The weather is beginning to cool down, which can only mean one thing – Autumn. Crisp morning air, cold feet and runny noses, the crunch of the newly fallen leaves beneath your feet and evenings wrapped up in a blanket.
For me this is a magical time of year, where you don’t need to think of an excuse to stay inside. When listening to the rain battering the windows and the wind howling is a widely accepted pastime. I am at my happiest, listening to the season raging outside, preoccupying myself with a good book or binge watching an dark TV series.
October also means that Halloween is approaching. The aesthetics of Halloween brings me great comfort; the lit pumpkins and novelty sweets, the fairy lights and scary films. However, for me, Halloween is better enjoyed indoors, surrounded by the things that I have already mentioned. I have spent my evenings leading up to Halloween watching The Chilling Adventure of Sabrina on Netflix and reading Neil Gaiman.
Gaiman is one of my favourite writers that I think perfectly captures the season with his haunting prose. So to mark one of my most loved times of year I am counting down, my favourite Neil Gaiman’s stories, that are bound to get you in the mood for Halloween without having to leave the house. These stories are some of the creepiest and most disturbing things that I have read.
I don’t think any list would be complete without this story; it is both scary and wonderful. While exploring her new home, Coraline steps through a door into an alternative version of her reality where things aren’t as they seem. There is another mother and another father, who both want her to stay in their world as their little girl. The world through the door is full of darkness and fear and reminds us that the perils of growing up and finding yourself, can be nightmarish in itself. Gaiman creates a fine modern fairy tale, in which our heroine must use every ounce of courage that she can muster to find her way back home. There is also a talking cat, some dancing mice, an acrobatic Russian and two sisters who have every dog that they have ever owned immortalised. Coraline is a disturbing tale that fascinates me.
2. ‘October in the Chair’, from Fragile Things
I had a copy of Gaiman’s Fragile Things sitting on my shelf gathering dust for around two years before I decided to delve into its wondrous pages. It was one evening last February, when I was feeling particularly sad and I was looking for something comforting to read. I happened upon my copy and my curiosity was sparked. It is an interesting collection of stories that both terrifies and leaves you feeling melancholy.
In ‘October in the Chair’ Gaiman personifies the months of the year, who are all settled around a roaring camp fire telling tales and sipping cider. It is October’s turn and in true ‘October’ style, he tells a deeply unsettling narrative of a boy who runs away from a cruel home and finds a friend in the most unlikely place. His new Friend is called Dearly and they have a wonderful time playing.But when Dearly decides it’s time for him to go to sleep, our hero isn’t ready to go back to the world he has just escaped from. We see him enter a derelict house at the edge of the neglected graveyard as the sun is coming up and this is where the story ends. It is a troubling moment that sends chills down my spine every time I read this story, even now.
3.‘Feeders and Eaters’, From Fragile Things
Another tale from Fragile Things, ‘Feeders and Eaters’ is the best kind of creepy. You can imagine something like this happening to you; running into an old acquaintance who has fallen on hard times and you are compelled to hear their story, which is what happens to our unnamed heroine in this tale. Only, you couldn’t prepare yourself to hear what Eddie has to tell her. He begins describing how he came to be there, looking “collapsed in on himself. All bones and flaking skin”. He proceeds to recall his time renting out the attic in a family house, which he shared with the illusive Miss Corvier. In this strange tale of ghastly appetites Gaiman is surely to get you in the mood for Halloween.
4.‘Click-Clack the Rattlebag’, from Trigger Warning
The last on my list, ‘Click-Clack the Rattlebag’ is a story that I have only just recently read from Gaiman’s collection Trigger Warning and it is both terrifying and fantastic. This story has an eerie feel from the beginning, and echoes the stories that children tell each other at sleep overs to scare one another. The house is dark and our young protagonist is asking to be told a bedtime story by his sisters boyfriend, an unpublished writer. He agrees and leads the boy through the rickety old house to his bedroom. On the way, the writer hears about the chilling Click Clack Rattlebag. I read this story on an evening when I was home alone and the child’s account had me looking over my shoulder at every creak and noise that I heard that night. I think Gaiman marvellously creates a thoroughly creepy modern urban legend, that will get your spine tingling.
For me, Gaiman knows how to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up. He is a master of creepy storytelling, with each of the stories that I have mentioned having the ability to disturb and haunt. I think that this list could have been much, much longer, however, I had to pick a couple of my favourites. Please let me know of your own favourites that you think should have made the list.
Happy reading! And Happy Halloween!