5 Haunting Story Collections You Need to Read this Halloween
- By Tara Laskowski
- October 24, 2016
'Tis the season for something creepy!
October is the best month. Fall weather, sweaters and scarves, football, hot chocolate — and Halloween. Ghostly story collections are a must this time of year — things hunting in the woods, fingernails scraping against an attic window, blurs of movement in a supposedly empty house.
Do you have shiver fever as well? Check out some creepy story collections I've read recently for a frighteningly good time.
- The Doll Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow. When I discovered there was an anthology of creepy doll stories, it was like all of my dreams (nightmares?) came true. Anyone who follows me on social media knows I have a deep love for the uncanny, unsettling weirdness of dolls. Datlow, who has won multiple fantasy and horror awards in her 35-year career, is a sharp editor, and her careful curation of these stories shines through. In her preface, she discusses the one rule she gave to the writers when approaching them about the collection: no evil dolls. "Surely, I thought, there was horror and darkness to be found in the world of dolls beyond that well-trodden path," she writes. "I was right." The authors here — from Joyce Carol Oates to Stephen Graham Jones — have a lot of fun finding new but, yes, still very creepy, ways to look at dolls. You'll find dolls in the frigid cold Antarctic, kewpie dolls, ventriloquists, and more.
- The Folio Book of Ghost Stories. My husband, Art, and I love Folio Books for their beautiful illustrations, delightful typesetting, and handsome covers. We have been collecting our favorites for a few years now, and last year we picked up the ghost-stories collection and have been reading it aloud. This anthology features ghostly tales spanning more than 100 years — beginning with a story from Charles Dickens published in 1866 and ending with a tale by George Mackay Brown from 1983. Shirley Jackson makes an appearance with her story "A Visit," one of her many explorations of terribly eerie houses. "The Axe" by Penelope Fitzgerald, gives a ghastly commentary on the idea of slaving away at a dreary office job.
- Edgar Allan Poe stories. You can't go wrong on Halloween by reading the master of short horror fiction. The classic Poe stories are always my favorites to turn back to — try reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" by candlelight all alone without your blood racing. This year, to get more in the spirit, our son, Dashiell, is toting around a large raven stuffed animal that he named (with our help, of course) Edgar. Nevermore!
- Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. This amazing graphic-short-story collection reminds me in the best way of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series (which I discussed in more detail in a previous column). Carroll creates her own urban legends and illustrates them in ways that will chill you to the bone. Her stark storytelling style works well with the haunting images, and the stories linger much longer than they take to read. I particularly loved "His Face All Red," about a man who thinks he killed and buried his brother in the woods — until his "brother" returns, acting like nothing happened. Read this one in a place without dark corners.
- Magic for Unlucky Girls by A.A. Balaskovits (April 2017, available for pre-order only). The 2015 grand-prize winner of the Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards, this collection unsettled me in a totally delightful way. You'll find familiar fairytale tropes here — flying superheroes, massive castles with one locked, forbidden door, a wolf on the path to Grandma's house — but Balaskovits quickly shatters those familiar mirrors, finding fresh, original stories in those sinister shards.
Tara Laskowski was born on Halloween, which explains a lot. She's the author of two spooky story collections, Bystanders and Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons. She's also the editor of SmokeLong Quarterly.