I am prone to nightmares. Give me a horror book and I’ll show you lights on and hiding under the covers until dawn the next day. It wasn’t until I made a promise to myself to read something a little spooky every October that I was able to better appreciate the horror section of the library. You’ll find all sorts of chills and thrills here: monsters, survival, gore, jump-out-and-yell-boo, ghosts, funny-scary and true story frightening. If you need me, I’ll be cowering under my desk.
Boo Cow by Patricia Baehr and Margot Apple. Mr. and Mrs. Noodleman are very excited to get eggs from the hens on their chicken farm. However, days pass and the chickens refuse to lay. A neighbor suggests that the ghost of a cow who haunts the chicken coop is terrorizing the hens out of laying eggs. It isn’t until the Noodlemans spend the night inside the chicken coop that they find the real reason that eggs are disappearing.
The Shark Attacks of 1916 by Lauren Tarshis. 10-year-old Chet has just moved to a new town near the New Jersey shore and is dealing with trying to make new friends. After Chet claims to have seen a shark in the local river, everyone in his new town makes fun of him. They keep laughing right up until a giant shark bears down on a group of boys who go swimming. This fast paced survival story based on actual historical events will have readers on the edge of their seats.
Half-Minute Horrors by Susan Rich. A bevy of great children’s authors took up a challenge. Write a short, scary story that can be told in 30 seconds or less. The resulting collection of stories, pictures and short comics is enough to scare the pants off readers in a remarkably short period of time. This book is perfect for a spooky read-aloud story time or a quick case of the shivers.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark: Collected from American folklore by Alvin Schwartz; with drawings by Stephen Gammell. This book is a classic collection of scary stories, accompanied with iconic oozing, dripping, rotting illustrations (I still get the heebie-jeebies looking at them). Schwartz has included everything from silly songs to urban legends to classic American folklore. The one thing all these stories have in common is that they are guaranteed to make your teeth chatter.
The Haunting of Alaizabel Cray by Chris Wooding. In an alternative history Victorian London, terrible creatures from humanity’s worst nightmares stalk the streets. They are known as wych-kin and they exist only to hunt humans. Thaniel Fox is the last surviving descendant of a long line of wych-hunters. One dark night he stumbles across a girl named Alaizabel Cray who is either utterly mad or possessed by a very powerful demon. Thaniel, Alaizabel and a team of determined friends must work together to prevent the coming demonic forces that threaten their world.
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey. The diary of William Henry begins with his apprenticeship to Dr. Warthrop in 1888, when he is 12 years old. The Doctor has some very unusual skills – he’s a monster hunter in a world that no longer believes in his profession. Will Henry is also skeptical of the doctor’s skills. That is until a man brings in the dead body of a girl with an infant Anthroprophagi (a flesh eating monster with no head) feasting on her remains. Now Will and the Doctor must find and destroy the nest of Anthroprophagi before the swarm can gain any more strength.
Bonechiller by Grahame McNamee. Danny’s father has taken a job at a small town in the middle of the Canadian wilderness. Local legend claims that during the coldest winters a monster hunts down and kills young people from the tiny town. Danny scoffs at the legends…until he is attacked one icy winter night by a horrible creature straight out of a nightmare. Danny and his friends must hunt the beast known as the Windigo to save the lives of the young people of the town.
Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz. A group of teens sneak into a hundred-year-old derelict mental institution on the eve before the building’s demolition. The old building has a long and gruesome history, including rumors of being the birthplace of the lobotomy procedure. The students bring cameras to film their experiences and expect to find dust, inspiration and a few cheap scares. What they discover instead may just haunt them for the rest of their lives.
Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich: And Other Stories You're Sure to Like, Because They're all About Monsters, and Some of Them Are Also About Food by Adam Rex. Adam Rex has taken several classic silver screen monsters and baddies (Godzilla, Dracula and the Phantom of the Opera, just to name a few) and written short poems about them. One of my favorite parts of this book is the silly re-writes of commonly known songs that the Phantom of the Opera has stuck in his head. The illustrations only add to this books appeal, some being in black and white while others look like they came straight out of a comic book.
How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg. This book is not frightening in the way that many of the books on this list are scary. Rather, this book will appeal to the people who live for those gross moments when things squelch, smoosh and squish. How They Croaked gives all the nasty details of the deaths of famous figures from history. In spite of some gorily gruesome passages, the author is able to share some fascinating bits of history in a way that is anything but boring.
Weird Washington: Your Travel Guide to Washington's Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets by Jefferson Davis. One of many “weird” state guides that have been coming out, Davis’s guide on the oddities of Washington is a fun read for residents and tourists alike. Readers will enjoy descriptions of strange phenomena and spooky haunts across the state as well as photographs of odd monuments and famously bizarre people.
The Hot Zone: A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston. Not so long ago, something called a “hot” virus from Africa broke out in Washington D. C. The virus was highly contagious and the majority of its victims died within days of falling ill. A team of scientists and military personnel were dispatched to attempt to contain the virus. Preston writes about several different deadly virus outbreaks throughout history with captivating detail. The most horrifying aspect of this book is the fact that all these stories are true – and they could happen again.
The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant. Late one night, during the icy cold winter deep in the Siberian wilderness, a hunter was walking back to his cabin with his dog. As he approached the house the ominous rumble of an enormous predator echoed in the air around him. Something had been waiting for him. This true story of a vengeful Amur tiger out to get the poacher who had wounded him is a fascinating mix of terror, history and conservationism. Through Vaillant’s excellent storytelling readers can appreciate the fear and the beauty of one of the worlds’ largest predators.
Lost Boy Lost Girl by Peter Straub. Horror novelist Tim Underhill has come to a small Midwestern town to deal with a family emergency. His brother’s wife has committed suicide and his traumatized nephew, Mark, has gone missing. As Tim searches for clues with his detective friend Tom Pasmore, fingers point towards an abandoned house across the alley from Tim’s brother’s house. Tim must delve deep within the twisted history of the house in order to find Mark and aid the restless spirits said to haunt the place.
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. A classic tale of horror with a great first line “Hill House, not sane, had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more...within, floors were firm, windows sensibly shut, and whatever walked there, walked alone." Dr. John Montague gathers a few psychically gifted individuals to a supposedly haunted mansion called Hill House. During their stay there one of the individuals, Eleanor, experiences terrifying voices, sounds and sensations. The fright the reader experiences will be as much from the haunting as from being trapped inside Eleanor’s head.
The Terror by Dan Simmons. Many know of Sir John Franklin and his ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage in the 1840s. All hands aboard the two ships of the expedition perished when the vessels became trapped in the ice within the Victoria Strait. The author Dan Simmons has created a gripping story based on this historical tragedy. The author has also added the terror of a monstrous creature of the cold who relentlessly hunts the doomed men of the HMS Terror and the HMS Erebus. The creature adds another dimension of horror to this already harrowing account. In other words, if the cold and starvation do not get you, the monster will.
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. Odd is, in most ways, a completely ordinary twenty-year-old. He works as a fry cook in a small California town and does not aspire to anything higher. However, Odd does have one special trait. He sees dead people. In particular, Odd sees dead people who have died in violent ways. Odd also sees creepy, shadow-like beings called Bodachs. Bodachs feed on human pain and terror and large amounts of them portend a terrible disaster. When multitudes of Bodachs descend on Odd’s small town, Odd knows that he and his friends must avert whatever calamity is to come. Although there are spooky moments in this series, there are just as many moments of humor, compassion and love. A great read for any season.