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Spine-tingling stories for the spooky season

Spine-tingling stories for the spooky season
PHOTO: Unsplash

This past week saw perhaps one of the most lacklustre Halloween and Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) in years, with safe distancing rendering it devoid of the usual extravagant festivities.

To keep the spirit of spooky season alive in our hearts, here are some of our favourite horror and thriller stories.

The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson


This might sound familiar to most of us; as the source material of two feature films and a Netflix series, The Haunting of Hill House is a story that’s made it far and wide.

But even if you’ve already seen this story played out on the screen, the 1959 Shirley Jackson novel is a must-read.

Four people arrive at the notoriously unfriendly Hill House: the occult scholar Dr Montague; his lighthearted assistant Theodora; Eleanor, a young woman familiar with poltergeists; and the future heir of Hill House, Luke.

Their stay is wracked with a series of spooky encounters that, while initially inexplicable, point to a more sinister force at play. The intelligently precise yet ambiguous tone of the prose elevates this novel from a run-of-the-mill haunted house story to an artful, terror-inducing page-turner.

The Haunting of Hill House is available at Book Depository and Amazon.

The Hole, Hye-young Pyun


After Parasite, we’re all well aware of the uniquely sinister Korean brand of horror, and The Hole (translated by Sora Kim-Russell) is just the book to read if you want more of that. College professor Ogi wakes up paralysed after a devastating car accident that also took the life of his wife, and is taken in by his grieving mother-in-law.

What follows is a crippling series of flashbacks recounting Ogi’s troubled relationship with his wife, juxtaposed with episodes in the present detailing the increasingly odd behaviours of his mother-in-law, like her obsessive uprooting of his wife’s garden.

Used as a metaphor to illustrate themes of neglect and escape, and brutality in banality, the garden itself emerges as one of the most powerful characters in what promises to be a rollercoaster of a read from start to finish.

The Hole is available at Book Depository and Fishpond.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman


Another novel transformed into a cinematic hit, Bird Box is a post-apocalyptic novel following a woman who must protect herself and her two young children from a deadly entity, but here’s the catch: it must not be seen, for a glimpse of it will drive a person to deadly violence.

Malorie recounts the beginning of “The Problem” and the ensuing years living in a house of survivors (who are later killed or turned mad) while pregnant, and finally, the biggest journey of all: travelling to a safe refuge down the river with her children.

This psychological thriller grapples with the fear of the unseen in such a viscerally terrifying way, you’ll be extra paranoid for a few days after you’re done.

Bird Box is available at Book Depository.

House of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski


There are books that will irrevocably change your life – House of Leaves is one of them. This story made its way from being a badly bundled handwritten heap of paper to a bestselling novel, capturing hearts with its unconventional format — upside down writing, and different fonts and colours, among others.

These seemingly quirky choices contribute to the construction of a masterful narrative built around one simple premise: a young family moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane and discovers that their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. What happens when you decide to venture inwards?

House of Leaves is available at Book Depository and Amazon.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm


Okay, hear us out on this one. We all know that the original versions of beloved childhood fairy tales like Red Riding Hood are more gruesome than what we heard growing up, but have you actually read them?

While the prospect of tarnishing your memory of these innocent tales might seem frightening, you might eventually find them morbidly delightful. Or just plain morbid.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm (particularly this unflinchingly faithful Jack Zipes translation) is a confrontation of the gory truth of humanity.

While it may not be something you’d conventionally consider ‘horror’, it’ll definitely leave you with an uncomfortable feeling in your gut. If you don’t have nightmares after reading the original Cinderella, you are unusually strong of heart.

The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm is available at Book Depository.

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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