Thursday, September 16, 2021

Spooktacular Reading: The Reds share their faves by Jenn McKinlay

Jenn McKinlay: As autumn creeps in with the start of school, the shortening days, and the crisp snap to the air, let’s talk about one of my favorite things about the changing of the seasonal guard...horror novels! 

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October always brings me back to this genre. With the rapid approach of Halloween, I long for the thrill I felt when I first heard The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving when I was a kid. I mean, schoolmaster Ichabod Crane in the ride of his life from a headless horseman - does it get any better? No, it doesn’t. 


That being said, there are so many great horror novels being published these days that I’ve been on an absolute binge, devouring Stephen Graham Jones, Simone St. James, Riley Sager, and Grady Hendrix.


So, do tell, Reds, who else is a fan of horror novels? If not, why not? If so, what are some of your favorite books? 


LUCY BURDETTE: No, no, no! I have to say I mostly read to relax, and horror is the opposite of that for me. Anything with rotating heads, zombies (unless it’s a Key West bike ride), chainsaws...scares me to death. 



HALLIE EPHRON: I’m not a big horror fan, either. But I did LOVE a book that’s one part Southern Gothic, one part horror, and one part mystery: Joe R. Lansdale’s “Edge of Dark Water.” It’s got a truly memorable bogeyman and a cast of utterly delightful young people. And I’ve set aside an as yet unread copy of Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill because so many people have recommended it.  


DEBORAH CROMBIE: I suppose it depends on what you class as horror. There is a lot of very weird stuff in Ben Aaronovitch's novels, but I love them. I like Jim Butcher's books, too, but I think both of those series straddle horror and urban fantasy. I used to read Dean Koontz, but I have never managed to read a Stephen King novel. My tolerance for anything scary is so much lower these days...



HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, did you read Riley Sager’s SURVIVE THE NIGHT? It’s amazing--but you have to read the whole thing. Do not make decisions until you read the WHOLE thing. I think it’s genius. Ah, horror, though? No, I’m not big on gruesome. I agree, Lucy, no chainsaws. Or the like.

Carrie, yes, The Stand, of course, are those horror?  What do you all classify as horror? Big suspense in a scary house? Sure. Seething simmering creatures that rip people’s heads off and leave bloody gory gunky stuff around and turn you into devils? Nope. But--ah, well, Rosemary’s Baby, one of the classics of all time. 


JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I love… I guess what you’d call legacy horror? I read everything Stephen King comes out with, and I adored Peter Straub, Tom Tyron and Richard Matheson. Shirley Jackson - THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE is a masterpiece, with one of the best opening paragraphs ever written:

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

 I can’t read that without getting a chill up my arms. 


RHYS BOWEN:  I am the world’s biggest horror wimp! I will not read horror, watch horror. I can handle silly horror like giant tomatoes eating New York but anything slightly supernatural really does haunt me for ages afterward. I am someone who is still scared of the dark! I need a chink of light in the room where I sleep. I put it down to growing up in a big spooky house that my brother and I swear was haunted. 


As I get older I become even more of a wimp about what I can handle in a book. Do some of you feel that way?


It's not blood. It's ... tomato juice.


How about you, Readers? Any horror fans in the house?


79 comments:

  1. I think it depends . . . some stories/books are drenched in horror [and not my cup of tea] while others have horror moments tucked in among the suspenseful happenings [which I much prefer].
    I don’t necessarily seek out horror books, per se, but I’ve read some Stephen King that I’ve really liked. And I recently read a book of two-sentence horror stories, some of which were really horror, some, not so much. It was actually a pretty good book . . . .

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    1. There are so many levels to horror. I do love a good scare without the blood, though.

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  2. I am not a fan of the horror genre but one of my favorite stories is The Willows by Algernon Blackwood.

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  3. I'm in the no-horror club. Except, what is Poe if not horror? The Telltale Heart? I read it as a child and probably got nightmares from it - and then I read it again.

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  4. I read Poe when I was a teen and although it was creepy, I loved it. I never liked horror movies, too susceptible to bad dreams. My tolerance for horror is pretty low and I know it so I've never read Stephen King or other authors of that genre. I don't sleep with the light on, but I do like to sleep and disturbing stories get in my head.

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    1. I used to be afraid of the dark. Now I love it. Nothing like getting the heart racing to know you’re still alive. LOL.

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  5. Nope, nope, nope. And the older I get the more nope there is. I had nightmares for years after watching the original, very silly Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, and was terrified to go into any dark basement well into adulthood. Wimp.

    The other night we were watching a movie, First Knight, about the Camelot story. It started out okay, but then the cruel Malagant left poor Guinevere/Julia Ormond on a slim ledge on the edge of a precipice, and I grabbed the remote and turned off the TV for the night. Now that's horror, and it kept me up all night with the shock of all the possibilities.

    Nope. My imagination is too ridiculous to feed it that kind of darkness. Reading is slightly better because I can skim, but I won't willingly go there. And by the way, Stephen and Tabitha King must have a strange marriage. LOL

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    1. Weirdly, the older I get the more I love it. I didn’t sleep for three days after reading Silence of the Lambs. Worth it!

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    2. Karen, Invasion of the Body Snatchers gave me nightmares, too. It was such a silly movie but there the premise was so unsettling. The familiar taken over by the alien is truly terrifying.

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    3. Oh, and I agree about the Kings:-)

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    4. Oh Karen, I remember the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Freaked me out for weeks. And I can't handle anything too intense on TV any longer, although I loved all of the Helen Mirren Prime Suspects which were pretty intense.

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    5. Rhys and Debs, did you also feel, as I did, the same horror about The Stepford Wives? That's one I did both read and watch.

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    6. Count me among those creeped out by the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" . . . .

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    7. I love horror, but I can't read it often because it does keep me up. I hate having to explain at work the next day that I'm dragging because I scared the bejeezus out of myself! But my recent is go-to is Joe Hill. That man keeps me up at night in the worst possible way!

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  6. I’m too impressionnable for horror books or movies. I even can’t stomach descriptive violence . I become more sensitive as I grow older.

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    1. I don’t like violence but I do love ghost stories.

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    2. I had to squinch my eyes, but in the end I loved Simone St. James' book "The Sun Down Motel."

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  7. Guess I'm in the minority here. I think Stephen King is one of the great American writers.
    And Shirley Jackson, too many to count, But I agree with Julia on THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE.

    "In the night. In the dark.

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    1. Oh, I so agree, Ann. Stephen King is brilliant, and a gifted writer. I just can't read his books. He's TOO good!

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    2. I agree Stephen and Dean Koontz are two of my faves.

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  8. I've never been much into horror. I tried IT when I was in college and couldn't do it. I walked out twenty minutes into watching "Poltergeist" in college. My imagination is too vivid.

    The only "horror" book I managed to get through recently is BABY TEETH by local author Zoje Stage. I'm not sure if it's classified as horror or psychological suspense.

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  9. Scarred for life after PSYCHO and THE EXORCIST. I wonder what creates the most suspense: words on the page, on the screen, or radio drama? I vote for radio drama, when we can envision what's happening, which is far worse than anything on the screen.

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    1. I read The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby, and was so freaked out by both I would never watch either of the movies.

      Radio drama can be thrilling, good point!

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    2. On the screen, at least you can close your eyes.

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    3. Yes, radio drama is the worst! Or best, depending on your point of view.

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  10. No horror for me. I'm safely in the 'horror wimp' camp. I can handle intrigue and mystery, but nothing beyond that. And definitely no chainsaws.

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    1. LOL - I’m a no to chainsaws as well but give me a creaky staircase and flickering lights and I’m all in.

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    2. Now that I've read everyone's comments, I realize that the chainsaw is not really horror as such; it's awful and not for me, but the creaky staircase and flickering lights are ABSOLUTELY not for me. My imagination runs wild and when the show is over I still live with the fright -- and wonder about my own stairs and lights and cower at every sound. I'll stick with rom/com instead, thanks!

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  11. I used to read everything by Stephen King but I haven't read any of his newest since his 11-22-63 which was great. The horror doesn't appeal to me anymore. Even when I did read horror I couldn't watch horror movies. Not sure why that is. Probably because the movies made it seem more real whereas books could just be words on a page and the image wasn't seared into my brain.

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  12. I'm not a big fan of horror, so I was--yes--horrified to discover that the slightly wry urban fantasy I write was classified as horror by the bots at Amazon. Apparently the fact that it contains supernatural elements pushes it over that line. There's no blood and guts, though, folks. Deep Ellum is a safe place for me and my wimpy tribe.

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    1. It’s a fabulous book, Gigi. I wouldn’t have classed it as horror either. My last book a romcom in present time was described as historical and sports themed (no) on Amazon so I have no idea what is going on there.

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    2. Yes, love love love the Deep Ellum stories. And they are not scary, fine for our horror wimps!

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    3. I have your latest on the top of my TBR pile, Jenn, and I'm pretty sure there's no corsetry or croquet involved. Thanks for the kind words.

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  13. Julia, The Haunting of Hill House did it for me--I've mentioned before that I read it in broad daylight with family nearby and it still haunts me! No to horror in books and movies--just can't.

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    1. LOVE Shirley Jackson. Perfection.

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    2. I haven't read The Haunting of Hill House, but from your excerpt, Jenn, the writing is fabulous.

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  14. Psychological suspense, yes if I read the last chapter first. Outright gore? not for this kid. I got burned in the '70's by reading Tyron's "The Other" while pregnant, and the 'Salem's Lot while living in Connecticut. I was not happy when the SyFy Channel became the creepy pasta channel. I will be avoiding most movie channels for the next 8 weeks; not enough garlic in the world to keep me safe.

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  15. I'm not a horror fan. I don't think I've ever read a horror novel in my life.

    As a teenager I watched some horror movies like one of the Friday The 13th movies that were set at the summer camp before Jason Voorhees got a better travel agent. But that was more because the girl I was interested in wanted to see it. I also saw the first three or four Nightmare on Elm Street movies back in the day. Of course, there was another reason I watched horror films back then but I'll forgo disclosing that since it will likely reveal I was once a "normal American teenager". LOL! But as horror devolved into torture porn, I stopped watching anything that was classified as a horror movie.

    Which makes the fact that my best friend Ann is a horror movie-slash-Halloween holiday aficionado kind of funny. She goes to all sorts of haunted houses, used to live in one and has Halloween themed Christmas parties (come dressed as your favorite living celebrity made up to look like they were dead or your favorite actually dead celebrity...I went dressed as Bob Ross).

    Also, one of the co-owners of the site that I write my Cassette Chronicles series for is a huge horror fan as well. I don't understand the love of the genre myself but hey it's what they like so more power to them.

    I just won't be going to the movies with them when they are going to see that type of film.

    I guess one of the things I never got was how (until they started making self-aware horror movies) every character in a horror movie had never seen a horror movie before.

    Oh, I did watch the first 5 or 6 seasons of The Walking Dead which had the zombies going for it but while it was a horror series it didn't satisfy itself with just exploring different ways to kill them. But I got fed up with that series too.

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    1. The first episode of The Walking Dead is still seared in my brain but I quit on it, too. Halloween is my favorite horror flick - just the music creeps me out.

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  16. I could swear I posted in the wee hours of the morning, but, horrors! It disappeared!

    Actually, I am not a horror reader, nor a watcher. After spending the past 55 years in the courts, and the past 60 as a political activist, I've seen enough real life horror, thank you. And I was born the last year of WWII, with my father and his only brother in the ETO, and they brought back pictures from the Nazi concentration camps, so I laugh at things that crawl out from under the bed or emerge from a cornfield. It's the nutcase with the suicide vest that scares me, or the newly purchased package of flour that has mealy bugs in it. I'd take a green monster over a computer crash or an overdraft notice any day!

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    1. I’d say your priorities are perfectly in order. I think I like horror because while the world burns around me at least I don’t have a creepy doll trying to kill me.

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  17. I'm reading mentions of chainsaws and blood and guts, and I deeply dislike those as well - in mysteries and thrillers, too! To me, the best horror is subtle; there is no overt violence in THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (well, a bit at the end, but it's entirely non-graphic) but the implied threat and the intimations that terrible things have happened there make it a pulse pounding read.

    It's hard be do that subtle terror in a movie, which is why they're all slash and gore, and I don't watch them.

    Stephen King once said, and I paraphrase mightily, "All horror is rooted in the dear of death. It's my job as an author to take the reader up to the body on the table, let him feel beneath the sheet, and then say, 'There, that wasn't so bad, was it?'"

    Of course, you can argue all crime fiction also starts with the fear of death - perhaps not personal fear, but societal fear. Which would explain why Edgar Allen Poe is both the Father of Horror and the Father of Detective Fiction.

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    1. "fear of death," of course. Oh, for an edit button!

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    2. Poe is the big daddy of both - and he passed away at 40. I can’t even imagine what else he would have tortured us with…eep!

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  18. I guess I'm in the "classic" horror appreciation society. Peter Straub! My gosh I'd forgotten about his books. I don't really seek it out, Simone St James being an exception, but I do pick up a scary book from time to time. The last one was The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires. I thought it was going to be humorous. Nope. Not even close. But riveting.

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    1. Love Simone St James - The Sundown Motel was excellent! And I just finished Grady Hendrix’s book - so good! The rat scene about did me in!

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  19. I can't even looks at pictures of snakes so I can say, without hesitation, no to horror.

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  20. I don’t read horror novels and I don’t watch horror movies. For me, the Wizard of Oz qualified as a horror movie so you can imagine how I feel about anything even scarier than that!

    I have a good friend whose daughter reads horror novels and watches horror movies to relax when she’s feeling really stressed out. She says that they make her realize “yeah, I guess my life isn’t so bad!”

    DebRo

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    1. Exactly! My nephew’s plus one watches all the horror for the same reason.

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  21. Jenn, I just saw that yesterday was the 35th anniversary of the publication of Stephen King's "It".

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    1. Soooo good. After the boys and I saw it in the theater, I hid single red balloons all over the house - they’re still mad. LOL.

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    2. Jenn, you are the perfect mom for boys! Love it.

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  22. The last really creepy thing I watched was Fortitude. I was totally fed up with it by the end.

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    1. I haven't seen that - so I'll take your word for it and pass.

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  23. I'm not much of a horror person in books. However, I have this odd fascination with Slashers. Most years in October, I rewatch the original Halloween. I am obsessed with the Scream franchise and am looking forward to the new movie coming in January. Not quite so sure about the Halloween sequel. I'll watch it, but it looks like it is going to be brutal, and the last one was a bit too much for me.

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    1. We always watch Halloween on Halloween. It's deliciously terrifying. I'm not a big sequel person, but I did love the original Scream. So clever.

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  24. No horror readings nor movies for me...at my age I don't need a racing heart to know I'm alive - as they say "if it doesn't hurt, it doesn't work"...and the pain is enough to know you are alive...I agree with one poster The Wizard of Oz is a horror movie - one of my friend got so scared she left the theater in tears!

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    1. I love the Wizard of OZ, but yeah those flying monkeys...SCARY.

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  25. No horror and not much suspense. Probably because I read The Haunting of Hill House when I was in junior high, and it scared me enough for all time! I still won’t read it at bedtime.

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  26. Growing up in the desert Southwest where trees are sparse and the night is not that dark, I couldn't fathom the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Then I moved to New England and watched in wonder as the roadside forest ate the light of the headlamps. I didn't want to fathom how dark it was inside the forest but boy, did the headless horseman makes sense. (I also had a lot of thoughts about how American History is taught and understood from a NE perspective, too, but that's a different post.)

    I get the point of that kind of "gentle" horror, but it really isn't my thing. I am very willing to accept that Stephen King is a genius without verifying it for myself.

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    1. I did the opposite - raised in New England and moved to the desert. I can testify that our history lessons in school ended with the Revolutionary War. What Civil War? I kid you not.

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  27. I used to read more horror, but it doesn't seem to be something that appeals to me these days. I used to read Stephen King some time ago, in the 80s and 90s, but his short-story collection Different Seasons with the story Apt Pupil in it just about did me in. But, I enjoyed some of his others, like Misery and Dolores Claiborne and The Green Mile and The Shining. One of my favorite books is by King, and it's a scary one, entitled The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Rose Madder was the strangest I read of his. I keep thinking I will read him again, as there are books that sound interesting, but I just haven't. I do think he is a great storyteller.

    Of course, I've been a Poe fan since high school, and I have the Funko Pop figures to prove it. Hahaha! I also enjoy Shirley Jackson. I just read Mexican Gothic as a buddy read with my daughter, and there was some weird going-ons there. I usually read Simone St. James books, too, but I think they are pretty much light horror. I loved The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, out in 2013. I'm a fan of Bram Stoker's Dracula and Elizabeth Kostova's take on it in The Historian (another favorite all-time book for me).

    I have a friend who loved Paul Tremblay's horror novels, and I actually have a couple, but I haven't read them. I also haven't read H.P. Lovecraft, who is considered one of the most influential horror writers of all time (he died in 1937), but my son has read him.

    I grew up with Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. I loved those shows. Then, later came Rod Sterling's Night Gallery and Tales from the Crypt. I don't really care for horror movies though. A few exceptions are The Shining (a favorite movie), Dolores Claiborne, The Green Mile, Misery, The Others, and Get Out. I don't like horror movies that are all about gory, bloody scenes with no real plot. I think I prefer the older horror films that are less realistic about people dying in horrible ways.

    So, I guess I do like horror in small doses.

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    1. Get Out was brilliant! Weirdly, I've never read Lovecraft - must correct that.

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  28. Nope, nope, nope. I am not amused by being terrified and never have been but you hit the exception right at the beginning. Because? My favorite aunt, who had no children until I was in high school, lived down the road from Sleepy Hollow. No kidding.She lived in Tarrytown, also mentioned in Irving's stories, and SH is part of the town. The burial ground in that story? Check. The bridge over the river? Check. The Dutch church? Check. All still there.In fact,my eventual cousins went to Sleepy Hollow High School. A special bonus, then and now, was Irvings own quirky home, overlooking the Hudson and open to visitors. So I have a personal love for this story. And. My younger daughter's birthday is Nov2 and we used to have Halloween themed parties. Kids wore costumes and watched the Disney version of the story. (Funny and quite scary)

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    1. Ooooh, I had no idea. I'd have loved to go to Sleepy Hollow High School. Wow, ideas are bubbling!!!

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    2. Well, the Headless Horseman is the high school mascot! (I just looked it up) They have a big Halloween festival. It's a charming small suburban town, a short train ride (side trip?) from Manhattan. 19th century estates, too,and some great art,courtesy of Rockefellars.

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  29. Can't end the day without mentioning Laurie R King's latest, Castle Shade.. I am halfway through reading this eerie Transylvanian Sherlock Russell tale.

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  30. Am I the only one who thinks "Bambi" and "Pinocchio" were horror movies? That forest fire, that whale.

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  31. I am one of these people who cannot watch horror movies nor read horror novels.

    Diana

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