My favorite holiday is here, and I love to find spooky stories to read to suit the occasion. The fun thing about these short stories is that they aren’t your typical scary stories. They don’t involve and supernatural beings or undead creatures, which I absolutely love, too. They focus on complex, interesting characters with struggles and conflicts that readers can relate to any time of the year. Besides, what’s scarier than real life?
“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
This is a favorite of mine to read any time, but it fits in nicely around Halloween. A family decides to take a trip to Florida but the grandmother doesn’t want to go because there is a killer, known as The Misfit, on the loose and said to be headed to Florida. The family decides to go on the trip anyway, discounting her fears. What makes this story perfect for this time of year is not only the suspense O’Connor builds between the characters and the setting, but also the way she mixes humor with a serious subject, which makes for a fun story that leaves the reader questioning what it really means to be a good man.
“The Specialist’s Hat” by Kelly Link
Following their mother’s untimely passing, twin sisters Samantha and Claire become fascinated by death. They play games about death, imagining all the things that they won’t have to do when they die. Their father is writing a history on the house they are living in, researching the poet who lived there previously and died under mysterious circumstances. Their father leaves the twins with a babysitter who claims to have lived in the house and is related to the mysterious poet their father is writing on. She tells the girls a story about The Specialist. Any story that combines haunted houses, mysterious disappearances, and a fascination is always a good one to read this time of year, and this one by Link combines all of the above.
“Clytie” by Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty is known for her southern Gothic literature, and this story falls into that category. Clytie Farr, an eccentric “old maid,” lives daily as the object of criticism from the people in town, including her own sister Octavia who is a bit of a recluse and a wreck herself. As Clytie is constantly being watched, Clytie makes observations of her own by studying people’s faces, realizing the secrets that a person’s face can hide. Welty’s writing brings to life Clytie’s inner struggle while she also wrangles taking care of her dysfunctional family. This is not a story to be missed.
“The Pool” by Daphne du Maurier
Daphne du Maurier is known for writing many successful gothic novels, especially The Birds which was adapted into the Alfred Hitchcock film by the same name. In “The Pool,” a young girl by the name of Deborah is on the verge of puberty. During a scorching summer at with her grandparents, Deborah deals with a shift in interests and a change in her relationship with her brother. Whereas her brother only wants to play around, the girl tries to escape into the woods where there is a pool that becomes a beacon to her. This one has a lot of symbolism as Deborah manages her way through so many changes in her body and rests on the cusp of becoming a woman.
“Haunted” by Joyce Carol Oates
Melissa and her friend, Mary Lou, grew up together exploring empty, dilapidated houses they were told to keep away from. A little older, they still visit those houses, but the two girls struggle with the side effects of growing up and the strain it puts on friendships. Oates weaves together a story that many can relate to, but also creates a situation that is so shocking and terrifying that its consequences rock not only Melissa but the reader as well.
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What are you reading this Halloween season? Let us know in the comments.