5 Spooky Stories to Get You in the Halloween Mood

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured

For many of us, the Halloween countdown starts as soon as fall rolls around. When the leaves turn orange and the darkness creeps in, it’s the perfect time to cozy up with a scary story or a nail-biting horror movie. Now, with All Hallows’ Eve just around the corner, I’ve put together this list of five bone-chilling stories to prepare you for the spookiest day of the year!

1. Pet Sematery by Stephen King

Stephen King Pet Sematary book cover with cat and graveyard

Stephen King has become one of the modern world’s most celebrated authors, publishing over 60 novels in his lifetime. He can terrify even the hardiest of horror readers with his hauntingly vivid settings, convincing characters, and unexpected twists — and the 1983 novel Pet Sematary is hailed by fans as one of his best.

It begins innocently enough, with the Creed family moving to a quiet town in Maine. Little do they know, their new house sits near an ancient animal burial ground — where the bite is much worse than the bark. When the family cat gets run over, only to return the next day acting strangely, the Creed family and the reader know that things are about to get very freaky.

2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus
Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus

One of the most famous horror books of all time, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the source of many a bolt-necked costume — but how many know the original tale? When Shelley wrote this novel, her goal was to “speak to the mysterious fears of our nature… to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.”

Two centuries later, she’s clearly succeeded: just about everyone recognizes the name Frankenstein. While it’s commonly associated with the half-dead, half-alive humanoid monster, Frankenstein carries the name of the scientist behind the creation, Dr. Victor Frankenstein — who must choose between his life’s work and the safety of humanity. That said, to really appreciate the nuanced terrors of this classic Gothic novel, one simply has to read it.

3. 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith

30 days of night book cover with man screaming

30 Days of Night is a three-issue horror comic by Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith that’s guaranteed to keep you awake… and petrified. When the small town of Barrow, Alaska is plunged into a midwinter month of darkness, the area becomes a hunting ground for a group of bloodthirsty vampires — and its residents must fight like hell to survive.

Templesmith’s illustrations bring Niles’ words to visceral life, a no-holds-barred portrayal of the graphic violence and gore throughout the story. Though none of the stories on this list are exactly easy reading, take heed that 30 Days of Night is not for the faint of heart.

4. Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler

Fledgling scary novel cover with legs coming out of a white wall

Though best known as a sci-fi author, Octavia Butler has also conjured up many multi-layered horror stories to make your skin crawl. Fledgling is a perfect example — this thrilling novel tackles issues of race and identity under the guise of a sinister vampire plot.

The story kicks off with immediate suspense, as a young girl named Shori wakes up with no knowledge of who or where she is. It only gets more disturbing as she discovers that she’s actually a 53-year-old vampire, wanted dead by an unknown figure. Though aware it could lead to her own demise, Shori is desperate to find out more about her past and identity — and as she goes from fledgling to full-on vamp, she finds that the only one she can trust is herself.

5. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark book cover with a skeleton head over a graveyard

For anyone who loved sitting ’round a campfire as a kid and sharing urban legends passed down through generations, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is just the chill-inducing companion you’ll need for Halloween. Compiled by editor Alvin Schwartz, this book includes some of the most harrowing short stories ever told.

Many have questioned its classification as a children’s book — and rightly so. From haunted houses to people getting eaten by worms, the descriptions and illustrations may leave you a little queasy. However, if you’re looking for a bit of nostalgia with your Halloween reading, then this is the book for you.

Whether you’re planning to spend your night trick-or-treating or under the blankets with hot cocoa and a scary movie, I hope that these spooky stories have gotten you into the Halloween spirit. Have a hauntingly good one!

Guest post by Savannah Cordova from Reedsy – Twitter / Instagram

Best Horror Coloring Books for Adults

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

Who said that scary things aren’t for kids? Or that coloring books aren’t for adults? Both of these things are proven dreadfully wrong with the best coloring books inspired by the horror genre. Yes, they’re a thing. Your favorite monsters jump off the page as you color in between the lines and create a ghoulishly gorgeous work of art – all while relieving stress and soothing the mind with a set of crayons as your guide. If you’re looking to unwind and relax after a long day – and need something a bit more abnormal than the typical Netflix and wine – try these horror coloring books for adults to channel your dark side with a bit of creepy color. 

The Beauty Of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book

The Beauty Of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book

This horror coloring book by Alan Robert is one of the most popular on the web, and you’ll see why as you glance into its pages. GOREgeous features “an onslaught of severed heads, monsters, deadly weapons, and skeletal remains” as you “visit burial grounds, the zombie apocalypse, serial killer lairs and gruesome torture chambers.” Their words… cute, right? Invest in this page-turner that has tons of gore-geously good reviews on GoodReads on Amazon, and get that red crayon ready for all the blood, clown noses, and leftover guts. You’re going to need it. 

Horror Coloring Book for Adults : Horror Stress Relieving Illustrations with Scary Monsters, Creepy Scenes, and a Spooky Adventure

Horror Coloring Book for Adults

This horror coloring book isn’t for the faint of heart. You won’t find any “good witches” or soft scares within these black-and-white pages – only the most terrifying and intricate illustrations that will freak you out and frustrate you as you try desperately to color within the lines. Trust us, once you see the complexity of these designs, you’ll see that you’ll need the entire box of crayons. That being said, this horror coloring book is ideal for the artsy scare lover… and you’ll want to stick this art up on your bedroom wall for the most gorgeous horror house on the block.

Zombie Coloring Book

Zombie Coloring Book

Take a break from witches, skeletons, and killer clowns as you go back to basics with a horror staple: zombies. These undead creatures will always have a place in your favorite scary movies and TV shows… and now on your nightstand, too. Choose from 20+ zombie illustrations – ranging from ugly and gross to interesting and a bit cute – and fill them in with your favorite colors to bring life back into your relaxation routine with a few undead monsters. Sure, the title of this book is a mouthful, but Zombie Coloring Book really is an incredible habit for everybody!

Alice’s Nightmare in Wonderland Coloring Book 

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland Coloring Book

Plenty of children’s movies are a lot more creepy once you watch them as an adult, like Alice in Wonderland. Between the Chesire Cat’s scary smile and the Queen of Hearts yelling about beheading children, this classic Disney film is almost as scary as any horror film from the early 2000’s. And it gets even more horrifying with this adult coloring book that features demonic versions of the film’s classic characters. A giant, murderous rabbit is something that you didn’t even know you needed until now, and you can make him any color you like for ultimate nightmare fuel. 

The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana’s Creepatorium Coloring Book

The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana's Creepatorium Coloring Book

It’s pretty rare in the world of horror for the sequel to be just as spooky and stunning as the original – unless we’re talking about horror coloring books for adults. Ghouliana’s Creepatorium has just as many distorted ghosts and scary skeletons as the GOREgeous book that we told you about earlier… and it doesn’t even need to be Halloween to stick these finished illustrations up on your refrigerator. Let loose and embrace your inner artist with these spooky designs that never go out of style… and know that there are plenty more coloring books to try in the The Beauty of Horror lineup. Thanks, Alan Robert!

Blue in Green – Music, Secrets and Ghosts

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Best Horror Books Best Of Best of Comics Featured

It is well documented that music can have an almost otherworldly hold over us; lowering stress hormones, raising dopamine levels, evoking specific memories, or transporting us to various times and places. But if music has this sort of cosmic power, could it possibly turn into a type of cosmic horror? For example, could a malevolent force created from art stalk us with intent to harm, as in the film Velvet Buzzsaw? Or could the bewitching and obsessive pursuit of art make monsters out of regular people, like what happens in the film Whiplash? Or maybe, as we see in the graphic novel Blue in Green, the terrifying reality lies somewhere in between. 

The story begins with a man named Erik getting a call that his mother has passed, prompting him to return to his childhood home, where he finds a photograph of an unknown man in his mother’s most prized possessions. The ensuing questions launch Erik on a quest that will lead him down some unexpected paths. Who was that man? What was his mother’s connection to him? And who exactly is the pale figure lurking in the periphery of the pages? More clues are uncovered and the mystery deepens as the story twists and turns, winding its way to an ultimately shocking conclusion.

Erik is a character struggling with his current situation in life. A talented saxophone player, he now squanders his skill teaching college classes and avoiding any close relationships. He ponders the fragility of life and wonders how many of us will leave this world without making an impact. His own desires, his failings, the expectations of family and society – all of these topics are the swirling subconscious maelstrom that push the story forward and pull back the curtain to its darker underpinnings. 

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Image from Blue and Green Graphic novel featuring a scared face and a tentacle

And this story certainly has a sinister underbelly. I love stories like this, full of dread, ambiguity, and uncertainty. From the very first image of the pale man you know something is off, but the terror stays in the background for much of the story, adding to the mystery and unraveling the deeper Erik digs. It’s still horror, but more of the understated, slithering-beneath-the-skin kind, which makes those moments when it bursts into daylight even more terrifying. I’ll be honest, I don’t want to say too much about the plot. Not just because I don’t want to give away spoilers, but because this is truly a tale that needs to be experienced.

While the story from writer Ram V is good, the art from Anand RK is really what makes this graphic novel shine. I don’t think I’ve seen a style quite like this, and I was continuously blown away with every page. It’s a mesmerizing blend of architectural precision, vaguely brushed forms, and a particularly gorgeous and enchanting array of colors thanks to John Pearson. The unconventional design of the pages is also really neat, shifting from full page spreads to pages with panels strewn about it like panes of glass. It reminds me of Dave McKean’s work, specifically on the Grant Morrison tale Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth (and now that I think of it the pale man shares a resemblance to the Joker). Regardless, the art is captivating and it works well to elevate the story. 

The Blue in Green graphic novel is a story first and foremost about music and the creative pursuit. But it also weaves in ideas about the burdens of the past and the ghosts that haunt our present. It’s about family secrets, loss, rapture, unexplainable feelings, and cosmic dread. We are confined to the mind of Erik, and as the story progresses we have to question how reliable of a narrator he really is. I may not have understood everything that happened, but I know it was well worth the experience. This is a story that is ripe for further read throughs and I’m already itching to dive back in.

Blue in Green is available now from Image Comics.

Book Recommendation “Girl on Fire”

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Women in Horror

Puzzle Box Horror’s book recommendation of the week is Gemma Amor’s “Girl on Fire.” Gemma Amor is a Bram Stoker Award nominated horror fiction author, podcaster and voice actor based in the UK. Her books include Cruel Works of NatureDear Laura, White PinesGirl on Fire, and These Wounds We Make. She’s also co-creator, writer and voice actor for horror-comedy podcast Calling Darkness, starring Kate Siegel. Her stories are feature on the NoSleep PodcastShadows at the Door, Creepy and the Grey Rooms podcast.

Author Gemma Amor headshot

SYNOPSIS: Ruby Miller is free at last. Free from her past, her tormentor, her shitty family and the even shittier odds she was given at birth. But freedom has a price, and when the young girl hell-bent on starting a new life crashes her cherry red 1989 Pontiac Bonneville on America’s loneliest road, she finds out just how dear that price is. From the Bram Stoker Award nominated author of Dear Laura and White Pines comes a new novella, a searing tale of fire, revenge and redemption, a coming-of-age tale with a bite, because, let’s face it… happy endings are for children, and some girls just want to watch the world burn.

Review by Ben Vicariously 4/5 stars.

This story starts with a bang (literally) and is paced like wildfire, zipping through a tale of a young girl’s burning fury being unleashed upon the world. Ruby’s traumatic past haunts her still, and all she wants to do is see the world burn. She is the girl on fire, and her killing rage is both righteous and overwhelmingly destructive. Unfortunately for those around her it is only going to escalate.

To read the full review, click here!

Girl on Fire by Gemma Amor is available now.

Book Recommendation – “Spontaneous Human Combustion” By Richard Thomas

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Indie Horror Indie Horror Creation Indie horror writers

For December we bring you the upcoming release from Richard Thomas “Spontaneous Human Combustion.” We were fortunate enough to receive an ARC copy and can confidently say this is our final recommendation for 2021.

In this new collection, Richard Thomas has crafted fourteen stories that push the boundaries of dark fiction in an intoxicating, piercing blend of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Equally provocative and profound, each story is masterfully woven with transgressive themes that burrow beneath the skin.

Portrait of Horror Writer Richard Thomas
Horror Author Richard Thomas

A Series of Short Horror Stories

• A poker game yields a strange prize that haunts one man, his game of chance now turned into a life-or-death coin flip.
• A set of twins find they have mysterious new powers when an asteroid crashes in a field near their house, and the decisions they make create an uneasy balance.
• A fantasy world is filled with one man’s desire to feel whole again, finally finding love, only to have the shocking truth of his life exposed in an appalling twist.
• A father and son work slave labor in a brave new world run by aliens and mount a rebellion that may end up freeing them all.
• A clown takes off his make-up in a gloomy basement to reveal something more horrifying under the white, tacky skin.

Powerful and haunting, Thomas’ transportive collection dares you to examine what lies in the darkest, most twisted corners of human existence and not be transformed by what you find.

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Spontaneous Human Combustion Book Cover by Richard Thomas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

4.4 Stars on good Reads – 4.5 stars on Amazon

What the Reviewers Have to Say

Beat collection I’ve read since THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE by Mariana Enriquez. Thomas’s range is astounding.

Edward Lorn

I received the ARC for this collection a few months ago so that I could have time to read it and chat about it before its release on 02/22/22. I wish I had read it immediately upon receipt because it’s THAT good. So good that I will reread these stories, even have actually reread a couple already even though I just finished the collection recently. (I am determined that 2 stories were connected, that a character we meet in the beginning, we get his origin in a later story and I will die on that hill…but I won’t tell you who so you can reach your own conclusions…)

Each story is unique in its style and tone. Some are good old fashion classic horror, we have a few with sci fi elements, cosmic horror and magical realism. There were a couple I would have claimed were written by Stephen King and 2-3 I would have pinned on Stephen Graham Jones (two of my favorites, by the way) I did post mini-reviews of each story on my Instagram if you’re interested, I can be found on IG @the_nerdy_narrative.

I read one story per day and that is how I recommend approaching this collection because these stories will make you think. Some have those fun endings that give you plenty of fodder for your imagination to carry forward as to what could have happened going forward. Some are just thought provoking, ones that deep thinkers will enjoy exploring the meanings of actions of the characters or the underlying theme.

I was blown away by the collection as a whole – I loved every single story. Honestly. There was one that I was lackluster about, but the ending flipped it and made the whole story SHINE. (I may not have had enough coffee and missed some connections as to what was happening, lol) It’s rare I read a collection of this size and feel each story is a 5 star read, but this one is it…especially with all the stories being by the same author. Now I want to read EVERYTHING Richard Thomas has and anything he has coming out in the future.

Top short story collection of the year for me – trust me, it had some steep competition too! 

Lezlie The Nerdy Narrative

Thomas (The Soul Standard) breathes fresh air into the genre of dark speculative fiction with a brilliant collection that teems with haunting elements, dark nostalgia for lost love, dysfunctional families, and self-torment. These 14 stories ably demonstrate Thomas’s skill at conjuring visceral emotion through immaculate detail work. The gut-wrenching “Repent,” about a crooked ex-cop who makes the ultimate sacrifice to save his dying son, is told with an artist’s attention to scene setting. “Hiraeth,” about a farm boy with a “hole in his chest” who is robbed and subsequently punished by the men in the family, bristles with astonishing detail, realistic characters, and emotional depth. In “Ring of Fire,” an isolated scientist with an altered memory runs strange experiments on minerals, splicing horror and science fiction elements into an eerie tale about the evolution of the human mind amid isolation and interference. Equally devastating and refreshing, this is a collection to be savored by horror fans and literary readers alike.

Publishers Weekly