Archive for October, 2009

Haunting Words for Halloween

26 Oct

The Eden Rivers Top Ten Horror Stories

In honor of All Hallow’s Eve, it’s my top ten scary stories from literature short and long. In no particular order, so read them at your own pace. If you dare.

Haunted Cemetery

“The Tell-Tale Heart”/”The Cask of Amontillado”
Edgar Allen Poe

It’s a tie. I don’t know what creeps me out more, the thump of a heart in the floorboards or a man bricked into a wall, alive … a trick that has been used in film a million times over, and yet Poe is the one who gets it right. If you are a Hellboy fan (or are near a video store), the awesome 1953 animated feature “The Tell Tale Heart” can be seen in the bonus features. Or click here for an online version.

The Shining
Stephen King

The movie was iconic for sure, but once you delve into the book, suddenly images from that film take on an uber-level of creepiness. Re: The man in the dog costume. The dead little twins. The oversized animal-shaped hedges on the front lawn. King’s words can make these images come alive in the reader’s head, and make the next viewing of the film a scarier one.

House of Leaves
by Mark Z. Danielewski

This novel has a plot within a plot, and it’s a pretty hefty size, about a man who begins making a documentary about his home. It begins as a closet and a hallway appear within the house in a place they didn’t exist before, opening up a dimension of dark, ever-moving pathways within the house that defies physics. Images of Will Navidson crawling around in the dark, or perhaps the ever-changing catacombs and the ultimate fear, being lost in the dark, was creepy. My friend Jason lent me the book and insisted I couldn’t read it at night, making it more creepy, and for a month or so I refused to open any of my closet doors.

Bram Stoker

From Van Helsing, to Lucy to Dracula, the famous characters are all here, in the most impact-ful vampire tale ever written. What makes it so frightening, is that the story unfolds in the form of letters, journals and other third-party writings, which means the horror may begin on the page, and we the reader cannot save the character, for the next entry is always after the disaster has occurred.

In Cold Blood
Truman Capote

I happen to have a strange aversion to home invasions, so this one was a personal nightmare. And not just from the heinous murders, but the way Capote infiltrated the murderers lives, immersed in their worlds and manipulated them to tell the story. It is so beautifully written, the reader can quickly believe he or she is reading a fictional novel, but it is not so. These are murders that did happen, criminals Capote did meet and befriend. That is what compels the horror of the story.

“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”
Joyce Carol Oates

Arnold Friend. However can we forget you? Short, smooth-talking man who lures girls out of their houses and promises to be nice—the first time. Not only that, but lures them out, to make them believe there is no other choice. Every one of Arnold’s lines is creepy: Now, put your hand on your heart, honey. Feel that? That feels solid too but we know better. Where’s my mace?

The Virgin Suicides
Jeffrey Eugenides

This is one novel in which I will say, yes, see the movie, it’s just as good and tightly follows the novel (and Giovanni Ribisi makes an amazing narrator). It is sad and haunting and beautiful, a book to read again and again, and what can be more brilliant that the suicide tale of five young beautiful sisters, told from the point of view of the neighborhood boys who admired them?

“A Rose for Emily”
William Faulkner

I read this for the first time from an anthology my mother had for a short story class she was taking… I didn’t see the ending coming, but it’s an image I’ll never get out of my mind. The husband is always on the right side of the bed, her smooshed pillow on the left, and there’s a round window on the wall, past the foot of the bed frame, so that the light fades as your eyes pass over to his bones. Eeeeewww.

“Mad House”
Richard Matheson

The author of I am Legend has penned plenty of short horror and suspense short stories, and this one hits close to home. For any writer out there, this story is the ultimate nightmare… in which the macabre elements are placed into everyday situations, making Chris Neal’s problem with anger and the way it reverberates against these every day issues more frightening then the supernatural elements of the story. It is an ideal tale for any procrastinating writer.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”
Washington Irving

On any walk, in any wood, upstate New York or not, there is a back-of-your-mind fear of meeting the Headless Horseman. It’s a brilliant folktale that still holds a great thread of scary storytelling. There is something about a dead man seeking his head, and taking others in the process that has an eerie, keep-a-lookout quality. Add a covered bridge and a fall evening and *shudder*. I mean, what if? What if you looked up, and there he was?