Tis the season of mists and mellow frightfulness as October sweeps in and envelops us, biting and clawing with her piercing chill. And soon, much too soon, it will be All Hallows’ Eve, when the ghosts of the dead come out to play with the living. Instead of shivering and shuddering and fearing the shadows, let’s embrace this creepiest of months and stay up all night with spooky stories of vampires and zombies or subtle tales of psychological misery to terrify and torment. Lock your doors, fill your hot-water bottle, check the doors again and bolt down the windows. You may now begin…

13. The Phantom Coach – A Connoisseur’s Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories

Michael Sims

Ghost stories date back centuries, but those written in the Victorian era have a unique atmosphere and dark beauty. Michael Sims includes tales by a surprising, often legendary cast, from Charles Dickens and Margaret Oliphant to Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Arthur Conan Doyle, while Ambrose Bierce, Elizabeth Gaskell and W. W Jacobs will turn you white as a sheet. Published by Bloomsbury.

12. Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

There’s a reason why Stephen King is one of the bestselling writers in the world ever. His short stories and novels, from ghost stories to apocalyptic thrillers, are impossible to put down. And how can you resist Salem’s Lot when the author lures you in with his introduction as follows: “Turn off the television - in fact, why don't you turn off all the lights except for the one over your favourite chair? - and we'll talk about vampires here in the dim. I think I can make you believe in them."

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11. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

A classic Gothic ghost story: the chilling tale of a menacing specter haunting a small English town. Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford – a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway – to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow's house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images – a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child's scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black.

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10. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The movie adaptation of the chilling novel changed popular culture forever. The terror begins quietly. Noises in the attic. In the child’s room. An odd smell. The displacement of furniture. An Icy chill. Easy explanations are offered. Then frightening changes are seen in the 11-year-old girl. Medical tests shed no light on her symptoms, but it is as if a different personality has invaded her body. A Jesuit priest is called in. Is it possible that a demonic presence is within the child? Exorcism seems to be the only answer, but do they understand the true nature of what they are about to unleash?

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9. Dracula by Bram Stoker

When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon after, disturbing incidents unfold in England. In the ensuing battle of wits between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries, Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the Gothic horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

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8. Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre by H.P. Lovecraft

The horror writer that Stephen King applauds. This is the collection that true fans of horror fiction have been waiting for: 16 of H.P. Lovecraft's most horrifying visions, including Lovecraft's masterpiece, The Shadow Out of Time, the shocking revelation of the mysterious forces that hold all mankind in their fearsome grip.

7. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

A young governess is sent to a country house to take charge of two enigmatic orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a sense of intense evil within the house, she soon becomes obsessed with the belief that the children’s souls are in danger from the malevolent ghosts of the previous governess and her sinister lover.

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6. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies

'It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.' This expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel features all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem. As the story opens, a mysterious plague has fallen upon the quiet village of Meryton – and the dead are returning to life! Feisty heroine Elizabeth Bennet is determined to wipe out the zombie menace, but she’s soon distracted by the arrival of the haughty and arrogant Mr. Darcy. This masterpiece of world literature is transformed into something you’d actually want to read!

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5. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin

In 1967, when Rosemary's Baby was first published, Ira Levin's masterpiece gave horror an innocent new face. It startled critics, stunned readers with its unique and deceptively calm voice, and caused a worldwide sensation. Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into an ancient Manhattan apartment building and are immediately befriended by a pushy older couple, Minnie and Roman Castavet. When Rosemary becomes pregnant, she begins to suspect that the people in her building are satanists and that she may be carrying a demon's baby. Truman Capote captured the experience of readers around the world: "A darkly brilliant tale of modern deviltry that induces the reader believe the unbelievable. I believed it and was altogether enthralled."

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4. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The shocking true story of an American dream that turned into a nightmare. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the luxurious property and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror...

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3. The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

The American Gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe is credited with having pioneered the short story, having perfected the tale of psychological horror and the macabre, and having revolutionised modern poetry. This collection includes 73 short stories and 48 poems including The Fall of the House of Usher, The Purloined Letter, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-tale Heart, The Raven and The Murders in the Rue Morgue.

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2. Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James

Considered by many to be the most terrifying writer in English, M. R. James was an eminent scholar who spent his entire adult life in the academic surroundings of Eton and Cambridge. His classic supernatural tales draw on the terrors of the everyday, in which documents and objects unleash terrible forces, often in closed rooms and night-time settings where imagination runs riot. Lonely country houses, remote inns, ancient churches or the manuscript collections of great libraries provide settings for unbearable menace, from creatures seeking retribution and harm. These stories have lost none of their power to unsettle and disturb.

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1. Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman

A true classic, bursting with cautionary tales and gruesome punishment, Struwwelpeter has been a favourite of children all over the world since its publication in 1845. The anonymous English translation of these rhymes, published in Leipzig in 1848, became an instant success in Britain. Widely acknowledged as one of the most popular and influential children's books ever written, Struwwelpeter (also known as Shock-Headed Peter) has been translated into at least thirty languages, and is widely popular among generations of readers who shrank back in horror at the tales of Conrad Suck-a-Thumb (who has his fingers cut off by the Red-legg'd Scissor-man), Harriet who suffers a dreadful fate after playing with matches, and Fidgety Philip who just won't keep still.

 

Why do we like to be scared?

Read more articles by Farhana Gani here

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