From things that go bump in the night to demons hiding in plain sight, this time of year is the spookiest of all. You may be gathering your jack-o-lanterns or turning down all the lights to avoid the knocks of little ghouls. However you choose to spend Halloween, everyone has a favourite monster tale. From classic Victorian spooks to 21st-century creeps, we’ve rounded up our Top Five Monster Tales. Are you feeling brave?
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Starting with a classic and one of the most famous monsters in the literary canon, it’s Mary Shelley’s gothic novel, Frankenstein. The Monster is created from corpses of criminals, dug up and stolen from a graveyard. Surgically sewn together, the Monster was brought to life with electricity harnessed from lightning. A grand experiment for Dr Frankenstein, the Monster is alive, but the doctor is horrified at his own creation and abandons him.
“There is love in me the likes of which you’ve never seen. There is rage in me the likes of which should never escape. If I am not satisfied in the one, I will indulge the other.”Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
This monster tale depicts the art and terror of creation and destruction. It makes us question what it is to be human. Frankenstein is an Icarus figure, with outrageous ambition, his dreams fly too close to the sun and he must face the consequences of his monster’s actions. Reading Frankenstein now is just as scary as it was in the early 19th century. This time around, our minds are drawn to advancements in technology, the growth of artificial intelligence, and the dangers of creating that which may one day be more powerful than humankind.
Night of the Living Dummy – R. L. Stine
Next up we have a kids book, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any less scary. From the best selling series of Goosebumps books by R. L. Stine, Night of the Living Dummy puts a new spin on the classic motif of toys that come to life. A ventriloquist’s dummy is a creepy thing to look at in general. But, what if the toy you made talk started to talk on its own?
“To her surprise, the dummy seemed to be staring back at her, a twinkle of sunlight in his eyes, his grin wide and knowing.”R. L. Stine, Night of the Living Dummy
R. L. Stine does an excellent job of setting the scene, creating suspense, and executing scares all while keeping the language easy and accessible for kids to read and enjoy. The perfect book for children who like to be scared or for those who want to explore the horror genre but are still a little too young. Night of the Living Dummy is a monster tale that’ll certainly make you look twice next time you see a ventriloquist’s dummy.
The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Robert Louis Stevenson
A novella from the late 19th century, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde continues to draw in new readers. Lots of new writing and even art take inspiration from this classic monster tale, exploring the split between good and evil in the human psyche. The horror in the story comes from the realisation that Mr Hyde does not exist separately from Dr Henry Jekyll, but is a part of him.
“O my poor old Harry Jekyll, if ever I read Satan’s signature upon a face, it is on that of your new friend.”Robert Loius Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr Jykll and Mr Hyde
A grand old tale told in a direct and poised narrative, Stevenson’s famous novella is an enjoyable read for everyone. The upsetting scenes of violence and approached with caution as if the reader is a stander-by, frozen in the action. It is a gripping tale opening up questions inherently goodness and badness, and whether there is a monster inside us all.
The Call of Cthulhu – H. P. Lovecraft
Cthulhu has been reimagined quite a lot in the world of weird fiction and fantasy-horror. H. P. Lovecraft’s short story The Call of Cthulhu was first published as a feature in a pulp magazine in 1928. Inspired by Tennyson’s sonnet The Kraken, Lovecraft devised his own mysterious and scary ocean creature.
“Only poetry or madness could do justice to the noises heard by Legrasse’s men as they ploughed on through the black morass toward the red glare and the muffled tom-toms. There are vocal qualities peculiar to men, and vocal qualities peculiar to beasts; and it is terrible to hear the one when the source should yield the other.”H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu
Not one of the easiest reads on the list, as Lovecraft’s dense narrative and lengthy descriptions, are the key to unlocking the depths of the horror. However, any huge fans of horror fiction should definitely read this classic monster tale. A more unimaginable type of monster from one perspective, but the fact that humankind knows so little about the ocean may make us question what’s really lurking in the depths of the big blue.
IT – Stephen King
Stephen King may just be the master of horror fiction. His twisted stories have shocked and entertained for decades, but we feel like his greatest monster tale is It. The terrifying entity which takes on the form of a children’s fears tops our list. It most famous form, and possibly most terrifying, is Pennywise, the Dancing Clown. Pennywise’s yellow stare is not an easy one to forget.
“They’ll float,” it growled, “they float, Georgie, and when you’re down here with me, you’ll float, too-”Stephen King, IT
The fact that It feeds off of the fears of children and terrorises them in such callous ways makes this horror story so memorable. King’s novel is over 1000 pages long, but this doesn’t mean it’s any less gripping that the other reads on our top fives. It is by far the most terrifying, especially the excruciating detail that goes into each spine-chilling scene. From the monster’s first appearance to the manipulation of other young children, this story all about memory and unity is certainly one that brings all our fears together in a creep-filled melting pot.
What do you think of our Top Fives Halloween picks? Who are your favourite literary monsters? Let us know in the comments below.