I was the kind of girl who asked for the movie Carrie for my 12th birthday and would turn all the lights off to watch Tales From The Crypt with my older brother. So yes, I was into Halloween. And the best way to absorb myself in Halloween was to read all the scary stories I possibly could.
Many of the best Halloween books from childhood still haunt us today, provoking fear of the basement, under the bed, summer camps (I'm looking at you R.L. Stine), and pretty much everything else you could possibly be scared of. And these stories will affect our fears today. (Anyone else have to shut the closet door before she sleeps? Run and jump into bed so as not to let the monster under there grab you? Search for a house with the laundry on the first floor to avoid the basement? No? OK. Cool. Whatever.)
The best Halloween books got right into your brain and spun it around, had you checking the windows and the front door while you were reading. But still, you turned page after page because they were just so good and you couldn't stop no matter how scared you got.
These eight books in particular should still make you want to grab a flashlight, turn off a the lights, and cuddle under a blanket to scare yourself silly.
The Haunted Mask by R.L. Stine
We all remember this Goosebumps classic, because we probably scared the bejeezus out of ourselves with it every Halloween. The premise is simple: a girl puts on a Halloween mask and can't take it off, but the mask ends up possessing her, making her do more and more aggressive things. But the ending, my gosh the ending. If the mask attaches itself to her or another person again, it will be on forever. And so in the final seconds, her brother walks in: "How do I look in your mask?"
So yeah, I still won't put on an over-the-head mask — what of it?
The Witches by Roald Dahl
Also known as that one time Roald Dahl told me that my teacher was probably a conniving, real-life witch. He knew just how to get into our little brains and say all the things he knew would terrify us, including giving us a little aside, like he was speaking directly to us, the readers, warning us personally about the treat of these witches in our actual lives.
And today? I still can't even think of this book without shuddering at this image:
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz
Twenty- and thirtysomethings everywhere will be forever sleeping with their heads under the covers so as to avoid a spider laying eggs in their face because of Mr. Alvin Schwartz. How was this book even allowed? And don't even get me started, this book must be read with the original, terrifying illustrations by Stephen Gammell.
I can't even with Harold. I can't. Even.
The House With A Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs
John Bellairs was the absolute king of creepy mysteries when we were kids. And his Halloween story The House With a Clock in Its Walls was one of his best. Not to mention the illustrations, which were done by Gothic legend Edward Gorey.
When the orphan Lewis is set to live with his uncle he finds out two important things: His uncle is a warlock, and there's a clock ticking in the walls of the house, hidden somewhere, that could spell the end of the world. So on Halloween night, Lewis, his uncle, and the two witchy neighbors literally fight against the clock to find it.
Bunnicula by James Howe and Deborah Howe
Bunnicula is told from the perspective of the family dog Harold, who is convinced, along with Chester the cat, that the pet rabbit is actually a vampire. Carrots drained of their orange color? Fang marks? Awake only at night? Yup, the bunny is a bloodsucker.
OK, so this isn't actually supposed to be a scary book, but look at the cover. It's terrifying.
Halloween Party by R.L. Stine
Fear Street was the ultimate scary story go-to. While any could be perfect Halloween reading, why not pinpoint the holiday exactly with Halloween Party?
"Bottle episode" books are perfect scary stories — one set of characters in one place at one time — and Stine's creepy book is no different. People are getting invitations Clue-style to a mysterious, all-night Halloween costume party, where one of the guests starts killing people.
The Midnight Club by Christopher Pike
Any Fear Street fan probably also had bookshelves full of Christopher Pike books, one of the only YA horror rivals to Stine. While again, most any of his books could scare you silly on Halloween, I always liked The Midnight Club because it wasn't just one scary story, it was several.
Just like the Midnight Society of Are You Afraid of the Dark? , a group of teenagers gather together to tell creepy tales, but this time, the tales start to come true.
In a Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz
Oh Alvin, why did you try so hard to make us not be able to sleep at night? His (allegedly) tamer collection of scary stories In a Dark, Dark Room was still completely terrifying.
I'm going to say two words: green ribbon. You know what I'm talking about. The girl who wears a green ribbon around her neck forever, and on her death bed, someone unties the ribbon and her head falls off. Her head falls off.
Needless to say, I could never jump in on the choker craze of the 1990s.
Image: Paulina Fi Garduño/flickr; Giphy