Well, as I sit here at Hobbit Towers, it’s nearly time again for Halloween. And as this is one of my favourite times of the year – thoughts of a drink, a warm fire and a big chair with a good book spring to mind! – I thought I’d put down what’s in the ‘to read’ (or listen or watch) pile this year. This might give you some ideas, or get you to recommend your own!
Well, you can’t beat a bit of M R James in my opinion.
Ancient relics, churches, academia and things that are there but unseen… therefore his Collected Stories is a must. Nearly one hundred years old now, and definitely old-fashioned, but one I keep coming back to. For others there’s Robert Aickman, H P Lovecraft, Sheridan Le Fanu, E F Benson (more of later) but for me it’s good ol’ MR.
If you’re looking for something that covers such a range of horror, and with stuff a little more contemporary than Montague Rhodes, then The Dark Descent, edited by David Hartwell, is about as good as it gets. I have also mentioned this one before, but pretty much all the usual suggested mainstays are there, all in one (admittedly rather large) book: Poe, Le Fanu, King, Ellison, Bradbury, Bloch, Lovecraft, Aickman, Onions…. Lots that were new to me when I first read it. I love dipping into this one.
For those whose arms do not have the strength to lift that one, the old-but-valuable Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by Herbert Wise and Phyllis Wagner, is a good one. First published in 1944, it overlaps the Hartwell a little but is a very nice compact version of older classics.
I have bought this year a copy of Lovecraft Tales, as I wanted a nice hardback copy, and the Collected Ghost Stories of E F Benson (now very hard to get in the UK!) that I suspect I’ll be starting on.
Radio: Again something I’ve mentioned before: I must recommend Old Time Recordings Radio (LINK HERE) who offer a selection of old radio shows to try for mp3. I have bought a lot of these and so have a wonderful collection of spooky stories to listen to. They do very nice Halloween disks as well…but there are lots here, from series like Suspense and Lights Out to the Mercury Theatre’s presentation of Dracula. The crackling nature of some of the recordings definitely adds to the atmosphere!
Film/DVD: Slight warning here: I like the cheesy old stuff; thoughts of a wet day’s (or stormy night’s!) watching spring to mind. I would therefore recommend one of my absolute favourites, the 1963 Robert Wise version of The Haunting, or possibly The Legend of Hell House, with Roddy McDowell, though the book is better. I also have some copies of the BBC TV M R James stories, some read by Christopher Lee and others not. I would also recommend the TV series Millennium which I think is (on the whole) very underrated. Very dark, very violent. (The episode from Season 1 called Lamentation still freaks me out!) I have copies of the original TV series The Twilight Zone on DVD which are also very good (the mastering on the new editions is superb!) but not always horror.
This year I’ve bought to add to the pile Rod Serling’s Night Gallery on DVD, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Season One, The Munsters for a little lowbrow relief and a pile of Hammer Horror movies (including The Quatermass Experiment amongst others) which I hope to get into.
Of more recent stuff, I’ve got a copy of the Japanese version of The Grudge 1 & 2. I quite liked the first American one with Sarah Michelle Gellar, but I think the Japanese versions are just different. Thought that about the Ring series too.
Over to you: any other suggestions?