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14 Spooky Must-Reads For The Halloween Season

Art by Mike Mignola

There’s nothing like a crisp fall evening with a roaring fire, a glass of warmed apple cider, and a frighteningly good book that stirs your nervous system into a frenzy.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, monsters either real or imagined, there’s something primal about fear.

Here are fourteen such titles ideal to enjoy during this Halloween season.

Vampires of El Norte
by Isabel Cañas

As the daughter of a rancher in 1840s Mexico, Nena knows a thing or two about monsters—her home has long been threatened by tensions with Anglo settlers from the north. But something more sinister lurks near the ranch at night, something that drains men of their blood and leaves them for dead.

Something that once attacked Nena nine years ago.

Believing Nena dead, Néstor has been on the run from his grief ever since, moving from ranch to ranch working as a vaquero. But no amount of drink can dispel the night terrors of sharp teeth; no woman can erase his childhood sweetheart from his mind.

When the United States invades Mexico in 1846, the two are brought abruptly together on the road to war: Nena as a curandera, a healer striving to prove her worth to her father so that he does not marry her off to a stranger, and Néstor as a member of the auxiliary cavalry of ranchers and vaqueros. But the shock of their reunion—and Nena’s rage at Néstor for seemingly abandoning her long ago—is quickly overshadowed by the appearance of a nightmare made flesh.

And unless Nena and Néstor work through their past and face the future together, neither will survive to see the dawn.

The September House
By Carissa Orlando 


A woman is determined to stay in her dream home even after it becomes a haunted nightmare in this compulsively readable, twisty, and layered debut novel.

When Margaret and her husband Hal bought the large Victorian house on Hawthorn Street—for sale at a surprisingly reasonable price—they couldn’t believe they finally had a home of their own. Then they discovered the hauntings. Every September, the walls drip blood. The ghosts of former inhabitants appear, and all of them are terrified of something that lurks in the basement. Most people would flee.

Margaret is not most people.

Margaret is staying. It’s her house. But after four years Hal can’t take it anymore, and he leaves abruptly. Now, he’s not returning calls, and their daughter Katherine—who knows nothing about the hauntings—arrives, intent on looking for her missing father. To make things worse, September has just begun, and with every attempt Margaret and Katherine make at finding Hal, the hauntings grow more harrowing, because there are some secrets the house needs to keep.

Dead Funny: The Humor of American Horror
By David Gillota

Horror films strive to make audiences scream, but they also garner plenty of laughs. In fact, there is a long tradition of horror directors who are fluent in humor, from James Whale to John Landis to Jordan Peele. So how might horror and humor overlap more than we would expect?

Dead Funny locates humor as a key element in the American horror film, one that is not merely used for extraneous “comic relief” moments but often serves to underscore major themes, intensify suspense, and disorient viewers. Each chapter focuses on a different comic style or device, from the use of funny monsters and scary clowns in movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street to the physical humor and slapstick in movies ranging from The Evil Dead to Final Destination.  Along the way, humor scholar David Gillota explores how horror films employ parody, satire, and camp to comment on gender, sexuality, and racial politics. Covering everything from the grotesque body in Freaks to the comedy of awkwardness in Midsommar, this book shows how integral humor has been to the development of the American horror film over the past century.

The League of Lady Poisoners: Illustrated True Stories of Dangerous Women
Written and Illustrated by by Lisa Perrin

A feast for the senses, this sumptuously illustrated book will introduce you to some of the most infamous women throughout world history, united by their shared taste for poison. Welcome to the League of Lady Poisoners.

This riveting and well-researched volume by Lisa Perrin weaves together the stories of more than twenty-five accused women poisoners, exploring the circumstances and skill sets that led them to lives of crime.

You might find yourself rooting for some of them—like Sally Bassett, who helped poison her granddaughter’s enslavers in Bermuda, or Giulia Tofana, who sold her name-brand concoction to women wanting to be rid of their abusive (or otherwise undesirable) husbands. Other stories, though—including that of Yiya Murano, one of Argentina’s most notorious swindlers and serial killers, or the terrifying Nurse Jane Toppan—may prove less palatable.

Organized into thematic chapters based on the women’s motives, the book also includes an illustrated primer that delves into the origins and effects of common poisons throughout history, as well as a foreword by Holly Frey and Maria Trimarchi, creators and hosts of the podcast Criminalia. It is a treat for true crime fans, feminist history buffs, and any curious readers fascinated by the more macabre side of human nature.

Women can do anything—even commit murder. This thoughtfully researched and insightful survey into the lives of the poisoners explores the toxic events that put these women in the spotlight, the deceptive methods and substances they used, and their legacies today. The League of Lady Poisoners is a thrilling deep dive for fans of true crime podcasts, docuseries, and books.

Illustrator and author Lisa Perrin’s beautiful and distinctive art style blends the romantic allure of these pop culture legends with the disturbing and twisted facts of their lives. The hardcover is decorated with shining foil, and the interior contains clever Victorian-inspired lettering, borders, and diagrams that complement the text. Readers and illustrated book collectors will love all the details honoring the Golden Age of Poison.

These women lived in different time periods and had varying cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds that influenced their motives. Some acted out of defiance—like the Angel Makers of Nagyrév, who taught women how to dispose of their abusive husbands in Hungary. Others schemed their way to power and money, including Empress Wu Zetian of China and Belle Gunness, who killed more than 14 people in the American Midwest. Discover all their stories in this engaging collection . . . if you have the stomach for them.

Sister of Darkness: The Chronicles of a Modern Exorcist
By R. H. Stavis with Sarah Durand

The world’s only non-denominational exorcist tells her astonishing true story: a riveting chronicle of wrestling entities from infected souls, showing how pain and trauma opens us to attachment from forces that drain our energy . . . and can even destroy our humanity.

As a secular exorcist, Rachel H. Stavis has cleansed thousands of tormented people, from small children and Hollywood moguls to stay-at-home moms and politicians. But for many years, the horror screenwriter and novelist denied her gift. As a little girl, she began to see “monsters” floating around her bedroom or attached to other children. Told it was only her imagination, Rachel learned to ignore the things she saw.

But a series of events in adulthood forced her to acknowledge her unique ability and embrace her power to heal. Since then, Rachel has dedicated her life to helping others cast off the forces feeding off of us. Performing her services pro-bono, she quietly worked in the shadows, until she unknowingly revealed her work to a journalist, who told her story to NPR.

A unique look at demonology removed from religious dogma, Sister of Darknessrecounts Rachel’s journey to becoming an exorcist and chronicles some of her most extreme cleansings cases, including those that put her and her clients in peril. Going deep into her world, we meet the diverse range of people she has helped—young, old, famous and not—in gripping stories of danger and sometimes sadness, that are ultimately about redemption. Rachel teaches us that there are a diverse range of “entities” surrounding us—some of these are playful or misguided, while some are dangerous and harmful. She introduces each of them and explains their power, helping us understand what is attacking and hurting us, and what we can do to protect ourselves.

Frightening, eye-opening, and utterly enthralling, Sister of Darkness brings to light a world ruled by destruction, chaos and fear, and the woman who bravely fights to protect those who seeks her out.

Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Full Film Script
By Editors of Canterbury Classics

The screenplay and lyrics from Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmasalong with hundreds of behind-the-scenes facts, illustrations, and historical details from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library—are all collected in these pages.

Experience your favorite stop-motion animated film in a new way with this special edition of Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. This handsome hardcover book includes both the full film script and the complete song lyrics, along with hundreds of behind-the-scenes facts about the production and development of the film, including details about how the puppets were constructed and animated. All this is brought to life with photographs, original sketches, final frames, and historical images from the Walt Disney Animation Research Library. Readers will enjoy an in-depth experience of this beloved classic and gain a deeper appreciation for the animators, musicians, and voice actors who brought the story of Halloween Town to the screen.

Aesthetic Deviations: A Critical View of American Shot-on-Video Horror, 1984-1994 
By Vincent A. Albarano

Long considered the dead-end of genre cinema, Shot-On-Video (SOV) horror finally gets its due as a serious filmmaking practice.

Using classic fanzines, promotional materials, and especially the theories of several important film scholars, Vincent Albarano brings SOV horror into critical focus for the first time in print. Prior to this moment, Video Violence, Twisted Issues, Alien Beasts, and more have never been mentioned in the same breath as André Bazin and Siegfried Kracauer, despite their common ground.

Aesthetic Deviations delves deep into several of the most famous SOV horror titles to give credit for their unique and singular contributions to independent genre cinema. Informed equally by a fan’s passion and the studied approaches of scholarly analysis, Albarano offers the first-ever detailed examination of the SOV horror cycle, proving that this strain of amateur filmmaking is deserving of proper appraisal. Sure to enlighten and provoke thought among fans and converts to the unique charms of SOV cinema, as well as inspire newcomers, Albarano’s book proves an invaluable resource for a neglected area of cinematic inquiry.
Moonlight Marquee: The Werewolf Film Encyclopedia
Edited by David C. Hayes and Mark Christopher Scioneaux
The werewolf has been a cinematic staple since the early 1900s. The popular image of man and beast, from uncontrollable monsters to suave high school basketballers, has had a place of honor in our narratives from the beginnings of the art form. There have been high budget, glossy Hollywood productions featuring the werewolf, low budget drive-in features, shot-on-video labors of love and everything in-between. What this volume attempts to do is collate as many of these films that our intrepid research team could find in one place. Separated by decade, and then alphabetically, every film has been reviewed, quantified, and qualified in terms ranging from narrative concepts all the way to the ‘fur and fangs’ quotient. Slipway Cinema Press is proud to have this, Moonlight Marquee: The Werewolf Film Encyclopedia, as their first release. It may have taken five years, but it spans generations.

Featuring the work of: Nicole Castle-Kelly, Peggy Christie, Michael Cieslak, Paul Counelis, Tyler DePerro, Jeff Dolniak, David Herndon, Mirek Lipinski, Corey Maslowski, Kevin Moyers, Andrew J. Rausch, Brian J. Robb, Mark C. Scioneaux, Sean Seal, Daniel Gorman, and Joshua Werner

Featuring Conversations with Fred Dekker, Joe Dante, Lowell Dean, Kevin Lindenmuth, Mark Polonia, Eric Red, Todd Sheets, Wesley Strick, and Joe Castro

What Kind of Mother
By Clay Chapman

After striking out on her own as a teen mom, Madi Price is forced to return to her hometown of Brandywine, Virginia, with her seventeen-year-old daughter. With nothing to her name, she scrapes together a living as a palm reader at the local farmers market.

It’s there that she connects with old high school flame Henry McCabe, now a reclusive local fisherman whose infant son, Skyler, went missing five years ago. Everyone in town is sure Skyler is dead, but when Madi reads Henry’s palm, she’s haunted by strange and disturbing visions that suggest otherwise. As she follows the thread of these visions, Madi discovers a terrifying nightmare waiting at the center of the labyrinth—and it’s coming for everyone she holds dear.

The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear 
by Nat Segaloff

On December 26, 1973, The Exorcist was released. Within days it had become legend. Moviegoers braved hours-long lines in winter weather to see it. Some audience members famously fainted or vomited. Half a century later, the movie that both inspired and transcends the modern horror genre has lost none of its power to terrify and unsettle.

The Exorcist Legacy reveals the complete story of this cultural phenomenon, from the real-life exorcism in 1949 Maryland that inspired William Peter Blatty’s bestselling novel on which the movie is based, to its many sequels, prequels, TV series, and homages. Nat Segaloff, biographer of the film’s director, William Friedkin, draws on original interviews with cast, crew, and participants as well as revelations from personal papers to present an intriguing and surprising new view of the making of the movie, and its aftermath.

Segaloff also examines as never before the keys to the movie’s enduring appeal. Friedkin and Blatty’s goal was far more ambitious than making a scary movie; they aimed to make people “think about the concept of good and evil.” The Exorcist succeeds, and then some, not just by creating on-screen scares, but by challenging viewers’ deepest personal beliefs—and fears.

Schrader’s Chord: A Novel
By Scott Leeds

I told you they were real.

After his estranged father’s mysterious death, Charlie Remick returns to Seattle to help with the funeral. There, he discovers his father left him two parting gifts: the keys to the family record store and a strange black case containing four antique records that, according to legend, can open a gate to the land of the dead.

When Charlie, his sister, and their two friends play the records, they unwittingly open a floodgate of unspeakable horror. As the darkness descends, they are stalked by a relentless, malevolent force and see the dead everywhere they turn.

With time running out, the only person who can help them is Charlie’s resurrected father, who knows firsthand the awesome power the records have unleashed. But can they close the gate and silence Schrader’s Chord before it’s too late?

Knock Knock, Open Wide
By Neil Sharpson 

Knock Knock, Open Wide weaves horror and Celtic myth into a terrifying, heartbreaking supernatural tale of fractured family bonds, the secrets we carry, and the veiled forces that guide Irish life.

Driving home late one night, Etain Larkin finds a corpse on a pitch-black country road deep in the Irish countryside. She takes the corpse to a remote farmhouse. So begins a night of unspeakable horror that will take her to the very brink of sanity.

She will never speak of it again.

Two decades later, Betty Fitzpatrick, newly arrived at college in Dublin, has already fallen in love with the drama society, and the beautiful but troubled Ashling Mallen. As their relationship blossoms, Ashling goes to great lengths to keep Betty away from her family, especially her alcoholic mother, Etain.

As their relationship blossoms, Betty learns her lover’s terrifying family history, and Ashling’s secret obsession. Ashling has become convinced that the horrors inflicted on her family are connected to a seemingly innocent children’s TV show. Everyone in Ireland watched this show in their youth, but Ash soon discovers that no one remembers it quite the same way. And only Ashling seems to remember its star: a small black goat puppet who lives in a box and only comes out if you don’t behave. They say he’s never come out.

Almost never.

When the door between the known and unknown opens, it can never close again.

Black Sheep
By Rachel Harrison

Nobody has a “normal” family, but Vesper Wright’s is truly…something else. Vesper left home at eighteen and never looked back—mostly because she was told that leaving the staunchly religious community she grew up in meant she couldn’t return. But then an envelope arrives on her doorstep.

Inside is an invitation to the wedding of Vesper’s beloved cousin Rosie. It’s to be hosted at the family farm. Have they made an exception to the rule? It wouldn’t be the first time Vesper’s been given special treatment. Is the invite a sweet gesture? An olive branch? A trap? Doesn’t matter. Something inside her insists she go to the wedding. Even if it means returning to the toxic environment she escaped. Even if it means reuniting with her mother, Constance, a former horror film star and forever ice queen.

When Vesper’s homecoming exhumes a terrifying secret, she’s forced to reckon with her family’s beliefs and her own crisis of faith in this deliciously sinister novel that explores the way family ties can bind us as we struggle to find our place in the world.

Horror Dogs: Man’s Best Friend as Movie Monster
By Brian Patrick Duggan

How did beloved movie dogs become man-killers like Cujo and his cinematic pack-mates? For the first time, here is the fascinating history of canines in horror movies and why our best friends were (and are still) painted as malevolent. Stretching back into Classical mythology, treacherous hounds are found only sporadically in art and literature until the appearance of cinema’s first horror dog, Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles. The story intensifies through World War II’s K-9 Corps to the 1970s animal horror films, which broke social taboos about the “good dog” on screen and deliberately vilified certain breeds–sometimes even fluffy lapdogs.

With behind-the-scenes insights from writers, directors, actors, and dog trainers, here are the flickering hounds of silent films through talkies and Technicolor, to the latest computer-generated brutes–the supernatural, rabid, laboratory-made, alien, feral, and trained killers. Cave Canem (Beware the Dog)”–or as one seminal film warned, “They’re not pets anymore.”

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