October will always be a month that conjures mysterious images. Fleeting figures in autumnal mist and the swirling smoke of newly reignited fireplaces. In it’s position on the cusp of the downturn, it is little wonder that it has ever been time for us humans to think on those things which live in the dark.
Perhaps as a way to alleviate the fear of another winter, or as a way to replace the heady days of summer, we love to scare ourselves a little at this time of year. In celebration of this we have drawn together a list of our best loved (and more than a little frightful) reads.
“Daphne du Maurier is the master of a haunting tale. All her books are wonderful, but my favourite is Don’t Look Now. The twisting streets and bridges of Venice are so steeped in history and veiled secrets. All those old windows and doorways, those narrow unlit passageways, of course they’re filled with ghosts!” says Freya and we couldn’t agree more. Du Maurier has plenty of dark tales to revel in before the fire. Also, on our list is, of course, Rebecca and the slightly less widely read Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel.
Writing in a similar vein as Du Maurier is the much less well-known Irish writer Dorothy Macardle. Macardle has a similar gift for created a creeping sense of foreboding and dread. Her book Dark Enchantment is very Du Maurieresque in this respect and it’s alpine setting will have you thinking of Byron and Mary Shelley and the rest of the gang held up in the mountains conjuring monsters. Another book of her The Uninvited is a truly brilliant example of that classic of ghost stories, a haunted house. With inviting cliff tops and spectral sobbing at midnight it has everything you could want for an autumn night.
A haunted house is where Vicky naturally navigates towards in search of frights.
“For me an historic setting is key, a dilapidated mansion. The Woman in Black (Susan Hill) and The Turn of the Screw (Henry James) are both excellent examples of ghost stories that play out within the walls of a creaking old house.”
Alongside haunted houses, graveyards are often an auspicious setting for a spine-chilling tale. Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White is a melancholy tale of loss and heartache (and of course haunting) that has a particularly atmospheric graveyard at its centre, along with a fair bit of lonely road wandering and misty evenings.
Weather of course is a fantastic tool in ghost story and the wind-swept wilds of some of our further flung British isles have provided many a salt-tinged yarn. The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola has everything from a remote island location to an isolated community filled with secrets. Whilst Skule Skerry is a short classic from John Buchan involving that most recognisable of characters, the sadly misguided scientist, in way over his head.
Scientist and explorers in over their heads in untameable environments are also the subjects of Michelle Paver’s two brilliant and utterly terrifying books, Thin Air and Dark Matter. Bravado meets the extremes of mountain top and arctic isolation and comes out very much the worse for it in these two modern classics.
And of course there are many, many older classics to be devoured whether that be MR James (we are particularly fond of The Casting of the Runes) or Arthur Conan Doyle (find The Signalman or of course The Hound of the Baskervilles), Edgar Allen Poe or Sheridan Le Fanu (any by either will send shivers from hairline to ankles), From Frankenstein through both Jekyll and Hyde to Dracula, we have become so very adept and scaring ourselves, at finding joy in the fear of the shadows.
So, whether trying something new or cherishing familiar frights, make sure to allow a little part of your mind to wonder what is lurking behind you.
Don’t Look Now Daphne Du Maurier
Jamaica Inn Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier
My Cousin Rachel Daphne Du Maurier
The Uninvited Dorothy Macardle
Dark Enchantment Dorothy Macardle
The Woman in Black Susan Hill
The Turning of the Screw Henry James
The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
The Story Keeper Anna Mazzola
Skule Skerry John Buchan
Thin Air Michelle Paver
Dark Matter Michelle Paver
Casting of the Runes MR James
The Signalman Arthur Conan Doyle
Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle