While we love haunted houses, corn mazes, and horror movies, sometimes there's nothing better than a good, old-fashioned scary story.
The South sets the perfect scene for Halloween stories: the Spanish moss-laden trees of the Lowcountry, the spooky old abandoned homes in small towns, and the funeral culture and tradition of ghost stories that’s specific to New Orleans. This year, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite Southern scary books so if you want to sit with little ones and tell tales, or just sit alone on a dark, windy night, here are a few Halloween stories we recommend.
For spooky Halloween reading for little ones, we recommend the “Spooky” series by S.E. Schlosser. Schlosser covers many Southern states, among them Maryland, Texas, Florida, and South Carolina. There’s also a compilation that brings together spooky stories from all over the South. Each book is made up of tales based on local myths, legends, and history. Some tales may be too scary for the littlest of Halloween readers, so we suggest taking a look before reading aloud.
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For a dose of history this Halloween, pick up Shadows and Cypress: Southern Ghost Stories by Alan Brown. There are more than a hundred tales in this book, which the author collected from WPA oral history collections or while he was doing his own field work as a folklorist. So the scariest thing of all is that these stories–which reach from Texas to Virginia–are rooted in either historical fact or local superstition. A spine-tingling way to learn a little more about our Southern heritage.
For a chilling tale, settle in with Alabama-native Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, which chronicles the quadruple murder of a family in Kansas. A non-fiction novel (so much scarier!), Capote was assisted in his research by friend and fellow Alabamian Harper Lee. A classic Southern read just right for curling up with around Halloween.
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Leave the lights on when you read Twilight. No, not the vampire books. This tale by author William Gay is set in Tennessee in the 1950s, where a local mortician is … not quite right. Teenage siblings Corrie and Kenneth try to blackmail him, with disastrous results. Gay is sometimes compared to Faulkner, so if you’re in the mood for a creepy tale with a literary bent, Twilight might just be the book for you.
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What list of scary Southern books would be complete without something from the master of Southern Gothic, Tennessee Williams? Of course you’re familiar with his brilliant plays and their film adaptations–we’ve always loved Cat on a Hot Tin Roof–but for a fright, spend some time with One Arm, a collection of terrifying short stories.
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Finally, for a collection of scary Southern tales on-demand, check out themoonlitroad.com, a website that specializes in collecting spooky tales set in the South. Some are based on local folklore, some are written by contributors to the site, and all of them are guaranteed to be at least a little strange. The beauty of this site is that it sorts its tales into categories, so whether you’re looking for a ghoulish tale to tell to children, a weird-but-true story, or a Civil War-centric creation, it’ll be easy to find.