This novel, published in 1962, is the classic creepy carnival story. A train full of weird, creepy carnies pulls up to a little town and while almost everyone is pretending like the carnival is all normal and stuff, our two young protagonists can see the true horrors: soul-stealing mirror mazes, time-altering carousels, etc. It’s an interesting meditation on the nature of childhood and growing up as well as a damn fine creepy tale.
Good companion piece: “The Shining” by Stephen King–talk about the power of setting to warp characters’ minds!
2. The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
While I’m on the subject of classics, let’s chat about this book. I’d seen the original, chilling 1975 movie starring Katherine Ross, and the 2004 remake with that ridiculous remote control boobs scene, but I hadn’t read the book until this fall. The book’s plot is not much different than the movie, aside from being a bit more overtly political. Joanna Eberhart is truly lonely in a new town, and so she tries to make friends with the town’s oddly perfect women. She and her one buddy, Bobbie, try to get women to band together, join a NOW chapter, and they all just politely wave her off because they are TERRIBLE WIFE-BOTS OMG. Spoilers. Um. But the thing is, I didn’t care that I knew the ending: Hearing the story through Joanna’s earnest point of view was terrifying, in part because much of America, suburbia in particular, has not really moved too far past Stepford. We are culturally haunted by Stepford: a secret conspiracy of average suburban men who somehow end up making “perfected” simaculra of their wives and then offing the originals.
A good companion piece to this would be the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Birthmark.”
3. Pretty Deadly by Kelly Sue DeConnick
This is a brand-spankin’-new series put out by Image comics—as in you have to walk into a comic shop and pick up Issue #1 if they still have it in stock. This book is dynamite. It’s a supernatural western starring a mysterious Death-like character, narrated by a dead rabbit, and with a varied and interesting cast of bad-ass people doing dirty deeds. It’s got a stellar creative team: Emma Rios’ art is perfect for the feel of the story, I heart the crap out of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing, and I’m really excited about Jordie Bellaire’s colors. I mean, I rarely know the name of a colorist, much less get really excited about them. Anyway. Pick this one up, kids. It’s worth your time.
Great companion read: The Sixth Gun by Cullen Bunn (ongoing series)
4. The Last Halloween by Abby Howard
How’s about a comic for the low, low, price of free? Well, aside from your compulsive need to throw money at Abby Howard, its creator, because of it’s genius and sexy exciting merch. Also you may end up giving away bits of your soul, but…yeah. Pay no mind. Free comic! Hooray!
Abby Howard, of Strip Search fame, has launched her deliciously wicked comic, The Last Halloween. It’s an adventurous tale of horror and skullduggery with a cast of supernatural beasties and gorgeous black and white art to boot. It’s also got a wicked sense of humor: This comic in particular reads very Jhonen Vasquez-y, and I like it. Take a look: You won’t want to miss this one.
Good companion read: Johnny the Homicidal Maniac by Jhonen Vasquez.
5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Okay, here’s a latter-day classic that you can read with young-ish-uns without traumatizing them too badly. The Graveyard Book tells the tale of Bod, short for Nobody, who has grown up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts. The tale of how he got there and who he really is unfolds a mysterious man named Jack keeps making attempts of his life…
Good companion read: “The Juniper Tree” by the Brothers Grimm. For fifth grade and up, it’s a great, gross, terrifying tale.