Horror fans love this time of the year. For those of us not living in LA, there’s the chill in the air, the colorful leaves, pumpkins everywhere, dead cornfields to explore … if you dare. So, in honor of OUR official holiday, I have come up with a list of books and some movies every horror fan should at least take a look at, if not outright add to your book or DVD library.
Without further ado (and in no particular order):
Creepy Places to Visit:
Creepy Crawls: A Horror Fiend’s Travel Guide by Leon Marcelo, Santa Monica Press, 380 pages
I LOVE this book!! Leon Marcelo travels the world, literally, to find places of horror both real and fictional. Rome to visit the Dario Argento Profondo Rosso Shop then to George Romero’s Pennsylvania and H.P. Lovecraft’s New England. Marcelo also covers Stephen King country, Poe’s Baltimore, the settings for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist, Halloween, and many other films. Marcelo’s style of writing is rather Baroque; a touch Lovecraftian, if I may be so presumptuous. But the reader should get used to it after a couple of chapters. This book is a must-have!!
Ghostly Ruins: America’s Forgotten Architecture by Harry Skrdla, Princeton Architectural Press, 224 pages
This is a stunning book of American architecture that is either already gone – Belle Grove Plantation and Danvers State Hospital – or soon to be. What I loved about this book, aside from the fact that it includes Danvers and Belle Grove, was the inclusion of Saltair Pavilion (Carnival of Souls) and Centralia, Pennsylvania (Silent Hill ). The black and white photography lends a perfect air of creepiness to the buildings as do the stories behind many of them. Another must-have if only for Saltair and Centralia.
Shadows Over New England by David and Scott Goudsward, BearManor Media, 412 pages
Covering places both real and fictional (television, books, and movies) and over a period of 300 years, Shadows Over New England is a wonderful state-by-state guide to the birthplace of American horror. Here you can find sites from stories by Stephen King (Castle Rock, Maine) and Rick Hautala (Maine), H.P. Lovecraft (Arkham, Massachusetts), Charles L. Grant (Oxrun Station, Connecticut) and find sites such as Collinsport, Maine from TV’s Dark Shadows or Schooner Bay from the 1947 classic, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir as well as burial sites of illustrious New England horror figures. The Salem Witch Trials, Lizzie Borden, and Edgar Allan Poe (who, arguably, is a Southerner) are all here. Absolutely fascinating book and, at over 400 pages, pretty darn comprehensive. The authors are currently working on Shadows Over Florida which should be very interesting also.
The Weird State series from Barnes & Noble Press
I’m not sure if the editors of this amazing series have covered all 50 states yet, but they have managed quite a few of the creepier ones – Wisconsin, for instance. Just check out the Foote Mansion in Eureka, Wisconsin, and tell me I’m wrong. Of course, every volume has sections on haunted places, cemeteries, abandoned buildings, etc., so you won’t miss out too much if your state hasn’t been covered yet.
You can order these through Amazon; otherwise, Barnes & Noble is the place to seek these great reads out.
Anything by Sir Simon Marsden: The Haunted Realm, A Ghosthunter’s Journal, etc.
Marsden is a brilliant photographer who has made a career out of photographing haunted places around the world (but concentrating on the United Kingdom and Ireland). His use of infrared film gives the photos a creepiness I’ve never seen from another photographer. If you can’t afford the books, he puts out a stunning wall calendar every year (he actually had two for 2009 – one with photographs related to the real Dracula and the other, his haunted places).
Death Makes a Holiday by David J. Skal, Bloomsbury USA, 256 pages, the book is out-of-print but can be found on Amazon for as low as $1.00
David J. Skal, author of the precedent-setting The Monster Show now turns his attention to Halloween. It’s a fascinating read so don’t let the out-of-print status stop you. I paid a LOT more than $1.00 for this bad boy when it first came out.
Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night by Nicholas Rogers, Oxford University Press, 208 pages
A bit more upscale than most books on Halloween (Oxford University Press, folks!), author Nicholas Rogers discusses almost everything you would ever want to know about Halloween – from its Celtic origins to its Wiccan holiday to the party night it has become to us.
The Pagan Book of Halloween by Gerina Dunwich, Penguin Compass, 189 pages
Gerina Dunwich, a practicing Wiccan, has written a fascinating book for Wiccans and non-Wiccans alike on how to get the most out of Halloween. Chapters on the symbols of Halloween, the history of the holiday, and even traditional Halloween recipes are included. A fun book.
Frankenstein: A Cultural History by Susan Tyler Hitchcock, W.W. Norton & Co., 400 pages
Fascinating account of how Mary Shelley’s creation has changed over the centuries – from intellectual creature (read the book if you don’t believe me) to Boris Karloff’s shambling horror to wherever we go next with The Creature. Don’t forget; Frankenstein was the doctor, NOT the monster.
The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula by Eric Nuzum, St.Martin’s Griffin, 256 pages
Similar to Frankenstein: A Cultural History, author Eric Nuzum’s trek from the Eastern European nosferatu to the comical Count Chocula and all of Count Dracula’s guises in-between is VERY interesting reading.
Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man’s Quest to Live in the World of the Undead by Paul Bibeau,Three Rivers Press, 292 pages
Author Paul Bibeau actually travels to Transylvania to get the Vlad the Impaler story and, with that starting point, attempts to live a vampire lifestyle – hanging with the Goth subculture, interviewing folks who really drink blood, etc. Fun and informative.
October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween edited by Richard Chizmar and Robert Moorish, ROC Trade, 656 pages, the book is out-of-print but can be found on Amazon
A fairly gi-normous book (I have a hardcover) that is full of stories set on or about Halloween. Need I say more?
Trick ‘r Treat: Tales of Mayhem, Mystery and Mischief by John Griffin, Insight Editions, 110 pages
By now, all horror fans know about Mike Dougherty’s amazing film about our favorite holiday. And here is the companion book. Many of you may already have it (I’ve had my copy since the film was announced in 2007). If you don’t, time is running out. GET IT NOW!!!
Trick or Treat edited by Richard Chizmar, Cemetery Dance Publications, 380 pages, the book is out-of-print but can be found on Amazon for as little as $19.17 (what is with the weird prices??)
Five novellas about our favorite time of the year. Authors are Al Sarrantonio, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rick Hautala, Nancy A. Collins, and Thomas Tessier.
Fun and Games:
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone, HP Trade, 96 pages
Amazing jack o’ lantern designs that should gross out most of your neighbors. But isn’t that the point?
Extreme Pumpkins II: Take Back Hallowen and Freak Out a Few Neighbors by Tom Nardone, HP Trade, 96 pages
Part deux in the gross pumpkin carving series from Tom Nardone. I really need to try one of these out some Halloween … if I could get past dealing with pumpkin guts.
Extreme Halloween: The Ultimate Guide to Making Halloween Scary Again by Tom Nardone, Perigree Trade, 96 Pages
I love this one!! Nardone is the guy to put the scary back into your home Halloween décor. (Bodies rising from their graves in your front yard, anyone?) ’Bout time we got away from all the silliness and political correctness Halloween has become. Time to return to the simpler days when Halloween was all about scaring the bejesus out of your family, friends, local police, whoever.
Ghoulish Goodies by Sharon Bowers, Storey Publishing, 160 pages
Fun cookbook for your Halloween party. Has everything from your traditional caramel apples to puking pumpkins and bag o’ worms (all edible) to more traditional (pumpkin) spice cakes and (hairy eye) cupcakes. Good and tasty fun.
Halloween: The Best of Martha Stewart Living by Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Clarkson Potter, 144 pages
Stop the eye-rolling and sniggering. Martha LOVES Halloween, and this book, as well as her special annual Halloween magazine, are CHOCK full of cool ideas as well as THE neatest Halloween stuff you can order to own (I have 3 spider larva balls and a stuffed vulture – do you?).
The Orangefield Series by Al Sarrantonio – Set in the fictional upstate New York town of Orangefield where Halloween is never what it seems.
Begins with the short novella “Hornets” in Trick or Treat edited by Richard Chizmar (2001)
“Orangefield” (Cemetery Dance -2002)
“Hallow’s Eve” (Leisure Books – 2004)
“The Pumpkin Boy” (Endeavor – 2005)
“Horrorween” – a re-telling of “Hornets”, “The Pumpkin Boy”, and “Orangefield” (Leisure Books – 2006)
“Halloweenland” (Leisure Books – 2007)
The October Country and The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury – ‘nuff said.
Not Set on Halloween But Scary as Hell
Let’s Scare Jessica to Death
Burnt Offerings (well, The Chauffeur anyway)
The Descent (it made ME jump!)
Tombs of the Blind Dead and its sequels
Dark Night of the Scarecrow (which is SUPPOSEDLY being released on DVD this year…)
The Woman in Black (hard to find but WELL worth it)
The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (I was traumatized for YEARS!!)
The Other (movie AND book by Thomas Tryon)
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
Skin Medicine by Tim Curran
The Terror by Dan Simmons
It by Stephen King
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O’Nan
Wisconsin Death Trip (not so much scary as just SERIOUSLY weird and disturbing)
The Mammoth Book of Haunted House Stories edited by Peter Haining (There are actually Mammoth Books on nearly every subject as well as an annual Mammoth Book of Best New Horror which is another must-have)
So this Halloween, pull up a comfy chair and fire up the DVD player or a reading light. Enjoy the wind whispering outside the windows, the leaves shuffling, or if you’re near a cornfield, the scatchy sound those leaves make. And whatever you do, DON’T open the door until after midnight!
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