13 Creepy Nonfiction Books To Put You In The Mood For October
October has come again! It's the most wonderful time of the year (provided that your favorite things are plastic skeletons, fake blood, and contemplations of your own mortality). It's also the perfect month for reading a good creepy book. And if you're looking for a classic October read, there are plenty of horror stories out there for your stomach-churning pleasure. If you want to venture beyond the Stephen King paperbacks and the steamy vampire romance novels, however, then here are 13 nonfiction books to scare, shock, and inform you (and most definitely put you in the mood for Halloween).
See, the thing about horror fiction is that it's (usually) strictly fictional. You know with reasonable certainty that you're not going to encounter any ghosts or sewer clowns in real life. You can always shut the book, turn off the slasher flick, and make yourself a non-threatening sandwich. But when it comes to creepy nonfiction... all bets are off. These are real horror stories, telling the real histories behind our greatest fears. Here you'll find the origins of All Hallow's Eve itself, as well as true tales of witches, weird bugs, and resurrected corpses. There are bloody countesses and morgue-based memoirs. So read on... if you dare:
'Infamous Lady: The True Story of Countess Erzsébet Báthory' by Kimberly L. Craft
Look, I'm not saying that we should celebrate female serial killers... but if you have a taste for the dark and twisted, then you'll enjoy reading about Erzsébet "The Blood Countess" Báthory, the world's most notorious female serial killer, who reportedly used to bathe in the blood of her 650 victims. For years she's been mythologized as a vampire and a demon, but Infamous Lady gets right into the reality of who she was and all the atrocious crimes she committed.
'The Lady and her Monsters: a Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece' by Roseanne Montillo
We all know by now that our modern horror and science fiction genres owe a huge debt to the original goth teen, Mary Shelley. But where did Shelley get her ideas for Frankenstein in the first place? The Lady and Her Monsters takes us on a grisly trip through Shelley's own life, as well as the actual weird science that inspired her to create one of literature's favorite monsters.
'The Penguin Book of Witches' by Katherine Howe
Witches! Or, as they're better known, "basically any woman throughout history who was threatening to men." The Penguin Book of Witches is a chilling collection of historical accounts of witchcraft. Here you can read about the actual women who stood accused of bewitching their friends and family, and the various "witch hunters" who tried to rid the world of these "dangerous" women.
'Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army and Other Diabolical Insects' by Amy Stewart
Bugs are scary. I mean, sure, maybe you're one of those fearless people who finds bugs interesting, or even cute. But you might not feel that way once you're confronted with a louse that can take down an army. Wicked Bugs explores the history of insects who have wreaked havoc on human civilization with their gnawing, biting, stinging, and general scurrying around, ruining everyone's lives.
'The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures' by Aaron Mahnke
Based on the hit podcast of the same name, The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures takes on the gruesome origin stories of folklore's more fearsome monsters. Here you'll find the truth behind vampires, poltergeists, werewolves, Jersey Devils, gremlins, and so much more. Mahnke looks into why we tell stories about these various beasties... and what monsters can teach us about ourselves.
'Monsters Among Us: an exploration of otherworldly bigfoots, wolfmen, portals, phantoms, and odd phenomena' by Linda S. Godfrey
I know that most of us don't believe that monsters are real... and yet, Monsters Among Us chronicles a whole mess of firsthand monster encounters. Is there any scientific basis to believing in bigfoot and wolfmen? Is it possible that our world is full of secret portals to other dimensions? ...or is it all just the stuff of weird fringe subreddits? Linda S. Godfrey is here to find out.
'Tell My Horse: Voodoo and Life in Haiti and Jamaica' by Zora Neale Hurston
Zora Neale Hurston is best known as a novelist, but she was also a brilliant folklorist and anthropologist. In Tell My Horse, she gives her personal account of participating in the more extreme voodoo ceremonies of the 1930's (so maybe don't read this if animal sacrifice is not up your alley). But Hurston doesn't just gawk at the "creepy" side of voodoo; she also delves into the history of voodoo as a misunderstood religious practice, and the lasting impact of West African folklore on American culture.
'Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween' by Lisa Morton
So... why do we have a modern holiday at the end of October that celebrates monsters, pranks, and copious amounts of sugar? Lisa Morton explains how our spookiest holiday came to be, and how a fall harvest festival got all mixed up with various ghostly feasts, and wound up in America as a big ol' excuse to dress up and eat candy.
'Zombies!: An Illustrated History of the Undead' by Jovanka Vuckovic
The zombie is one of the most recognizable monsters around. We all have our contingency plans, just in case of a zombie apocalypse. But where did the zombie come from? Why do they want to eat brains? Zombies! illustrates the history of the walking dead, from Haitian folklore to Night of the Living Dead to modern zombie marathons. It's a fun, informative, and slightly disturbing ride.
'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory' by Caitlin Doughty
If you've ever considered a career in a morgue, you're going to want to read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes first. It's the comically macabre memoir of Caitlin Doughty, a 20-something who took a job in a crematory. She recounts her day-to-day of caring for the dead, and how the experience has opened her eyes to our culture's weird, uncomfortable methods of dealing with death.
'Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife' by Mary Roach
So what does science have to say about ghosts? What happens after we die? Do Ouija boards actually work? Mary Roach aims to find out in this hilarious tour through the theoretical afterlife. Spook is a fun, factually-grounded approach to life after death (although if you're waiting for a definitive answer on the existence of ghosts, you might have to keep waiting).
'The Science of Monsters' by Matt Kaplan
Every culture on Earth has its own fair share of monsters. But why? What inspires stories about blood-sucking fiends and big nasty squids? And are any of these monsters real (or, at least, scientifically possible?). Matt Kaplan tackles the origins of our fears, and the reality behind some of the creepiest historical mysteries.
'The Death Class: A True Story About Life' by Erika Hayasaki
Don't let the name fool you: The Death Class is certainly morbid, but it's also strangely uplifting. It turns out that taking a college course on death has helped countless young people find a new love for life. Through field trips to cemeteries, prisons, and morgues, one remarkable professor helps her students come to terms with the losses in their own lives, and heals from her own personal tragedies.