In the October 2023 Newsletter, I asked readers some ChatGPT inspired Halloween questions.

Here were the questions of which they could answer any:

Which literary character do you think would make the best Halloween costume?

What book setting gave you the eeriest feeling, as if you were walking through a haunted house?

What’s the one horror book you’d recommend to someone who’s never read the genre before?

Have you ever read a book that felt cursed or brought you bad luck?

Which mythical or supernatural creature from literature would you NOT want to meet on a dark Halloween night?

Here are the responses:

Ayesha: The Corset by Laura Purcell didn’t curse me but it did leave me thinking about it afterwards! Not sure that it’d qualify as horror but it’s definitely Gothic. This isn’t horror either but I remember all those yrs ago while reading The Satanic Verses I did feel that Rushdie was being pulled in different directions so the title absolutely made sense. Maybe he was cursed… Happy Halloween

Mark: I’ll take a shot at these. Remembering that I don’t do horror, these might be a little off from the expected:

Which literary character do you think would make the best Halloween costume?

A: Well, Granny Weatherwax (from the Discworld series) would win hands down if she’d enter, but of course, she would not. So let’s go with Nanny Ogg (also Discworld) who would almost undoubtedly parody Granny.

What book setting gave you the eeriest feeling, as if you were walking through a haunted house?

A: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman.

What’s the one horror book you’d recommend to someone who’s never read the genre before?

A: As I don’t read horror, let me flip this one around, and recommend the perfect Halloween book. It’s “The Halloween Tree” by Ray Bradbury. As well as a very interesting story, it also traces the history of Halloween and the events behind it. It’s only about 3-4 hours in audio. I just discovered it recently; this will be the third consecutive Halloween season that I listen to it.

Have you ever read a book that felt cursed or brought you bad luck?

A: No. I’m completely secular, and don’t believe in curses or bad luck. Now, if you want a list of the most boring books I’ve ever read, which I guess is a kind of curse in itself, I would have no trouble supplying it…

Which mythical or supernatural creature from literature would you NOT want to meet on a dark Halloween night?

A: Any of the demons in various fantasy novels and stories. For a specific answer, a reasonable answer would be Cthulhu or Nyarlathotep from Lovecraft (whom I consider to be fantasy, not horror).

Christine: I have to agree with Graeme’s input on this one — I would not like to meet Stephen King’s Clown in “It” on a dark night! I would go running (not that I run, but I could definitely run really, really fast if I saw that clown)! I remember one co-worker that had the worst fear of clowns, and someone had put a clown in her cubby and boy, could you hear that scream! So, I think the “It” clown probably caused a lot of wariness towards clowns in general.

Vicki: First, I’m not a horror fan at all. I stay away from the majority of them. Yes, I read books by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, etc., and I’ve read some of the classics. I feel sorry for Shelley’s Frankenstein rather than frightened by him. I’ve given some horror recommendations when people ask, but they come with a disclaimer.

As for Halloween costumes, it would be both fun and easy to be Amelia Peabody. Although she wore trousers to their Egyptian archeological digs, for the costume I’d wear a full split skirt, boots with heels, a white shirt, and a pith helmet with a veil. Yes, I’d look like any Egyptian archeologist, but I’d know who I was.

Max: A horror book I would recommend? Well, I wonder how many folks are familiar with the stories of the British author, Robert Aickman? Robert Aikman wrote what he accurately described as “strange stories.” I don’t know if you could call them “horror stories” exactly, but they are weird, creepy, eerie, enigmatic, chilling, sometimes nightmarish, and definitely always strange.
The first story I ever read by Aickman was called “The Same Dog.” A horror story? I think yes. I read this story when I was a teenager, and it has stayed with me for 50 years! You can find “The Same Dog” and seven other of Aickman’s mind-bending tales in a collection of his strange stories entitled “Cold Hand in Mine.”
I recommend reading during daylight hours only…
Linda: For a horror book, I always think of
“The Stand ” by King. It is an old one, but I still remember how scary it was. As for a Halloween character, Michael Meyers of course. None scarier than him for me.

Juli: I have never replied to one of your emails before but Halloween is just the best!
I’ll start with telling you that Stephen King is my all-time favorite horror author. Clive Barker runs a very close second place. However, when I hit my 40’s, I quit reading horror completely so I’ve read nothing new in a couple of decades.
I agree that Pennywise is not a character I’d like to meet at anytime, never mind Halloween! And since most people no longer like clowns he would make a great costume.
I always tell people that should start at the beginning of anything so I always suggest Salem’s Lot as a good start for the genre. Scary, but not too scary. But there’s also Cujo, Pet Cemetary, Christine, Firestarter, Carrie, The Shining – the list of oldies but goodies could go on.
I read, and hated, every second of Amityville Horror. I just couldn’t put it down but I knew something was coming through my front door, back door, basement door, bedroom door, any minute. It was several days before I could sleep again. In my own home in South Carolina, during the day, sun shining bright, I knew there was something there. I hope that’s eerie enough for you.
And now, I’m going back to my HEA that’s all bright and full of innocence. LOL
Happy October!

Joyce: Horror books usually are not on my bookshelf but there is one I read years ago – The Shining by Stephen King – that made my heart race! Ending up watching the movie as well and it had the same effect on me. Kudos to any author who has the ability to evoke such a strong emotion with just the written word.

Fred: Which literary character do you think would make the best Halloween costume?
Jack Reacher. Him angry would cause me to find a place to hide.

What book setting gave you the eeriest feeling, as if you were walking through a haunted house?
Don’t think that has ever happened.

What’s the one horror book you’d recommend to someone who’s never read the genre before?
Wouldn’t do that to any one I liked.

Have you ever read a book that felt cursed or brought you bad luck?
No

Which mythical or supernatural creature from literature would you NOT want to meet on a dark Halloween night?
My 78 year old brain refuses to find an answer.

Pat: I used to read quite a bit of horror, mostly Stephen King and Dean Koontz, but I turned away from the genre several years ago as many books seems to have too much gratuitous gore in them.
But your question interested me. There are two books that I would recommend to anyone who has not read any horror. Both are by Stephen King, Misery and Pet Sematary.

Misery is just plain creepy, with nothing supernatural about it, but truly horrific. I think I stayed up until about 3:00 in the morning reading it. The movie was excellent as well.

Pet Sematary doesn’t have much in the way of supernatural events until near the end of the book. At the time I read it, my children were very young, so I could identify very much with the parents. We also had a few cats. SPOILER ALERT- the beloved cat dies and is buried in the “Pet Sematary” which returns the cat alive but not quite “right” and no longer loveable. Then the young son dies. In his grief, the father buries his son in the “Sematary”, to have him brought back to life also. As a parent I could feel his grief viscerally and could understand his compulsion to want his son alive again. But what was he unleashing? I read this book when it first came out, almost forty years ago, and the dread that it engendered remains to this day. That’s the best kind of horror story.

Nancy: Honestly, the first horror book that came to mind was The Wizard of Oz, but then decided too many folks would take issue with that so revised it and went with The Shining. Scared me to death and once I saw Jack Nicholson in the movie, I was twice as scared. Let me tell you, when I first saw The Wizard of OZ and I was a little girl, those flying monkeys and the bad witch left me traumatized. I still remember, vividly, peeking around the curtain in our little WI theater to see if they were gone.

mailman399: The one horror book I’d recommend to new readers? The Shining by Stephen King. Everytime I think of it or reread it, the hair on the back of my neck tingles. The book that made me feel cursed or unlucky? The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. But on a side note, my uncle was personal friends with Mr. Blatty. They were boyhood friends, and when my uncle told him how much I loved the book, Mr. Blatty sent me a signed first copy of it direct from his personal library. One of my cherished possessions. Thirdly, the character I wouldn’t want to meet?Jack Nicholson. Not the character from the book or movie, but the real person. He’s pretty mythical, and scary!

Lou: The easiest book character to dress up as on Halloween would be something like Frankenstein. Scarlett’s O’Hara would also be fun except no one could possibly be funnier than Carol Burnette’s costume! 🤣

Laura: There are lots of literary characters that already make for great Halloween characters: Dracula, Frankenstein, Harry Potter. But I think Hercule Poirot, a la David Suchet would be a great character. If you know, you know!

Judi: Literary character costume-Wicked Witch of the west
Book..Rebecca
Book recommendation..Frankenstein
I haven’t read a book where I felt cursed!
Creature I’d not want to meet…Dracula

Donna: Okay, this is how my mind works, I guess. When I read the question, I thought about which character would actually design and make the costume and I immediately thought of Flavia de Luce in the Alan Bradley books. Thinking further about the intended question, I guess my answer would be the same.

Chris: Hi Graeme-I hope your races went well! I think a literary character who would make a great costume is Hercule Poirot, from Agatha Christie’s famous detective series. Poirot has such a distinctive look that most people would recognize him, but just in case, he could be carrying a copy of Christie’s Poirot novel “Hallowe’en party” to give them a clue! One book that would be a powerful introduction to horror stories is ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King. It was the first Stephen King book I ever read and it hit me with a wallop. I find his horror writing to be so convincing that I have trouble reading them when I’m alone at night. Now I’m interested in learning more about one of your favorite horror writers, Bentley Little, so my King recommendation may change after I give Little’s books a try.

Allison: Zaphod Bebblebrox. Best costume from “The hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy”. Scary book? ” The Shining “. I can never look at shrubbery the same way. I wouldn’t want to meet The Walking Man from ” The Stand “. I always thought of him looking like a young Elvis. Allison Bosco. Franklin NC

Phoenix: Good morning, Graeme…I’m not much into horror or the supernatural, but some years ago I read a book called “Silent Guests,” by A. E. Forrest, published in 1927. It dealt with automatic writing, and apparently, I enjoyed it so much I’ve kept it for 70 years. I haven’t read it in a while, but it just might have to go back on my “to-be-read-again” pile.

AJ: For me the cursed book was Flowers in the Attic. It was so disturbing to me as an 18 yo young woman off to college that I stopped reading it. Then had nightmares and poor sleep for several weeks and ended up sleeping through a morning exam. Ended up finishing it that next weekend hating every minute of it, but needed to go back to sleeping and studying!
So glad this newsletter and site won’t go away. While I like book notification this site is still my go to.

Laurie: A horror book for someone who hasn’t read horror? Berkeley Street by Ron Ripley. It’s a ghost story and a series with the same character. Shane Ryan can see ghosts and deals with them as needed. This one got me hooked on all things Scare Street (publisher).

Order of Books » Newsletter » Reader Mailbag: Halloween Themed Questions

One Response to “Reader Mailbag: Halloween Themed Questions”

  1. Nancy: 8 months ago

    I read a Readers Digest version of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson many years ago as a teenager, which was more than enough thank you, & every once in awhile in bed still get creeped out by the thought of a hand grasping mine if I let it hang over the side of the bed. The Exorcist was another one that terrified me, wanted to stop reading, but kept obsessively reading till it was over. I do not read horror anymore. Too unsettling.

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