10 Creepy Choices for a Rattling Good Read (+ 4 great films)

While not all the books on my top 10 Creepy Choices are ghost stories,  I think you’ll agree that they all deliver a certain frisson. For good measure, I’ve also added four films that never cease to get my heart racing, even though I know what will happen next (or, perhaps because I know!)

Having read quite a few of these stories while researching a recent workshop on writing the supernatural and sinister, I was surprised to spot several key themes common to both ancient and modern works such as Beowulf (7th century) and stories by Susan Hill and Henry James.

For instance:

  • An isolated house in the marshes haunted by a child and its mother
  • A stranger who arrives to confront them
  • A number of terrible deaths

In fact, there are even links with the film Alien if you think about it.

What also occurred to me on a  re-reading is how cleverly Henry James plays with our perception of the truth in the Turn of the Screw. Interestingly, a friend confirmed what I thought about this story. On a first reading, you accept it  at face value. However, on a second, more critical reading, you begin to pick up on the many contradictions that James has deliberately planted in the text. No wonder that this work is still a subject of heated debate.

While Donna Tartt’s The Secret History may not seem an obvious choice, it’s the only one that caused me to wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat because I dreamed that I was one of the participants in the events described by the narrator. That’s really getting under the skin of a reader!

I’ve listed my top 10 spine-tinglers below (in no particular order) along with four films that always have the power to scare me, even though I know what’s coming.

What would you add to the list?


  1. The Woman in Black                            Susan Hill
  2. The Mist in The Mirror                        Susan Hill
  3. The Turn of the Screw                          Henry James
  4. The Bloody Chamber                           Angela Carter
  5. Frankenstein                                         Mary Shelley 
  7. Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook                M.R. James
  8. The Signalman                                     Charles Dickens
  9. Beowulf                                                 Seamus Heaney
  10. The Day of the Triffids                       John Wyndham
  11. Hawksmoor                                         Peter Ackroyd
  12. The Secret History                             Donna Tartt


  1. Alien
  2. The Blair Witch Project
  3. The Birds
  4. Psycho
This entry was posted in Angela Carter, Books, Charles Dickens, Donna Tartt, Fiction, ghost stories, Halloween, Henry James, John Wyndham, M. R. James, M.R. James, Mary Shelley, Myth, Peter Ackroyd, Seamus Heaney, Short stories, Susan Hill, Vampires and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to 10 Creepy Choices for a Rattling Good Read (+ 4 great films)

  1. lgould171784 says:

    I’d add practically any story by Edgar Allan Poe, including “The Fall of the House of Usher.” For movies, I’d include “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” “The Portrait of Dorian Gray,” and probably almost anything Hitchcock.

  2. Pingback: Slobs vs Workaholics: 10 Resolutions for the New Year | T. Thurai's Blog

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