13 Ghoulishly Good Classics You Can Read for FREE

CONFESSION: I am not someone that gets into "the Halloween spirit."

There. I said it.

I know. Unpopular opinion.

But let me explain.

During childhood, I was like every other kid eager for the free candyfest that occurred every October 31. I was just as excited as every other kid when my mother took my sister and me to the drug store to pick out our costumes each year - usually a plastic drape worn over our clothes with a molded plastic face mask held in place by a rubber band. Remember those?

Plastic pumpkins in hand, our Mom packed us into the car to visit friends and family both near and far to collect candy. Later that evening my sister and I would greedily dump the collected contents of our plastic pumpkins into a pile in the center of the living room floor to inspect and barter, covet and gobble.

The reason Halloween fell out of favor with me as I grew out of childhood is simple - I don't like to be scared. The older I got, the less Halloween seemed to be about free candy and more about spending an entire evening soiling yourself scared.

No, thank you.

Not my jam.

So, I didn't go to Haunted Houses or watch scary movies or visit cemeteries at night. I didn't indulge in horror, whether it was in written form or on a screen or staged in a dilapidated-looking house. Halloween was no longer my jam because I just did not like to be scared.

Instead, I became more of a pumpkin patch kind of gal. I fell in love with fall leaves, cool weather, and warm fire pits. I prefered inhaling the scent of apple cider under snuggly blankets to playing dress-up and paying someone my hard-earned minimum wage pay to make me wet myself.

But that's just me.

When I started the Monthly Book Club, I knew that I would need to expand my preferences in order to accomodate a wider segment of interests, so I began to dip my toe into a slivered segment of Halloween-type reading - what I began to call "Creepy Classics." 

What are "Creepy Classics?"

Creepy Classics are those older novels that skirt the line between thrilling, chilling tales that may make you shiver, and horrific, ghastly tales that leave you paranoid and full of fear. They hit a sweet spot for me that I also call ghoulishly good and every October I find myself searching for more and more of these classic books to read on dark, chilly nights.

The next time you feel the need for something that hits YOUR sweet spot between chilling and haunting, I hope you'll check out one of these 13 Ghoulishly Good Classics You Can Read for FREE.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

"Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who through a strangely unorthodox experiment creates a grotesque yet sentient being. Victor, repulsed by the thing that he has created, abandons the monster. The creature in turn saddened by this rejection, departs as well. What follows is a series of tragic events. There is no greater novel in the monster genre than Frankenstein and no more well known monster than the one that is at the center of this novel. Frankenstein’s monster is in reality a thinking intelligent being who is tormented by a world in which he does not belong. In this depiction Shelley draws upon the universal human themes of creation, the nature of existence, and the need for acceptance. For it is without this acceptance that the true monster, the violent nature of humanity, emerges."

Read It: You can read Frankenstein for free via Project Gutenberg here.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

"During a business visit to Count Dracula's castle in Transylvania, a young English solicitor finds himself at the center of a series of horrifying incidents. Jonathan Harker is attacked by three phantom women, observes the Count's transformation from human to bat form, and discovers puncture wounds on his own neck that seem to have been made by teeth. Harker returns home upon his escape from Dracula's grim fortress, but a friend's strange malady — involving sleepwalking, inexplicable blood loss, and mysterious throat wounds — initiates a frantic vampire hunt." 

Read It: You can read Dracula free online via Project Gutenberg here.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

"The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a classic short story by American author Washington Irving. This timeless tale follows the curious adventures of Ichabod Crane, a superstitious schoolmaster, and the mysterious Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. Set in a picturesque village in New York's Hudson Valley, the story is full of suspense, humor, and subtle social commentary." 

Read It: You can read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow on an eReader for free here.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson

"Gabriel John Utterson, a friend and lawyer for Dr. Jekyll, opened his safe and pulled out an envelope. The Will of Henry Jekyll, M.D. He opened the document and read, “Upon my decease, all my possessions are to pass into the hands of my friend and benefactor, Edward Hyde.”

Filled with mystery, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) is a striking commentary on the dangers of substance abuse and a poignant battle of self will that all men and women truly engage within themselves."

Read It: You can read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde on an eReader for free here.

The Birds by Daphne du Maurier

"The birds kept coming at him from the air, silent save for the beating wings. The terrible, fluttering wings. He could feel the blood on his hands, his wrists, his neck. Each stab of a swooping beak tore his flesh. If only he could keep them from his eyes. Nothing else mattered."

Read It: You can read The Birds free with an eReader here.

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

"Two friends are midway on a canoe trip down the Danube River. Throughout the story Blackwood personifies the surrounding environment—river, sun, wind—and imbues them with a powerful and ultimately threatening character. Most ominous are the masses of dense, desultory, menacing willows, which "moved of their own will as though alive, and they touched, by some incalculable method, my own keen sense of the horrible." "

Read It: You can read The Willows for free via Project Gutenberg here.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

"The novel begins in Monte Carlo, where our heroine is swept off her feet by the dashing widower Maxim de Winter and his sudden proposal of marriage. Orphaned and working as a lady's maid, she can barely believe her luck. It is only when they arrive at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow his late wife will cast over their lives - presenting her with a lingering evil that threatens to destroy their marriage from beyond the grave."   

Read It: You can read Rebecca free online here.

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

"Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die…"

Read It: You can read And Then There Were None free online here.

The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

"First published in 1851, The House of the Seven Gables is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic novel which follows the fates of a New England family and their ancestral home. Inspired by a house in Salem Massachusetts which had belonged to the ancestors of Nathaniel Hawthorne who had played a part in the Salem Witch Trials, “The House of the Seven Gables” is the story of Hepzibah Pyncheon and her brother Clifford who has recently been released from prison after serving a thirty-three year sentence for murder. According to legend the mansion, which is built upon land acquired through unscrupulous circumstances by Hepzibah and Clifford’s ancestor Colonel Pyncheon, carries with it a curse on the Pyncheons, following the family through the many generations that inherit it. Hawthorne brilliantly uses this curse to create a gloomy forbidding atmosphere around the Pyncheons and the house that they inhabit. As the novel draws to its conclusion the reader is filled with the suspenseful question as to whether or not Hepzibah and Clifford will be the final victims of the curse or if it is all just a silly superstition."

Read It: You can read The House of the Seven Gables free on an eReader here.

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

"Wilkie Collins' controversial novel was partly inspired on a real-life 18th century abduction and unlawful imprisonment. It was one of the first works of 'detective' fiction with a storey knitted together from numerous characters. In 1859, the storey created a stir among readers by capturing their attention with a haunting initial scene in which the enigmatic 'Woman in White,' Anne Catherick, meets Walter Hartright. The novel's chilling, suspenseful, and tense mood remain as evocative for readers today as they were when it was first released."

Read It: You can read The Woman in White free online here.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

"Presented in the first person, the story is a collection of journal entries written by a woman whose physician husband (John) has rented an old mansion for the summer. Forgoing other rooms in the house, the couple moves into the upstairs nursery. As a form of treatment, the unnamed woman is forbidden from working, and is encouraged to eat well and get plenty of exercise and air, so she can recuperate from what he calls a "temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency", a diagnosis common to women in that period. Gilman used her writing to explore the role of women in America at the time. She explored issues such as the lack of a life outside the home and the oppressive forces of the patriarchal society. Through her work Gilman paved the way for writers such as Alice Walker and Sylvia Plath."

Read It: You can read The Yellow Wallpaper for free online here.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allen Poe

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe first published in "Graham's Magazine" in 1841. It has been recognized as the first modern detective story. Poe's amateur detective, C. Auguste Dupin, takes an interest in the murder in Paris of two women. It was terribly brutal but difficult to categorize; there appeared to be no robbery or sexual assault, no obvious reason for the crimes. The newspapers carried sensational headlines. Dupin gets involved because the man arrested for the crimes, Monsieur Le Bon, had previously done him a favour. It becomes a challenge to Dupin."

Read It: You can read The Murders in the Rue Morgue free online here.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

"First published in French as a serial in 1909, The Phantom of the Opera is a riveting story that revolves around the young, Swedish Christine Daaé. Her father, a famous musician, dies, and she is raised in the Paris Opera House with his dying promise of a protective angel of music to guide her. After a time at the opera house, she begins hearing a voice, who eventually teaches her how to sing beautifully. All goes well until Christine's childhood friend Raoul comes to visit his parents, who are patrons of the opera, and he sees Christine when she begins successfully singing on the stage. The voice, who is the deformed, murderous 'ghost' of the opera house named Erik, however, grows violent in his terrible jealousy, until Christine suddenly disappears. The phantom is in love, but it can only spell disaster."

Read It: You can read The Phantom of the Opera on your eReader for free here.

Who Knew?

No one is more surprised to find a brightening ember for reading Creepy Classics in October than I am. I had no idea when I curated our first Creepy Classic Book Box for the Monthly Book Club that it would rekindle a fondness for thrilling and chilling reads during this time of year...but I'm so glad that it has!

And this month, that newly discovered affection for a ghoulishly good read is what inspired the October selection in Pretty Literate's Monthly Book Club - a novel that reads as current as any modern-day bestseller. 

If you love to read a little on the creepy side in October, too, I invite you to check out October's ghoulishly good book box.

Note: All book excerpts taken from the classic, the back cover, or the public synopses.


1 comment

  • I enjoy the Halloween season but it is not a very big deal to me. In my reading I have learned a lot about All Hallows Eve and many other celebrations of the sort and find the subject fascinating (as I do pretty much the whole of history!). I like a bit of adrenaline rush but not a fan of gore and even Lovecraft makes me a little sick to my stomach. I do love the type of “ghoulishly good” novels you describe. I have read them all except for “The Willows” and now I have that to look forward to! I recommend Stephen King and Dean Koontz as masters of the “ghoulishly good “ modern novels. As always, reading these novels are a much different experience than watching the movie that a horror film director has made of them. Thanks for giving me a title to read that I’ve not heard of before- it sounds full of the kind of quietly creepy thrills I enjoy the most.

    Lynda A.

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