Horror Fiction from the Stacks
Happy Halloween! With the witching season upon us, why not take a trip to the stacks and investigate our collection of vintage horror? In conjunction with our #HorrorTuesday Instagram postings, Circulation Assistant Stephanie Merchant highlights a handful of goodies buried in our stacks sure to provide terrifying spooks this Halloween.
The Haunting of Hill House | Shirley Jackson (ebook)
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.” And so the great Shirley Jackson opens the standard for spooky and creepy in what has now become the basic template for all haunted-house stories. A group of people in a haunted (or is it?) house are terrorized while trying to scientifically prove the existence of the paranormal. Another excellent read by Ms. Jackson: We Have Always Lived in the Castle (ebook). (See also: Ruth Franklin's acclaimed and popular Shirley Jackson biography, Shirely Jackson: A Rather Haunted LIfe.)
The Silence of the Lambs | Thomas Harris
The second book in the Hannibal Lecter series (it's the follow up to Red Dragon, also a terrifying book, too, especially for special collections librarians) this novel switches the POV from Will Graham over to freshly minted FBI trainee Clarice Starling as she is sent on her first assigment: to interview serial killer Hannibal Lecter behind bars to get the information needed to catch another serial killer known as "Buffalo Bill" before he can murder his next victim. A psychological horror tale, it asks the question, “Clarice… will you let me know if ever the lambs stop screaming?” Also available are the sequels Hannibal and Hannibal Rising.
The Shining | Stephen King
King shows us why you just don’t take the family to live in an isolated hotel over the winter if your young son is on the verge of coming into his psychic powers. It doesn't help that dad is a raging, obsessive alcoholic and quickly becoming possessed by the hotel where he and his family are set to spend the long, snowy season ahead. Also, you might want to avoid topiary animals. Other good horror standards of Stephen King’s for the season include Carrie, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Firestarter, Salem’s Lot, Christine, It, Pet Sematary, and Misery.
The Witching Hour | Anne Rice
The first book in the Mayfair Witches series follows the epic saga of a young woman who learns that she is the heiress to a family legacy of witchcraft, and becomes embroiled in a saga of danger as she comes into contact with a spirit that has plagued her family for centuries wishing to gain the power to be a physical being. Also a good Anne Rice novel to sink your teeth into: Interview With the Vampire.
The Exorcist | William Peter Blatty
Based on a supposedly true incident in the DC area in 1949, this is the novel that sends fear into the heart of any rational Catholic who knows deep down that this could happen. Regan is a young girl living with her actress mother following the divorce of her parents when she starts to change. Her atheist mother believes it has to do with her recent divorce, but things escalate to the point where she ends up seeking the help of a Jesuit priest who, along with an older experienced priest, quickly realize a good old fashioned exorcism is in order. [Penguin Classics recently reissued Ray Russell's acclaimed 1962 novel of teenage demonic possession and excorcism The Case Against Satan, published nine years before Blatty's novel.]
The Stepford Wives | Ira Levin
The real nightmare of 1970s America wasn't ghosts, witches, or demons but a liberated woman. In a perfect town in Connecticut, all the wives are… perfect. Somehow every man has figured out how to turn their human, imperfect, burgeoning, liberated wives into docile, submissive, picturesque models of a 1950s America that never existed. Also by Ira Levin: the great classic of Satanism on the Upper West Side, Rosemary’s Baby.
Jaws | Peter Benchley
The reason you never, ever go swimming in the ocean alone (or at all). Jaws tells the story of a small town terrorized by shark attacks and the eventual hunt by three men to bring it down. A modern take of sorts on Moby-Dick, this story will terrify anyone away from the water.
Burnt Offerings | Robert Marasco
A classic haunted-house tale about a young family wishing to break free of their cramped Queens apartment and enjoy a summer rental on Long Island. As stipulated in the rental agreement, the Rolfe family must take care of the Allardyces' elderly mother, who never leaves her room. Slowly but surely the family is plagued by personality changes and calamities that stem from the house. Also by the same author: Parlor Games, about the horror of in-laws.
The Amityville Horror | Jay Anson
The so-called true account of the most infamous house in Long Island chronicles the demonic possession and poltergeist that followed in the wake of the De Feo murders and held the Lutz family hostage, launching a horror franchise along the way that is still churning out movies. It also propelled Ed and Lorraine Warren and Hans Holzer to notoriety.
Don’t Look Now | Daphne Du Maurier
Collected with other Daphne Du Maurier horror shorts, Don’t Look Now tells the story of a couple in Italy grieving for the recent loss of their daughter. Between psychic encounters with a pair of British sisters and sightings of a little girl resembling their lost daughter, John and Laura are pulled into a horrific tale of murder with a killer twist ending. From the author of Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and The House on the Strand.
Hell House | Richard Matheson
Prolific horror and science fiction writer Richard Matheson penned many classic episodes of The Twilight Zone—"Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," "Death Ship," "Third From the Sun," and "Button Button" (all included in The Best of Richard Matheson)—and also wrote his quintessential tale of investigators sent to spend a night in a haunted house in order to prove the existence of the afterlife…while the house drives them all slowly insane.
The Witches of Eastwick | John Updike
In the 1960s, Alexandra, Jane, and Suki all find themselves without husbands and in possession of magical powers they aren’t afraid to use. When seductive “Darryl” shows up, he further encourages their powers to grow.
The Keep | F. Paul Wilson
In the Carpathian Mountains of Romania in 1941, Nazis keep dying in a mysterious castle. They are unwilling to lose any more and reluctantly call in a Jewish professor and his daughter to translate the ruins and figure out what is going on. A fantastic novel with one of the best types of horror themes: Which is more evil? the supernatural or the human? As they unwittingly unleash an ancient evil power, the immortal warrior of light states that, “there can be no coexistence with monsters… be they Nazis or Nosferatu.”
The list of horror gems in our stacks can go on and on. Ever tried Clive Barker? We have a great collection of his short stories, The Inhuman Condition. Want to get started on Dean Koontz genre selections? The Watchers is a great place to start. Of course, the Library's collection contains perennials such as Dracula, Frankenstein, The Turn of the Screw, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as deep holdings from acknowledged masters of the genre like M.R. James, Algernon Blackwood, Robert Aickman, HP Lovecraft, Ambrose Bierce, and Edgar Allan Poe. (Click here for a lengthy list of ghost story collections at the Library, single author entries as well as anthologies.) The Raven and Selected Short Stories, an audiobook read by Stefan Rudnicki and Bronson Pinchot, provides good late-night listening. Looking for more recent additions to the genre? Try Joe Hill’s Horns or NOS4A2, or Susan Hill’s wonderful Woman in Black, published under the resurrected Hammer mantle.