Gemma Gamberdell ’17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
With October in full swing, the leaves changing color, and franchises releasing pumpkin-spice- everything, many turn to horror films to get their Halloween fix. However, these five terrifying books, and their powerful imagery, will scare you far more than any simple movie and get you ready for the spooky season.
While practically any book by Stephen King is guaranteed to make you want to leave the hall light on when you go to bed, IT is generally considered to be his most horrifying venture. This 1,138 page novel, first published in 1986, also has a timely relevance to current events. The story follows a group of adolescents (known as The Loser Club) as they are terrorized through to adulthood by a shapeshifting It, that is most likely to take form as a clown named Pennywise before murdering his victims. While King’s books usually explore the supernatural (examples include the telekinesis and gore of Carrie or the ghosts and possessed in The Shining) this novel’s subject matter may hit a little too close to home to those keeping a close eye on the Killer Clown Craze that USA Today is calling a now global phenomena. These clowns, first sighted trying to lure children into the woods in South Carolina in late August, seem eerily similar to real life It. In fact, some claim the connection is too on-the-nose and believe the sightings to be a marketing ploy for the 2017 It remake that shot through the summer and just wrapped in late September. While the film won’t be ready for this Halloween, you can pass the time by watching the popular 1990s miniseries based on the novel or even better read the book that started it all; your imagination will produce images even more terrifying than what’s on the screen.
The Devil in Massachusetts
“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” Mark Twain certainly had it right when it comes to both the horror genre and the capabilities of mankind. The bestselling The Devil in Massachusetts details almost unbelievable possibilities – the mass-hysteria that arose during the 1692 Salem Witch trials. A shorter read, clocking in at just over 300 pages, Marion L. Starkey’s historical narrative is factually accurate and even employs real dialogue from the original trials. Far from a history book, The Devil in Massachusetts allows the drama of this time period to unfold in an interesting and dynamic way. Starkey also gives us background on important characters, historical context, and a discussion of class differences between the accusers and the accused, as to try and explain one of New England’s biggest eras of paranoia and tragedy. Despite being published in 1949, readers are still riveted by a story too horrific to make up.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
For those are interested in classic literature but still appreciate books with a Halloween vibe, it’s great to stick to works such as Dracula by Bram Stroker or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. However for those who want something with a little more of a modern twist, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is an amazing choice. Seth Grahame-Smith, an Emerson College alum, takes Jane Austen’s, now public domain, Pride and Prejudice and spices it up by including zombies. The Bennet sisters are no longer just prim and proper ladies to be married off, but hardcore, ninja warriors fighting against the undead. The plot of the novel is obviously altered by the appearance of such creatures, but the basic elements of the story and most significant details are the same. After rising to number three on the best seller list, Grahame-Smith went on to write Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, which while also highly rated lacks the strong female protagonists that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies has.
While everyone knows Hannibal Lector and The Silence of the Lambs, fewer seem to be aware of Thomas Harris’s first book in the Hannibal series Red Dragon. Despite being made into a movie known by a different title (Manhunt) in 1981 The Red Dragon may lack the household name that its sequel has, but is far from inferior. In a story that Kirkus Reviews called “too realistic,” a serial killer referred to as The Tooth Fairy stalks and murders a family with every full moon. This book not only deals with obsession, and a villain of great intellect, but is gory beyond belief as the killer targets families in a way that will leave you quaking with fear and locking your deadbolt.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
When Alvin Schwartz first released his three part children’s series Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark back in 1981, he probably did not image it becoming one of the most challenged book series in America or that it would be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. The collection, which includes 82 stories in total, is composed of short horror vignettes that leave the reader feeling just as nervous now as they did reading it when they were younger. This Halloween staple will make you both nostalgic and nervous as Schwartz spent years writing the trilogy and researching folklore in order to make each portion of the book incredibly grim. While this book may take you back to a time when you were scared more easily, at least this time you already know that, “humans can lick hands too.”