The best classic scary stories for Halloween

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

Immerse yourself in the eerie and the macabre this Halloween with the best classic scary stories. These classic tales have all the ghosts, vampires and monsters you need for a truly terrifying October 31st.

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 Dracula remains the seminal work of Gothic fiction. When Jonathan Harker is summoned to Transylvania to finalize a property deal for the mysterious Count Dracula, he stumbles upon an ancient evil he is unprepared to face. When that evil escapes to England, the entire nation is suddenly under threat and only an aged vampire hunter, Professor Abraham Van Helsing, can put a stop to the bloodshed. Stoker's 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

One of BBC's 100 Novels That Shaped Our World, Mary Shelley's dark parable of science misused, has gone on to influence countless writers and filmmakers. Victor Frankenstein, a brilliant but wayward scientist, builds a human from dead flesh. Horrified at what he has done, he abandons his creation. The hideous creature learns language and becomes civilized but society rejects him. Spurned, he seeks vengeance on his creator. So begins a cycle of destruction, with Frankenstein and his 'monster' pursuing each other to the extremes of nature until all vestiges of their humanity are lost. 

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. They range from the poetic to the mysterious to the darkly comic, yet all possess the genius for the grotesque that defines Poe's writing. They are peopled with neurotics and social outcasts, obsessed with nameless terrors or preoccupied with seemingly unsolvable mysteries. 

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

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. Accompanied here by three other memorable stories of horror, murder and the supernatural, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a masterpiece of Victorian Gothic literature.

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. Who is the curious figure stalking the stage at night? How can he be in so many places at once, entering and leaving locked rooms at will? And what is his connection to the beautiful and talented young soloist, Christine?

Classic Locked Room Mysteries

by David Stuart Davies

Book cover for Classic Locked Room Mysteries

Classic Locked-Room Mysteries is a fascinating collection of ingenious mysteries which all pose the question 'howdunnit?' Locked-room mysteries reached their height of popularity in the Victorian and Edwardian eras; this collection, edited and introduced by David Stuart Davies, brings together stories from such masters of the genre as Edgar Allan Poe, Wilkie Collins, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and G. K. Chesterton. In each story the reader is invited to play detective and is presented with a challenge: can you solve the mystery before the solution is revealed?

Classic Halloween Stories

by Ned Halley

Book cover for Classic Halloween Stories

Dim the lights and close the curtains – Halloween is coming. And what better to read than this collection of seriously spooky stories about ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. Ghost stories became hugely popular during the nineteenth century and the Victorians became the masters of the genre. This collection of includes authors such as Charles Dickens, Edith Wharton, Edgar Allen Poe, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James, Bram Stoker, H. P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood, Arthur Machen, M. R. James and Vernon Lee.

Other scary reads you might like:

Out There Screaming

by Jordan Peele

Book cover for Out There Screaming

Jordan Peele, the visionary writer and director of Get OutUs, and Nope, and founder of Monkeypaw Productions, curates this groundbreaking anthology of brand new stories of Black horror, exploring not only the terrors of the supernatural but the chilling reality of injustice that haunts our world. Here you'll find monster-hunters fighting monsters, humanoid AIs fighting for their rights, and an Igbo woman standing up to a powerful spirit. These are just a few of the worlds of Out There Screaming, Jordan Peele’s anthology of all-new horror stories by Black writers.

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 Rats

by James Herbert

Book cover for The Rats

A special fortieth anniversary edition of The Rats, the classic, bestselling horror novel that launched James Herbert's career. It was only when the bones of the first devoured victims were discovered that the true nature and power of these swarming black creatures with their razor sharp teeth and the taste for human blood began to be realized by a panic-stricken city. For millions of years man and rats had been natural enemies. But now for the first time – suddenly, shockingly, horribly – the balance of power had shifted . . .

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.

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 serial killer to chill your bones. He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one, he’s just like anyone else. But in the other he’s the caretaker of his family’s macabre museum. Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt and Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle both have what he needs. What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey’s father and DS Etta Fitzroy, a detective investigating a spate of abductions.

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