Are you ready for Halloween? Do you look forward to the horror movies featured on TV every October? Do you relish time spent in front of a crackling fire with a spine-tingling book in your hand? Here are 10 dark fiction books that can get you in the Halloween mood:
Gerald’s Game — Stephen King
This haunting story begins as a romantic getaway to a cabin in western Maine. Jessie and Gerald go to the cabin to revive their troubled marriage. When Jessie submits to one of Gerald’s sex games, she is handcuffed to the bed. After she is handcuffed, Jessie regrets her consent and demands to be freed.
Gerald believes Jessie’s request is part of the game and refuses to free her. An angry Jessie kicks Gerald in the stomach and groin. Gerald’s astonishment at Jessie’s reprisal leads to a fatal heart attack. Gerald dies, while Jessie remains cuffed to the bed.
The rest of the book depicts the handcuffed Jessie’s hallucinations and the repressed memory of being sexually abused by her father. As she is tormented by the spirits she imagines, she may have regretted taking this trip instead of opting for relationship counseling. This book deserves its place on the list of dark fiction books.
The Haunting of Hill House — Shirley Jackson
In this story, the star of the tale is an old house and four people who experience its spell. One of the people is Luke, the heir to the home. Dr. John Montague is a paranormal investigator who comes to the home hoping to discover supernatural activity.
Eleanor experiences the supernatural to the greatest extent of the four characters. Eleanor becomes increasingly shaken by the spirits in the home. When Dr. Montague’s wife arrives at the house to perform an unsuccessful séance, Eleanor remains the only person who feels any significant ghostly effect.
The description of the old house is so vivid that it might give you pause the next time you undertake home foundation repairs. Unable to cope with Luke’s order to leave the house, Eleanor drives her car into a tree and kills herself. Eleanor’s possession by the house makes this a worthy addition to this list of dark fiction books.
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson
The story is told by Henry Jekyll’s lawyer, Gabriel Utterson. Utterson had been told a story of a man named Hyde, who was witnessed treating a child cruelly. With that story on his mind, Utterson tries to get the truth from Hyde, who snarls at him. When Utterson learns his client, Dr. Jekyll, has made Hyde the beneficiary of his will, he unsuccessfully tries to convince him to change his mind.
Years later, this same Mr. Hyde needs a criminal attorney, as he is charged with the murder of Sir Danvers Carew – another of Utterson’s clients. The police had found evidence of part of Hyde’s cane at the scene of Carew’s murder. Utterson, who recognizes Hyde’s cane, leads the lawmen to Hyde’s home. While at Hyde’s house, Dr. Jekyll gives the police a letter purportedly saying that Hyde has left the country. Utterson examines the letter and reluctantly concludes Jekyll had forged the letter to protect Hyde.
Near the end of the tale, Utterson is called by a neighbor to come to Jekyll’s home. When Utterson breaks into Jekyll’s lab after hearing Hyde’s voice, they find Hyde’s dead body and a letter from Jekyll explaining he and Hyde are the same person. Jekyll confesses he believes all men have a dual nature, and he created a potion allowing him to separate the two natures. This mesmerizing book deserves a place on a list of dark fiction books.
Frankenstein — Mary Shelley
Frankenstein tells the story of scientist Victor Frankenstein, who seeks to discover the source of life. Although Victor finds a unique use for electrical generators; and uses electricity to create a living being, the creature who emerges is deformed. Victor becomes frightened of his grotesque creature and runs away. When Victor returns home, the creature has fled.
Later in the story, Victor meets the creature again. The creature tells Victor everyone who he met is horrified, including a peasant whose cottage he is using as shelter. He then tells Victor he became angry and killed Victor’s brother, William. The creature asks Victor to create a wife for him, but Victor refuses. The creature then becomes furious and goes on a rampage, killing everyone he meets – including Victor’s wife, Elizabeth.
The full title of this book is ‘Frankenstein — The Modern Prometheus,’ and that term sums up the book’s theme. This story shows that although there are times when a deed we do in the name of good (as Victor tried to make a scientific discovery) can turn to evil through forces we can’t control (the creature becoming a murderer). For those who have only seen Frankenstein in the movies, this is one of the dark fiction books worth adding to the list.
Let the Right One In — John Ajvide Lindqvist
The story centers on Oskar and his friendship with a preteen girl named Eli. Oskar lives with his single mother, as his father is an alcoholic. Oskar is bullied by other students in his public middle school. Oskar is lonely and has become obsessed with stories of forensics and crime.
Oskar makes a friend of Eli, who he initially believes to be a preteen girl. Eli’s friendship strengthens Oskar’s self-esteem and helps him take a stand against bullies. Eli and Oskar become closer, and Eli reveals she is a vampire – born as a boy, castrated, and then turned into a vampire.
Eli’s guardian, Hakan, had been procuring blood for her but is killed and turned into a vampire sexually obsessed by Eli. After averting Hakan, Eli searches for other blood victims. Ultimately, Eli’s friendship with Oskar remains, and she helps him kill his two main bullies and escape the area. This story will stay in your memory as one of the dark fiction books you will enjoy.
Pet Sematary — Stephen King
This is the second of Stephen King’s books on this list of dark fiction books. The story tells of Dr. Louis Creed and his family after they move to Maine. Louis develops a friendship with his elderly neighbor, Jud Crandall. When the Creed family cat is killed by a car, Jud shows Louis a mystical pet cemetery and directs Louis to bury the cat beneath a cairn of stones instead of under the ground.
The day after the burial, the cat returns home, but its behavior and appearance are bizarre. A few months later, Louis’ son, Gage, is killed. Louis wonders if he might resurrect Gage by burying him under a cairn, as he had done with the cat. Though Jud warns him not to do so, he does, and a very different Gage returns.
The next day, Gage steals a scalpel from Louis and kills Jud and his mother. Distraught, Louis attempts to bury his wife under a cairn. At the end of the book, Louis’ wife returns – in the same ghoulish form as Gage and the cat. Though you’ll feel shaken after reading this book, you’ll find yourself wishing Louis had opted for a cremation service.
The Exorcist — William Peter Blatty
This terrifying story tells of Regan MacNeil, whose bizarre behavior begins to concern her mother, Chris. At one point, Chris witnesses Regan’s bed shaking, and Regan also starts cursing. Chris brings Regan to several specialists, but they can’t help her. Chris eventually fears demonic possession and asks Father Damien Karras for help.
Father Damien is struggling with his faith and is skeptical of Chris’ report. When Regan begins hurting others, Father Damien becomes convinced Regan is demonically possessed. Father Damien turns to a friend, Father Lankester Merrin, for help with an exorcism. The two priests band together, but the stress is too much for Merrin, and he dies of a heart attack.
Karras desperately goads the demon inside Regan to enter and possess him. Father Damien then commits suicide by jumping through the window. Regan survives the struggle in this entry on the list of dark fiction books. However, the description of the exorcism leaves us repulsed by the thought of the aftermath, which would require – at the least – a blood clean up.
Rosemary’s Baby — Ira Levin
The story begins with a young couple named Guy and Rosemary Woodhouse as they find their ideal apartment. One day, Rosemary meets a neighbor named Terry, who is wearing a foul-smelling tannis root charm she got from their neighbors, the Castevets. A few days later, Terry commits suicide. Soon afterward, Minnie Castevet invites the Woodhouses to dinner.
At the dinner, Minnie gives Rosemary a tannis root charm, which she reluctantly accepts. A little while later, while sharing a romantic dinner with Guy, they share a chocolate mousse (made by Minnie Castevet), and Rosemary passes out. While passed out, Rosemary dreams that Guy is making love to her while a group of people watch. She wakes up with claw marks on her body.
Rosemary realizes she is pregnant, and is convinced by Minnie to see her medical doctor, who urges her to drink Minnie’s potions. Rosemary slowly begins to suspect the Castevets are witches. The story culminates with the horrified Rosemary being told Satan was the father of her baby. This frightening story has earned its place on a list of dark fiction books.
Something Wicked This Way Comes — Ray Bradbury
At the story’s beginning, we meet William and Jim, who are greeted by a lightning rod salesman named Tom Fury. Tom gives a free lightning rod to Jim, warning him if he doesn’t install it, he won’t live through the night. After installing the lightning rod, the boys learn there will soon be a carnival in their town.
Later that night, the boys run to the train station as they hear a calliope. They see a hot air balloon flying over the train. The carnival is magically constructed in front of them with unseen hands. The boys are amazed, as no cross country movers are traveling with the carnival.
One night, Will sees one of the carnival freaks floating over Jim’s house, causing Will to conclude an evil force at the carnival is searching for them. He enlists his father’s help, and the evil forces trick Will’s father into a mirror maze; he dies as he destroys the maze. Because of the evil forces in this seemingly innocent carnival, this story has earned its place in the list of dark fiction books.
Dracula — Bram Stoker
No list of dark fiction books would be complete without ‘Dracula’, by Bram Stoker. The story begins with Jonathan Harker – an English lawyer who visits Count Dracula at his Transylvania home and tries to help him buy a home in London. After dark, Harker revisits Dracula’s home and becomes delirious after meeting three female vampires. Harker’s fiancee, Mina, comes to nurse him, but not before becoming concerned about the strange behavior of her friend, Lucy.
Lucy’s behavior causes her to be admitted to an asylum, where she is examined by Professor van Helsing, who realizes she has been bitten by a vampire. She dies, and her attendants are forced to admit she has turned into a vampire. They drive a stake through her heart and kill her. They blame Dracula for her vampirism and decide to hunt for him.
Dracula resists their hunt and finds a way to drink Mina’s blood. Ultimately, the men catch up to Dracula, decapitate him, and drive a stake through his heart. Bats and wolves are used in several passages to increase the fright factor. The characters in this book didn’t have the advantage of modern bat removal methods, so bats appear throughout the book to symbolize a vampire’s need to drink blood.
Any of these books would make a perfect addition to your list of dark fiction books. Even if you’ve seen some of these books in their movie form, reading the original text is an experience to be noticed. Choose one of these frightening books and invite your friends over for a ghost story they will remember.