Columns > Published on October 23rd, 2015

5 Chilling Books Set on Halloween

Halloween is upon us. There are plenty of book lists out there this time of year, promising spooky reads and haunted fun. Some are even on this very website!

Finding a spooky read for Halloween is pretty easy. But what if you want something more specific: Stories that are set on Halloween?

That’s a bit trickier, but we've got you covered.

1. 'Dark Harvest' by Norman Patridge

Let’s start with an easy one. Possibly the best Halloween novel of all, in my humble opinion, Norman Partridge’s Dark Harvest. Winner of the Bram Stoker Award.

Taking place in the 60s, the teenagers in a little American town roam the streets every Halloween night hoping to find and kill the October Boy, a pumpkin-headed scarecrow that comes alive on that day. The winner gets the prize and leaves town, never to be seen again. Or maybe not.

A story somewhat reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, but with a Halloween twist. It’s a quick read, it has action and some fairly spooky chapters. All around great Halloween fun.

[amazon 076531911X inline]


2. 'Ghost Road Blues' by Jonathan Maberry

Another small-town horror novel, Jonathan Maberry’s Ghost Road Blues takes place in the self-proclaimed spookiest town in America.

Pine Deep was rocked thirty years ago by a series of murders, as serial killer Reaper cut through the quiet town. These days it’s a tourist-friendly town that sees visitors ramp up around Halloween, as they prepare for their yearly celebration.

Only people start showing up dead again, and this time it's not certain the town can fight the evil that walks its streets.

First in a trilogy, this epic tale should last you throughout October.

[amazon 0786018151 inline]


3. 'Dead Leaves: 8 Tales from the Witching Season' by Kealan Patrick Burke

A pretty interesting concept for a single author collection, Dead Tales collects eight stories by Kealan Patrick Burke, all revolving around Halloween.

Two brothers find themselves drawn to the only house in the neighborhood not decorated for Halloween…

A young girl walks a lonely country road, recalling a rhyme that brings with it memories of death…

And a lonely trick-or-treater awakes in a house rumored to be a place of death.

Nice little collection of spooky stories, sometimes available for free on the Kindle store.

[amazon B005TKIQWU inline]


4. 'October Dreams: A Celebration of Halloween' edited by Richard Chizma

Time for a classic. October Dreams collects short stories, novellas, and non-fiction in the form of essays on film, books and real-life memories of Halloween. This behemoth is the definitive Halloween collection.

It contains a massive amount of great names of horror fiction, like: Peter Straub, Poppy Z. Brite, Steve Rasnic Tem, Elizabeth Engstrom, Thomas Ligotti, Jack Ketchum, Ray Bradbury, Paula Guran, Tom Piccirilli, Caitlín R. Kiernan, F. Paul Wilson and Ramsey Campbell.

A great book to keep on the coffee table in the fall, where you can pick it up and read a story or two at your leisure, to get you in the Halloween spirit.

[amazon 0451458958 inline]


5. 'Halloween' edited by Paula Guran

Something a little more recent, Paula Guran's Halloween anthology includes stories by Thomas Ligotti, Norman Partridge, Glen Hirshberg, Caitlin R. Kiernan, Al Sarrantonio, Gary McMahon, Charles de Lint, Sarah Langan, Joe R. Landsdale and Gary Braunbeck (and a host of others). A very good mix of old and new, classic and off-beat.

Definitely check out Sarrantonio's novella, Hornets. Hornets began Sarrantonio’s “Orangefield Cycle”, a series of novels and stories that take place in Orangefield, which is more or less Halloween Town.

A solid entry into the Halloween anthologies list.

[amazon B005OSXHLC inline]

Notable Mentions

There's quite a few more Halloween books out there, like Ray Bradbury's The Halloween Tree and Something Wicked This Way Comes, Norman Partridge's Johnny Halloween and Al Sarrantonio's The Orangefield Cycle Omnibus.
I'd love to recommend the novelizations of the film Halloween (there are novelizations for the first four films, plus a few more Halloween-inspired books) but they seem to exist only in thrift stores and from crazy Amazon resellers who want two hundred bucks for a moldy paperback. They're not worth that price for a couple of hours of nostalgia.

About the author

George Cotronis lives in the wilderness of Northern Sweden. He designs book covers and sometimes writes. His stories have appeared in XIII, Big Pulp and Vignettes from the End of the World. He is also the editor in chief at Kraken Press and Aghast: A Journal of the Darkly Fantastic. You can see his work at or read his rants over at his blog.

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