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Three terrifying tales to read this Halloween Article by: Owen Bailey

As Halloween rolls around again and every other farm in Western Massachusetts suddenly becomes a haunted destination, one has to ask, is this all the fright that can be found? When you have seen every iteration of “The Purge” and “The Conjuring,” where do you turn for your next scare? The answer, much like the answer to most of life's burning questions, can be found in a book.

If you want to expand your taste for all things haunted and harrowing, the following three books are a great place to start. One is something light, for those who prefer a lighter spooky vibe rather than scary, one is something dark, for those brave souls who savor the most terrifying of stories, and one is something different, for those who value a well-written narrative over a conventional scare.

Something light comes in “The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman. The story begins on a dark note when a child is left abandoned in a graveyard. However, from that bleak beginning the story picks up as the baby is adopted by the spirits of the graveyard. These friendly ghosts take the boy in and raise him as one of their own.

From Gaiman to King, these are the spookiest stories around

Gaiman has a talent for writing through the eyes of children in grim situations. His joint effort with Terry Pratchett’s, “Good Omens,” follows a young boy as he struggles against the impending apocalypse. Both books are set in dark situations, however a combination of witty, almost whimsical writing, and wholesome themes turn the stories into uplifting tales of the human spirit. The boy’s family may be made up of ghosts, but they still help him with the very human struggles of friendship, identity and fighting through adversity.

For those who care less about uplifting tales, Stephen King’s collection of short stories, “Everything’s Eventual,” will haunt those who read it. King’s mastery of the English language and the horror genre shine to make this a deeply terrifying read. It is not a book for the faint of heart, nor for children as it includes some adult themes.

One standout story is “The Man in the Black Suit,” which won an O. Henry Award in 1996. Told through a diary entry, the tale is classic. A young boy has a chance encounter with the devil and gains knowledge that will only haunt him. King’s technical ability and prowess in horror keep the story fresh and make for a thoroughly terrifying experience.

Another standout is “Autopsy Room Four,” a suspenseful piece laced with dramatic irony and dark humor. Told through the thoughts of a completely paralyzed man about to be mistakenly autopsied, the story captures the reader and doesn’t let go. Every moment is tense and horrifying through the eyes of the patient, all while the doctors casually chat and crack jokes. “Autopsy Room Four” is simultaneously horrifying and humorous, and overall a great read for those with a twisted sense of humor.

And for those who want something different than graveyards and scary stories this Halloween, “The Passage” by Justin Cronin is a great choice. A government experiment goes wrong and releases a deadly virus that creates powerful vampire-like creatures. As the book jumps around in time, telling its story through emails, maps, newspapers and other found documents, an epic narrative unfolds.

“The Passage” describes humanity at the edge, dealing with insurmountable adversity and impassable obstacles. Hunted by vampires, humanity makes their final stand attempting to cling onto existence. A story of monsters and how to face them, “The Passage” is a perfect book to add to your reading list this Halloween.

Hopefully this small list was enough to intrigue you to read something a little different and appropriate for the time of year—these stories will take you to another realm in which the supernatural reigns and yet humanity remains relevant.

Owen Bailey can be reached at obailey@umass.edu.

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