9 Halloween Horror Books Set in October

Obviously, October is the perfect horror reading month. That said, if you’re like me these days, you require a constant reminder of which month it is. Keeping track of time is not particularly easy in our swirling age of a global pandemic and constant, unyielding chaos. So I suggest you take advantage of a different kind of timepiece to keep you on reading schedule this year: horror books that take place in October or on Halloween. 

Note: The October-set books here are largely the products of white and male authors and editors. If you have more great Halloween-focused picks written by women or authors of color, please shout them out in the comments!

Something Wicked This Way Comes, Ray Bradbury

Sometimes the obvious place is the best place to start. This Bradbury classic has the delicious setup of a sinister traveling carnival arriving in an unassuming Illinois town a week before Halloween. Two young boys will explore the smoke, mirrors, and nightmares inside. October stories are a bit of a Bradbury specialty, so when you’re done with this, take The Halloween Tree or The October Country for a spin. 

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Haunted Nights, ed. Ellen Datlow and Lisa Morton

This wouldn’t be much of a horror list without a collection edited by the prolific Datlow. The 16 Halloween-themed stories collected here feature assorted tricks and treats (haunted houses, urban legends, ghosts, and more). The author lineup is equally impressive, featuring modern horror titans like Stephen Graham Jones and Jeffrey Ford alongside specialists of other speculative genres like Seanan McGuire and Garth Nix. 

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Dark Harvest, Norman Partridge

This slim folk horror favorite takes place on Halloween, 1963, in a small Midwestern town, the perennial setting of unimaginable terror. Each year, the October Boy rises in his cornfield and makes his way through town while scads of teenage boys attempt to kill him. This annual rite is a wild ride not to be missed. 

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Ghost Road Blues, Jonathan Maberry

This is the first book in a series of stories set in the town of Pine Deep, Pennsylvania. For reasons to be revealed, Pine Deep enjoys its tourist reputation as the spookiest town in America. But as residents gear up for their annual Halloween celebration, they skip the critical step of checking the dang cornfields for evil. 

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Kill Creek, Scott Thomas

Little is better than a good old-fashioned haunted house story. Thomas’s debut novel has another delightful twist: four horror authors have been invited to spend Halloween night in the infamously haunted Finch House. Predictably, this publicity stunt quickly takes a bloody turn. Who could have seen it coming? 

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Halloween Season, Lucy A. Snyder

We all have our favorite parts of Halloween, but why pick and choose? This just-released collection of short stories from the Bram Stoker Award-winning Snyder runs the ghoulish gamut. From cosmic horrors to creature features, all manner of Halloween frights and delights are conjured within these pages. 

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A Night in the Lonesome October, Roger Zelazny

Okay, let’s say you want a book that is appropriately gruesome for adult October reading but with a pinch of the world-building whimsy of something like Halloweentown. There’s a book for that! It’s best not to know too much about the plot before diving in, but I will say this much: a whole host of supernatural, fictional, and earthly creatures are preparing for a Halloween full moon rite — and the events are recounted by your narrator, the guard dog Snuff. 

Editor’s note: Don’t miss Meghan Ball on why this is the best Halloween novel you’ve never read.

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The Night Country, Stewart O’Nan

If you’re looking for something more mournful than ghoulish, try this short, quiet novel from O’Nan. At midnight on Halloween, a car slams into a tree in a New England suburb. Three of the five teenagers inside die instantly. A year later, those three ghosts return to review the fallout of that strange, tragic night. 

Editor’s note: this title is out of print, but we’ve linked to some used options below.

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October Dreams, ed. Richard Chizmar and Robert Morrish

Another all-star lineup of authors anchors this Halloween anthology, which contains original and reprinted short stories, essays, and novellas. If October Dreams were a Halloween candy sack, you wouldn’t be able to drag it down the street; it’s positively stuffed with work from a wide variety of authors, including Caitlín R. Kiernan, Poppy Z. Brite, Dean Koontz, and Ray Bradbury. 

Editor’s note: this title is out of print, but we’ve linked to some used options below.

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