Literary Chills And Thrills For Halloween Reading

Literary Chills And Thrills For Halloween Reading
© 2011 Larry Cox -
October 21, 2011

Vintage Vampire Stories edited by Robert Eighteen-Bisang and Richard Dalby (Skyhorse, $12.95 softbound)

The legend of vampires didn’t really appear front and center in our culture until about 1897 following the publication of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, “Dracula.” The authors, both proclaimed vampire experts, have sifted through the dusty pages of defunct newspapers, out of print magazines, and nineteen century anthologies to gather a chilling treasure trove of stories that begin with a 1679 blood-drinking corpse and through an extraordinary incident that occurred in 1909. From writers that include such heavy-hitters as Bram Stoker, Mary Elizabeth Braddon and Phil Robinson, this is a book that is guaranteed to enthrall any lover of vampire lore or dark and shadowy literature.
A Field Guide to Demons, Vampires, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits by Carol K. Mack & Dinah Mack (Skyhorse, $14.95 softbound)

With a global perspective, this field guide profiles over 90 dark creatures including zombies, werewolves, and ghouls. Also featured is the Surem, creatures that are about three feet in height and considered to be the precursors of the Yaqui people of the Sonoran Desert. The Surem were nomads who did not know sickness or death but could communicate with plants, with which they lived peacefully in the wild.

Expanded and updated, and this and highly researched book is organized into sections such as Psyche (creatures who possess), Mountains, Water, Forests, Deserts, and more. With this guide, you can learn how to identify and approach these mysterious creatures — if you dare.

The World’s Creepiest Places by Dr. Bob Curran and illustrations by Ian Daniels (New Page Books, $15.99 softbound)

Dr. Bob Curran, an Irish writer, traveled throughout the United States, Mexico, North Africa and Europe visiting some of the world’s creepiest sites. Think of his new book as a travel guide for ghost lovers

His U.S. visits included the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, Gore Orphanage Road near Cleveland, Old Emmanuel Hill Church in Stull, Kansas, Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Louisville, Kentucky, and Bachelor’s Grove in Chicago. He also studied and toured such sites as Loftus Hall in Wexford, Ireland, Capuchin Cemetery in Palermo, Sicily, Studley Park in New South Wales, Australia, and Yumbulagang in the Yarlung Valley in Tibet. In addition to his impressions, he serves up the history and traditions connected with each site. If you are searching for a weird out-of-the-way location for your next vacation, this book could help steer you in the right direction.

Tales of Kentucky Ghosts by William Lynwood Montell (University Press of Kentucky, $24.95)

William Lynwood Montell, professor emeritus of folk studies at Western Kentucky University, has gathered ghost stories from throughout the Commonwealth, many of them revealed orally and published for the first time just as they were told to him.

The stories range from scary to comical. For example, there are the tales of a murdered woman whose spirit had the power to change the course of a river, a haunted graveyard in Whitley County, the whimpering of a dead boy in Lawrence County, and a visit to a haunted house in Harlan County. On the lighter side, there is a sister-in-law’s encounter with a foot-tickling ghost and an elderly-looking spirit with an affinity for hats.

This is a great collection of ghost stories that reflect Kentucky’s rich history and legends.

Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalpse by Steven C. Schlozman, MD (Grand Central, $19.99)

As the walking dead rise up throughout the world, a team of brave doctors attempt to find a cure by applying forensic techniques to captured specimens. Renowned zombie expert Dr. Stanley Bum works at a remote island in the Indian Ocean hoping for a break through. Comprised of Blum’s notes, “The Zombie Autopsies” documents the unique biology of zombie organisms including graphic depictions of zombie brains, hearts, lung, skin, and digestive systems. Twenty-five detailed drawings add just the right spooky touch.

Sad Monsters: Growling on the Outside, Crying on the Inside by Frank Lesser with illustrations by Willie real (Plume, $13 softbound)

It isn’t easy being a monster. For starters they are misunderstood and also suffer from the very real problems of body issues, discrimination and even an occasional existential crisis.

Frank Lesser, a monster talent himself, serves up a feast of hilarious essays, complete with quirky illustrations. Invited to the gathering are such well-known monsters as Godzilla, who ponders the need to destroy cities, the Abominable Snowman, who wants a job as an editorial writer at Vogue, the Gingerbread House Witch, who wants to put Hansel on a diet, and Dorian Gray’s roommate who shares his tips on interior decorating.

Light and as satisfying as a meringue, this entertaining little book underscores the fact that monsters — aside from their frightening exteriors and an occasional propensity to eat human flesh — are a great deal like us.

Campfire True Ghost Stories by Jim Harold (New Page, $14.99 softbound)

One of the most frightening experiences of childhood (or adulthood for that matter) is hearing ghost stories while sitting around a campfire. Jim Harold, who started a podcast about the paranormal in 2005, shares nearly six dozen chilling stories of ghosts, close encounters with specters and the dead, and spine-chilling real-life experiences. There is a teenager who “plays” with a Ouija board but soon discovers she has somehow conjured up the devil, a deceased blues musician who returns in a young woman’s dreams demanding that his final recording be finished, and a swarm of butterflies that mysteriously appears to signify both the beginning and the end of a life of a beloved grandmother.

Many of these spooky stories will have reading glancing uneasily over their shoulders, especially when reading them at night.

The Best Ghost Stories Ever Told edited by Stephen Brennan (Skyhorse, $12.95 softbound)

This is one of the best — if not the best — collections of ghost stories I’ve ever found.

Stephen Brennan, a New York-based actor, director, playwright, teacher and circus clown, has compiled over forty stories that are from the fertile imaginations of such writers as O. Henry, Edgar Allen Poe, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Arthur Conan Doyle. When I saw Washington Irving as a contributor, I automatically assumed his story would be his “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” but I was wrong. Irving’s tale is the lesser-known but equally chilling, “The Bold Dragoon; or, The Adventure of My Grandfather.” “The Haunted House” by Charles Dickens, “Afterward” by Edith Wharton, “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs, and Poe’s “The Black Cat” are all standouts.

This marvelous compilation spans the gamut of both nineteenth and twentieth century writing featuring some of the most imaginative and frightening stories ever published. Vivid descriptions of creepy characters and happening will bring hours of entertainment to readers, especially those with a thirst for otherworldly literature.

Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore by Benjamin Radford (University of New Mexico Press, $24.95)

This is a comprehensive examination of the chupacabra, the blood-sucking beast named for the mysterious deaths of thousands of animals since the 1990s.

Combining five years of careful examination, Benjamin Radford, the managing editor of “The Skeptical Inquirer,” offers a close study of the creature’s cultural and folkloric significance. Whether you believe, as many in Latin America do, that the beast is a result of secret U.S. government experiments in the Puerto Rican jungles, or just a myth, this book is as close to the truth as we are apt to get.

The Axman Came from Hell and Other Southern True Crime Stories by Keven McQueen (Pelican Publishing, $17.95)

This book documents several murders that occurred in the American South from the 1880s through the early 1930s. From a murder-for-profit scheme in Little Rock to a string on unsolved homicides in New Orleans, the true accounts details the evidence and places each crime in its historic context.

Kevin McQueen, a Kentucky-based historian, highlights the sensational cases as some of the lesser known ones. He sorts out the facts of the first serial killer in U.S. history, an actress who shot her leading man just before a performance, and Henry Delancey’s half-hour marriage.

Highly readable and intriguing, this collection takes a fresh look at several historic crimes, from the terrifying to the bizarre. The text is supplemented with historic images.