“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary…”
So begins “The Raven,” the poem by famed gothic writer Edgar Allan Poe. I can think of few passages more apt to describe the haunting feelings we seek out this time of year. In fact, I can scarcely read those words without hearing Vincent Price’s voice in my head, in all its spine-tingling glory.
As we make the final preparations for All Hallows Eve, and make ready for our own frightful stories to play out, my mind turns to other classic tales sure to provide a heart-stopping thrill. Though many weren’t even penned in this century, they are still guaranteed to make you fight the urge to sleep with one eye open.
Regardless of your Halloween plans, I hope you will find a few moments to curl up with one of these books for some good old-fashioned thrills and chills:
Edgar Allan Poe
Though dead for over 160 years, Poe remains the penultimate in chilling stories. Made all the more thrilling because they explore the more base sides of our psyche, Poe’s tales are examples of gothic horror at its finest. Our favorites include “The Tell-tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado”
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
The classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman, Irving’s story has inspired many a movie and Halloween costume. This is a perfect Halloween selection to share with your children who can handle a little dose of spookiness, but aren’t yet ready for a full-blown frightful tale.
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
Mr. Stoker was a man ahead of his time. If only he could have seen the recent obsession with all things vampire – an obsession greatly influenced by his version of the vampire, which spawned the classic “I vant to suck your bluhd” character we are all familiar with. While still a monster story, “Dracula” is also a fine example of Victorian literature, which I think will be surprisingly enjoyable to anyone who hasn’t yet read it.
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
I am always somewhat surprised to remember that Stevenson, whom I more readily associate with childhood classics like “Treasure Island” and “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” wrote this tale as well. It is actually based on a recurring dream that plagued him, in which he lived a double life. While again, a monster story, it is also a detective story, and a cautionary tale about mankind’s quest for perfection.
Although when compared to the rest of these titles, none of King’s works can fairly be called “classics,” it seems unthinkable to create any list of scary stories on which his name doesn’t appear. There is a King nightmare for everyone, but my two favorites are still “It” and “The Shining.” I don’t think I slept for a week after reading either one. Also notable is “The Night Shift,” a collection of short stories sure to scare your pants off.
Whatever book you choose to curl up with, here’s wishing you a spooky good time filled with a thumping heart and things that go bump in the night.