This was originally written for and posted at After Dark In the Playing Fields on Halloween in 2010, by my partner in the enterprise at that time, to whom we at Unquiet Things refer to, with much love, as a “Kindred Spirit”.
However, I can’t think of a better time to indulge in a chilling tale than during summer’s infernal furnace when the promise of autumn’s cooling glooms are still a dreadfully long way off. And so, you can thank a feverish August heatwave for the re-sharing of this this delightfully spooky list.
Some of the listed items below are complete books, whereas others are shorter stories. I have attempted to include links to read for free on the web, where possible;otherwise, the links will lead you to amazon where the books/stories can be purchased.
1. “The Music of Erich Zann” by H.P. Lovecraft. The shrieking and whining of desperate viols…defending against…what exactly?
2. The Tenant by Roland Topor. The most disturbing novel I have ever read, a nauseating crescendo of paranoia and sinister characters.
3. “O Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad” by M.R. James. Mysterious medieval whistles with Latin inscriptions and the infamous “face of crumpled linen”.
4. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Evocative, eerie and I first read it in one sitting.
5. “The White People” by Arthur Machen. “And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning?”
6. “The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood. Two campers encounter a place where the veil between the worlds has grown thin…an alien world, a world tenanted by willows only and the souls of willows.
7. “A Haunted Island” by Algernon Blackwood. Chilling terror and remniscent of the Adirondacks island camp I stay at in the summers. (Blackwood makes this list twice, because he is truly the master of the unsettling tale.)
8. The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson. A found manuscript, swine creatures and the swift passing of the universe…is the narrator sane or not?
9. “The Spider” by Hanns Heinz Ewers. Mysterious suicides take place in the same apartment, seemingly without cause.
10. “The Human Chair” by Edogawa Rampo. A bizarre tale of the Japanese gothic.
11. “The Room in the Tower” by E.F. Benson. Sinister dreams and unfriendly nocturnal visitors.
12. “The Damned Thing” by Ambrose Bierce. What may happen in a field of wild oats.
A bonus pick from your host, Mlle. Ghoul:
- 13. The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons. A singular tale, and from what I can tell the author’s lone foray into the genre. A unique take on the haunted house story – is the evil housed within in the structure of the dwelling, or is it the wickedness of the inhabitants that drive the horrors that occur within? The chills are so subtly sinister and so elegantly written that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly why the book is so frightening; I imagine the shudders provoked by these pages will be very different for each reader.
Feel free to leave your own recommendations in the comments!