Tag Archives: All Hallows Read

All Hallows Read: Some Spooky Suggestions

Happy All Hallows Read!

It’s that time of year, beloved patrons, as the nights get longer and the winds a little louder, and there seems nothing finer in the world than curling up with a story.  If, like me, your taste runs to the kind of stories that cause the hair on your arms to rise, or that will leave you jumping at shadows, then journey on with us for a few stellar reading suggestions.  And don’t forget to check out our display of All Hallows Read books here at the Main Library!

We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other StoriesIf you’ve read C. Robert Cargill’s other works, like Dreams and Shadows and Queen of the Dark Things will know that his imagination is limitless, and tends to flourish best in the twilight shadows between fantasy and horror.  These stories work so well because they blend the utterly real, the overwhelmingly banal details of everyday life with a twist of real terror–a voice in the static of a bad connection; a whispered phrase that grows increasingly menacing with each repetition–and then launch off into the fantastic, ensuring that readers will be hooked from the first sentence to the last.  There is plenty of fun here, as well, and fans of Colby Stevens (from Dreams and Shadows) will be thrilled to see he makes a reappearance in these pages, as well. The story from which this book takes its name, “We Are Where the Nightmares Go” is horror at its most insightful, prescient, and shudder-inducing best.

Little Heaven: Hey there, if you’re looking for an opening scene that will haunt your nightmares, then look no further than Nick Cutter’s novel about cults and powers beyond human conception….A trio of mismatched mercenaries—Micah Shughrue, Minerva Atwater, and Ebenzer Elkins–are hired by young Ellen Bellhaven for a deceptively simple task: check in on her nephew, who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement called Little Heaven, where a clandestine religious cult holds sway.  The task should be an easy one for these professionals.  But nothing around Black Rock is what it seems, and there is something stirring in the woods and the soil and the wind around Little Heaven that breeds madness.  And no matter how willing our trio might be to stand and fight, their combined skills are no match for whatever is coming at them.  Cutter is a writer who revels in giving readers the screaming heebie-jeebies, as fans of this other work can surely attest.  But the atmosphere of this novel is so well-crafted and the characters are so quirky and believable that it’s hard to look away, even if you want to try.

The Grip of It: A brilliant, modern spin on the haunted house trope, Jac Jemc’s slim little novel is packed with chills and shocks.  While touring their prospective suburban home, Julie and James are stopped by a noise. Deep and vibrating, like throat singing. Ancient, husky, and rasping, but underwater. “That’s just the house settling,” the real estate agent assures them with a smile. He is wrong.  Although the couple moved to this idyllic place to escape James’ gambling problem and rebuild their relationship, it would seem their house had different plans.  It seems to be both growing and decaying around them, carving itself into Julie’s skin with each day that passes.  The result is a mind-bending book that will have you second-guessing every stray noise around you, every change in the light, and have you considering the very walls around you differently.  And what more could you ask from a haunted house novel?

Until next time, dear readers, Happy All Hallows Read!



Happy All Hallows Read!

Via https://www.deviantart.com/blablover5/gallery/45901488/All-Hallows-Read

The time has come again, beloved patrons, for All Hallows Read, a monthly indulgence in all things spectacularly spooky, deliciously dark, and gloriously ghoulish!

All Hallows Read was started by the Great and Good Neil Gaiman in 2010 with this blog post, which called for a new Halloween tradition, and stated, in part:

I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.
I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…
Now we at the Free For All never do things by half, and so waiting until the week of Halloween really doesn’t give us enough time to highlight all the creepy tales that live here in the Library.  So instead, we are taking the whole month to showcase some scary (and scary-ish, and maybe not-so-scary) books.  We hope this will help you to  find a new beloved book among them, or perhaps revisit an old favorite from days gone by.  Check out our display at the Main Library, and revel in some of the ghoulish suggestions below.  And feel free to check out the Twitter handle: #AllHallowsRead to see what scary reads people around the world are enjoying, too!
We’ll be updating the blog throughout the month with some scintillating and shiver-inducing reads to help you celebrate All Hallows Read, so stay turned!

Happy All Hallows Read!

We wish you the very best for this years official All Hallows Read, beloved patrons and readers!  May you sample all the candy you desire, may you be filled with treats and free of tricks.  And, for those who would like a little spooky reading for your All Hallows Read, we are happy to present you with a classic and shiver-inducing story: “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs.

Portrait of W.W. Jacobs by Elliot & Fry, via Wikipedia


Jacobs was born in Wapping, London in 1863, the son of a wharf manager.  He was well-educated, and eventually began work as a clerk in a post office savings bank.  The work afforded him both a living and time to write, and by 1885, he had his first short story published.  He married Agnes Eleanor Williams, a noted suffrage activist, in 1900.  Though Jacobs is remembered as a writer of horror stories (“The Monkey’s Paw” being the story for which he is most well-remembered), his career was mostly as a writer of humorous stories, predominately about mariners and sea-faring.  He was successful enough that he retired from the post office in 1899.

There are aspects of this story that are certainly dated, not the least of which is the “magical thing that comes from a faraway part of the Empire to destroy British people” trope.  It’s a theme that pops up everywhere in Sherlock Holmes stories, it was the basis for Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone, it’s the main premise of Dracula…safe to say, it’s a well-worn theme that helped create the idea of the “other”–a figure that was frightening and dangerous and needed to be controlled.  And we should recognize that.  On the other hand, this story is still read, and still shared, because it is wonderfully constructed, finely wrought, and genuinely unsettling.  It is a perfect embodiment of the old maxim “be careful what you wish for”, but without feeling pedantic or rehashed.   Jacobs’ talents as a humorous shine through in places, as well, helping him create characters who are sympathetic and real, even down to their inability to play a good game of chess.  And it’s that connection to these people, and this ability to relate to them, even when they make the most dire of mistakes, that makes this story such an effective–and affecting–one.

So, we hope you enjoy “The Monkey’s Paw”, and that your All Hallows’ Read, or Halloween, or Tuesday evening, is one that brings you great joy.  And maybe a few shivers.  Just click on the title below to access!

The Monkey’s Paw, W.W. Jacobs

All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 3

This week, we’ve been talking about the haunted house in literature, and detailing the kinds of haunted houses that one can find in traditional horror novels/ghost stories/All-Hallows Read selections.

Via The Business Journals

But as I was working on these posts, it occurred to me how many other kinds of haunted sites have been cropping up in fiction, especially lately.  According to many scholars of genre, the horror novel is entering a new phase, that isn’t wholly defined as yet.  Some of its core themes, however, deal with 1) our growing unease with the unknown, especially amidst the information explosion brought about by the internet, 2) a kind of existentialist despair–being faced with the realities and future threats of global climate change, nuclear armageddon, and other issues over which we have comparatively little control has introduced the fear that perhaps doom is inevitable.  That perhaps we can’t vanquish all the monsters with technology and fortitude.  Whether these genre tropes will grow and mature into a new era of horror has yet to be seen.  But what we do know is that we’ve already been treated to a host of horror novels that up-end conventions, while still providing the fears, dreads, and very human journeys that make horror novels so pleasurable to read.

Via Youtube

One of the noticeable themes that these books overturn is the notion of the haunted house.  In an age where fewer people are buying houses, it makes sense that the living situations reflected in horror novels needs to change, too.  You can’t really be scared of something if you have no frame of reference.  But while some of these books looks at a haunted apartment building, others keep pushing the line, giving us haunted superstores and haunted ships.  They enrich our thinking about the spaces we inhabit and the memories they carry inside them.  They challenge us to remember, even as we are told to look forward to the future, to not be held back by the past.  They also allow us to explore the dark secrets and troubling pasts that our characters carry with them, and how our own personal darkness can affect our perception of the world and each other.  No longer are our characters hapless victims of the spirit world–they are the dry charge themselves that make the spaces ugly and scary by bringing their very real-world ugliness and scariness into it.

So what are some of these new haunted spaces?  Take a look below and see what you think!

Horrorstör: Grady Hendrix is a really interesting author, who plays with conventions while still delivering interesting and engaging stories.  He’s also written a book that is laid out like a high school year book, which is perfect for those with 1980’s nostalgia.  But this book is very much of the moment, set in a generic Ikea, known as the Orsk furniture superstore.  Strange things have been going on in this Cleveland store, but when three employees volunteer to work an overnight shift to investigate, but what they discover is more horrifying than they could have imagined.  This book is a model of good design (thanks to designer Andie Reid, illustrator Michael Rogalski, and cover photographer Christine Ferrara).  It is laid out like a glossy catalog, complete with showroom shots and maps of Orsk’s labyrinthine layout, providing a delightful contrast between the ironic and the horrific.

The Graveyard ApartmentThis Japanese horror novel, originally published in 1986,  takes us into an enormous apartment building that was constructed next to a graveyard. The young couple and their daughter who move into this household are dealing with their own inner darkness and wrestling with secrets they are fighting to keep hidden.  The longer they stay in their new place, though, the stranger and stranger things seem to get.  People around them move out one by one, until this small family is left alone in the building.  Alone, except for whatever is living in the basement. Mariko Koike is a master of the psychological novel, and this book doesn’t always show, and resists answering all the questions it asks.  Instead, it leaves it up to the reader to slide their own fears and doubts to the reading experience, and playing on our inherent fears of the dark and the unknown to create a genuinely chilling reading experience.

The Apartment: Another haunted apartment, this one set in the glamor of Paris.  This young family and their daughter (is there a trend here?) move from Cape Town after surviving a violent break-in that left them traumatized.  At first, the house-swap plan they find sounds perfect.  But upon moving to their European haven, they quickly realize that nothing is as advertised.  This is a story where the ‘haunting’ is a way to get to the heart of these characters, breaking down their defenses and facades and forcing them to confront each other’s worst (and sometimes best) qualities.  This is very much a story about people bringing out the worst, not only in each other, but in the space they inhabit, and that interaction makes it feel very modern, indeed.


Happy reading, beloved patrons.  And Happy All-Hallows Read!


All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 2

Yesterday,  we started talking about haunted houses, about the kind of moods they create in us, and the different kinds of haunted houses that are to be found in literature.  Our exploration started with the irregular, or the illogical houses–the kind that seem to grow or change…the kind that seem to be reacting to their occupants throughout the course of the story.

The second kind of house is the rational one.  These houses conform to all the laws of physics, and look the same on the inside and the outside, regardless of where you are standing.  What marks these houses is the evil that lives within them.

From Dracula, by Bram Stoker

These kinds of houses are alive, just as the irregular ones are.  But, rather than playing with their occupants, they just outright hate them.  These houses are malevolent, and they tend to attract malevolent people, actions, or events to them–Stephen King called it a “dry charge for evil”.  Even if you know these houses inside and out, even if you know where all the doors and windows might be, this kind of house is still a source of terror.  Indeed, it’s precisely the fact that you do know the house so well that they are scary.

Because there are always questions–why someone did what they did in that house.  What drove them to madness.  When they will reappear….and will you be able to bear it?

From the cover of Hell House by Richard Matheson

It’s tricky to get these kind of houses right.  They often rely on terror, rather than horror, meaning that they act on characters, rather than act themselves–people living in them get nightmares, like in Hell House, or they hallucinate (or do they?!), as happens in Hill House.  Other times, characters have evil visited upon them, as happens in the Marsden House, or the house on Neibolt Street.

There aren’t many technicolor effects in these houses–no growing hallways or moving rooms.  Instead, these houses rely on the threat implicit in a slammed door…or a creaking floor board….the kind of things that under normal circumstances wouldn’t be at all scary.  But in these circumstances, in this place, with this history, it is absolutely terrifying.

Want to experience some of these houses for yourself?  Why not take a visit to some of the most ghastly houses in literature for this year’s All Hallows Read?

ItStephen King is not only a prolific author, and a favorite here at the Free For All–he’s also crafts some of the best haunted houses around.  If you saw this summer’s blockbuster hit It, you’ll know a bit about the house on Niebolt Street, but, as per usual, the book does it better.  The house at 29 Niebolt Street is Pennywise’s liar, and the entire building reeks of his malevolence, but nevertheless, the Losers, the young children brave enough to face down this evil clown, forge their way in.  27 years later, they return to Derry, Maine, to face the evil again.  Stephen King does a brilliant job discussing issues of trauma and memory, nostalgia and horror in this epic story, making it one you won’t want to put down, and will be eager to read again and again.

The Haunting of Hill HouseShirley Jackson’s haunted house is a bit of a puzzler.  We’re not told specifically what is wrong  with the house.  But we are told that it’s not sane.  But how much of what happens in the course of this story is a result of the house’s inherent insanity, and how much is due to the instability of Eleanor Vance, the main character of this novel, and one of a small group of people invited to stay inside Hill House and witness its strangeness?  We aren’t given any answers–at sometimes, the narrative itself seems to defy logic.  But it’s that instability and inscrutability that makes this story so affecting.

Hell House: If you want to meet the embodiment of Cold War, mid-century despair, look no further than Richard Matheson.  His writing is stunning, but it’s also brutal, unsettling, and challenging on a number of levels.  In this story, a group of paranormal researchers take a visit to a house that is known to have killed inhabitants before–in fact, they are taking a survivor of the house, who escaped as a child, back, to see what it will do to him as an adult.  The Belasco House seeps inside the mind of those who live there, making them confront the very worst of their own natures.  As a result, there is a lot that is off-putting about this story, but there is also a lot of insight into the human mind and the limits of each character, making it a really interesting addition to this list.

Happy reading, beloved patrons….and don’t mind that noise on the stairs…..

All Hallows Read: The Haunted House, Part 1

Literature is full of memorable dwelllings: From Dracula’s Castle to Manderley in Rebeccafrom Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre to the Little House on the Prairie.  But there are no houses quite like the haunted house.

Bran Castle, Romania (aka: Dracula’s Castle, via CNN)

This time of year, there are any number of ‘haunted houses’, populated by generally well-intentioned and costumed actors whose job it is to leap out in front of you screaming bloody blue murder.  The psychological enjoyment of these houses comes from the adrenaline high that you receive by activating your ‘fight-or-flight’ response every time a new person throws themselves in front of you in the strobe-lit dark.  At least that’s what I’m told.

According to Psychology Today, there are reasons for feeling creeped out by a house that have nothing to do with other people leaping out in front of you and yelling very loudly.  In a fascinating article about the “feel” of a haunted house, they note,

Evolutionary psychologists have proposed the existence of agent detection mechanisms — or processes that have evolved to protect us from harm at the hands of predators and enemies.

If you’re walking through the woods alone at night and hear the sound of something rustling in the bushes, you’ll respond with a heightened level of arousal and attention. You’ll behave as if there is a willful “agent” present who is about to do you harm.

via Shutterstock

Moreover, these places usually lack what environmental psychologists refer to as legibility, or the ease with which a place can be recognized, organized into a pattern and recalled.  Indeed, it can lead us into thinking that a house may be consciously trying to trap us.  To keep us there forever.  To consume us whole.

Generally speaking, there are two kids of haunted houses that you can encounter in books: the horribly rational, and the cripplingly unknowable.  Both carry their own kind of fears, as well as their own kind of appeal.  Depending on what actually makes the hair on your arms stand up, you might be drawn to one kind or the other in your reading.  Rest assured, however, that the Library is well-equipped to help you navigate both these sorts of houses in your All-Hallows Reading (and any other time of the year, as well!)

Via Rebloggy

The first, and perhaps the more well-known sort of haunted house (or, perhaps the correct term is the animate house) is the irrational one.  These houses may look ‘normal’ on the outside (depending on your architectural definition of ‘normal’), but once a hapless guest crosses the threshold, they abandon all pretenses and become absolutely irrational.  They lose all legibility.

These houses generally trap their occupants inside, foiling all their attempts to escape.  Rooms grow out of nowhere, corridors grow uncommonly long or short, and doors appear where no doors ever opened.  There is a temporal element to these houses, too…often, they sit on a rift in space-time (like Slade House), or they straddle multiple times (like the house in You Should Have Left or the hotel in Travelers Rest) .  Sometimes, they are a conscious character in the book; in The House of Leaves, the house seems to growl as it reshapes…it is both the labyrinth and the monster that guards it.  All of these houses challenge our understanding of space and of time, making anything, and everything, seem chillingly possible.

Readers eager to explore these houses should definitely check out the following:

Slade HouseDavid Mitchell’s contribution to the horror genre is a weird book…The entrance to Slade House appears (and disappears) along a brick wall in a narrow London alleyway every nine years to admit a guest chosen by the brother and sister who dwell within–a loner, someone who probably won’t be remembered…This book features five such episodes in the ghastly house’s history, and, once you understand how Slade House works, there is very little surprise about what will happen in each tale.  That being said, it’s genuinely terrifying each and every time.  I have never been bored and scared out of my wits at the same time by the same book.  So for that reason alone, Slade House is a book I won’t soon forget.

Travelers Rest: Rather than a house, the entity at the center of Keith Lee Morris’ book is a hotel, the titular Travelers Rest, located in the nearly-abandoned mining town of Good Night, Idaho.  The story starts when a family, Tonio and Julia and their son Dewey, who are taking Tonio’s alcoholic brother home, are forced off the road in a blizzard, and into the Travelers Rest.  Each member of the family experiences a different, labyrinth-like hell in this hotel, and in this town, and in time, making it a surprisingly complex book.  This is one of the most deep-thinking on this list of haunted domiciles, but, for that, it’s also one of the most interesting.

You Should Have Left: Though it’s only 111 pages, German author Daniel Kehlmann’s contribution to the haunted house genre is packed from the very first pages with subtle hints and warnings about the insanity of the mountaintop home he has rented for a family vacation.  Told in journal form, this book chronicles a single week in this odd house…to tell you more would be to give away the best aspects of this story, but I guarantee that you’ll be flipping back and forth as you read in order to confirm if your own grasp on reality is slipping…or if you did just read that….



Tune in tomorrow for our look at some other kinds of haunted houses…

All-Hallows Read: Bite-Sized Horrors

First and foremost, dear readers, since we’re speaking of all things ghoulish, be sure to mark your calendars for this year’s Nightmare on Main Street, which will be held on Wednesday, October 25, from 3-7pm.

The festivities begin at East End Veterans Memorial Park, 45 Walnut Street (located behind the Main Library).  Here’s the schedule:

3:00-4:00pm Registration for Peabody Recreation‘s annual costume contest will be from 3-4pm. Parade will begin at 4pm and prizes awarded in 3 different age categories; 0-3 years, 4-8 years, and 9+, as well as family/group category. Activities will include Halloween corn hole, donut on a string and cauldron toss.

Kids can “Touch a Truck” as several First Responder cehicles will be on display at the park as well.  You can also visit with the Tooth Fairy and get a healthy goody bag from Growing Smile Pediatric Dentistry and Braces.

4:00-7:00pm Trick orTreating at businesses along Main Street between Washington & Central St.  Be sure to stop by the Library, as we wait all year to see your creative costumes!  You can stay up-to-date on this wonderfully popular event via the Peabody Recreation Department’s Facebook Page.

And even if you’re not wearing a costume or face paint, you’re always welcome to drop buy the Library for a bit of a literary treat!  We’ve got plenty of bite-sized reads and single-serving shivers to add to your Halloween haul.  Here are just a few of the mini-frights on offer:

This Census Taker: “In a remote house on a hilltop, a lonely boy witnesses a profoundly traumatic event. He tries–and fails–to flee. Left alone with his increasingly deranged parent, he dreams of safety, of joining the other children in the town below, of escape. When at last a stranger knocks at his door, the boy senses that his days of isolation might be over. But by what authority does this man keep the meticulous records he carries? What is the purpose behind his questions? Is he friend? Enemy? Or something else altogether?” Pithy though this publisher’s description of China Mieville’s haunting and deeply unsettling novella may be, it really doesn’t do justice to the creepiness of this book, or the way that Mieville can make a tiny house into a threatening enemy.   This one won’t take you long to read, but will certainly take you a while to forget.

Skeleton Crew: This book is the second collection of short stories published by Stephen King, and features some of his most well-known tales, such as “The Mist”, in which the small town of Bridgton, Maine is suddenly enveloped in an unnatural mist that conceals otherworldly monsters.  There are also plenty of lesser known stories to savor, such as “The Reaper’s Image”, about a haunted antique mirror that shows the Grim Reaper to those who gaze into it.  Fans of King’s Dark Tower series should keep an eye out for the free-verse poem “Paranoid: A Chant”, which features references to “A dark man with no face”, the original description of Randall Flagg.

Collected Ghost Stories: For those looking for some classic creepy stories, it’s hard to go wrong with M.R. James.  Montague Rhodes James was a lifelong academic, and, as such, his stories tend to focus on haunted libraries, cursed books and documents, or the terrible secrets hidden in ancient churches.  But it’s his ability to make the absolutely normal seem odd, dangerous, and alien that continues to make him a stellar choice for those looking for a good (and quick) tale of terror.  In fact, there are many who credit him with crafting the modern ghost story as we know it today.  This collection features all of James’ published ghost stories, as well as his writings about the ghost story genre, which are fascinating reads in and of themselves.

Happy reading, beloved patrons, and we’ll look forward to seeing you next Wednesday!