ELLE’s favourite spooks
If you ever find yourself in need of a good scare, these books won’t disappoint
The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James (1898)
A young governess on her first job is soon terrified by ghost sightings, and by the stoic indifference of her wards. The orphaned children, Flora and Miles, are completely unfazed by the hauntings, refusing to even acknowledge them. James’ classic novella builds up to an ambiguous ending (Google offers plenty of interpretations to geek on), its spookiness relying heavily on the reader’s imagination.
It by Stephen King (1986)
One of King’s most popular novels, It tells the parallel stories of a group of social outcasts called ‘The Losers Club’ battling a devilish being (first as children, and later as adults) that torments and murders kids in their town. King packs the novel with a series of frights, bringing in mummies and crawling eyes, but remains close to his characteristic coming-of-age themes. This one will leave you with a lifelong fear of sewer drains and clowns.
The Roald Dahl Omnibus: Perfect Bedtime Stories For Sleepless Nights by Roald Dahl (1993)
The children’s writer, who built chocolate wonderlands and coined kid-friendly cuss words like ‘swigpill’, was also a master at weaving unforgettable spine-chillers. The darker side of Dahl’s literature is infested with ill-fated encounters, sinister murders, the occasional oddball with a penchant for taxidermy, and unsteadying plot twists. ‘Lamb To The Slaughter’, ‘The Landlady’ and ‘Skin’ are classics that often feature in textbooks, but this omnibus features lesser-known but similarly disquieting tales.
We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver (2003)
Horror stories are not always made of bloodthirsty vampires or wicked demons – sometimes it just takes a bad mother. After Eva’s adolescent son kills seven of his schoolmates, her own uncomfortable relationship with motherhood comes to the fore – raising a sociopath she could never come to love. Shriver ruthlessly digs into the traumas of marriage and family, the befores-and-afters of violence and the inherent evil in all of us, which shows itself in varying degrees.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill (2007)
A haunted suit is the latest addition to Judas Coyne’s lurid collection (a hangman’s noose, a cannibal’s cookbook and a human skull from the 16th century are standout pieces). The suit, packaged in a heart-shaped box, is accompanied by the spirit of its wrathful owner, who’s out to make Coyne, and those around him, pay for earlier transgressions. A terrifying tale of merciless revenge from Stephen King’s son; we shudder to imagine the bedtime stories he grew up on.