Six Spooky Books for the Scary Season

Addressing the occult, the frightening and the uncanny

Nobody need sacrifice intellectualism for the sake of a good scare. There are many frightening, well-written books—both fiction and non—already out there, of course. But a selection of a new releases has grabbed hold of our attention and their captivating storytelling kept us engaged from beginning to end. We’ve selected some more traditional Halloween-like topics such as vampires and ghosts as well as bizarre modern monsters and a compilation of the 50 greatest epidemics in history. Get ready to read, but be warned that some of these are not for the faint of heart.

Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories

An exemplary collection of contemporary Gothic storytelling, “Haunted Castles: The Complete Gothic Stories” ($10) includes the complete collection of horror master Ray Russell’s short stories. Genuine terror can be found within these pages, especially in the acclaimed novella trio made up of “Sardonicus,” “Sagittarius” and “Sanguinarius.” These are classics and some of the archetypes explored within will resonate with readers of all ages. It’s worth noting that Penguin also recently released “The Penguin Book of the Undead” ($12) and it’s another exquisite compilation covering “Fifteen Hundred Years of Supernatural Encounters.”


Cultural historian Christopher Frayling’s “Vampyres: Genesis and Resurrection from Count Dracula to Vampirella” ($28) taps into our collective fascination with the fantasy creatures. With imagery charting the visual developments of vampires in narrative to comprehensive text extracts, there’s substantial captivating information here. This is an expansion of Frayling’s original 1978 text and the updates emphasize the relevance of the vampire in pop culture, but it all starts where the mythology began.

The Theatre of Apparitions

Perhaps the best way to understand the curious imagination of Roger Ballen is to dedicate time to the pages of “The Theatre of Apparitions” ($30). Ballen’s latest 98-illustration monograph contains uncanny art photographs—modified, cave painting-like visualizations with macabre, and oft times grotesque depth. The book has been divided into seven chapters, or “acts.” The narrative exists only through the imagery and where one’s mind goes. The work within is a departure from Ballen’s well-known works but his signature style shines through and the psychological repercussions are many.

The Occult, Witchcraft + Magic: An Illustrated History

Christopher Dell starts at the beginning, stepping into ancient magic and how we know of its believed presence. Through stunning imagery and thoughtful text, he probes the development such beliefs and the cultures they were found within through “The Occult, Witchcraft + Magic: An Illustrated History” ($30). There 400 illustrations throughout the 399-page tome. And while Dell’s thorough research is present, so is an engaging compilation of the occult and arcane.


Let’s be honest: epidemics are terrifying. In “Outbreak! 50 Tales of Epidemics That Terrorized The World” ($15), author Beth Skwarecki surveys some of the most important historically. From those that would influence literature (tuberculosis) to historical developments (sweating sickness, smallpox and influenza), these deadly diseases and viruses spawned dark tales that we can all learn from. Skwarecki does not skimp on the details and therein is real life horror.

A Greater Monster

Though it might not be new, the second edition of author David David Katzman’s “A Greater Monster” ($18) made its way to our desk this month. This independently-published work of fiction takes place in a civilization so much like our own, and yet so different. There’s psychedelia at the core, abutted by many of the mythological troupes we’ve come to love. Both the language and the adventure conveyed through it delivery a bizarrely poetic experience that can stand up to the best of the genre.

Images by Cool Hunting, including hero image detail shot of Anton Semenov’s cover art for “The Penguin Book of the Undead”