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From vacations gone wrong to chatty spirits, we've selected the most horrifying reads that are sure to have you quivering in fear this Halloween. Pay special attention to the plot lines, which also serve as a guide on what not to do on Halloween weekend—no traveling to remote locations, no talking to strangers, etc.
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The Devils of Loudun, Aldous Huxley
Are religious cults ever not terrifying? This is the story of the 17th century village of Loudun, where an entire convent became possessed and it was decided that the priest was, among other charges, in cohorts with Satan. The scariest part? It’s nonfiction.
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The Other, Thomas Tryon
Identical twins Holland and Niles come from a long line of New Englanders, and their family all come to town when their father dies unexpectedly. Cue the stage for an incredibly tense summer. While the two are close, Holland becomes increasingly psychotic and Niles eventually has a question to answer: how far can your family go before they reach the point of no forgiveness?
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It , Stephen King
Twenty-seven years ago, in Derry, Maine, seven teenagers discover the evil force behind numerous murders. Now, those seven teenagers are drawn back to the place where it all happened when the murders begin anew.
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Carrion Comfort , Dan Simmons
Vampires are terrifying enough, but Dan Simmons' vampires can control humans as well as read their minds. This leads to terrifying practices (ones that don’t end well for humans) that a handful of characters with personal vampire vendettas are determined to stop.
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White is for Witching , Helen Oyeyemi
Miranda Silver lives in a giant old house with her twin brother, Eliot, that’s been in the family for four generations. When Miranda’s mother dies, Miranda begins to eat chalk and communicate with spirits until, eventually, she disappears altogether.
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Rosemary's Baby , Ira Levin
Rosemary and her husband Guy have just moved in to a new New York City apartment when Rosemary discovers she’s pregnant. The couple’s neighbors, the Castavets, become even nosier and are a little too interested in her health. This takes strangers asking to feel a woman’s baby bump to a whole new level.
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The Last Temptation , Val McDermid
Tony and Carol have broken up. They’re done, and they’d rather not be around each other, thank you very much. But when a psychosexual serial killer starts to track Carol, the two must work together if they both wish to stay alive.
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The Woman in Black , Susan Hill
Arthur is a legal practitioner who ventures to Crythin Gifford, which is beyond Nine Lives Causeway, to settle the affairs of his deceased client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. (The names alone let you know this one’s going to be good.) Unfortunately, it soon becomes clear that in this eerie thriller, dead things don’t stay dead.
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Ghost Story , Peter Straub
Fifty years ago, four men accidentally killed a woman and disposed of her body by putting it in a car and sinking the vehicle to the bottom of a lake. They’re disturbed, of course, but not disturbed enough to prevent them from living happy lives. They now call themselves the Chowder Society and meet regularly. But now, their past is back to haunt them — it seems you really can’t get away with murder.
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Odd Thomas , Dean Koontz
Odd Thomas is a fry cook in California with whom spirits communicate. All the sudden, all hell breaks loose — but really, this isn’t a surprise. Listening to the dead is a pretty surefire way to find yourself the hero of a horror novel.
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The Ruins , Scott Smith
Two couples embark on a Mexican vacation expecting fun days on the beach and an excess of alcohol. What they don’t bargain for is a mysterious presence they find in the jungle while searching for a missing friend.