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If there is one thing I have learnt during my 26 years, it is that I am not good at reading/watching horror. Years ago, I was bullied persuaded to go and see The Hills Have Eyes at the cinema. I had horrendous nightmares for days. Before that, in a demonstration of bravado (I assume), I bought Red Dragon and another equally horrific sounding book featuring Hannibal Lecter and just having them on my shelves frightened me so much that I had to remove them from my house. Not off my shelf or out of my bedroom, out of my HOUSE. Before I had even read a page.
I tell you this not so that you are all convinced of my lunacy/cowardice but so that you can be sure that, if you are also of a more wimpy persuasion, my recommendations are a safe way for you to spend a couple of hours reading enjoying some goosebumps this Hallowe'en without spending the rest of the week hiding under your duvet.
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Dracula by Bram Stoker - When it was released in 1897, Dracula was praised as "the sensation of the season" and "the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century". 114 years later and Count Dracula continues to haunt modern readers both in Stoker's original words and as the forefather of a whole sub-genre. You don't need to me to tell you that, even if the vampire craze wasn't what it is, you should read this book. It's atmospheric, tense and creepy without becoming out-and-out scary. Trust your nineteenth century ancestors' more staid tastes and enjoy.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving - A teeny tiny test of your courageousness in the form of a classic ghost story. Don't let worries about the rather gory film adaptation put you off - this is a wonderfully descriptive little story and spooky rather than gruesome.
This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers - Yes, there are zombies, but the story doesn't focus on their slavering, flesh-eating ways and looks instead at the effects their presence has on Summers' cast of teenagers. A healthy dose of chills without blood-induced queasiness? Don't mind if I do. Seriously, though, this book is extremely addictive and easy to get caught up in for an evening.
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake - This is the most gory of my recommendations this year so those of you that are not fond of excessive descriptions of blood and some deaths, be wary of this one, please. I don't want to be responsible for your nightmares! For someone who is generally not brave when it comes to horror, I find that there is something haunting and sad about ghost's stories (that's the stories of the ghosts, not a typo in 'ghost stories'). Featuring a ghost hunter-type boy, this has those in spades, which makes it a lot more emotive than your standard "Ghost Bad, Kill" story. Although there is a romantic sub-plot that I could live without. Just sayin'...
Ghost Stories with a Twist
The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde - Fond of some slapstick humour with your ghosts? Or, as is more likely, now that you've read that there is something that combines humour and ghosts successfully, like the sound of it? Oscar Wilde is your man. I think this is the least horror-ish of my faux-horror recommendations and is genuinely funny. Grab some pumpkin-shaped chocolates and tuck in.
The Winter Ghosts by Kate Mosse - Like your ghost stories with a historical fiction edge? The Winter Ghosts mixes that haunting lost feeling that is often described in relation to survivors of the Great War with that regular haunting feeling. The writing is superb meaning you can enjoy your walk on the ghostly side with some class and elegance.
So there you have it! If you have a few hours to spare this Hallowe'en and feel like spending them hidden away with an appropriately-themed-but-not-terrifying book, you can do much, much worse than these. Happy Hallowe'en!! :)