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Halloween brings a flood of blood, guts and murders to movie screens everywhere. But sometimes the most terrifying stories are the ones you have to create in your head. In the spirit of Halloween, where horror films reign supreme, here are some scary authors to get you in the spooky spirit.

Shirley Jackson


Picks: We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Haunting of Hill House

Shirley Jackson is the queen of eerie storytelling, probably most well-known for her terrifying Hunger Games-esque short story, The Lottery. The two recommended novels, however, delve deeper into the psyche, relying more on the unknown facts than the tangible fear readers feel when experiencing The Lottery. The most terrifying parts of Jackson’s novels are not necessarily the actions of the characters themselves – though the dialogue from 18-year-old narrator of We Have Always Lived in the Castle will never fail to send shivers down my spine – but rather the sense that something is out of place.

Mary Shelley


Pick: Frankenstein

There can’t really be a Halloween-themed reading list that does not include Frankenstein, though the most terrifying aspects of this novel aren’t from the creature himself, but rather come in the form what he reflects about our own humanity. Toss out any ideas of a green-colored giant who tap dances and sings “Puttin’ On The Ritz” – Shelley’s true monster is her Dr. Frankenstein.

Edgar Allan Poe


Picks: The Tell-Tale Heart, The Cask of Amontillado

Notoriously dark and twisted, Poe has too many scary works worth including on this list. Both the The Tell-Tale Heart and The Cask of Amontillado involve a claustrophobic sense of being trapped in an uncontrollable madness. Poe’s eerie, disconnected narrative style only adds to the mystery and suspense. Horror doesn’t always come from blood – sometimes it’s the maddening repetition of a beating heart or an unknown voice.

Flannery O’Connor


Pick: A Good Man is Hard to Find

Uncanny coincidence leads to cold-blooded murder in what I consider O’Connor’s scariest short story. While death is often the most horrifying part of a story, here, the horror comes through the strange set of circumstances that bring the family into their dangerous position. The grandmother, often times a figure of wisdom and stability in stories, is now the catalyst for the family’s misfortune.

Joyce Carol Oates


Picks: Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been

This story taught me that you cannot trust someone whose last name is “Friend,” especially when he’s described as having “the face of a forty-year-old baby.” Perhaps the scariest part of this short story is that, even after reading it and re-reading it, you can never be sure of what truly happens. All that’s clear is that Connie definitely should not have talked with Arnold Friend.