Seven Scary October Reads

Reading a scary book

The temperature is dropping, the days are darkening, and the calls are coming from inside the house! For thrills and chills are an important part of the essential autumnal experience, you know. And if you’re looking to give yourself a fright, there’s nothing like snuggling up with some extraordinary horror…except maybe waking up in the middle of the night convinced that there’s a monster under the bed. Sound like fun? Then feast your literary eyeballs on one of these spooky stories, which you’ll want to read with the lights on, the doors locked, and a clean pair of underoos at the ready. BOO!

The Shining, by Stephen King
Let’s just be honest, we could populate this entire list with nothing but books by the prolific man from Maine—but if we’ve gotta pick one, then the Overlook Hotel and its carnivorous topiary get top billing, hands down.

The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Nothing much happens in The Haunting of Hill House, and holy geez, it’s terrifying. This story of strangers investigating a haunted house contains no gore, and no ghosts are in evidence, yet it manages to utterly unsettle the reader even while never making it fully clear what we’re being unsettled by.

Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin
A posh NYC apartment building becomes the spawning ground for a baby demon in this terrifying classic horror novel. Malevolent paternalism plus midcentury Devil worship equals the scariest book about pregnancy ever written (unless you count the ones full of recipes for cooking and eating your own placenta, eeeeeeuuuuwwww).

The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
The summer’s most surprisingly scary novel is the embodiment of a most frightening truth: that monsters are real, that they look just like us, and that when you see one for who she really is, nobody will believe you. Fortunately, its folksy fantasy trappings let us tell ourselves that it’s okay, it’s only a storybook.

The Terror, by Dan Simmons
The titular Terror is a real ship, one half of the doomed Arctic expedition led by Captain Sir John Franklin in 1845, a fruitless search for the Northwest passage that resulted in the death of every man onboard. The Terror is Simmons’ fictionalized—or so we hope, although who can say, really?—account of said expedition’s horrific denouement, as the ships become locked in impenetrable ice and their hapless seamen die off one by one from cold, hunger, disease, gangrene, scurvy, and the general malaise of a hundred dudes confined in crazy-making close quarters before the invention of deodorant. Oh, also, there’s the added problem of a giant abominable snowman grabbing guys off the ship and ripping them to pieces.

Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
What is Haunted about? We have no idea. Why? Because it’s so gross, ghastly, and viscerally horrifying that this writer fainted in the middle of Chapter 1. Enjoy.

Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
The nameless protagonist of du Maurier’s famous gothic novel stumbles into every woman’s worst nightmare: not only is her new husband still completely obsessed with his titular ex, and not only was she gorgeous and elegant with outrageously fancy nightgowns, but Rebecca’s best friend and biggest fan is constantly creeping up behind our heroine, like a deranged Gretchen Wieners, whispering, “She was prettier and he still loves her!” OOF. This is a scary, scary story indeed.

What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

  • Robert L Hutchison

    There are two…one a novelette and another a novel! The novel 1984 (I’ve only read it once and once IS ENOUGH). The Other WHO GOES THERE!

  • Maryanne Bell

    Ghost Story by Peter Straub!

    • boeningsol321

      My Uncle Lincoln just got a new yellow Subaru
      BRZ Coupe by working parttime off of a macbook air… find more J­a­m­2­0­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Nichole Thornton

    The Ruins by Scott Smith. It freaked me out!

    • Mary Porter Anderson

      I still can’t look at vines the same
      way…never will again.

  • Karen Jones

    Helter Skelter!

  • karen

    The Woman in Black. by Susan Hill. The first novel that made it difficult for me to fall asleep listening to the creaking and bumping in the night!

    • Holly Hardy

      Yes, the pony neighing, the screams from the sinking buggy, this book continues to haunt me. The 2 movie versions I’ve seen were pretty effective, too.

  • meekyn

    I think We Have Always Lived in the Castle was far scarier than The Haunting of Hill House. My vote would go for either The Shining or It, although I loved The Terror but didn’t find it very frightening at all. It was a terrific read, and actually sparked my previously unknown interest in Arctic exploration, but not really scary to me.

  • Lou Ellen Cryer

    So glad you mentioned “The Haunting of Hill House”. That is one scary book. So glad my name isn’t Eleanor.

  • Karen44

    October Country, by Ray Bradbury. I read it when I was about 16 and can still remember some
    of the stories and the horror I felt when I read them (but never stopped reading).

  • Cynthia Allen

    Whispers, by Dean Koontz, had me reading in bed and constantly looking out my bedroom window to check for **##*#__!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Debbie

    The Haunting of Hill House is at the top of the list, but The Other and Harvest Home, both by Tom Tryon scared the bejeebers out of me in high school.

  • Kendall Louise Wood

    Awesome that you mentioned The Shining. My favorite Stephen King book, and for those interested, its sequel, Doctor Sleep, just came out a couple weeks ago and is AMAZING.

  • Holly Hardy

    Rebecca is an excellent choice, I’ve listened to it on audiotape and read it more than once, and it still terrifies me. Not in a creepy crawly way, but because its such a perfect portrait of evil.

  • Rachael Jeeninga

    I honestly don’t think King’s novels are that terrifying. However, his short stories are an entirely different story. Gray Matter, for instance, still has me shuddering as I type this.

  • Erika Pettite

    I think when I was a teenager I read “A Wrinkle In Time” and I thought that was pretty scary.

    Once I am finished with “Fever Dream” by Dennis Palumbo and though his 3rd book was released, I think I will start to read “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman or “20th Century Ghost” by Joe Hill since my sister has his “Horns” novel.

  • Denise Quick Dunmire

    The Oath by Frank Peretti

  • Marie Hennen Olson

    The Stand.

  • Juliet Boyd

    Stephen King’s Pet Cemetary. Alone at 3 a.m. in a house with a crazy cat and noises from upstairs!

  • http://spinmyheartintogold.tumblr.com Brandon O’Brien

    Was kinda hoping to see Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves here, but Rebecca is, in my opinion, good and unnerving enough to fill all seven slots by itself.

  • Sheareader

    Turn of the Screw,” Henry James.

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