We’ve been digging around in the Turnaround vaults to bring you a selection of creepy-as-hell literature for Halloween…
In ancient times, Halloween sounded like a hoot. It marked the beginning of the dark half of the year; the last crops were gathered in, cattle was killed and stored for winter, and everyone was ready to hunker down. People indulged in a harvest festival called Samhain. Oh, and it was also the time when the walls between our world and the ‘other’ world became thin and porous, allowing all manner of evil to creep through. Ancient people decided the most cunning way to deal with this threat was to dress up as spooky things, because ghouls are likely afraid of other ghouls. I’m fond of the idea of them in their mud/thatched villages surrounded by ‘porous’ air. There they are sitting around a big crackling fire with painted faces, slugging on mead and telling ghost stories. Which is sort of what we still do on Halloween today, substituting a mud/thatched village for a pub and mead with beers. We still tell ghost stories (or watch them on Netflix). And our costumes are probably better.
Come October 31st, we get dressed up and head out into the night. Kids are begging sweets (or throwing eggs, if you live in Hackney). There’s a party for everyone. Whether you want to dress as a sexy nurse (please no. Just, no.), a ‘deluxe’ Pennywise (ARGH) or just go out looking like your awesome Siouxsie Sioux/Bob Smith-esque self (go you), then Halloween is pretty much guaranteed to herald much fun and highjinks. You can go and sway in a grimy Goth club. You can go to a bar that’s gone all out with the fake cobwebs. You could go to an American Horror Story themed queer night (this is happening). Or you can just stay home and watch a Slasher marathon. Whatever you do, it’ll be great.
I love Halloween. Partly because I’m keen on black, my favourite band is The Cure, and I grew up near Whitby. Mostly because I love the weird and slightly terrifying stories that made it into a celebration. Vampires, skeletons, possessed children with long hair. Angry ghosts, people getting hysterical, witchcraft. All that stuff is brilliant. And it wouldn’t be here to spook us today if not for a long and rich history of storytelling.
It makes sense, then, that this time of year is basically an ideal time to do a lot of reading. In between pumpkin carving or painting your nails black or watching horror films in bed with a bottle of Hobgoblin, there isn’t really a better way to celebrate October 31st than with a book.
And so to extol this night of creepy things, we’ve dug around in the far corners of the Turnaround vault to bring you a weird and plentiful selection of obscure, Halloween-appropriate literature…
The Rivals of Dracula, edited by Nick Rennison (No Exit Press)
The Rivals of Dracula, just out, is basically essential Halloween reading. It’s an anthology of horror stories from the late Victorian and Edwardian times, each featuring a vampire to rival Dracula.
I’m quite biased towards Dracula. He landed in England at Whitby, just across the moor from where I grew up. His abbey has been the subject of many a school trip and the centrepiece of the Whitby Goth weekend. But with the existence of this book I have to accept that there were other pretty cool vampires in those days too.
From Hell by Alan Moore & Eddie Campbell (Knockabout)
You might have already read this incredible graphic novel about Jack the Ripper. It has been face out on comic shelves almost 20 years because it is that good. I won’t go into it in detail, we all know the horrific tale of the ripper. I’ll just offer this endorsement from Steve who works in Gosh! Comics, “From Hell by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell is my favourite THING made by humans, let alone comic…it’s a tremendous example of a piece of work that showcases what comics are capable of, as well as being an incredibly rich and rewarding read.”
Creepy Archives Volume 19 (Dark Horse)
Creepy was an American horror-comics magazine, launched in the 60’s. It was published as a black-and-white newsstand publication to avoid needing approval from the Comics Code Authority, which meant anything could go into its pages. It’s basically an anthology of creepy-as-hell (but also pretty funny) comics featuring supernatural detectives, time travel disasters, terrifying shark-creatures, horror angels and such.
Creepy is now being reissued by Dark Horse Comics. There are loads of volumes (vol. 23 is due out in March 2016), but I picked 19 for its cover.
It’s essentially ideal bedtime reading in the run up to Halloween.
The New Gothic, edited by Beth K. Lewis and Steve Dempsey (Stoneskin Press)
For starters, this anthology contains a never-before published story from Ramsey Campbell, the ‘godfather of modern horror.’ And if that’s not enough to float your boat, then maybe the premise will be: “The Gothic is the most enduring literary tradition in history, but in recent years friendly ghosts and vegetarian vampires threaten its foundations. The New Gothic is a collection of short stories which revisits the core archetypes of the Gothic and reminds us not to embrace but to fear the darkness.” FEAR THE DARKNESS.
The Bewdley Mayhem by Tony Burgess (ECW Press)
You get three horror stories for the price of one in The Bewdley Mayhem. From cult author Tony Burgess comes this very weird, bizarre and horrifying triplet of novels, ‘all of which harbour a twisted ambition to physically alter your imagination.’
The Hellmouths of Bewdley is set in a creepy town in Ontario and features prisoners, dead men and mad doctors. Pontypool Changes Everything is about a gross virus, and Caesarea is about a town that can’t sleep at night.
A really unusual style and broken narratives make reading this a terrifying experience. Make of that what you will.
Buffy Season Nine: Library Edition Volume 2 by Joss Whedon (Dark Horse)
It wouldn’t be Halloween without a bit of Buffy (in my world, at least). And this incredible Library Edition comic is too good not to include. It is the latest in the official graphic continuation of the Buffy storyline, produced by original creator Joss Whedon.
In Volume 2, Buffy is unemployed and killing fewer vampires than ever, while Willow embarks on a journey to reclaim her identity and her magic. Full of supernatural temptations, it’s perfect for those who have watched every episode of the show multiple times and still have not had enough vampire-slaying action.
Bending the Landscape: Original Gay and Lesbian Horror Writing, edited by Nicola Griffith and Stephen Pagel (Overlook Press)
A collection of horror stories by queer writers in which classic horror tropes are seen through the eyes of LQBTQ characters. Some of the stories are terrifying, others haunting; all of them are unsettling in their own way. A great collection to dip into in the run up to Halloween.
Sex and Horror: The Art of Emanuele Taglietti by Emanuele Taglietti (Korero Press)
Emanuele Taglietti is a legendary comic book cover artist, known for his outrageous artworks. Over the course of his career he painted more than 500 covers, for horror publications like Zora the Vampire.
Sex and Horror is a visual biography of Taglietti, with hundreds of full colour photographs and stories from his colourful life. A super creepy visual feast for Halloween!
Happy Halloween Everyone!!!