School of English's spooky reads
Fancy delving into the pages of a spooky read tonight, but not sure where to start? Experts from the School of English have you covered. From children’s books to gothic tales, curl up and read on – if you’re brave enough. Happy Halloween!
Castle of Wolfenback: A German Story by Eliza Parsons (1793)
Catherine Morland: "Are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
Eliza Parsons's Castle of Wolfenbach: a German Story is one of the seven 'horrid' tales mentioned in Austen's Northanger Abbey. An evil uncle, a blameless young woman in survival mode and a great, gloomy ancestral home hiding family secrets: could it be any more gothic?
Dr Emma Newport, Lecturer in English Literature
Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (1980)
As a specialist in children’s literature, I’ve got to recommend Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s hilarious and adorable picture book Funnybones—about a big skeleton, a little skeleton, and a dog skeleton who just can’t find anybody to scare. Because we all need some light relief, even at Halloween (and perhaps this October 31st in particular). Just watch out you don’t end up a pile of bones, or that you have somebody who knows how to put you back together if you do.
Dr Hannah Field, Senior Lecturer
The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories by H. P. Lovecraft (1999)
Anyone who has ever played Call of Cthulhu in the recent console version (2018), or any of the table-top role-playing games of the same title (originally 1981), or indeed Arkham Horror (based on the same game system and the author’s home town) might want to meet the original visionary, H. P. Lovecraft. It’s hard to imagine the books of Stephen King or Alan Moore, or the films of John Carpenter or Guillermo del Toro, without Lovecraft. He influenced Japanese manga, too, and more recently he’s been fêted by rebel intellectuals like Michel Houellebecq (see H. P. Lovecraft: Against the World, Against Life).
And if you’re no fan of horror stories, horror films, horror games, or horrible intellectuals, you might still want to read Lovecraft because you’re a fan of ‘formless protoplasm able to mock and reflect all forms and organs and processes – viscous agglutinations of bubbling cells – rubbery fifteen-foot spheroids infinitely plastic and ductile’…?
Dr Sam Ladkin, Senior Lecturer in Creative and Critical Writing
Dracula by Bram Stoker (1897)
It is genuinely creepy and scary, with more than its fair share of bats, wolves, crawling upside-down up castle walls, not appearing in mirrors, and cries of “Your girls that you all love are mine already!” It also has a hilarious team of vampire slayers who dabble in late 19th century degeneration theory, attempts at blood transfusions, and taking too many opiates. It is completely of the moment it was written (1897) and bubbling over with homo-erotic, as well as hetero-erotic energy. It is also, weirdly, centrally about the newish skills of shorthand and typewriting. And full of hilarious double entendres like “After lunch Harker and his wife went back to their own room, and as I passed a while ago I heard the click of the typewriter. They are hard at it.”
Don’t settle for the film versions! Go to the original.
Dr Pamela Thurschwell, Reader in English
Beware the Cat! by William Baldwin (1553)
It has people who are cursed to turn into werewolves for seven years and then revert to people. It has witches who can turn horses into hay bales. It has grisly cadavers displayed on the roof of a print shop…. Cadavers, no less, that have been hung drawn and quartered (at the inspiration of evil spirits) and then are being eaten by ravens.
What else? Lots of quite sinister cats – a bunch of which kill a man in a forest in the dead of night.
Dr Rachel Stenner, Lecturer in English Literature 1350-1660
Read more about Beware the Cat! here.
Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad by M.R. James (1904)
Oh Whistle and I’ll Come To You My Lad is one of M.R. James’s best ghost stories. While wandering a graveyard in coastal Norfolk, a dusty academic finds an old whistle sticking out of a crumbling cliff, on which is written the title phrase. He blows the whistle, and for the next few days, is haunted by the sense that something evil is pursuing him. A masterpiece by this late Victorian writer of suspenseful, creepy stories, it was adapted into a truly chilling film in 1968, which is equally worth seeing.
Michael Rowland, Student Experience Coordinator
Carve your pumpkin
Once you've delved into the pages of a good spooky story, why not have a go at carving your own pumpin. Here's how we did ours: