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I know Halloween is not traditionally a bookish celebration, but I have fond memories of scary reading in my youth. Ever since I became too old for Trick-or-Treat, I’ve preferred staying in on Halloween. I like to see the costumes and hand out candy. I like to eat the candy myself. And I like to scare myself with a good book.
In the latter years of elementary school I discovered Stephen King and scared the bejeezus out of myself reading Carrie and Cujo under the covers. Stephen King was my favorite scary author during the junior high years, though I also dipped into “true” stories like The Amityville Horror. I’m still haunted by those black flies.
At some point I stopped reading the really gruesome stuff, but I remained drawn to the darker tales. After reading Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in English class (I can’t recall which grade), I hit the library and read every story she’d ever written. In many ways, Jackson’s stories were even scarier than King’s. They just seemed so possible.
Today, I don’t often browse through the horror genre section at the local bookstore or library, but I still enjoy a good scare. Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam series is full of terrifying revelations. William Gay’s dark characters and spooky, familiar, backwoods settings send my heart racing.
I don’t have any spooky reading on my bedside table today, but I think a trip to the bookstore may be in order. I miss that spooky, lonely, on-edge feeling that occurs when you are left alone in a dim house with nothing but a good book and the possibility that the doorbell will ring just as you get to the good part.