The best stories have the power to stay in our thoughts long after we’re done reading. And some stories have the power to keep us up at night, sleeping with the lights on, and checking under the bed.
For those readers who love a thrilling fright, Humanities Services Librarian Chris Caldwell shares his favorite spooky stories just in time for Halloween.
“Start with Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), then Stoker’s Dracula (1897) and James’s Turn of the Screw (1898). Do not forget Poe, and stop for a little H.P. Lovecraft, if you have the patience,” he said.
Caldwell suggests also trying these pillars of horror—before seeing the film adaptations:
The Haunting of Hill House (1959), Shirley Jackson. “This is the high-water mark for post-WWII horror. It is what you cannot see that is most terrifying.”
The Exorcist (1971), William Peter Blatty. “Demonic possession is an age-old horror. As a child, the mere cover of this novel kept me from even holding it in my hands. Like many of these horror classics, the popularity of this was greatly increased by the film adaptation.”
Amityville Horror (1977), Jay Anson. “I remember this on the home bookshelf as a child, then-marketed with the tagline: A True Story. I peeked at passages for years before I was brave enough to read it. Choose real estate with great caution.”
Night Shift (1978), Stephen King. “So many to choose from with King, but this is an excellent sampler of his range of voice.”
Ghost Story (1979), Peter Straub. “The opening lines set the tone for this masterful tale: ‘What was the worst thing you’ve ever done? I won’t tell you that, but I’ll tell you the worst thing that ever happened to me . . . the most dreadful thing . . . ‘”
American Psycho (1991), Bret Easton Ellis. “The 1980s. Consumerism and cannibalism. This novel is still unsettling and far too similar to actual headlines. You may not actually enjoy it, but you should probably still read it.”
Coraline (2002), Neil Gaiman. “A friend of libraries and a master storyteller, Gaiman packs the weird and spooky shadows of parent-child relationships into this modern classic. This novel is dark poetry.”
Let the Right One In (2004), John Ajvide Lindqvist. “Anne Rice did much to revive the undead with Interview with the Vampire (1976), but what a welcome surprise in this recent Swedish novel. The horror is not where you think it is.”
Farenheit 451 (1953), Ray Bradbury. “It’s science fiction to some, but for this librarian, it’s horror. Bradbury has many tales that would sit well in this list, but, for me, I still feel deep dis-ease with: ‘It was a pleasure to burn.’”
Chris Caldwell is the subject liaison for the English and Theatre departments as well as the Humanities Center. He co-directs the Writers in the Library program, which brings noted authors to campus to read from their works. He also has a partial appointment in Special Collections, putting researchers in touch with the rare book and manuscript collections available in the UT Libraries.