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COLUMN: Haunted stories offer a great way to celebrate Halloween


Welcome to chapter twelve of the book column. This week I have some great suggestions for scary stories in honor of Halloween. 

Three books, “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, “The Haunting of Hill House” by Shirley Jackson and “It” by Stephen King, are all great options that will leave readers sleeping with the lights on. 

Movies are often the center of attention in the horror genre. It's easy to see how a movie can be scary because it’s so visual. The monster looks scary because it is, and the jump-scare tactic works well because the audience is as surprised as the character.

Books can do something similar. When a horror-themed book is truly written well, it is an impressive feat.

If you’re in the mood for something off-putting, then “The Haunting of Hill House” should be your Halloween read. 

In Jackson's novel, there aren't monsters or murderers hunting down the main characters. Most of the scares in this novel are psychological and uncanny. Everything about the story seems just a little off. 

From the characters to the haunted house itself, readers will be left on the edge of their seats wondering what is real and what isn’t. 

“In Cold Blood” by Capote was written around the same time as Jackson’s book, but it offers a different type of scare. 

Capote’s book is nonfiction. The murder story he writes in this book happened in 1959. Knowing it is nonfiction adds a layer of scariness to the book because readers understand that these events are based on reality.

The unknowing Clutter family becomes victims of a seemingly random murder one night in their small Kansas town. Their deaths shake the town to its core, and the longer the investigation goes on, the more the town’s people suspect one another. 

It tells the murder story in a braided narrative, going back and forth between the murderers and investigation. It is agonizing to see how close each side comes to solving the murder. 

“It” by Stephen King is a popular read this Halloween since the new movie adaptation released on September 8. Don’t assume that if you’ve seen the movie you know the story, because there are a few differences between the scary story from the 80's and the new movie. 

I warn that readers should be prepared when they pick up "It." Most editions of the book are over 1,000 pages long. It's no quick read to save for the day of Halloween, but the scares are abounding. If you don’t like clowns, maybe consider a different book. 

While all of these novels are impressively scary, not all students have time to polish off an entire book in the middle of the semester. 

Short stories like, “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “Turn of the Screw” by Henry James are two more digestible pieces that were pioneers of the genre. 

A poem or two by Edgar Allen Poe could also set the Halloween mood. 

Happy haunted reading! 

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