What sounds do you hear when you think of Halloween? The howl of the wind through the trees? The ominous creak of a footstep on the stair of an empty house? The distant cackle of a witch or the low moan of a zombie? Well, it's time to add the rustle of pages to this haunting melody.
All Hallow's Read is the wonderful invention of Neil Gaiman. The idea is that in the week of Halloween or on All Hallow's Eve itself, you give someone a scary book. You can find out more information about this venerable tradition here and here.
What I love best about this idea is that everyone can get involved, from the youngest reader to the eldest. You don't even have to buy a book to give away if you can't afford to – just take a look at the dark and cobwebbed corners of your bookshelves where the scary books huddle and pick one to give away. Maybe there's a book there that you were too frightened to finish, so why don't you set it free on Halloween to scare somebody else instead?
In that spirit (cue uncanny music and supernatural sfx - whoo-whoooh!), here's a list of some of the scariest reads that are lurking on my shelves, waiting to pounce on any unwary readers this All Hallow's Read...
Spooky picture books
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
A cautionary tale about a witch flying her broomstick one blustery Halloween night...
Funnybones by Janey and Allen Ahlberg
"On a dark dark hill, there was a dark dark town. In the dark dark town there was a dark dark street."
The Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean
Because, as we all now know, if the wolves come out of the walls, it’s all over...
Creepy stories for older children
The Gates by John Connolly
Stephen King meets Monty Python says the Amazon review and I wouldn’t argue with that!
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
The book that single-handedly increased reported cases of koumpounophobia to epidemic levels. Buttons for eyes..
The Dead Ways by Christopher Edge
A fast-paced and frightening supernatural conspiracy thriller... What do you mean I can’t mention my own book? It’s my blog!
The Ghost Stories of M.R. James
An unnerving collection of tales from the original master of the macabre.
The Casebook of Carnacki the Ghost Finder by William Hope Hodgson
Everyone knows about Sherlock Holmes, but Thomas Carnacki was the only detective brave enough to investigate the supernatural mysteries that lurked beneath the gaslight.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
A dark and twisted tale that’s even more frightening than you might remember.
The stories that scarred my childhood
Weaveworld by Clive Barker
Never go looking for a book on your older brother’s bookcase, unless you’re prepared for what you might find...
The House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski
Original, astonishing and oh, so scary, this is the only book that has ever made me measure the inside and outside of my wardrobe just to make sure...
Heart-shaped Box by Joe Hill
A confession: for a long time, I was literally too frightened to finish this book. Read it late at night if you dare.
So these are some of the books I’m planning to give away this All Hallow’s Read. Let me know which scary stories you’d recommend in the comments below or tweet these using the hashtag #AllHallowsRead.
Remember, this new tradition is the perfect opportunity to remind people that the most entertaining nightmares won’t be found in a horror film or late-night TV show, but are the ones that swim from the depths of our minds as we turn the pages of a well-crafted tale...
Spread the word.