Nine Spooky, Classic Tales to Read for Halloween

By  | 
Book with cup of tea and candle

Photo courtesy of morgue file.com

After carving pumpkins, donning costumes and eating too much candy, Halloween night is the best time to sit around with a flashlight in the dark telling ghost stories.  The tales in this list were written in an age before electricity, when the shadows on the walls danced by candlelight to the wild imaginations of the listener.  The first seven are short stories written to be enjoyed with a group, while the last two are novels and perfect for curling up with a cozy blanket… and maybe with the light on!

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Published in 1892, this tale is told through the eyes of a woman losing her mental stability.  As her narration becomes more distorted and fixated on the patterns of the wallpaper of her room, the reader is left to wonder if she is really staying at a vacation home at all.


The Vampyre by John William Polidori

Considered the very first vampire tale written in English; this tale was inspired by a would-be vacation gone awry from inclement weather.  Polidori was visiting his friends Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley in Switzerland in the summer of 1816, when heavy rains kept them indoors for 3 straight days.  With nothing to do, the three turned to telling wild ghost stories and this tale was born.


Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker

This short story is actually a deleted scene from Stoker’s 1897 novel Dracula.  The narrator leads the reader on a wild exploration down a spooky, abandoned road.  While this tale reads well on its own, the end’s twist foreshadows the longer novel it came from.


The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe

Poe’s 1842 tale mixes the macabre with a medical twist.  While a fairly short read, the audience is left pondering the symbolism behind Poe’s use of colors and clock chimes.


A Rose for Emily by William Faulkner

Set in aristocratic southern Gothic style, this 1930 tale describes the life of a reclusive woman from the town’s point of view.  As the townsfolk piece their memories of her together after her death, they make a grisly discovery.


The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs

Written in 1902, this story warns of the classic theme of “be careful what you wish for.”  It could very well come true!


The Minister’s Black Veil by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Set in a strict, Puritan New England village, Hawthorne explores the themes of sin and repentance in this 1836 tale.  The main character dons a black veil over his face, at first making his congregation uncomfortable.  That discomfort soon turns to distress when he refuses to remove it, causing great panic among the villagers.


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

This novel was also born of that legendary summer vacation in 1816 mentioned above.  Without this tale, we would not have our quintessential Halloween monster!


A Sicilian Romance by Ann Radcliffe

While the title may not seem spooky, this 1790 work is considered to be the very first gothic style novel.  Don’t let its age intimidate you, though.  Set in decaying Italian castles, Radcliffe weaves in truly beautiful scenery with suspense, as the main character Julia discovers a sinister plot and what that sound behind her bedroom wall really is.

Classic Tales