Halloween is one of the greatest times of the year for plenty of reasons (autumn leaves, black cats, spooky lights, horror films, spells, witchery) but some of the best reasons are the creepy-as-hell stories it has inspired. Ghost stories are probably as old as stories themselves, and whether you’re a full-blown horror junkie or just prefer to watch Bette Midler in Hocus Pocus every October, I think it’s fair to say that most people love some Halloween storytelling.
We have loads of extremely awesome Halloween-appropriate books in the Turnaround vaults spanning genres and levels of scariness. So whether you’re Michael Myers biggest fan, or worship Nancy from The Craft, or are more a Sandra-Bullock-jumping-off-the-roof-in-Practical-Magic kind of a Halloween fan, we definitely have something you’ll love.
Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire edited by Amber Dawn
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551522517, £14.99)
This anthology is brilliant. Queer erotica! Vampires! Horny ghosts! Terror! Women reclaiming their own fear! It’s absolutely one of the most unique, weird, funny, and thrilling collections I’ve read, and it’s ideal for Halloween. The drive behind the 16 stories, which include gothic, noir, and speculative writing, is to explore the relationship between queer fear and queer desire by subverting longstanding horror tropes, and the result is both terrifying and super fun. Includes writings from Amber Dawn, Michelle Tea, Fiona Zedde, and Courtney Trouble, among others.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: Occult Edition by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa
(Archie Comics, 9781682557938, £24.99)
When the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina comic first came out in 2016 I was extremely pleased to see a more mature, spookier take on Sabrina, who I’d watched religiously in the 90’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show. The comic is a darker reimagining of Sabrina, who must decide between her life as a witch and her high school existence with mortal dreamboat Harvey. To tie-in with the wildly popular Netflix adaptation of the comic, Dark Horse have now published this Occult Edition, which includes loads of bonus content for all Sabrina fans.
Modern Witch Tarot by Lisa Sterle
(Liminal 11, 9781912634033, £21.99)
If you’re into tarot, this deck is an absolute wonder. Based on the Rider Waite deck, Modern Witch is a fun, contemporary, and intersectional tarot that’s bold yet super accessible. Lisa Sterle is the creator of the horror comic Long Lost and is a very rad artist. The Modern Witch deck includes some really nice touches, like an alternative Ten of Swords and a self-portrait of Sterle drawing for the Eight of Pentacles. It also comes with a tiny hardback guide that explains each card and gives examples of different spreads. I’m completely in love with it, and if all this doesn’t sway you to get yourself a deck, just know that Michelle Tea loves it too!
Celebrity Ghosts and Notorious Hauntings by Marie D. Jones (Visible Ink, 9781578596898, £17.99)
If you’re going to be haunted, it might as well be a famous ghost that’s harassing you. Right? John Lennon, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley… Celebrity Ghosts and Notorious Hauntings has got them all. This frightful miscellany shares the stories behind notoriously spooky locations, including the inspiration for Stephen King’s Overlook Hotel, The Stanley, and the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. It also includes a deep dive into creepy film lore, such as on-set accidents, curses, and general strange occurrences. Spook-tacular.
Mothlight by Adam Scovell
(Influx Press, 9781910312377, £9.99)
Thomas, a young researcher of moths and sometime carer to the recently deceased lepidopterist Phyllis Ewans, is beginning to think his departed friend is not quite so departed after all. Increasingly possessed by thoughts that he actually is Phyllis, Thomas must uncover the truth about who she really was before the sensation that she is haunting him leads him over the edge and into madness.
Hung, Drawn and Executed by Graham Humphreys
(Korero Press, 9781912740062, £26.99)
Okay, so this one doesn’t actually come out until next month but 1) it’s great and 2) I love Halloween and I think we should keep it going for as long as we can. Hung, Drawn and Executed collects the horror film poster art of Graham Humphries, including previously unseen paintings, drawings and colour studies. Ideal for anyone with a penchant for 80s slasher films like Nightmare on Elm Street and The Evil Dead – which, frankly, should be everybody.
These Our Monsters: The English Heritage Book of New Folktale, Myth & Legend by Paul Kingsnorth, Graeme Macrae Burnet, Fiona Mozley, Sarah Hall, Adam Thorpe, Edward Carey, Sarah Moss, Alison Macleod, and English Heritage
(September Publishing, 9781910907405, £14.99)
This chilling collection by such celebrated contemporaries as Graeme Macrae Burnet (Booker shortlisted in 2016 for His Bloody Project), Paul Kingsnorth, and Sarah Moss (author of the creepy and incredible Ghost Wall) is grounded in eight different English Heritage sites around the country. Each of the eight tales is inspired by the myths, legends, and history surrounding these sites – Tintagel, Berwick Castle, Down House, Stonehenge, et al – which is where the ‘new’ in the title comes in. These are new stories with old, old roots. And some of them are properly scary, complete with detailed, unsettling illustrations by Clive Hicks-Jenkins.
The Burning Black: The Legend of Black Shuck by Mark Allard-Will, Ryan Howe, and Elaine M. Will (Renegade Arts Entertainment, 9781988903538, £13.99)
“Some say the Beast is a big Demon Dog, eight feet tall when on all-fours with fur as black as tar. Others say its eyes burn with the white-hot flames of Hell itself…”
An ancient terror strikes in this reimagining of an English folkloric tale – the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. From the defeat of a Danish king in the 800s to an attack on a peasant village in 1577, to more recent history of the county of Suffolk, striking graphic artwork tells the story of the origin of the monstrous Black Shuck. A wordless chase sequence is particularly thrilling, and makes for perfect Halloween reading.
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things by Iain Reid
(Text Publishing, 9781911231233, £8.99)
An unnamed woman and her boyfriend are driving to meet his parents. Everything seems fine until after dinner, when Jake abandons his girlfriend at an empty school during a blizzard and the terror kicks in. It’s clear from the first page that something sinister is going on, but you never find out what. The whole thing feels like you’re watching through thick, tinted glass: the main character is distorted, reality unravels around her, and everything is off-kilter. I’m Thinking of Ending Things has no supernatural elements, no obvious ghost-story tropes. And yet it is so unsettling I have trouble describing it as anything other than haunting.
Vivisectionary by Kate Lacour
(Fantagraphics, 9781683962120, £21.99)
Vivisectionary is a visual guide to impossible anatomy, told through a series of scientific diagrams and tableaux. The pseudo-medical diagrams present eerie, single-page comics full of body horror – lactating snakes gestate inside foetuses, eyeballs grow inside the human skull – and offer a horrifying and simultaneously fascinating journey through biology. I could spend hours pouring over the details in each sequence, deciphering the subtle messages behind the various tableaux, and wondering about the ‘what-ifs’.
Ghosts of Berlin by Rudolph Herzog and trans. by Emma Rault (Melville House, 9781612197517, £12.99)
I wrote about Ghosts of Berlin earlier this month, praising its mix of socio-historical commentary and ghost-stories. The characters are haunted by the Ghosts-Of-Berlin-Past: Nazis, Stasi informants, Weimar labourers and GDR soldiers confront today’s immigrants, hipsters, and techies in the once-divided streets. The result is a fascinating exploration of public heritage, history, and generational trauma that I would heartily recommend.
The Bad Bad Place by David Hine & Mark Stafford
(Soaring Penguin Press, 9781908030276, £14.99)
Castavette Estate, a mysterious house on the edge of town where people go in but never come out. Even if the only scary movie you’ve seen is Monster House (definitely not me) this premise should sound familiar, and it also makes for perfect Halloween reading. Told from the perspective of an old, and slightly deranged town crier, The Bad Bad Place crafts a deliciously spooky campfire tale where the mystery surrounding the now deserted English town, and the terrible fate of the people who lived there, is steadily revealed.
Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power by Sady Doyle (Melville House, 9781612197920, £14.99)
When we think Halloween there are few things that come more quickly to mind than scary movies. But what about the women in these stories and how they are represented? Exploring everything from the teen witches of The Craft, to the possessed pre-teen in The Exorcist, Sady Doyle’s Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers promises to take “a tour of the female dark side”, exploring female monsters in fiction and how they reflect and reinforce disturbing patriarchal norms. This is a fascinating, funny and pretty gross little book that explores patriarchy within the context of pop culture, and is guaranteed to change the way you perceive your favourite horror flicks.
Swimming in Darkness by Lucas Harari
(Arsenal Pulp Press, 9781551527673, £21.99)
An architecture school drop-out travels to a thermal spring complex located deep within the Swiss Alps. Designed by a famous architect the mountain holds many mysteries, secret rooms, and maybe eats people?? From our brilliant Canadian publishing pals at Arsenal Pulp Press, you’ll have to wait till November for this one, but it sounds spooky as hell.
Fancy reviewing any of these spooky reads this October? Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy.