Robert McCammon, Kevin Lucia, John R. Little, Lisa Morton, and Mark Allan Gunnells put the horror back in Halloween with a quintet of devilishly delightful tales, curated by acclaimed author and editor Brian James Freeman.
STRANGE CANDY by Robert McCammon
Chocolate bars and sour suckers are trick-or-treat staples, but beware the odd sweet at the bottom of your bag. You never know who it’s from—or what it might do to you.
THE RAGE OF ACHILLES by Kevin Lucia
Father Ward should have heeded the warnings about hearing confession on All Hallow’s Eve. Because a man is about to tell him a secret more haunting than any he has heard before.
DEMON AIR by John R. Little
Fear of flying is not uncommon. But on this transpacific airline, the real danger isn’t the flight itself. It’s whoever—or whatever—is up in the air with you.
LA HACIENDA DE LOS MUERTOS by Lisa Morton
Trick McGrew, former cowboy star of the silver screen, has never believed in tall tales. But down in Mexico, the land of La Llorona, he’s about to find out just how real urban legends can be.
#MAKEHALLOWEENSCARYAGAIN by Mark Allan Gunnells
Some people will go to any lengths to rack up retweets, likes, and follows on social media, no matter who they end up hurting . . . or even killing.
Praise for Halloween Carnival Volume 1
“[Halloween Carnival: Volume One] provides festive entertainment from an assortment of the genre’s most accomplished regulars.”—Unnerving Magazine
“Entertaining . . . I’d suggest reading them in the daytime.”—Journey of a Bookseller
“A solid collection . . . A Halloween fan who reads ebooks can’t go wrong here.”—Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
“Now this,” I said, “is a piece of strange candy.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen it,” Carol answered. “Jenny saw it, too, and she said no way she was eating it. She put it right back in there. Said you could have it.” Carol smiled faintly, saying if you dare. A faint smile was about all she could muster this Halloween. It had been a tough year.
“Hm,” I replied, looking more closely at what I’d just taken from the bottom of the bag of treats. It was a small hand, five-fingered and ghostly white. It sparkled, as if covered with small grains of sugar, but instead of being grainy it felt very smooth. “Weird,” I said. “Do we know where we got this from? A haunted house, maybe?”
“No idea.” Carol cuddled up next to me on the sofa. “I do know it’s not wrapped, so I wouldn’t let anybody eat it.”
“Beware the poisoned hand.” I dropped it back into the bag, which our eight-year-old had decorated with colorful stickers of bats, black cats, owls, and witches’ hats. Jenny had done her work this night, dressed as a fairy princess along with a brigade of neighborhood zombies, ghouls, Batmen, vampires, and walking pumpkins, and had gone on to bed pretty much exhausted, leaving me and her mom to prowl through the trick-or-treat bag after Jenny had taken out the best “loot,” as she called it, the little individually wrapped candy bars, the small bags of M&M’s, and the Reese’s cups. Smart kid we had. She put everything she wanted in a smaller plastic bag on the kitchen counter, and I was sure she’d know if anything was missing. Therefore, no looting through the “loot” tonight.
We lived in a small town. Not too small. But a place where there were not too many streets and not too many houses and not too much stuff to get in the way of life. It was a good town, and we lived in a good neighborhood. I had gone out with my wife and daughter tonight and walked many streets in search of the prime loot. Of course you always got strange candy that seemed to collect at the bottom of the bag, and no kid would touch it and no adult ought to. That was part of Halloween, as well.
It had been, as I said, a tough year. It seemed colder this Halloween than it had last year. A little darker, too, and for sure it was quieter. Maybe I should say “more solemn.” The family photographs in our house were diminished. It was the way things were.
Carol and I talked about our day tomorrow. A Saturday. We could take things easy. We had nowhere to go, and no particular plans. It was supposed to rain early in the morning and get chilly. Winter was on the way. I thought of bleak days and trees without leaves, and I realized I wasn’t ready to think about those things yet.
It was nearing midnight. Time for my horror movie. Yes, that’s what I did near midnight every Halloween. I watched a horror movie, usually an old one, from my DVD collection. And I had a bunch. Carol was tired, and she wasn’t a big fan of horror movies, anyway, so I kissed her and said good night, and when she went upstairs I looked through my collection for the flick I had in mind. There it was: The Haunting, the first version, 1963, in glorious and spooky black-and-white. I’d seen it before, several times. Last year I’d watched it. It was familiar.
I put the DVD into the player, settled back on the sofa, and started the movie. I heard the wind blow past the house, like a keening cry. Yeah, suitable for Halloween, all right. Except Halloween was almost over, all the witches and black cats and ghoulies and ghosties of the night either already asleep or headed to dreamland.
When did I reach into that bag and take out the sparkly white hand?
I don’t remember, but I did take it out. Maybe it was when you got your first view of Hill House, that beautifully gothic pile of fright. Maybe. But I was suddenly looking at the strange candy, and I wondered who had dropped it into the bag. I sniffed the thing.
Eleanor . . . Eleanor . . . it knows my name . . .
A great movie. But I had the strange candy in my hand—a ghostly hand in my hand—and I began to think that not only was it beautiful, with its long, tapered five fingers . . . and that it smelled good . . . but that maybe it tasted good, too. Not poisoned at all. Just . . . different. Unique. I’d never seen anything like it before. So . . . well, I mean, I didn’t want to die, but . . . still . . . it was just a piece of candy, shaped like a hand. What was the big deal?
Man or mouse? Kind of ridiculous to be afraid of it. I mean, I wasn’t afraid of it. So I bit off one of the fingers first. Crunchy. Definitely . . . peppermint? No, not quite. Minty, yes, but . . . a little cinnamon in there, too? Oil of clove?
I thought it tasted like something I’d had a long, long time ago: a pair of wax lips. The taste of that was memorable, and yet . . . unexplainable.
No harm done. I ate the whole thing. Crunchy, crunchy. Now back to the drama, and the black-and-white fright, and the suffering spirit in Hill House who walks alone.
It was nearing midnight, as I said. Midnight, almost. A few ticks of the clock away, and then Halloween would really be gone.
Only I was no longer in my living room, watching a movie on the big screen.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
From half the mind of Dark Screams ... er ... from Brian James Freeman, co-editor of the Dark Screams series, comes Halloween Carnival, Volume One. This looks a lot like the Dark Screams series, but with a slightly more targeted focus or theme - Halloween. The anthology starts out with Robert McCammon's "Strange Candy." I feel like I've read this one before, but I'm not 100% sure. Chris Parker eats some sparkly candy shaped like a human hand and he's on a little bit of a trip - visited by spirits who pass on messages from loved ones. "The Rage of Achilles or When Mockingbirds Sing" by Kevin Lucia is a powerful story, well told. A Father is meditating in a confessional on Halloween night - the one night he doesn't usually listen to confessions, when he hears a tale of an autistic boy that will affect him - and the reader - quite profoundly. "Demon Air" by John Little has the witching hour of Halloween occur in an airplane, mid-flight. This story didn't fit the book as well as I would have liked. The Halloween theme felt like something the author was trying too hard to work into a pre-existing story. I quite enjoyed Lisa Morton's story, "La Hacienda de los Muertos." Here an old cowboy actor, who started in the silent films and never quite made it big, though he did have a long successful career, is booked by his agent to work in a Mexican horror film and the old actor becomes quite involved with the local legend of La Llorona. This story just felt so real to me and I felt like I was reading a biography of the old actor rather than a short dark fantasy story. "#MakeHalloweenScaryAgain" by Mark Allan Gunnells is the longest of the stories included in the book, filling up half the pages of the slim volume - meaning this story is as long as the other four put together. Dustin Davis is a writer who is disappointed by the commercialization and apathy people have developed toward Halloween and he begins a campaign on social media to #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain. But the campaign backfires when someone does decide to make Halloween scary by killing people and using Davis' hashtag slogan as a calling card. I enjoyed this novelette quite a bit and I'd be delighted to read someone more of Mark Allan Gunnells. Looking for a good book? Halloween Carnival, Volume One probably has limited appeal, but for anyone interested in short, dark fiction, this is a delightful read. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
Five short stories revolving around Halloween. I did not find any of the stories truly terrifying but it does take a lot for me. All five stories were very entertaining though, and I enjoyed each other for different reasons. Strange Candy touched me in an unexpected way. La Hacienda de Los Muertos had a good resolution while #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain left me kind of wondering. I recommend this book as it did keep me turning the pages. I received a copy of this book through Netgalley, and this is my unsolicited review.
Halloween Carnival Volume 1 is an entertaining collection of five novella length tales taking place on or around Halloween. The collection is very well written and each story is interesting in its own right, whether it adds a creepy twist at the end as in The Rage of Achilles or is creepy from the start as in #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain. Each story has its own twists and whether its scary or not is engaging and kept me turning pages. With elements of family, love, loss, and finding your roots, there's nothing over the top scary, but this collection is great for kicking off the season.
A nice collection of stories that do a great job of putting you in a fall mood. If you've ever read any of the entries in the Dark Screams series you'll know what to expect with the difference being that these all take place around Halloween. Strange Candy is a nice atmospheric piece. Short and not particularly scary but something that sticks with you and was the best of the stories at feeling like Halloween. The complicated relationship between father and son is the highlight of The Rage Of Achilles. Some nice creepy moments outside of that as well. Demon Air is one that I wish was a little bit longer as it had a great setup but felt rushed. It could have been more subtle overall but not bad at all, especially as someone who has a fear of flying. La Hacienda de los Muertos was a quick moving ghost story set in rural Mexico during a film shoot. The most unique of the stories in that it's based in the Mexican Day of the Dead rather than the American Halloween traditions. The longest of the stories, #Makehalloweenscaryagain has a nice slasher movie vibe to it. Not the most unpredicatable ending but a fun read. Not a bad story in the bunch and a fun way to get in the Halloween spirt. I'd order the stories in this order from favorite to least favorite: La Hacienda de los Muertos Strange Candy #Makehalloweenscaryagain The Rage Of Achilles Demon Air I received an advance copy of this title for review.
Once again I have to give a HUGE thank you to Brian James Freeman of Cemetery Dance Publications, as well as Hydra for allowing me to receive this ARC in exchange for a review. I absolutely love the Dark Screams series, and to see a new line-up specifically for Halloween is an awesome treat. I have to say, this didn’t let me down. In fact, out of the nine Dark Screams volumes and then this one Halloween Carnival anthology, I have to say this is my favorite so far. What I really liked is that all the stories revolve around Halloween and not just “horror” stories. Reading this was like a throwback to the old EC comics: Tales from the Crypt, Vault of Horror, etc. The stories included had humor, lessons, horror, and twists – well rounded choices. There was only one author I haven’t read anything by - Mark Allan Gunnell –but will seek him out. As for the others, well, if you haven’t read anything by them, you’re doing yourself a disservice. 1) STRANGE CANDY by Robert McCammon: Anyone with kids know the “joy” of having to go through their Halloween “loot” looking for unwrapped, or inappropriate, candies (and maybe snatching one or two Snickers bars for yourself). Well, what happens when you find an odd candy – a skeleton hand that looks like a Day of the Dead Sugar Skull, but smells of peppermint? Well, don’t be surprised if someone offers you comfort later that night. This was a very sweet (pun intended) tale, and a nice way to start the book. 2) THE RAGE OF ACHILLES or WHEN MOCKINGBIRDS SING by Kevin Lucia: Within my 40+ years in Scouting, I have always had a place in my heart for special needs people. I was a sign language interpreter, I organized many a “Handi-Capable Camporees”, and even now, my assistant Scoutmaster is a savant. So when I say this story hit me between the eyes and completely broke my heart, you can believe it. A fantastic story about a family’s struggle with an autistic child, and the depths they go for him. 3) DEMON AIR by John R. Little: I’ve been a HUGE fan of John’s from the first story I read of his in LITTLE by LITTLE. And he doesn’t let down in this one. I fly often, and in fact will be heading out to New Mexico the week before Halloween. After reading this story, I’m glad I’m not flying ON Halloween. 4) LA HACIENDA de los MUERTOS by Lisa Morton: You can’t have a Halloween themed anthology and not include the premier authority on the holiday. This is an interesting ghost tale that takes place on the set of a Mexican horror movie. 5) #MAKEHALLOEENSCARYAGAIN by Mark Allan Gunnell: First, I love all the references to Stephen King that Mark throws in – specifically an obscure reference to King removing his story RAGE from publication. But this story, with an interesting ending, mixes social media posts from a horror novelist with the dying industry of newspaper print, with a smattering of the decline of Halloween for good measure. Well written. I’m interested to see more from this author. So there you have it. Normally I find fault with at least one story in an anthology – but not in this one. Every story had something different to offer and each one was a pleasure to read. Pick this one up on release – it may become a perennial favorite.
This book includes 5 stories centered around that wonderful time that is Halloween. While I found all the stories enjoyable, my 2 favorites were Robert McCammon's Strange Candy and Mark Allan Gunnells' #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain. Strange Candy was FANTASTIC. It takes a lot to give me chills, but the end did. #MakeHalloweenScaryAgain is a well-told murder mystery type story. I had a feeling I knew how it was going to end, but it was still intriguing.
I loved every one of the short stories in this book. Based on this one being great I bought the second, third and fourth volumes! Try them, you won't be disappointed!
This was a collection of stories by various authors all taking place at Halloween. The stories vary in nature. They also vary in the audience they are serving and in the quality of the story. Some of them I liked and some of them I didn’t. **I voluntarily read and reviewed this book