Skin-Crawling Stories

While I was never a big fan of Goosebumps or Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as a child, I now crave skin-crawling stories the instant the trees start changing colour. It’s finally Halloween, and to help you get into the spirit of the season, here are some of the stories I’ve been reading, listening to, and watching to give myself a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.

Note: Some of these could be considered very disturbing and will have a more sensitive reader sleeping with the lights on — I’ve marked them with a black flag (⚑).
Cover images for books by de Mariaffi, Carroll, Tucholke, and Datlow.

BOOKS

The Devil You Know, by Elisabeth de Mariaffi

(Harper Collins Canada/Patrick Crean Editons)

While researching a news story on abducted and murdered girls in southern Ontario, Evie Jones revisits the murder case of her own childhood best friend and realizes that she may have attracted a predator of her own. In this excellent psychological thriller, de Mariaffi deftly portrays Toronto’s west end in 1993 and infuses Evie’s narrative with the creeping fear of male violence that is felt by women every day.

Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

(Simon & Schuster)

This graphic novel’s ability to build tension is impressive; the five narratives within wander and creep across full page spreads but horrific revelations are kept for the next turn of the page — beware what you may find! The most spine-tingling parts of her stories are what details go unsaid, what horrible fate will befall each protagonist. Her last story, “The Nesting House,” had the hairs of my arms on end. Perfect for an afternoon scare this October — just make sure you’re not reading this in bed.

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

(Dial Books)

I won’t lie: the cover of this book drew me in. I haven’t read a lot of YA since I was a teenager, but I’m curious to see what boundaries get pushed in this horror anthology. Note that I haven’t been able to crack this one open yet, so proceed at your own risk.

Fearful Symmetries, edited by Ellen Datlow

(Chizine Publications)

I read this anthology of horror stories last year, but it is so excellently creepy that including it here was a must. While all these tales will chill you to the bone, my favourites are the opening two: “A Wish From a Bone,” by Gemma Files, and “The Atlas of Hell,” by Nathan Ballingrud. It’s the perfect way to discover your new favourite horror author.

PODCASTS

Welcome to Night Vale

Night Vale is a bizarre desert town where one enters the dog park at their own risk, infrastructure appears overnight to the surprise of the city council, a five-headed dragon runs for mayor, and ominous helicopters of various colours hover overhead. Follow local radio host, Cecil Palmer, as he narrates the goings-on of his eerie home.

Limetown

Brand new and released at an excruciatingly slow rate, this podcast follows a young reporter investigating the disappearance of an entire US town in one chaotic day. Is this sinister event tinged with the paranormal? Likened to a mix between Serial and The X-Files, Limetown boasts high production value and a storyline that will seize you. Only 3 episodes have been released so far, and I’m already hooked.

Serial (Season 1)

Sarah Koenig of This American Life makes a meticulous investigation of the real-life murder of a teenage girl back in 2000, conducting fresh interviews and pulling files associated with the case. Most interesting of all are her sessions with the victim’s ex-boyfriend, who was convicted of the crime but maintains his innocence. The ongoing effect of this podcast on the case and investigative reporting has been controversial and hotly contested in online articles and forums, but it sure as hell is addictive.

TV SHOWS

How to Get Away With Murder

A tough-as-nails defense lawyer and her team of law students become entangled in a murder case on their university’s campus. You know how Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland logo is a rollercoaster racing along a tight track? That’s what watching an episode of HTGAWM is like; the narrative twists at break-neck speed, and each character has their own share of scandalous secrets.

Hannibal

What begins as a show similar to CSI quickly transforms into the cat-and-mouse relationship between a particularly empathic investigator and his surprisingly cannibalistic psychiatrist. Filled with highly stylized gore, melodramatic inner conflict, and homoerotic tension you could cut with a knife, Hannibal is highly entertaining if you can stand to watch it. Try taking a shot every time Will Graham breaks into a sweat.

Penny Dreadful

Named after cheap serial fiction of the nineteenth century, this show encapsulates everything gothic horror as vampires and werewolves mix with Frankensteinian monsters and worshippers of the Devil. Eva Green, whose skeletal features transform her from ascetic upper-class lady to wild-haired monster, is perfect in the starring role of Vanessa Ives. You’ll love this show’s commitment to literary and historical detail.

Scream (Netflix Original)

This reincarnation of the Scream franchise can get cheesy in its attempt to relate to modern teens by using social media and viral videos to spread scandal and terror, but there’s enough mystery to keep you loading the next episode (and it helps that each one is only 30 minutes long).

Do you get as excited about Halloween as I do? How did you choose to send shivers down your spine this month?
vintage-halloween-c3

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