Recommendations: Women's Scary Fiction for Halloween

I love scary stories of the literary variety .  As some of you know, I have flirted with ghosts in Nine Romantic Stories, in "A String Theory Valentine"-- and even wrote a "Happy Halloween" Tale that is now available in an Amazon anthology, 13 Bites.  What better way celebrate Halloween than reading some good old-fashioned spooky tales?  But for my money, some of the chillier chills come from women writers -- more inner demons and fewer of the flying variety, more psychology and less gore.

So here is my list for stories that sent some literary chills down my spine that make for perfect Halloween reading:

 Revenge by Yoko Ogawa.

These exquisitely dark tales by this contemporary Japanese writer are in the great tradition of weird and wonderful-- and I first learned of them through our own interview with Jessica Treat ( who recommended them.)  This author has a peculiar sense of the macabre that must come from the food they eat in Japan.  A woman buys a cake for a dead child, and another visits a museum of torture.  Spooky and fantastic.

Ghost Stories of Muriel Spark.
 I am a Dame Muriel addict, and gleefully devour everything she's written. And those familiar with novels like The Bachelors might be prepared for some dark, wild story-telling-- Spark always surprises.  But Dame Muriel also had a way with ghosts. It's fun to see her wicked prose tangle with the supernatural -- sometimes to comic effect, and sometimes to scary.  One of the best here is a first person narrative -- a lost ghost waiting to find her own death.

Classics of the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier.  

Mention Daphne du Maurier, and most people think of the Hitchcock films, The Birds and Rebecca.  Some may recall the Nicholas Roeg film, shot in Venice, Don't Look Now.  But the original stories, especially those in this volume, are far better than the films.  "The Apple Tree" is as frightening a tale of marriage gone wrong as any I have read -- and the original, "Don't Look Now" is lyrical, mysterious and terrifying.  I found this book in a gorgeous edition with illustrations by Micheal Foreman.

The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton

This is another case of who knew?  Yes, it's the very same Edith Wharton who wrote The House of Innocence and Ethan Frome  (which as I think about it, is a very scary tale.) It turns out that Wharton had a flair for the classic ghost tale. I'm guessing that her affinity for Henry James (whose Turn of the Screw is one fantastic ghost story) led her to the genre-- but, read and you will see, she's no slouch.  Wharton loves the idea of old haunted houses, and she is great at those stories.  But to my tastes, her mastery is best shown in "Miss Mary Pask," in which the narrator falsely believes he is speaking to a dead woman and where "night and fog were now one." A perfect Halloween tale.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.

To me, this might be Number One on the all time spookiest books ever written.  Jackson doesn't need the supernatural to scare the living daylights out of you.  Her story of women who lock themselves into their own house is more frightening, more upsetting, than stories of demons or ghouls. Isolation is scary.  If any book can haunt you, it's this one -- and for years after you put it down.  
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