A list of some of my favorite books for getting into the mood of the holiday.
Five Mile House, by Karen Novak
In 1889, Eleanor Bly flung herself from the tower of Five Mile House after murdering her seven children. More than a hundred years later, her ghost reaches out to Leslie Stone, a New York cop who has killed a child murderer and is haunted by her actions.
Smile of a Ghost, by Phil Rickman
Or anything by Rickman, for that matter. Smile is an eloquently written ghost story wrapped in a mystery, and the suspense never flags. Also see The Cure of Souls.
Vampire Legends of Rhode Island, by Christopher Rondini
Vampires are not just the stuff of legends and fantastic literature. In the 19th century, an outbreak of belief spread throughout New England and resulted in many bizarre incidents aimed at preventing vampires from preying on their relatives.
This little book is a well-researched account of the 19th century beliefs that connected consumption (tuberculosis) with vampirism in the minds of many New England residents. Check it out if you’d like to discover what was done to prevent the dead from stealing away the living. And yes, it did involve stakes and hearts and burning. If reading this account doesn’t put you in the mood for creepiness and hauntings, nothing will.
Food for the Dead by Michael Bell
New England folklorist Michael Bell spent some time in Eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, interviewing people who still have direct connections to a little known outbreak of vampire beliefs a little more than 100 years ago. Food for the Dead, admirably researched, presents a series of case studies involving the (still-common) belief that the dead can be jealous of the living and return to spirit them away.
Solstice Wood, by Patricia McKillip
Sylvia Lynn comes from a family that has lived in Lynn Hall for generations. Several years back, she left home rather abruptly, moving across the country, but now she must return for the funeral of her beloved grandfather. Sylvia is stunned to learn that Lynn Hall is now hers, according to her grandfather’s will. She plans to stay only a few days, and on her last evening, attends the Fiber Guild, a women’s club that has met at Lynn Hall for a century. It becomes more and more clear that something peculiar is going on, for the guild members seem unusually intent upon their designs and stitches.
Heart Shaped Box, by Joe Hill
When Jude buys the ghost advertised on an online auction, and opens the box it arrives in, everything changes in an instant, and life will never be the same for either of them (or for the dogs!)
Heart Shaped Box is a modern ghost story full of almost believable supernatural threats. Following Jude and Mary Beth as they scour first their intellects, then their instincts, and finally their very souls, trying desperately to evade the deaths that seem inevitable.
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
A classic, and still one of the most chilling, and psychological, ghost stories ever told.
The House of Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Another great classic. House of Seven Gables is an eerie ghost story based upon actual historical events. Hawthorne knew Salem and its history inside and out, and he also knew how to create a haunting atmosphere and a story that stays in the mind forever.
The Darkest Part of the Woods, by Ramsey Campbell
One one of those novels that is more atmosphere than adventure. If you allow it to proceed at its own pace, it will weave its web around your mind. Subtle but effective, it’s sense of threat and menace grows a bit with every chapter. I’ll tell you, I sure wouldn’t set foot in that woods.
These should keep you busy – and nervous – until the witching night is over!