How could we prepare you for Halloween without a collection of creepy stories featuring scary monsters, in addition to the ghostly selections we listed earlier? (The answer is, we couldn’t. Which is why you’re reading this post.) Keep reading for a stunning selection of scary (and some not-so-scary) tales of vampires, werewolves, serial killers, and one monster.
In the Drawing Room, we have … Vampires.
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
Duh. A classic. I bet you already think you know what it’s about. Read it – and go back to the original that inspired all the knock-offs. Word to the wise: watch out for the misogyny, but the suspenseful story and creepy Vampire make it worthy of its classic status. By the way – have you seen the new show yet?
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova
Another about Dracula, but a much different take – follow a young woman as she searches for her father, who once searched for her mother, who got taken by … you guessed it – Dracula. It all starts with an ancient book and mysterious yellowing letters. Her travels span the globe, and several stories (the heroine’s, her father’s, and Dracula’s) are intertwined. This was one of those books I couldn’t let go, and I was particularly impressed by and enamored of this Dracula.
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
These days, another classic take on the Vampire, although much more recent than Dracula. I’ve not read this one, but if you’ve seen the movie (with Brad Pitt – enough said), my work here is done. I’ve heard it’s erotic, and shocking… you’ve been warned.
Nightlife by Matthew Quinn Martin
Shivers. This dark modern-day tale of vampires you’ve never seen before is dark, spooky, suspenseful, and riveting. Beth Becker is just an outsider bartender in a small town, until her best friend goes missing – and she discovers a creepy, alien world she never suspected existed. Along the way she meets Jack, a vigilante motivated by a devastating past. And the vampires – they’re definitely NOT your friends. Try putting it down. I dare you.
In the Kitchen, with the Knife: Serial Killers.
Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Hannibal has to be the creepiest fictional sociopath. In Red Dragon, the first in the series chronologically, FBI agent Will Graham relies on hints and manipulative advice from mental patient Hannibal to track a serial killer associated with the Dragon. Even if you’ve seen the Hannibal movies, it’s worth checking these out in book format. There’s something about using your own imagination that makes it even scarier.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
Do you like stories about time travel? Do you like cringe-worthy novels about horrifying (fictional) events? What about a strong, determined heroine who wins the day in the end? Can you stand graphic and disturbing imagery. This is a twister about a sociopath who discovers a house that allows him to travel through time. Kirby is one of his victims, who can’t let her attempted murder go. Cue mystery, suspense, danger, and sleeping with a light on.
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
The only nonfiction book on this list, this is one of the best and creepiest serial killer stories. This time, the serial killer was for real. Adds an extra dash of spine-tingling horror. Intermingled with (and almost as interesting) the true-crime story of the serial killer of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, is the story of the fair itself.
And on the Back Porch, howling to get in, are the Werewolves and Monsters.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
I haven’t read this yet, everyone knows it’s a classic. Mary Shelley (daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, if you’re interested in the history of feminism) started writing this story when she was 18. How’s that for youthful accomplishments? Anyway, Frankenstein is a science student who thinks there’s nothing wrong with attaching scavenged body parts to other scavenged body parts and then animating them. Riiiiight. Nothing could go wrong! Except poor Frankenstein ends up with the first vengeful undead monster (if we’re not counting vampires, who have been stars of folklore and fireside tales for even more centuries).
The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
This is magical urban mythical fantasy along the lines of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere. Galina, a young woman in 1990s Moscow, searches the mundane world and the underworld with a young clear-eyed policeman, Yakov, when her sister turns into a jackdaw and flies away. In Moscow’s underworld, you’ll find more jackdaws, weeping trees, and creatures of Russian folklore. Fasten your seat belt!
Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
Okay, not so scary. But definitely kick butt. Volvo mechanic Mercy Thompson is not a werewolf – she’s a coyote shifter. This makes relations with her neighbor, attractive alpha of the nearest werewolf pack, tense (and intriguing). Not to mention, her former boss is a gremlin, and one of her customers a vampire. This mix ends up getting her in trouble with the local supernatural community. One of my favorite series about werewolves. Ever. Go check it out from your local library now. Go, go!
Written in Red by Anne Bishop
Anne Bishop has always, all my life, been a favorite author of mine. And with her latest series, she just KILLED it. In a world where humans are not at the top of the food chain (that’s the Others: werewolves, fae, and the like), Meg Corbyn is a rare cassandra sangue, which means her blood gives her prophetic visions (meaning that she gets cut every time a vision is required, and every time she gets a cut, she sees a vision). She, and others like her, are confined and controlled by a mysterious agency. Clever Meg escapes, though, and hides with the Others. Leading to all kinds of intriguing situations and interspecies relationships. Another Must-Read here.
What’s on your Halloween shelf? Read any really scary, really good monster stories lately? Share in the comments!
*Image credit: Philip Burne-Jones, The Vampire, 1897