Historical Horror Reads

Spring is here! Usually with spring comes a shift in my reading habits. That space between the fallout from the busy Christmas season and the desire to read nothing but fluffy beach reads – aka Spring – is here!

Something about all of those rainy days inspires me to want to read something meaty in those last days of under the blanket reading before summer hits. Usually, I switch gears a bit and go for classic literature and non-fiction.

Here are some recommendations (and some of my own upcoming reading list) if you’re looking for some non-fiction that will satisfy that spring reading itch for all of you horror fans out there who have a fascination with all things dark.

1. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Madness and Magic at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson

I will level with you – I am not a true crime reader. I can watch butchering, stabbing, blood and guts galore, but true crime really creeps me out. There is something about not having that exit door where you can say “It’s just a story” that really hits home for me. But The Devil in the White City is by far one of the best handled true stories out there. It alternates between chapters about the impact of the inventions and inventors at the fair with the story of H. H. Holmes, a serial killer that operated a boarding house during the fair, where he killed many of his victims. It is a story that reads with the fast pace of a novel, and the content in it reads like a slasher movie. It’s hard to believe this happened, and the killer’s methods will have you up all night. For an intellectual and informative read that will have you madly flipping pages, you can’t go wrong with this one.

2. The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem by Stacy Schiff

This is one that has been on my to-read list for a while, and now that it’s my non-fiction season, it seems like the perfect time. I loved Stacy Schiff’s book on Cleopatra, and am hoping that this one is just as engaging. What I loved about Cleopatra was the well-rounded look it gave to life at that time. I am hoping for the same atmosphere in this one, which examines the life of Puritan’s, especially the youth at the time. A tale that always seems timely, especially now, the Salem witch trials are a fascinating examination of society, especially now.

3. The Canadian Horror Film: Terror of the Soul by Gina Freitag and André Loiselle

I recently stumbled across this one browsing at our local university library, and enjoyed it so much that I just purchased my own copy for reference! This is a great introduction to some truly great Canadian horror and runs the gamut from everything from Cronenberg to Ginger Snaps to the more recent Splice. This is a great read for those who love film analysis of any kind, and especially for those who need an introduction into how twisted us Canadians can be. It’s not all Timmies, toques, loonies and hockey, eh! Enjoy, and find a lot of hidden gems to look for and love in the process.

4. The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara

Creature from the Black Lagoon is known as THE classic monster movie in history. A large part of that is due to the design of the Gill monster. Milicent Patrick was an accomplished actress and makeup artist in her own right. Unfortunately, this artist’s name is largely forgotten, following a male colleague stealing credit for her Creature design. This is a new release, and one that has shot to the top of my list. Stories like Milicent Patrick’s are important in the discussions that we are having and need to continue to have about women in the film industry. Aside from that, I am excited to read about a talented and trailblazing woman who is finally getting the recognition that she deserves.

5. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

While this one is a fiction novel, for me, it combines the best of both worlds in a historical fictions: it is written in the style of classic literature, but with the pacing of a modern novel. An orphaned young boy is taken in by a monstrumologist, a studier of monsters. In an expertly crafted blend of the fantasy aspect of monsters in a historical, Dickensian setting, this on is perfect for those who want the fix of a historical or classical read, but are short on the time or attention span at the moment. This one is the first book in a series of four, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Be forewarned: while the ending is satisfying, those looking for a happy one will be disappointed.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

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