Classic scary stories for Halloween

Our pick of the best scary books, from classic ghost stories to fiendish mysteries.

Our pick of the best scary books to read this Halloween, from classic ghost stories and supernatural tales to fiendish mysteries. These classic tales have all the ghosts, vampires and monsters you need for a truly terrifying October 31st.

Classic Hallowe'en Stories

by Ned Halley

Book cover for Classic Hallowe'en Stories

Dim the lights and close the curtains – Halloween is coming, and what better way to enjoy the spooky season than with a collection of deliciously frightening stories available in audiobook or ebook, and read by a haunting cast of unforgettable readers, including Imogen Church and Samuel West. 

Including chilling classics from Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton and Edgar Allen Poe, Classic Hallowe'en Stories from the Macmillan Collector's Library contains enough ghouls and ghosts to make you think twice about the things that go bump in the night.

The Turn of the Screw and Owen Wingrave

by Henry James

Book cover for The Turn of the Screw and Owen Wingrave

Two orphans and their governess are under threat from two of sinister figures in The Turn of the Screw, one the most famous ghost novels ever written. Owen Wingrave is a son from a long line of military heroes, but what if he strays from the ghosts of his past? These two short and eerie novellas are published together in a single volume with a new afterword by bestselling author, Kate Mosse.


by Bram Stoker

Book cover for Dracula

Sensual, dark and thrilling, Bram Stoker's Gothic masterpiece still surpasses any film or TV versions of this peerless tale of a desperate battle against a powerful, ancient vampire.


by Mary Shelley

Book cover for Frankenstein

Mary Shelley's dark parable of science misused, would go on to influence countless writers and film-makers. Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant but wayward scientist, builds a human from dead flesh and then, horrified at what he has done, abandons his creation.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination

by Edgar Allan Poe

Book cover for Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Some of the most exciting and haunting stories ever written, including ‘The Tell-Tale Heart’ and 'The Fall of the House of Usher', can be found in this collection of Poe's work. These Gothic tales range from the poetic to the mysterious to the darkly comic.

Ghost Stories

by Charles Dickens

Book cover for Ghost Stories

Throughout his illustrious writing career, Charles Dickens often turned his hand to fashioning short pieces of ghostly fiction, chilling stories of coincidence, insanity and revenge. While all his supernatural tales aim to send a shiver down the spine, they are not without the usual traits of Dickens' flamboyant style: his subtle wit, biting irony, humorous incidents and moral observations.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other stories

by Robert Louis Stevenson

Book cover for The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and other stories

A masterpiece of Victorian literature. Why has Dr Jekyll begun to associate with the ugly and violent Mr Hyde? When Jekyll's friend Utterson tries to solve this mystery he uncovers a horrific story of murder and suffering which leads to the terrible revelation of Mr Hyde's true identity.

The Phantom of the Opera

by Gaston Leroux

Book cover for The Phantom of the Opera

Perhaps best known for its many stage and screen adaptations, Gaston Leroux's brilliant and disturbing novel surpasses them all. Strange things are going on at the Paris Opera House; a mysterious phantom is wreaking havoc amongst the singers and backstage staff. But when new managers take over and dismiss the rumours of the Opera Ghost, the terror really begins. 

Classic Locked Room Mysteries

by David Stuart Davies

Book cover for Classic Locked Room Mysteries

This new anthology of gripping ‘locked room’ stories – they’re just as much about how dunnit as who dunnit – includes tales from many great mystery writers, including Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allen Poe. Perfect for anyone who prefers a clever crime to a scary story.

Other scary reads you might like:

The Woman in Black

by Susan Hill

Book cover for The Woman in Black

Arthur Kipps, a solicitor from London is sent to Eel Marsh House to find the will and settle the affairs of the recently deceased Mrs Drablow. The house sits on a sinking swamp and surrounded by a blinding fog. What is supposed to be a routine business trip takes a horrifying turn when Arthur finds hims haunted by a ghostly woman dressed in all black.

The Haunting of Hill House

by Shirley Jackson

Book cover for The Haunting of Hill House

Four seekers of paranormal activity have arrived at the rambling old pile known as Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar; Theodora, his lovely assistant; Luke, the future inheritor of the estate; and Eleanor, a young woman with a dark past. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers—and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.

A ghost story that will keep you up all night, this was the inspiration for the Netflix series of the same name. 

The Silent Companions

Book cover for The Silent Companions

Set in both the 19th and the 17th centuries, The Silent Companions has got all the classic ingredients of gothic: an isolated and crumbling mansion, a family with a dark secret, eerie locals, a secret diary and untrustworthy servants.

When the recently widowed and heavily pregnant Elsie Bainbridge makes her way to her deceased husband’s crumbling family pile she in an intruder in this sequestered community. As she starts to unravel the history of the place, strange things begin to happen and she feels strange eyes upon her – the companions, a collection of old wooden portraits hidden away in the attic.

The suspense really builds as you make connections between Elsie’s story, and that of another Mrs. Bainbridge, two hundred years before, and come to realize the true evil that possesses these horrifying, living portraits.

The Rats

by James Herbert

Book cover for The Rats

For millions of years, man and rats had been natural enemies. But now, the balance of power has shifted and these swarming black creatures with their razor-sharp teeth have a taste for human blood . . . 

The Secret of Cold Hill

by Peter James

Book cover for The Secret of Cold Hill

When Cold Hill House went up in flames, so did the memories of its violent history. Now it's been replaced by a new development of ultra-modern houses, and although construction is still underway, the first two families can't wait to move into their new homes. But it's not long before they start to feel uncomfortable in their new homes. And one thing the estate agents never mentioned; no one ever lived beyond forty in Cold Hill House . . . This is a spine-chilling thriller book from the author of the Roy Grace series

The Ritual

by Adam Nevill

Book cover for The Ritual

Now a major film starring Rafe Spal.

Four old university friends reunite for a hiking trip in the Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. Frustrated and tired they take a shortcut through the forest and stumble across an isolated old house. Inside, they find the macabre remains of old rites and pagan sacrifices. A place of dark ritual and home to a bestial presence . . .  and now they’re the prey.

The Upstairs Room

Book cover for The Upstairs Room

Eleanor, Richard and their two children move into their dream home, but very quickly the cracks begin to show. There is an eerie atmosphere that seems to be coming from a room on the top floor. Eleanor is determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

A chilling ghost story that you won't be able to put down.

Lovecraft Country

by Matt Ruff

Book cover for Lovecraft Country

Chicago, 1954. When his father Montrose goes missing, 22-year-old Army veteran Atticus Turner embarks on a road trip to New England to find him, accompanied by his Uncle George – publisher of The Safe Negro Travel Guide – and his childhood friend Letitia. On their journey to the manor of Mr. Braithwhite – heir to the estate that owned one of Atticus’s ancestors – they encounter both mundane terrors of white America and malevolent spirits that seem straight out of the weird tales George devours.


by Fiona Cummins

Book cover for Rattle

A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter...

He leads two lives. In one he's just like anyone else, but in the other, he is the caretaker of his family's macabre museum. Now the time has come to add to his collection, and he's found his new victims.

Will the police find them before it's too late?

In this episode of Book Break, Emma shares her favourite spooky folk stories from around the world:

For more spooky stories, don't miss Emma's recommendations for the best gothic books to read on Halloween and beyond: