This collection from the all-time master of the macabre contains Poe’s dark poem “The Raven,” a Halloween classic about a gloomy man’s bizarre encounter with an “ebony bird.” You can also read heart-stopping horror stories such as “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Black Cat,” and “The Tell-tale Heart.” In this last story, the unnamed narrator murders an old man simply because “he had the eye of a vulture.” In Poe’s autumnal world, every night seems dark and gloomy and his many stories reflect a morbid sensibility that’s frightening any day of the year, especially on Halloween.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
The son of legendary horror-master Stephen King, Hill has written a ghost novel that will keep your heart pounding past midnight. Over-the-hill rock star Jude Coyne is obsessed with the occult. He goes online to buy a suit advertised as being haunted by the dead owner's ghost. After the suit arrives in a heart-shaped box, so does the suit's spooky owner. Hill keeps up a breathtaking pace as Jude and the ghost fight an epic battle. Jude can run but can’t hide: "The ghosts always caught up eventually,” Jude realizes, “and there was no way to lock the door on them."
Witchfinders: A Seventeenth-Century English Tragedy by Matthew Gaskill
Historian Gaskill chronicles a chilling, real-life example of witch hysteria that occurred in England a half-century before the infamous Salem Witch Trials. Between 1645 and 1647, two “witchfinders” named Matthew Hopkins and John Stearne roamed the English countryside in a campaign to eradicate witchcraft, interrogating some 300 suspected witches (often using torture). Gaskill explores how and why it all happened. When the two witchfinders were done, more than a hundred “witches” had been executed.
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
A page-turner of a novel that mixes the occult, medieval symbolism, and Christian allegory to tell a story of love and adventure across six centuries. The book begins with the unnamed narrator in a fiery car crash. Hospitalized, he’s visited by a woman who claims she’s loved him since the 14th century. For all his faults as a prose stylist, Davidson understands how to build narrative tension, how to combine fantasy elements with realistic details, and how to keep readers engrossed.
Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond
For local author Steve Almond, it’s Halloween all year round. To say that Almond likes candy is an understatement. The hilariously candy-obsessed Almond “has between three and seven pounds of candy in his house at all times," he admits. Not only does he humorously explore his own candy fixation, but Almond journeys to the places where his favorite candy is produced, and visits with “chocolate engineers” who explain candy’s allure. Almond’s book is delicious fun, like a Halloween bagful of treats.
Salem Witch by Patricia Hermes
It is colonial Massachusetts in 1692, right in the middle of Salem’s infamous witch hysteria. Hermes offers us two different sides of these dramatic events, one from a young woman named Elizabeth who confronts accusations of witchcraft and one from George, the son of a judge overseeing the witch trials. As these two young people try to understand what’s happening, readers get a fresh perspective on a community in crisis. The book’s unique format allows readers the opportunity to read Elizabeth's side of the story first and then flip the book over to read George's.
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
A legendary sci-fi writer, Bradbury (“The Martian Chronicles”) offers the story of eight boys who set out on a Halloween night of trick-or-treating only to be led into the depths of the past by a tall, mysterious character named Moundshroud. During their time travels, the boys visit distant lands and observe how Halloween has been celebrated around the world, from ancient Egypt to the Roman Empire to Aztec Mexico. Bradbury, as always, moves his story along at a fast pace, allowing readers to discover how the rituals and symbols of Halloween have developed over history.