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Looking for a chilling tale to give you goosebumps on a misty Halloween night?

12:52 28 October 2014




The English department at University Campus Suffolk Bury St Edmunds has come up with its scariest recommended reads.

Virginia GeraghtyVirginia Geraghty

English Lecturer Virginia Geraghty picks her favourite spooky stories that promise to give you a spine-tingling evening of ghosts, vampires and madness.

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

It’s a story of a young girl who seems to be demonically possessed and the effects of that on her friends, family and the Church. The terror builds from noises in the attic and moving furniture to frightening changes in the child, Regan, that suggest she has been possessed by a demonic personality. The reader is never sure whether the possession is real or whether it is an extreme case of attention seeking behaviour, but the effects on those around her are enormous.

Frankenstein is the classic Halloween readFrankenstein is the classic Halloween read

Why read? The book is much scarier than the film and is surprisingly well-written, elegant and concise.

Scare factor: 10

Collected Ghost Stories by M R James

Will you be watching The Exorcist this Halloween?Will you be watching The Exorcist this Halloween?

James is the master of ghost stories and the horror genre. Many writers have been inspired by his tales and you may recognise many of these stories which have been adapted into films. James is brilliant at suggestion and makes the reader feel constantly unnerved about what is going to happen next . The scares come from the fact that you can’t second guess the end of the story.

Why read? These stories keep you on the edge of your seat until the last page

Scare factor: 9

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

This is the story of a governess who is looking after two young children when she starts to see ghostly figures in the house. But it is very ambiguous about whether she is actually seeing them or whether she is going mad. It is told via a manuscript that was supposedly written by the former governess and it tells her story of looking after two children who have been abandoned by their family. Their parents are dead and their uncle lives in London over the summer, leaving them alone at the house. The governess starts hearing and seeing ghostly figures of a couple but are they really there?

Why read? It is an incredibly elegant story and we are left unsure whether the governess is having a mental breakdown.

Scare factor: 9

Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is the original vampire story that all others have used as a starting point. It is full of seductive horror and is still as fresh as ever today. All modern vampire movies and novels touch base with it and the vampire is a fascinating creation.

If you want to understand vampires you need to read this first.

The character of Dracula is brilliant – he is terrifying but seductive, intelligent and urbane and he tempts the reader into wishing they were vampiric like him. You never lose that sense of his sexiness and sophistication.

The horror in the story comes from the feeling of being hunted by someone who is going to destroy you.

For readers at the time this was published the story entered taboo realms of lunacy and sexual frustration..

Why read? It is full of psychological horror and has a seductive villain.

Scare factor: 9

The Shining by Stephen King

This is the story of a young boy who has psychic abilities and when he and his family move to run a hotel in the middle of winter his psychic powers become magnified, with terrifying consequences.

Because this story is told through the eyes of the child it is much more frightening, as it taps into our remembered childhood fears of the dark and of being alone.

The long corridors to the boy’s bedroom and the whispering voices and secret laughter all add up to a very scary atmosphere.

The book is even more chilling than the movie.

Why read? It takes you back to your childhood fears.

Scare factor: 8

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This is the ultimate monster story and is again the inspiration for dozens of movies, books and TV shows. It is the story of a man’s dream of recreating life in his attempt to be the master of a new species. What is terrifying in the story is how attractive power and ambition can be and what they do to Dr Frankenstein. His creation, Adam, becomes a monstrous killer: Just like a modern serial killer as we understand them, he is a damaged child rejected by his ‘father’ and trying to gain his parent’s attention.

Why read? It’s the archetypal monster story.

Scare factor: 5

Complete Tales by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe’s work is always a dark and macabre journey of the human mind. He is a master of the supernatural thriller and many of these stories will be familiar as they have been adapted into films– such as The Pit and The Pendulum and The Raven. The stand out story in this collection is The Black Cat – about a man who kills his pet and then it returns and appears to haunt him while he goes slowly insane.

Why read? Brilliant stories of violence, obsession and madness.

Scare factor: 8

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights is a story of passionate and almost insane love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan adopted by Catherine’s father. He grows up in their family and falls in love with Catherine. But after Mr Earnshaw’s death he is reduced to the status of a servant and runs away, believing that he is not loved when Catherine decides to marry another. He returns years later to exact his revenge on the family. The violence of Heathcliff, the possible haunting and the lonely moorland setting gives this a perfect atmosphere for a Halloween read.

Why read? To soak in the bleak moorland atmosphere.

Scare factor: 5

I’m the King of the Castle, Susan Hill

An unforgettable tale of a young boy being bullied by another child while their parents take no notice whatsoever. Charles Kingshaw and his mother Helena move in with the Hoopers (Joseph and his son Edmund) after Helena gets a job as their housekeeper. Edmund Hooper is beyond vile, torturing poor young Charles in increasingly inventive ways. Their parents seem oblivious to the continued cruelty, frequently believing that any upsets between the pair are caused by Charles rather than Hooper. Charles finds himself trapped in an increasingly Kafka-esque nightmare where no one can hear the truth he speaks. The way the story builds to its jawdroppingly horrific climax stays in the memory for years afterwards. Charles also gets attacked by a crow so if it’s nightmares you are after, you can’t get much scarier than this.

Why read? A fantastic reminder to parents and grandparents to listen to what their children are trying to tell them. The sense of your voice not being heard resonates with readers of all ages.

Scare factor: 9

1 comment

  • Goose PIMPLES! Goose "bumps" is a degenerate Yank term. Goose pimples is the correct English vernacular.

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    Tuesday, October 28, 2014

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