Reads of Terror for Halloween
As a folklorist, I’m always drawn to stories that chill me to the bone and make my blood curdle. I’m talking about ghost tales, monster lore, and supernatural stories – stories, poems, and songs that have lingered in our subsconscious with grim and thrilling content.
Of course like any other tale or epic, there are many reasons for these stories - most notably to understand our fears and how to overcome them, how to warn us of any potential danger. Tales of fear are an ancient concept and can also reflect the most contemporary concerns.
I understand how these genres are NOT AT ALL for everyone, but strangely, something about wrapping my arms around a pillow in a warm blanket at night makes it all cozy. Sometimes what is scary is what is going on in the world right now...like banned books (THAT REALLY terrifes me).
It seems pretty recent that SPOOKY SEASON is a thing. I am not alone – not at all.
Here are a handful of quotations from books that are haunting in many ways – for readers of all ages – collected with some help from SPOOKtacular colleagues Randi Levy, Alexa Van Gilder, Robert Sanford, Susan Vincent Molinaro, and Michelle Andreani.
The Annotated Dracula: [Annotated ed. of]
Dracula by Bram Stoker ; introd., notes, and bibliography by Leonard Wolf; art by Sätty
“There are vampires. They are real, they are of our time, and they are here, close by, stalking us as we sleep...”
From "The Jack-o’-Lantern," featured in The Doll in the Hall and Other Scary Stories
“Halloween was Lila’s favorite holiday. She loved carving jack-o’-lanterns with her best friend, Willy. But this year, Lila had no one to enjoy Halloween with.”
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black
“Even from the beginning, that was the problem. People liked pretty things. People even liked pretty things that wanted to kill and eat them.”
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury; Illustrated by Joe Mugnaini
"Will we ever stop being afraid of nights and death?
When you reach the stars, boy, yes, and live there forever, all the fears will go, and Death himself will die."
From "Did You Know," featured in Duppy Stories: Ghosts, Gremlins and Rolling Calves by David Brailsford; illustrated by John Stilgoe
“[Did you know] that you must clean your shoes before returning home from a funeral. If you come back to your yard with the dirt from a cemetery on your shoes, the duppies will surely come to take it back…”
From "The Son of Seven Mothers," featured in The Sister Who Ate Her Brothers and Other Gruesome Tales by Jen Campbell ; illustrated by Adam de Souza
“Then she grabbed her throat in horror as hundreds of scorpions fell out of her mouth. They buried themselves in her hair and scurried across the table. The queen attempted to scream, but more scorpions blocked her throat.”
Jaws by Peter Benchley
“The great fish moved silently through the night water.”
Jurassic Park: A Novel by Michael Crichton
“So I wonder: have they learned, somewhere along the line, that humans are easy to kill?”
The Witches by Roald Dahl; Illustrated by Quentin Blake
A graphic novel adapted and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu; translated from the French by Montana Kane, with lettering by John Martz is here.
“In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES. The most important thing you should know about REAL WITCHES is this. Listen very carefully. Never forget what is coming next.”
The Good House by Tananarive Due
“Well, just think of a forest floor after a wildfire’s put out. The flames are gone, the ones you can see, but the ground’s still hot because it’s smoldering underneath, buried.”
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez ; translated by Megan McDowell
“You have something of mine, I passed on something of me to you, and hopefully it isn’t cursed, I don’t know if I can leave you something that isn’t dirty, that isn’t dark, our share of night.”
Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm ; illustrated by Arthur Rackham
Too many great scary quotations to count!
Coraline by Neil Gaiman; with illustrations by Dave McKean
“How do I know you'll keep your word?" asked Coraline.
"I swear it," said the other mother. "I swear it on my own mother's grave."
"Does she have a grave?" asked Coraline.
"Oh yes," said the other mother. "I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
(or as an e-book)
“I don’t even know if I exist anymore.”
Lord of the Flies by William Golding; introduction by E.M. Forster; with a biographical and critical note by E.L. Epstein; illustrated by Ben Gibson
“Within the diamond haze of the beach something dark was fumbling along. Ralph saw it first, and watched until the intentness of his gaze drew all eyes that way. Then the creature stepped from mirage onto clear sand, and they saw that the darkness was not all shadow but mostly clothing. The creature was a party of boys…”
Bunnicula by Deborah and James Howe; illustrated by Alan Daniel
(find audiobook, e-book, and graphic novel options here.)
“Fangs are more pointed, and vampires use fangs to bite people on the neck.'
'Yech! Who'd want to do that?'
'Vampires would, that's who.'
'Wait a minute. I saw Mrs. Monroe bite Mr. Monroe on the neck once. Does that mean she's a vampire?'
'Boy, are you dumb. She's not a vampire. She's a lawyer.”
The Skull: A Tyrolean Folktale by Jon Klassen
“One night, in the middle of the night, while everyone else was asleep, Otilla finally run away.”
Dread Nation by Justina Ireland
“The day I came squealing and squalling into the world was the first time someone tried to kill me. I guess it should have been obvious to everyone right then that I wasn't going to have a normal life.”
It by Stephen King
“Come on back and we’ll see if you remember the simplest thing of all – how it is to be children, secure in belief and thus afraid of the dark.”
The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux ; translated with an introduction and notes by David Coward
“I give you back your liberty, Christine, on condition that this ring is always on your finger. As long as you keep it, you will be protected against all danger and Erik will remain your friend. But woe to you if you ever part with it, for Erik will have his revenge!”
The Ghost Eye Tree by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault ; illustrated by Ted Rand
I dreaded to go...
I dreaded the tree....
Why does Mama always choose me
When the night is so dark
And the mind runs free?”
Beloved by Toni Morrison; with an introduction by A.S. Byatt
(or as an e-book)
“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom.”
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
“Please tell a story about a girl who gets away.”
I would, even if I had to adapt one, even if I had to make one up just for her. “Gets away from what, though?”
“From her fairy godmother. From the happy ending that isn’t really happy at all. Please have her get out and run off the page altogether, to somewhere secret where words like ‘happy’ and ‘good’ will never find her.”
“You don’t want her to be happy and good?”
“I’m not sure what’s really meant by happy and good. I would like her to be free. Now. Please begin.”
Scary Stories complete set: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, and Scary Stories 3 [e-book] by Alvin Schwart
“The night Ted died, Sam said he looked just like the skeleton.”
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
(or as a CD audiobook)
“And yet when I looked upon that ugly idol in the glass, I was conscious of no repugnance, rather of a leap of welcome. This, too, was myself…This, as I take it, was because all human beings, as we meet them, are commingled out of good and evil.”
Macbeth by William Shakespeare; edited by Nicholas Brooke
…For mine own good,
All causes shall give way. I am in blood
Stepped in so far that, should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o'er.
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind
“For people could close their eyes to greatness, to horrors, to beauty, and their ears to melodies or deceiving words. But they couldn't escape scent. For scent was a brother of breath. Together with breath it entered human beings, who couldn't defend themselves against it, not if they wanted to live. And scent entered into their very core, went directly to their hearts, and decided for good and all between affection and contempt, disgust and lust, love and hate. He who ruled scent ruled the hearts of men.”
Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood story from China translated and illustrated by Ed Young
“Long, long ago a good woman lived contentedly with her three daughters—Shang, tao, and Paotze—in the country-side of northern China...”
In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead
“I wanted them to see perfection. I ached for it in the deep, dark core of me: to be so good I left other people in the dust.”