with the Mystery Writers of America, this set includes works from New York Times bestselling authors telling tales of wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses. Read it if you dare! With twenty never-before-published scary stories from some of the most popular authors today—including Chris Grabenstein, Wendy Corsi Staub, Heather Graham, Peter Lerangis, R.L. Stine, Bruce Hale, Emmy Laybourne, Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Morton, Ray Daniel, Beth Fantaskey, Phil Mathews, Carter Wilson, Doug Levin, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, Alison McMahan, Daniel Palmer, Tonya Hurley, and Stephen Ross—it’s sure to leave readers screaming for more.
9. THE DREADFUL TALE OF PROSPER REDDING by Alexandra Bracken (this gives me major Hocus Pocus feels). Prosperity Redding is the only unexceptional member of his very successful family, that is, until he discovers a demon living inside him. Turns out, Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made, and then broke – a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. Now Alastor, the malefactor, has reawakened and is intent on destroying the Redding fortune, unless they can kill him in the body he inhabits, which, oh, wait, that’s Prosper, and why is his grandmother coming at him with a silver blade? In danger from both the demon trying to take over his soul and the family that would rather protect their fortune than their own kin, Prosper narrowly escapes with the help of his long lost Uncle Barnabas and Barnabas’s daughter, Nell, a witch in training. According to Barnabas and Nell, they have only days to break the family curse and find a way to banish Alastor back to the demon realm. Until then, Prosper has to deal with Alastor’s vengeful mutterings inside his head (not to mention his nasty habit of snacking on spiders). And, every night, Alastor’s control over his body grows stronger. . . As the deadline to the curse draws nearer, Prosper and Nell realize there’s more at stake than just the Redding family fortune. . . that there might be something else out there, something worse than Alastor, that could destroy the balance between the human and demon realms and change the world as they know it forever.
10. TOIL & TROUBLE by Tess Sharpe, et al. Scorn the witch. Fear the witch. Burn the witch.
History is filled with stories of women accused of witchcraft, of fearsome girls with arcane knowledge. Toil & Trouble features fifteen stories of girls embracing their power, reclaiming their destinies and using their magic to create, to curse, to cure—and to kill.
A young witch uses social media to connect with her astrology clients—and with a NASA-loving girl as cute as she is skeptical. A priestess of death investigates a ritualized murder. A bruja who cures lovesickness might need the remedy herself when she falls in love with an altar boy. A theater production is turned upside down by a visiting churel. In Reconstruction-era Texas, a water witch uses her magic to survive the soldiers who have invaded her desert oasis. And in the near future, a group of girls accused of witchcraft must find their collective power in order to destroy their captors.
11. THROUGH THE WOODS by Emily Woods. Journey through the woods in this sinister, compellingly spooky collection that features four brand-new stories and one phenomenally popular tale in print for the first time. These are fairy tales gone seriously wrong, where you can travel to “Our Neighbor’s House”—though coming back might be a problem. Or find yourself a young bride in a house that holds a terrible secret in “A Lady’s Hands Are Cold.” You might try to figure out what is haunting “My Friend Janna,” or discover that your brother’s fiancée may not be what she seems in “The Nesting Place.” And of course you must revisit the horror of “His Face All Red,” the breakout webcomic hit that has been gorgeously translated to the printed page.
12. SPIRIT HUNTERS by Ellen Oh. Harper doesn’t trust her new home from the moment she steps inside, and the rumors are that the Raine family’s new house is haunted. Harper isn’t sure she believes those rumors, until her younger brother, Michael, starts acting strangely. The whole atmosphere gives Harper a sense of déjà vu, but she can’t remember why. She knows that the memories she’s blocking will help make sense of her brother’s behavior and the strange and threatening sensations she feels in this house, but will she be able to put the pieces together in time?
13. THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE by Stephanie Perkins (another favorite!). It’s been almost a year since Makani Young came to live with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska, and she’s still adjusting to her new life. And still haunted by her past in Hawaii.
Then, one by one, the students of her small town high school begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, Makani will be forced to confront her own dark secrets.
14. SMALL SPACES by Katherine Arden (one of my most anticipated reads!). After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
15. MONSTERS IN APPALACHIA by Sheryl Monks. The characters within these fifteen stories are in one way or another staring into the abyss. While some are awaiting redemption, others are fully complicit in their own undoing. We come upon them in the mountains of West Virginia, in the backyards of rural North Carolina, and at tourist traps along Route 66, where they smolder with hidden desires and struggle to resist the temptations that plague them. A Melungeon woman has killed her abusive husband and drives by the home of her son’s new foster family, hoping to lure the boy back. An elderly couple witnesses the end-times and is forced to hunt monsters if they hope to survive. A young girl “tanning and manning” with her mother and aunt resists being indoctrinated by their ideas about men. A preacher’s daughter follows in the footsteps of her backsliding mother as she seduces a man who looks a lot like the devil. A master of Appalachian dialect and colloquial speech, Monks writes prose that is dark, taut, and muscular, but also beguiling and playful. Monsters in Appalachia is a powerful work of fiction.
16. YOUR HOUSE IS ON FIRE, YOUR CHILDREN ALL GONE by Stefan Kiesbye. A village on the Devil‘s Moor: a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition. There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age—in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village‘s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm and evocative of Stephen King‘s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and the films The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke and Village of the Damned by Wolf Rilla.
17. THE DARK DESCENT OF ELIZABETH FRANKENSTEIN by Kiersten White. Elizabeth Lavenza hasn’t had a proper meal in weeks. Her thin arms are covered with bruises from her “caregiver,” and she is on the verge of being thrown into the streets . . . until she is brought to the home of Victor Frankenstein, an unsmiling, solitary boy who has everything–except a friend. Victor is her escape from misery. Elizabeth does everything she can to make herself indispensable–and it works. She is taken in by the Frankenstein family and rewarded with a warm bed, delicious food, and dresses of the finest silk. Soon she and Victor are inseparable. But her new life comes at a price. As the years pass, Elizabeth’s survival depends on managing Victor’s dangerous temper and entertaining his every whim, no matter how depraved. Behind her blue eyes and sweet smile lies the calculating heart of a girl determined to stay alive no matter the cost . . . as the world she knows is consumed by darkness
18. A TREE OR A PERSON OR A WALL by Matt Bell. A nineteenth-century minister builds an elaborate motor that will bring about the Second Coming. A man with rough hands locks a boy in a room with an albino ape. An apocalyptic army falls under a veil of forgetfulness. The story of Red Riding Hood is run through a potentially endless series of iterations. A father invents an elaborate, consuming game for his hospitalized son. Indexes, maps, a checkered shirt buried beneath a blanket of snow: they are scattered through these pages as clues to mysteries that may never be solved, lingering evidence of the violence and unknowability of the world.
19. HORROSTOR by Grady Hendrix. Something strange is happening at the Orsk furniture superstore in Cleveland, Ohio. Every morning, employees arrive to find broken Kjerring bookshelves, shattered Glans water goblets, and smashed Liripip wardrobes. Sales are down, security cameras reveal nothing, and store managers are panicking. To unravel the mystery, three employees volunteer to work a nine-hour dusk-till-dawn shift. In the dead of the night, they’ll patrol the empty showroom floor, investigate strange sights and sounds, and encounter horrors that defy the imagination.
20. HOW TO HANG A WITCH by Adriana Mather. Salem, Massachusetts, is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials—and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves the Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were? If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real, live (well, technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries-old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.
21. THE WORLD OF LORE: MONSTROUS CREATURES by Aaron Mahnke. They live in shadows—deep in the forest, late in the night, in the dark recesses of our minds. They’re spoken of in stories and superstitions, relics of an unenlightened age, old wives’ tales, passed down through generations. Yet no matter how wary and jaded we have become, as individuals or as a society, a part of us remains vulnerable to them: werewolves and wendigos, poltergeists and vampires, angry elves and vengeful spirits.
22. HEART SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill. Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals . . . a used hangman’s noose . . . a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet. I will “sell” my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder. . . . For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn’t afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What’s one more? But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It’s the real thing. And suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door . . . seated in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang . . . standing outside his window . . . staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting—with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand.
23. THE DEVIL CREPT IN by Ania Ahlborn. Young Jude Brighton has been missing for three days, and while the search for him is in full swing in the small town of Deer Valley, Oregon, the locals are starting to lose hope. They’re well aware that the first forty-eight hours are critical and after that, the odds usually point to a worst-case scenario. And despite Stevie Clark’s youth, he knows that, too; he’s seen the cop shows. He knows what each ticking moment may mean for Jude, his cousin and best friend. That, and there was that boy, Max Larsen…the one from years ago, found dead after also disappearing under mysterious circumstances. And then there were the animals: pets gone missing out of yards. For years, the residents of Deer Valley have murmured about these unsolved crimes…and that a killer may still be lurking around their quiet town. Now, fear is reborn—and for Stevie, who is determined to find out what really happened to Jude, the awful truth may be too horrifying to imagine.
And that’s the list! I bought a super cute glass pumpkin to put the titles in and I’ll pick them at random. I’m not 100% sure yet, but I’m thinking of doing a weekly reading review on my IGTV! You can check me out there @ WeeziesBooks.
Happy Spooky reading, y’all!