Halloween is all about the scare (well… and the candy). Many of the symbols and traditions of this holiday have been brought to us through stories of horror, spirits, and undead creatures. To help you pick the perfect Halloween scare, Zola has compiled a list of 13 terrifying novels that have been adapted into film. So whether you take your spooks through the written text or on the screen, you’ll be set to scream this Halloween.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula is the vampire story. It is the novel that defined the modern vampire and created the genre. Stoker was inspired to create his creature from Vlad the Impaler, known throughout Europe for his heartless nature and named for his practice of skewering his enemies. With such horrific and vivid origins, it comes as no surprise that the Count has stuck around as a leading name in horror. Through the silver screen, television, the stage, and novels; Dracula’s never ending thirst for blood has haunted us for over a century and will likely continue for centuries more.
People lined up around the block to see The Exorcist, which was based off the novel by the same name, and the film didn’t disappoint. There were reports of people fainting and vomiting in the theater but the horror didn’t begin there. It is a well-known rumor that the filming was cursed. Major fires, mysterious deaths, and actor injuries plagued the cast and crew. The mysterious happenings grew to be so dangerous that a priest was asked to come bless the set.
Coraline, though made for children, has the best qualities of any good horror story. Author Neil Gaiman creates an unsettled and creepy atmosphere in the Other World where things are almost too pleasant. Then there’s the wicked villainess, Other Mother, with her button eyes and sewing kit at the ready to sew a pair of buttons on to poor Coraline if she lets her guard slip.
With the words “Once upon a midnight dreary…” Edgar Allan Poe set the scene for what would be his most famous work. Published in 1895, The Raven made Poe a household name and ensured he would not soon be forgotten. The poem builds suspense steadily and leaves readers haunted by the dark bird’s final caw of “Nevermore.”
I Know What You Did Last Summer is the definition of a slasher film. A psychotic killer stalks a group of young adults who accidentally killed someone the summer before. Though this was a crowd pleaser, it did not win over the author of the book. Lois Duncan voiced her distaste for the film, which took her suspenseful thriller and added gore and violence.
The idea for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a dream. From that dream came one of the most iconic horror stories of all time. Frankenstein’s monster has appeared in over a hundred films dating from the silent film era to today’s talkies. Created from found body parts and shocked back to life, the monster was a great example of the possibilities of reanimation and the dangers that come when man pushes too far.
If you need further proof of the value of sleep, Robert Louis Stevenson dreamed several of the scenes that became The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He furiously penned a first draft, only to burn it and start again. A classic depiction of the good and evil that lives in all of us, the story has been adapted for film over a hundred times.
Daylight isn’t always safe, but on the whole it can be agreed upon that some of the most horrific things happen at night and if one can last until morning there’s a better chance of survival. Well, this isn’t an option for the poor souls in 30 Days of Night. Set in Barrow, Alaska it tells the story of a period of 30 days during winter where the sun does not rise. Unburdened by the need to hide from the sunlight, vampires descend upon the town and feed at all hours leaving their victims with nowhere to hide.
Though they lack supernatural abilities, the serial killers of fiction are very often based on real counterparts and this makes them the most frightening villains of all. Those with a morbid curiosity know that not many stories explore the mind of serial killers quite as chillingly as The Silence of the Lambs. The movie is the only horror film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, and for good reason. Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter is the stuff nightmares are made of.
While Isaac Marion’s zombies share human emotions, they don’t lack what makes the undead scary. These zombies still have the compulsion to eat humans and while their speech is slowed, they are quick to attack. Then there are the Boneys, who are zombies that have been dead so long they have become living skeletons. Neither creature is one you’d want to find yourself face to face with on a cold Halloween night.
It would be impossible to list great horror novels without mentioning Stephen King. His name became synonymous with the genre after publishing The Shining, a nightmarish tale about the haunted Overlook Hotel and the deterioration of the protagonist’s sanity while staying there. Add in the Stanley Kubrick adaptation and Jack Nicholson saying “Here’s Johnny” and you may not sleep for a few nights. But you know what they say, all sweets and no screams makes for a dull Halloween.
Getting hypnotized is all fun and games until someone starts seeing dead people, or at least this was Tom Wallace’s experience in A Stir of Echoes. Hypnosis awakens latent psychic abilities that allow him to see into the dark minds of his friends and neighbors. Things take a turn for the worse when a ghost decides he’s the one to help solve her murder. This story would make anyone think twice about a ‘harmless’ hypnotism.
Making deals with the devil can be a nasty business. Few know this better than Rosemary Woodhouse from Rosemary’s Baby. When she conceives a child under suspicious circumstances, Rosemary begins to questioner overly friendly neighbors and her husband’s suddenly successful career. Despite her best efforts to escape the satanic cult in her building, Rosemary learns that the devil is not easily beaten and readers begin to think twice about neighbors who come bearing sweet treats and loaded smiles.
This article originally appeared on Zola Books.