With Halloween just around the corner, we thought that it was time to share some of our favorite ghoulish, creepy, and macabre tales and some of what we’re reading now that keeps us up at night.
I still think Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is the scariest book I ever read. The idea of returning to your hometown and finding out that it’s being overrun by vampires is pretty creepy. But the ordinariness of the town and its inhabitants (as opposed to Count Dracula in Transylvania) makes the story all the more unsettling. Salem’s Lot is King’s second published novel and he has said in interviews that it remains his favorite. —Barry Richardson, Senior Development Editor
Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw is a weird story about a governess who encounters ghosts at her absentee employer’s residence. To me the creepiest thing was that the children seem to be in league with the ghosts. The governess, the only adult who can see the ghosts, is supposedly trying to save the children from the ghosts, but it doesn’t seem like the children want to be saved. —Erika Spelman, Associate Editor & Copy Manager
The first installment in the Newsflesh trilogy, Feed takes place in a post-zombiepocalypse world, where everyone is infected with the zombie virus. Two decades after “The Rising,” society and people’s bodies have adapted to the virus. The virus mostly stays dormant until the moment of death. People’s live are much more isolated, and daily showers in bleach are the norm. There’s fewer zombies in these books than you’d expect, but they are still a threat because there’s a small chance that the dormant virus can spontaneously “amplify.” Meaning every trip to the outside world includes the (small) possibility of walking in to a zombie outbreak. Daily life requires multiple blood tests to prove that the virus hasn’t gone active. Movies like Bambi have taken on new meaning, as children cheer when Bambi’s mother doesn’t rise and eat her son. (In this universe, all mammals are infected. Think about that. Zombie deer, grizzly bears, and whales!)
I love the TV show The Walking Dead and the horror of that universe (though it has kept me up at night), but I also like this alternate take on a zombie-and-fear filled world. Throw in a government conspiracy and some cloning, and this is a fun sci-fi/horror series that I’m working my way through. —Kama Timbrell, Publicity & Social Media Manager
I’ve taken an interest recently in the works of Ray Bradbury, one of the most celebrated 20th-century American writers, who passed away this past summer. I bought a collection of his short stories and the novel Something Wicked This Way Comes (the title is taken directly from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth) and while I haven’t finished it yet, it is my book pick for Halloween.
The novel opens on October 23rd. It is an overcast day with a sense that a big thunderstorm is coming “like a great beast with terrible teeth [that] could not be denied.” The main characters are two young boys who are about to turn 14. Will Halloway, born one minute before midnight on October 30th and Jim Nightshade, coming into the world one minute after midnight on October 31st.
Will and Jim find out that a traveling carnival is coming to their town. Determined to watch the carnival set up, Jim climbs out of his bedroom window at 3 am, followed by a reluctant Will who wants to keep his friend out of trouble. I haven’t finished the book yet, but the carnival is a gateway to Hell run by an evil proprietor who…well I won’t tell you anymore other than one character is in grave danger of losing his soul.
More than just a horror story, Something Wicked this Way Comes is also a coming of age story. It is beautifully written, with lyrical passages that I was surprised to find in this kind of book. —Irene Majuk, Publicity Director
I have to go with the classic, because I am a huge fan of the slow and subtle build of a scary mood. The way the atmosphere builds, becoming more and more spooky and quietly menacing, brr! The scenes and characters stand out in my mind: Dracula’s castle, an insane asylum, poor haunted Lucy wasting away. I remember reading Dracula for the first time one summer when I was a teenager, and staying up late into the night, both because I was so engrossed, and frankly more than a little uneasy about turning out the light. The only modern book that comes close to capturing that same atmosphere is The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, which is another one of my favorites. —Elizabeth Willse, Publicist
A short story originally published in The New Yorker in 1948, The Lottery has been adapted for television, radio, and film. It starts as a cheerful gathering, and the reader expects a town fair or some other cheerful celebration. Slowly you realize the townspeople are gathered there for a stoning, and the heroine is the victim. The author is masterful at drawing you into the story, and shifting the tone from happy innocence to horror. —Andy Ambraziejus, Managing Editor
Read more in the “AMACOM Reads” series here.