Staff Picks: Chilling Picks for These Chilly Autumn Nights
Leaves are turning, there’s a chill in the air and little ghosts and goblins are picking out their costumes for some Halloween fun. What better time to cozy up with a blanket and crack open a spooky read or delve into a spine-tingling movie? Whether you’re a horror aficionado, a fan of the classics, or are looking for something the whole family can enjoy together, you’ll find many such seasonal options at the library.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
You’ve most likely seen or heard several versions of Irving’s Headless Horseman tale over the years, but have you ever read his original story? This is a quick classic with bits of romance, jealousy, humor and suspense. Set in 1790 in a dreamy little Dutch settlement in the Hudson River Valley, the story centers on the superstitious schoolmaster Ichabod Crane. Crane, who is obsessed with stories of New England witchcraft, is afraid of all things that go bump in the night and often works himself into fits of comical hysteria. He is, however, willing to face his fears and brave the eerie woods to meet the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, hoping to gain her hand . . . and fortune. But his courage wanes as the woods grow dim. Imagine the sound of a dark steed barreling up from behind, the sight of the apparitional horse tied to a gravestone or a horseman with no head! Irving’s haunting story is best read (or listened to) on a cold evening with a crackling fire providing the only light. You will surely feel a presence as you read Irving’s words — “Just then he saw the goblin rising in his stirrups, and in the very act of hurling his head at him. Ichabod endeavored to dodge the horrible missile, but too late . . . ”
∼ Julia, Circulation Manager, Warrenton central library
Doesn’t everyone love a scary movie? I believe this is the top film on my list of suspenseful and ghostly tales. This thriller made director M. Night Shyamalan famous and caused him to be regarded by many as the new Alfred Hitchcock. Released in theaters in 1999, it features excellent performances by Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. A boy (Osment), who communicates with unhappy and troubled ghosts, feels burdened and seeks help from a child psychologist (Willis). The chilling atmosphere is especially effective in this film, many scenes are quite eerie, and it still holds up as masterfully creepy even by today’s standards. This movie is available to check out from our library’s superb DVD collection!
∼ Carol, Library Clerk, Warrenton central library
Ghosts of the Old Jail by Frances A. R. Allshouse and Andrew B. Allshouse
If you’ve toured the Old Jail in Warrenton’s historic district, you know it can be a little creepy. (Ask my kids and they’ll tell you it’s holler-out-loud terrifying, but that’s another story.) Having housed the areas worst offenders of their times, its walls understandably harbor a few spine-tingling tales, and many visitors and volunteers through the years have made claims of supernatural encounters inside the building. This book is a collection of those stories — some about particularly notorious inmates and their crimes, and others introducing the spirits that many say still haunt the Old Jail. From mischievous young ghosts to edgier spirits with a territorial streak, these brief tales are especially fun as a supplement to an Old Jail visit of your own.
∼ Emily, Library Clerk, Warrenton central library
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The very name Dracula instantly brings to mind visions of vampires, stakes, and garlic, but nothing comes close to the original by Bram Stoker. This is THE vampire story, and it set the benchmark for all other vampire writers afterward. It is not the romanticized modern-day version where the vampire is the hero. Dracula, after all, is the father of all gothic villains. The entire book is written in the form of letters and diary entries from the main characters. As you read on, the book gets darker, but with a great sense of elegance that is lacking in our modern vampire tales. Dracula will appeal to gothic horror fans, fans of classics, and people who just enjoy a creepy read at Halloween.
∼ Vicky, Library Page, Warrenton central library
The Best of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
This spine-chilling collection of some of Poe’s greatest works is a worthwhile and amusing listen. Poe is an extraordinary wordsmith, and his use of detailed imagery really comes alive in this audio version. My favorite writing among the collection is “The Fall of the House of Usher.” As I listened to the incredible account of the mighty walls of the house as well as the psychological state of Usher, the lord of the house, my bones and ears rattled with joy at Poe’s ingenious and unique use of poetry and prose. Other remarkable writings within the group are “The Pit and the Pendulum,” which describes the fear, suspense, and horror of a prisoner who explores, with hope of escape, the dimensions of his rat-filled pendulum swinging cell and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a creepy story of murder, madness, and mayhem as “the Eye” and the beating of an old man’s heart drives the houseguest crazy, leading to his confession of a murderous deed. Give it a listen and be prepared to be amazed and spooked!
∼ Kathie, Library Clerk, Warrenton central library
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
I picked this up to read when my middle-school granddaughter was assigned an essay on it. This is a chilling short story written as a type of fable in which the people of a small village participate in a lottery each year. The story carries you along until the quite shocking ending and shows the dangers in blindly following traditions and in crowd behavior. There was quite a controversy when the story was printed in “The New Yorker.”
∼ Muriel, Library Associate, Warrenton central library
This is my all-time favorite DVD to watch for Halloween. It’s not really scary, but there are elements of just the right amount of spookiness for young children. Linus’ sincere belief that the Great Pumpkin will visit his pumpkin patch and deliver toys is so earnest (despite the jeering and laughter he gets, especially from Snoopy) that he is willing to sacrifice trick-or-treating and a party to sit up all night waiting for him to arrive. The music and graphics are especially good at providing eerie atmospherics, juxtaposed against the humorous antics of Snoopy as the daring World War I flying ace, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as they trick-or-treat. The first time I watched this animated movie on broadcast television, I was 10 years old. Fifty years later, it is the first DVD I watch every Halloween, and I never tire of it. It is a tradition in my family every year. The DVD is available to check out at the library, so introduce your children to it and make it a tradition in your house too!
∼ Cheryl, Library Clerk, Warrenton central library