And if you’re not busy doing your own thing or celebrating/observing everything October, stop by Jackson County Public Library for their “Star Wars Reads Day – Family Night” on October 8th at 6pm. Join in and dress-up with some pre-Halloween costuming!
October is Attention –deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) awareness month. As of 2011, approximately 8.8% of children have been diagnosed with ADHD in the United States. Though it’s estimated that the rate of occurrence for ADHD is similar in adults, only 4.4% of adults are diagnosed with ADHD – a significant portion of the adult ADHD population goes undiagnosed and untreated.
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions about ADHD and ADD (ADD has been somewhat recently re-categorized as a sub-type of ADHD- ADHD, Primarily Inattentive).
It’s not uncommon to hear people dismiss ADHD as a behavioral issue: “If only he’d try harder!,” “If her parents just made her…,” “She just doesn’t want to pay attention!” However, brain scans show that there is a significant difference in the brain activity of people diagnosed with ADHD versus neurotypical or “normal” participants. Nearly every mainstream medical, psychological, and educational organization in the United States…
It is that time of the year, pumpkins (and pumpkin drinks), leaves, and of course, Halloween. So I thought I would whip up a concoction of spine tingling reads, a variety of chills for whatever your horror mood is. On this list you’ll find classics and new books, vampires and ghosts (but no zombies; I just did them), books for the young and the old, famous authors (and their children) and not so well known ones, bloody scares and psychological ones, and plenty more. Put on your pointy hat, get your skeletons out of the closet, and read ahead if you dare. Just make sure to leave the light on.
H.P. Lovecraft is one of the masters of horror. This book reads to me much like Lovecraft. The protagonist (only referred to as “the biologist”) is part of a government sponsored expedition into mysterious Area X. It is the 12th such group to enter, following in the footsteps of 11 failed ones. They quickly find that things are more mysterious than they could have ever guessed, as reality itself seems to change, and our heroine slowly reveals her own secrets.
Documentary filmmaker Kyle Freeman is hired to do a movie about a notorious 1970s cult known as the Temple of the Last Days. As he retraces their troubled past he starts seeing unsettling and impossible things on his recordings. And he soon finds that escaping this evil is much harder than just turning off his camera.
If you want to see how the son of a master writes, try:
For those, like me, who have trouble figuring out what those clever personalized license plates are supposed to mean, NOS4A2 equals Nosferatu. And indeed, the villain in this excellent book, Charles Talent Manx, has some similarities to the Nosferatu of film fame. Joe Hill, by the way, is the son of Stephen and Tabitha King. His writing certainly lives up to the lofty standards set by his parents.
Manx travels around in his Rolls-Royce Wraith abducting children. One these kids, Victoria McQueen, escapes his clutches, although at a heavy price. Years later Manx is on the prowl again, and Vic once again finds herself caught up in his diabolical machinations, fighting against an enemy that is much more than just a man.
First off let me point out that this volume collects issues #9-16 of The Sandman comic book. Preludes and Nocturnes, the preceding volume, is a great read, has plenty of scary moments, and lays the background, but I put The Doll’s House on this list because it is, to me, more of a horror read. You can read more of what I have to say about The Sandman and graphic novels in general here.
We have in here trappings of a ghost story, with strange inhabitants of a boarding house; we have mystical figures with Dream and his siblings; we have a convention of serial killers; and we have The Corinthian, a nightmare come to life. Just hope that he doesn’t take off his sunglasses.
The Haunting of Hill House was published in 1959, and has been made into two feature films (the 1963version is scary; the 1999 one…not so much, although it does have Liam Neeson not killing everything in sight and Owen Wilson getting decapitated). But the story is not dated.
In the book a paranormal investigator invites several guests to stay with him in an old creepy mansion. Right on cue supernatural shenanigans start occurring. Or do they? They mostly center around Eleanor, and Jackson does a wondrous job of raising the sense of terror without us ever really getting a good look, if you will, of any ghosts. It becomes difficult to tell what is real and what is in the minds of the characters. Spoiler alert: you are still left wondering at the end.
If you want to read a lesser known work by one of the greats, try:
You could write books about the books Mr. King has written. Plenty of book lists have The Stand or The Shining or It on them. I decided to talk about one of his other books. A family driving cross-country is pulled over by the police in the little town of Desperation, Nevada. They soon learn that the policeman isn’t just homicidal, but the vessel for a much greater evil. They have only a short time to desperately escape Desperation.
King does what he does so well in this one, foreshadowing bad things to come. But what really elevates Desperation is the companion novel The Regulators, written under his Richard Bachman pseudonym. The Regulators is a mirror of Desperation, set in Ohio, with many of the same characters but in different roles, such as the children in one book being the parents in the other. You can read either one first.
There was a TV movie made of Desperation, but I haven’t seen it. Let me know if it is any good.
If you want to know if the book is scarier than the movie, try:
The Exorcist is widely regarded as one of the scariest movies ever made. How scary is the book? First off it was the basis for the movie (duh), and secondly it is based on an actual exorcism performed in 1949. Make no mistake, this is a work of fiction, but Blatty did his research and presents a chillingly realistic tale.
Blatty also wrote the screenplay for the movie, and for other movies as well.
Full disclaimer here: American Psycho is one messed up book. It is certainly the most extreme title on this list. You will need a strong stomach to finish it. The depictions of violence against women (and men) in this book are severe. But that is not what this book is all about.
Patrick Bateman is an investment banker in the late 80s, living the life of women and drugs and money. He is also an insane killer. He shows as much pleasure in shiny new business cards as he does in dismembering people. As the story progresses more and more bizarre things occur, such as Bateman arguing with a dry cleaner about their inability to get blood stains off his suits, and interludes that are in depth reviews of the works of Whitney Houston and Phil Collins. In the end you can’t be sure how much of what Bateman tells us is real and how much is in his mind. Either option is terrifying.
This book is quite controversial. A neat bit of trivia is that Gloria Steinem, who was very opposed to the release of the book, is the stepmother of Christian Bale, who plays Bateman in the well done film version.
Set in southern Appalachia, the tiny town of Winshake is home to moonshiners, loggers, and trailer parks. It is also the new home of something…else. Something that crashed into the mountains and that now needs to feed. Tamara Leon, a local teacher, finds herself caught up in the fight to discover, and defeat, the invader.
The Harvest is filled with fully fleshed out characters, bringing a level of realism that makes this book that much more scarier, especially for mountain folk.
Innocence was described to me as “Rosemary’s Baby, with vampires”. Sold! Fourteen year old Beckett has a hard enough time in life. Her mother dies in an accident, she is sent to a new school, etc etc a lot of teen drama. But then the strange starts. Girls at school follow through on their suicide pacts and kill themselves. She has nightmares, devastating nightmares beyond the norm. And is that frozen blood in the freezer?
Innocence melds teen angst, pop culture, and critique of teen entitlement marvelously.
If you want to read a post-apocalyptic scare, try:
Okay, so The Road doesn’t have any ghosts, or zombies, or vampires, or aliens, or clowns. It has a man and his son, walking on a road. Big deal, right? Well the road is pretty dirty… There has been some type of cataclysm, perhaps nuclear. Most life is gone, and the oncoming winter promises to be lethal. The pair are heading south as quickly as they can, avoiding the predators that lurk about, men and women who will do anything to survive, namely by eating people.
This is a sparse harrowing tale of a world nearing its end. A great example of a different way to give readers chills.
Harper Curtis was nothing much until he found that key. The key that opened up a house that lets him time travel! But there is a cost. Harper is now compelled to track down the shining girls and to murder them. Kirby Mazrachi was the one who got away. And now she is hunting him.
The Shining Girls is as much thriller as horror novel, a surreal genre-bending mystery, and a book that will have readers hunting down Beukes’ other works.
If you want to read a book with a serial killer, try:
There are plenty of other books that probably fit the serial killer spot on this list better (The Silence of the Lambs, anybody?), but Flynn’s debut novel is too good to leave off. With the movie of Flynn’s wonderful bestseller Gone Girl out here’s hoping this one gets some more attention.
Camille Preaker is a newspaper journalist in Chicago who is sent to the tiny southern town of Wind Gap to report on the killings of two girls. Straightforward enough. Of course Camille is sent because she is from Wind Gap. Her mother owns much of the town. Her half sister is at turns loving and manipulative. Camille focuses on herself so much, dealing with her family, drinking heavily, resisting cutting more words into herself, that the horrors lying under the surface creep up unnoticed.
On the surface this seems like a teen book. It isn’t. 12 year old Oskar is bullied at school and comes from a broken home. When Eli moves in next door, things start to change. Because Eli is a vampire. She helps Oskar deal with the bullies and other issues, and they become close. But being a vampire isn’t easy, and not everyone gets a happy ending.
This Swedish novel competently tackles many issues, such as bullying, alcoholism, and paedophilia, in addition to being a cracking good vampire story. There have been two film versions, a Swedish one and an American one (titled Let Me In, and set in New Mexico), and both are worth a watch.
If you want to read a book with children behaving badly, try:
Lord of the Flies? Really? In a horror blog? Long before we had children killing each other for sport in The Hunger Games, we had Lord of the Flies. And this book is scary. Many of us read it in school and perhaps our young minds didn’t fully appreciate it. These kids turn savage. It is shocking how quickly the little society they are forced to form turns bad.
I read it twice in school, in 8th and 12th grade. My 12th grade teacher was incensed that 8th graders were given this book to read. Pretty sure Stephen King read this in school as well. Where do you think Castle Rock comes from?
What things make children feel safe? I would say two of the biggest things are home and mother. Coraline turns this on its head.
Coraline’s parents move with her out to the country, renting a flat in an old house filled with eccentric neighbors. While exploring Coraline finds her way into a mirror world, where her “other mother” dotes on her and everything seems wonderful. The fact that her other mother and other father have buttons for eyes is the first clue that things are not so wonderful after all.
Another entry on the list without monsters lurking in the shadows. In the not too distant future the United States government had been overthrown and a theocracy has taken its place. With sterility common due to rampant pollution and disease, high ranking members of the ruling Sons of Jacob utilize the services of Handmaidens, who are essentially concubines. Offred, the heroine of our story, is one of these Handmaidens.
Offred, a college student before the revolution, gives us an inside view of this new society, and we see that many talk the talk of their religion but do not walk the walk. Scary in its plausibility, and in the fear of the loss of freedoms. Similar in tone is When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan, that is more contemporary and focuses closely on reproductive rights.
We are all familiar with the tales of those big box stores coming to town and forcing the small local shops out of business. But what if that big store wanted more than just profits? What if the Store wanted everything, including our lives and souls?
Little, an accomplished horror writer, takes a strained premise and turns it into a smart and scary read. The good writers make us believe in the unbelievable, and that is the case here.
If you want a book that comes highly recommended, try:
While researching this blog I looked at lots of lists of best horror books, and The Ruins was one that showed up on an awful lot of them. I haven’t read it yet, but I am taking the recommendations of fellow horror fans and putting it on my list of books to read.
I also haven’t seen the movie, but I understand that they changed the ending.
Seems to me that if you can’t find a good read in that list for those dark and stormy nights then maybe horror is not for you. Let me know what you think of this list, and share your own recommendations for scary reads.
A list of the titles mentioned in this blog can be found here:
These dark, dark nights, when dawn feels like a million years away, are perfect for viewing scary movies on your home screen. Fortunately, the good folks at Fontana Regional Library have assembled some shadowed DVD gems that are guaranteed to deliver a shiver. These are little titles that may have escaped your notice, but they’re waiting for you, like a black widow spider in a dark corner.
“Insidious” plunges a sweet family into the worst kind of parental horror, complete with other-worldly David Lynch-swirls of surrealism. This is one of those movies that unspools with its own uneasy dream logic. The sounds that are just out of frame and the quick jump cuts to leering faces dredged up from Goya’s nightmares ensure that you’re in for a journey into the darkest heart of “The Twilight Zone.” So pervasive is that eerie atmosphere that Tiny Tim’s hymn to hippie bliss, “Tiptoe Through the Tulips,” is twisted into something blood-chillingly evil.
What happens when a trio of teens with some serious emotional issues are granted god-like powers? That’s the question posed by “Chronicle” and its answer is both savage and poignant. Recall the bewildering day-to-day stresses, simmering jealousies and non-stop jabs of high school life and then consider how you’d react if given the chance to get even. Believe me, it ain’t pretty.
You’d think that there’d be no new hoops for Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” to jump through. “Jekyll” completely changes the equation. The BBC and Writer Steven Moffat stage some dramatic changes that bring the character/s into the 21st Century. James Nesbitt gives a tour de force as the tormented protagonist, wringing every drop of misery out of the not-so-hapless Dr. Jackman and imbuing Jackman’s other half with an unabashed glee that recalls Hannibal Lector’s manic little brother. The pair play a knife’s-edge battle of wills as they struggle to obtain control of their lives. Compounding the problem are Jackman’s innocent family (unaware of the good doctor’s alter ego) who become targets for Hyde, and a shadowy organization that seems to know a great deal about Jackman and the original 19th century case that Stevenson fictionalized for his novella. Nesbitt delivers a career-defining performance that eschews prosthetic makeup and digital seasoning and instead relies upon sheer bravado acting. It’s all dosed with sudden gouts of blood and flashes of dark humor. You think you know this story. You don’t.
OK, the premise of “Mama” is creepy enough: A pair of young sisters, Victoria and Lilly, thought dead for five years, are found surviving in the deep woods. They’re are taken in by their uncle and his raven-haired girlfriend, who try to figure out how these feral girls managed to survive.
As blended families go, we’re a long, long way from “The Brady Bunch.”
But director/screenwriter Andy Muschietti twists this domestic tragedy into something rich and strange with hints that maybe the girls aren’t quite orphans. The adults in this movie are willfully blind to the psychic wounds that these girls bear and they somehow ignore the girls’ whispered chats with “Mama.” You wouldn’t forgive me if I told you any more. In a post last year, I mentioned how my co-worker Megan’s youth was warped by her exposure to “Poltergeist.” “Mama” threatens to do the same for a new generation.
H.P. Lovecraft’s fevered “Call of Cthulhu” has defied cinematic translation ever since its publication in 1928. And it’s no wonder — it’s emotions are operatic and oversized; the plotting is disjointed and constantly threatens to plunge into parody; and, finally, its reliance on a cosmic terror dredged up from the dark pools of racial memory is impossible to storyboard.
Impossible, that is, until the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society undertook this most daunting challenge. Their elegant solution: Film it as a silent movie. In gorgeous black-and-white (with age-appropriate scratches and aged film stock) and backed by a full symphonic score, the thing soars. Those overheated emotions find perfect expression with the broad gestures perfected by mummers like Lon Chaney in the first two decades of the last century. And as a herky-jerky stop motion figure, Lord Cthulhu achieves an undeniable majesty.
When I was a kid, the world had a lot of scary places.
There was school, with its ominous Teacher’s Lounge (my friend John Smitherman said that a teacher had killed herself there — “She cut off her own head with a ruler!”); and the Second Floor Boys Bathroom with its strange half-whispered voices (and also, if you weren’t careful, the girls could hear you tinkling).
There were the woods behind our house, which were home to either a ravenous holdover from prehistoric times (“Probably a Horrorsaurus!”—- John again) or a big dog that would eat your lunch if you weren’t careful.
And there was our house. Especially our house. It creaked and groaned in the middle of the night. The toaster would burn toast for no apparent reason. And there were parts of the basement where, if you turned off the lights and sat very quietly, you could hear someone breathing.
But there’s no way around it — my fear of the world came directly from the cultural effluvia I wallowed in.
There were scary comic books (the uncontrollable transformation of mild-mannered Bruce Banner (me) into the Incredible Hulk filled me with fear), scary TV (The Twilight Zone’s “It’s a Good Life” featuring a squinty-eyed kid named Anthony who terrorized everyone, including grown-ups, can still give me the creeps), scary books (“Alfred Hitchcock’s Monster Museum” was particularly shuddery) and, always, movies.
In the past, I’ve written about my encounter with the unforgettable “Billy the Kid vs. Dracula,” but that’s really just the edge of the storm front. My nightmares were planted by sense-shattering fare like “The Thing from Another World. This simple story is about a group of airmen and scientists stranded in an arctic research station with a sentient vegetable. Christian Nyby is credited as director, but you can see producer Howard Hawk’s fingerprints all over the thing (“The Thing”). There’s his trademark overlapping everyman dialogue, the deep shadows, and the remarkable decision to film a scene lit only by a blazing kerosene inferno. Plus it’s got a monster that exsanguinates sled dogs, flying saucers buried in the ice, and revolting blood-filled seedlings. It’s all served up with a claustrophobic setting and a healthy dose of paranoia.
And yes, that’s Marshal Matt Dillon (James Arness) as the giant carrot.
Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” takes the paranoia to a new level as the residents of a sleepy California town are gradually replaced by emotionless duplicates. The menace is low key and has all of the inevitability of the worst kind of dream logic.
The ending, when Becky wakes up as a pod person, made me shiver as a kid, but here’s the absolutely terrifying thing — when I was in my mid-twenties a woman woke up next to me in the exact same way. It was as though a mask had slipped from her face and the synthetic person beneath was revealed. It was the only time in my life that I’ve felt that dreadful sense of deja vu. We broke up soon afterwards.
“The Incredible Shrinking Man” was another one of those that burned itself onto my subconscious. The science-fiction tropes that Richard Matheson lavishes upon his screenplay can’t disguise what is, at its core, an existential puzzle box. I’m guessing it hits upon every anxiety that’s ever been unspooled on a psychiatrist’s couch.
And that spider moves so fast.
My co-worker, the lovely and talented Megan, says that “Poltergeist” scared her as a kid and still gives her the willies. Sure enough, with its maniacally-grinning clown, vacuum-cleaner closet, monster tree, kidnapped children, corpse filled swimming pool, disintegrating faces, and maggoty drumsticks, this is pure nightmare fuel.
The recent movie “Chronicle” gave me the same feeling of dread that those long ago late-night features delivered. On the surface, it’s an exploration of alienation and the ways that high school life can warp an untethered life. You just know something bad is going to happen to that trio of friends. When Hell finally breaks loose, it’s ferocious and brutal to the core.
OK, so here’s your assignment: Find a movie that’ll give you the shivers this Halloween season and settle in on the couch with a loved one. Hold each other tight.
And, it goes without saying, always look carefully into the eyes of the person you wake up with.
These old hills are haunted. Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the spirits of those who have passed on can still be felt around the hollows and fields, along the garden rows their hands turned, in the old sheds, where idle tractors and plows rust as they wait for their master’s return.
Almost every native you meet can tell you a terrifying personal ghost story. Many mountain people are firm believers, but some are not. The non-believers call it superstition and overactive imagination, thinking folks are putting two-and-two together and getting a lot more than four. That’s possible. We have seen so many spooky movies that a certain set of circumstances might conjure something out of the shadows. A stormy night, thick fog, a power failure, creaking boards upstairs… Nights like those can certainly play with your head.
But then again… is it possible that being able to perceive a transient being has something to do with mindset? Might it be necessary to have an “open mind” in order to see these apparitions? Might there be portals in our consciousness that can both send and receive, that might allow the invisible to become visible? Maybe some folks are so dead set against the supernatural, they literally can’t see it because the pathway is closed, like when we convince ourselves we can’t do something and then we can’t. That, too, is possible.
Or could it be that there really is something tangible there, some life force as yet unknown, colored by our myths and superstitions? Before the microscope, if someone had mentioned a unicellular organism, I imagine the concept would probably have been greeted with incredulity and even laughter. Maybe we just don’t have the machinery we need to examine these beings.
Or maybe they are exactly what many people think they are.
If you are curious and would like to go in search of, here are a few places to start, some of them right here in Western North Carolina. Don’t forget your flashlight.
It’s 1983 and Family Feud host Richard Dawson has a 74-year-old Grandmother named Blanche facing off at the Buzzer Table against a 28-year-old High School Math Teacher.
Richard says, “Name Something You Buy in a Supermarket,” and before he’s even gotten the “-ket” sound out of his mouth, Blanche has slammed the buzzer and shouted out, “Mop!”
Even though you can’t see the studio audience, you know their mouths are hanging open in stunned silence like jugged fish.
Blanche’s family has just seen its collective dream of $10,000 replaced by a year’s supply of Rice-A-Roni, the San Francisco Treat.
Finally, after an excruciating three seconds, the grandchildren start clapping, joined by Blanche’s daughter and son-in-law.
“Good answer, Grandma, good answer!,” they all shout, although if you look carefully you can see that the daughter’ll be calling the Pleasant Acres Retirement Home to ask about vacancies as soon as they get off the soundstage.
Richard Dawson bellows out, “Show me ‘Mop!'” and there’s a deafening “Buzz!”
Poor Grandma. She shambles back to her family. She knows where she’s going next week.
If only they could have gone to the taping of “The Price is Right.” She knows how to play that.
Last week I rushed out a blog outlining all the scary things available at Fontana Regional Libraries.
It’s funny, once I started looking, it turns out the stacks really are haunted, with tales stretching back from poor, sad Mr. Poe all the way to Christopher Golden’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.”
So many titles and such a hurry to get posted.
But here’s the thing, the reason I’m feeling a special kinship with Grandma Blanche from all those years ago — I completely ignored all of the spooky things for young people that are lurking among the shelves.
If you’re a kid, you’re probably familiar with the Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine. These are shivery standalone stories about kids just like you, getting into all sorts of dire situations. Most of the stories have a happy ending. Most of them.
The Goosebumps tales are great for an easy book report. Their stories pull you along, so much that you may find yourself staying up just a little bit later to finish a chapter (or reading with a flashlight after Lights Out). The book covers themselves are pretty disturbing and perfectly set the mood for the tale within.
Alvin Schwartz has gathered stories from folklore for “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” (and its subsequent volumes). These are some of the creepiest yarns you’ll ever come across. Stephen Gammell’s accompanying illustrations look like something dredged up from your deepest nightmares, the ones that you’re grateful to escape from, that leave your sheets and pillow drenched with unease.
There’s also “Spooky Campfire Stories” by Amy Kelly. She’s put together an assortment of wicked tales that have delighted their audiences for centuries.
And here’s the cool thing about the yarns you’ll find in “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” and “Spooky Campfire Stories” — they’re easy to remember and embellish. That means you can make them your own and share them with your friends. Believe me, they’ll kill at sleepovers or on long field-trip bus rides.
Some of these ghastly tales may seem comfortably remote, but this corner of Western North Carolina is strewn with
If you’re an older kid or a brave younger kid, try out “A Tale Dark and Grimm” or “The Monstrumologist.” “Tale” is a gruesome retelling of Hansel and Gretel (and a couple of other fairy tales) that’s fun and bloody and full of unexpected turns.”The Monstrumologist” is a coming-of-age story about a young apprentice to a scientist dedicated to fighting incredibly ghastly creatures. If Stephen King had collaborated with Charles Dickens, well, here it is.
Whatever you end up reading, just remind yourself that, “It’s only a story.”