October Screams brings you twenty-seven ALL NEW tales of the greatest holiday of all, Halloween! Featuring stories from authors like Brian Keene & Richard Chizmar, Jeremy Bates, Kealan Patrick Burke, Clay McLeod Chapman, Philip Fracassi, Todd Keisling, Gwendolyn Kiste, Red Lagoe, Ronald Malfi, Bridgett Nelson, Rebecca Rowland, Steve Rasnic Tem, TJ Cimfel, Cassandra Daucus, Ryan Van Ells, Patrick Flanagan, Brennan Fredricks, Larry Hinkle, Larry Hodges, Kevin Kangas, Evans Light, Gregory L. Norris, Frank Oreto, Robert Stahl, Cat Voleur and Jacqueline West.
Terrifying, fun, creepy and poignant, this volume contains stories for every craving! This is one book that will deliver all the tricks-and-treats that you’d want in celebration of All Hallows Eve!
Is there a better way to celebrate Halloween than reading twenty-seven different stories that manage to capture the magic, mayhem, and frightfulness of the best day of the year? I think not, and October Screams: A Halloween Anthology is proof of that. With as many talented writers mentioned in the synopsis, I knew I couldn’t miss out on specialized Halloween horror this year. In the weeks leading up to October 31st, I’ve been reading a few short stories a day from this anthology, savoring the sweetness of each as if I were rationing out candy. There was something so uniquely wonderful about seeing such varying takes on Halloween tropes and topics. Alien invaders, evil children, satanic rituals in the forest, hauntings of all kinds, and bad candy are just a few of the subjects you’ll find covered in October Screams. In an effort to avoid rambling on for too long, I’ve selected five of my favorite stories that really managed to make me laugh, scream, or shudder.
“The Treat-or-Tricker” by Evans Light is perhaps the shortest of entries, but its brevity is its strength. Within a mere five pages, Light delivers an ironic take on the typical knock at your door on Halloween night. There’s something especially malevolent within this story, the innocence of trick-or-treaters being twisted into something adults should fear.
In the same vein of troubled children, “The Puppeteer of Samhain” by Todd Keisling provides some serious nostalgia. A father sits down to tell his children a story of why he no longer celebrates Halloween. Back when he was a child in 1997, something happened out in the woods with his best friend, Kenny Rosen. That same year, a brutal crime occurred with rumors of satanic panic running wild. Keisling sets the tone of this story within paragraphs, eliciting feelings associated with my own childhood and how important Halloween planning used to be as a kid. The added eeriness of a looming unsolved crime really caught my attention. However, the most memorable parts of this story can be found in the last few paragraphs with quite the haunting ending.
Speaking of twisty endings, Ronald Malfi’s “Tate” delivered one of the most unexpected conclusions I’ve come across in recent memory. This is the tale of two seemingly grieving parents celebrating their first Halloween on the heels of some sort of traumatic loss. While it isn’t blatantly stated from the beginning, the truth of this loss becomes apparent when a little boy rings the doorbell of their home. On the other side of the door is Tate, the child they lost. Nick, Tate’s father, is overwhelmed with joy and doesn’t seem to question the logistics of this child’s arrival. From there, things take a turn that’s best left for you to explore on your own. Malfi’s conclusion was not only unpredictable but also so incredibly memorable and disturbing.
In my very humble opinion, the most disturbing subject in all horror is the topic of aliens. No one can convince me there is anything more frightening than a foreign entity appearing from the unchartered depths of space to do literally whatever they want to us. And this is why Larry Hinkle’s “The Last Halloween” is one of the most frightening entries in this whole anthology. Told from the point of view of a father taking his soon-to-be too-old-for-trick-or-treating daughter out on Halloween one last time, this seems like a story of bittersweet emotions. There’s a unique sadness to children growing too old to partake in Halloween festivities with their parents which permeates the beginning of this story. However, this father notices a strange group of kids who are dressed in really authentic alien costumes hanging around. And that’s when everything goes from sad to worse. This story is literally my worst nightmare, thank you, Larry Hinkle.
Now, enough with the horrific stuff. Perhaps the most fun I’ve had reading horror stems from my experience with “The Hooper Street Halloween Decoration Committee” by Gemma Amor. This story has everything: twelve-foot skeletons (lots of them), unhinged spouses, and cultish neighbors. Things begin when Lisa and Luke, a couple who have recently moved to a new neighborhood, receive an invitation to attend their neighborhood’s Halloween decoration committee meeting. When they decline this invitation, the neighbors have a rather interesting way of showing their outward disdain. Enter the twelve-foot skeletons. This infuriates Lisa who is already appearing to be struggling with emotions surrounding a prior unnamed incident. When the neighbors continue to escalate in their antics so does Lisa. And the result is quite something.
These five stories are a mere sampling of what this collection has to offer. There is no shortage of entertaining, spooky reads to be discovered within the pages of this anthology that manages to bottle the magic of Halloween. The true essence of this holiday can be summarized as frighteningly mischievous, a feeling well conveyed throughout each story. Both full of tricks and treats, October Screams: A Halloween Anthology has something for everyone.