25 Spooky Books to Read This Halloween Season

iStock
iStock

Looking for a real scream this October? Tap into your deepest fears with these books about paranormal activity, haunted houses, kidnappings, and even psychological mind games. Warning: You may want to keep the lights on.

1. DON'T YOU CRY, BY MARY KUBICA

After Quinn wakes to find her roommate Esther missing from their Chicago apartment, she ransacks her room for clues. But what she discovers is that she never knew who her best friend actually was. Elsewhere, in a small Michigan town, a mysterious woman catches the eye of 18-year-old Alex. Though he's swept up in her beauty, he quickly learns she's far more sinister than meets the eye.

2. THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10, BY RUTH WARE

In this novel, travel writer Lo lands her dream job covering a ship's first cruise. It starts off as smooth sailing: The champagne is flowing, the small number of guests are welcoming, and the cabins are luxurious. Then, she sees someone being thrown overboard. The twist: All passengers are accounted for. Or, so they say.

3. UNRAVELING OLIVER, BY LIZ NUGENT

When the titular character's wife Alice confronts him about his past, the charismatic children's writer loses his cool—and sends her straight into a coma. Alternating among several perspectives, from Oliver's classmates and neighbors to ex-lovers, author Nugent pieces together what really drove him over the edge.

4. EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, BY MINDY MEIJIA

Desperate to break free from her small town, high school senior Hattie strikes up a fatal online romance. Nearly a year later, she's brutally stabbed to death and her dark secrets start to come to light. Now, as they try to unearth who killed the golden girl, the three narrators ask, who was Hattie?

5. THE AMATEURS, BY SARA SHEPARD

Five years after high school senior Helena disappeared from her backyard, four wannabe sleuths try to unravel the mystery. But someone is watching—and is desperate to stop their manhunt. The Pretty Little Liars author's killer new series takes unpredictable twists until the very last chapter.

6. THE GIRL BEFORE, BY J.P. DELANEY

Following a traumatic robbery, Emma is on the hunt for a new place to call home. Enter: One Folgate Street. Sure, the house’s architect still retains control over decor and doesn’t allow for books, personal pictures, or clutter whatsoever, but she’s desperate. Then, three years later, Jane moves in, looking for her new beginning. Instead, she uncovers the mysterious death of Emma, who also happens to look just like her. Soon, she begins to experience the same terrors as, well, the girl before. 

7. THE CHILD, BY FIONA BARTON

Journalist Kate Waters jumps at the chance to investigate the skeletal remains of a baby found at a demolished London house. But as she digs through the neighborhood’s history, she stumbles across three women, each with a gripping fascination with (and connection to) the murdered infant.

8. ALL THE MISSING GIRLS, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

With her father ailing, Nic is yanked home to the rural, small town she thought she escaped. But her arrival opens up a decade-old cold case: the disappearance of her best friend Corinne. And within days of her homecoming, another girl mysteriously vanishes. Told in reverse over two weeks, the harrowing story seeks to tell how the two events are ominously linked.

9. WITH MALICE, BY EILEEN COOK

Jill remembers nothing. Not her school's trip to Italy, that fatal car crash or…possibly killing her best friend Simone in a jealous rage. Instead, she wakes up in the hospital with a cast on her leg, stitches in her face, and a lawyer team on her case. Now, with evidence mounting against her and the media painting her as a sociopath, Jill questions just what she's capable of.

10. HAUNTED, BY DORAH WILLIAMS

The Williams lived in constant fear. On a whim, they moved into an alluring Victorian home that just always seemed to be vacant. It doesn't take long to find out why: It's haunted. The true story is told through the perspective of matriarch Dorah, as she recalls the chilling paranormal events the family experienced and how they uncovered the backstory of their ghosts.

11. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, BY THOMAS HARRIS

There's a new killer on the loose: Buffalo Bill, who starves his victims before killing—and skinning—them. To catch him, an amateur FBI agent must rely on cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter, currently locked away at a hospital for the criminally insane. The 1991 film adaption scored five Academy Awards.

12. SHUTTER ISLAND, BY DENNIS LEHANE

In the midst of the Cold War, U.S. Marshal Teddy and his partner Chuck head to Shutter Island, the home to a hospital for the criminally insane. There, the duo intend to investigate the disappearance of patient Rachel Solando, who allegedly escaped the facility. But in the gripping thriller of mind games where nothing is what it seems, Teddy is forced confront his own fatal wrongdoings.

13. GOOSEBUMPS: THE HAUNTED MASK, BY R. L. STINE

Desperate to get revenge on school bully Steve, Carly Beth buys a monstrous mask for Halloween. But as fright night goes on, she starts acting aggressively, even choking her best friend Sabrina. When she goes to remove the costume, she realizes it's become permanently attached to her face and she is now possessed.

14. CARRIE, BY STEPHEN KING

Hell hath no fury like Carrie scorned. When a bucket of pig's blood is dumped on her at senior prom, the titular character decides to use her newly discovered telekinetic powers to kill everyone in school. King's 1974 debut has been adapted into two films and a Broadway musical.

15. FRANKENSTEIN, BY MARY SHELLEY

Obsessed with the notion of giving life to lifeless matter, scientist Victor Frankenstein creates his own human using stolen body parts. However, his masterpiece is hardly a work of art. Tormented by exile, Frankenstein's hideous monster goes a murderous tear to exact revenge on his creator.

16. THE EXORCIST, BY WILLIAM PETER BLATTY

While living in Washington, D.C. with her famous mother, 12-year-old Regan begins to display some odd behavior. She stops eating, refuses to sleep, and starts an increasingly aggressive streak. Though her mom initially chalks her behavior up to teen angst, the movie star soon realizes her daughter is disturbed. She enlists two priests to help purge the girl of the demonic presence. Blatty's cult-classic spent 57 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

17. COME CLOSER, BY SARA GRAN

Amanda has the perfect life. Until she doesn't. Suddenly, she's burning her husband with a cigarette, shoplifting, cheating, and cursing at her boss. And there's a woman, reminiscent of her imaginary childhood friend Naamah, controlling her dreams. Has she lost her mind?

18. THE AMITYVILLE HORROR, BY JAY ANSON

They lasted 28 days. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new, beautiful home … that turned out to be terrorized by the paranormal. Before fleeing the harrowing mansion, they were plagued by swarms of flies, received random welts, and heard mysterious sounds. Plus, their tot Missy gained an imaginary friend Jodie, a demonic pig with glowing red eyes. The true story has launched a multi-million dollar franchise with 15 films.

19. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, BY SHARI LAPENA

Anne and Marco are going to their neighbors' for dinner. They're told they can't bring their 6-month-old daughter, but that's ok. They have the baby monitor and every 30 minutes or so, one of them will check in on their sleeping infant. After all, they're just next door. But when they return home, they find their door ajar—and their daughter gone from her crib.

20. PRETTY GIRLS, BY KARIN SLAUGHTER

Sisters Claire and Lydia do not speak. In the decades since their sister Julia disappeared, Claire has gone on to be a millionaire's trophy wife while Lydia is a single mom dating a con man. But when Claire's husband is murdered, the devastating old wounds are ripped open. How could a vanishing teenager and a dead middle-aged man be connected 20 years apart?

21. THE SECRET OF CRICKLEY HALL, BY JAMES HERBERT

When one of their three children tragically disappears, Gabe and Eve Caleigh leave London for the coast. There's a beautiful river, a garden, and the promise of an idyllic future. That is, until their dog is perpetually spooked, the kids claim to be stalked by a man with a cane, and Eve insists her missing son is communicating with her. Soon, the quintet uncover the house's dark secrets carried over from World War II. 

22. BROKEN MONSTERS, BY LAUREN BEUKES

She thought she had seen everything. Then, Detective Gabriella Versado discovers a unique body in a Detroit tunnel: It's the head and torso of a young boy fused with a deer. As more of these horrifying creatures begin to pop up, she becomes obsessed with tracking down the killer. Meanwhile, her teenage daughter Layla starts an online flirtation with a predator. Both their lives are thrust into a dangerous web.

23. REBECCA, BY DAPHNE DU MAURIER

The gothic's unnamed heroine cannot believe her luck when she meets—and falls for—rich and charming widower Maxim de Winter in Monte Carlo. After a quick romance and wedding, he sweeps her away to his Manderley estate. There, she encounters their sinister housekeeper Mrs. Danvers. Still loyal to the titular character, who died mysteriously in a boating accident the year before, Danvers begins to manipulate the new Mrs. de Winter, pushing her so far she begins to contemplate suicide. Alfred Hitchcock's adaption of the thriller won two Academy Awards.

24. THE WITCHES, BY ROALD DAHL

Forget what you thought: Real witches don't ride on broomsticks, wear black hats, or have warts. In reality, they're conniving creatures who disguise themselves as regular, ordinary, mundane women. And in the twisted fairy tale, they especially love to taunt children and turn them into mice. Be warned: You'll never know you've met a witch until it's too late.

25. HORNS, BY JOE HILL

Written by Stephen King's son, the horror begins with Ig waking up to find he's … different. After a drunken night, he has knobby horns growing from his head. And suddenly, when he talks to people, they tell him their darkest secrets. ("I don't want you to be my kid anymore," his mother quips.) It could easily be a mental breakdown. He's still reeling from his girlfriend's murder, in which he was the only suspect. Though he was never charged, he's still guilty in the court of public opinion. Or, is this just his new reality? After all, he has horns. So is he the devil?

10 of the Most Popular Portable Bluetooth Speakers on Amazon

Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon
Altech/Bose/JBL/Amazon

As convenient as smartphones and tablets are, they don’t necessarily offer the best sound quality. But a well-built portable speaker can fill that need. And whether you’re looking for a speaker to use in the shower or a device to take on a long camping trip, these bestselling models from Amazon have you covered.

1. OontZ Angle 3 Bluetooth Portable Speaker; $26-$30 (4.4 stars)

Oontz portable bluetooth speaker
Cambridge Soundworks/Amazon

Of the 57,000-plus reviews that users have left for this speaker on Amazon, 72 percent of them are five stars. So it should come as no surprise that this is currently the best-selling portable Bluetooth speaker on the site. It comes in eight different colors and can play for up to 14 hours straight after a full charge. Plus, it’s splash proof, making it a perfect speaker for the shower, beach, or pool.

Buy it: Amazon

2. JBL Charge 3 Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $110 (4.6 stars)

JBL portable bluetooth speaker
JBL/Amazon

This nifty speaker can connect with up to three devices at one time, so you and your friends can take turns sharing your favorite music. Its built-in battery can play music for up to 20 hours, and it can even charge smartphones and tablets via USB.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Anker Soundcore Bluetooth Speaker; $25-$28 (4.6 stars)

Anker portable bluetooth speaker
Anker/Amazon

This speaker boasts 24-hour battery life and a strong Bluetooth connection within a 66-foot radius. It also comes with a built-in microphone so you can easily take calls over speakerphone.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Bose SoundLink Color Bluetooth Speaker; $129 (4.4 stars)

Bose portable bluetooth speaker
Bose/Amazon

Bose is well-known for building user-friendly products that offer excellent sound quality. This portable speaker lets you connect to the Bose app, which makes it easier to switch between devices and personalize your settings. It’s also water-resistant, making it durable enough to handle a day at the pool or beach.

Buy it: Amazon

5. DOSS Soundbox Touch Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $28-$33 (4.4 stars)

DOSS portable bluetooth speaker
DOSS/Amazon

This portable speaker features an elegant system of touch controls that lets you easily switch between three methods of playing audio—Bluetooth, Micro SD, or auxiliary input. It can play for up to 20 hours after a full charge.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Altec Lansing Mini Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $15-$20 (4.3 stars)

Altec Lansing portable bluetooth speaker
Altec Lansing/Amazon

This lightweight speaker is built for the outdoors. With its certified IP67 rating—meaning that it’s fully waterproof, shockproof, and dust proof—it’s durable enough to withstand harsh environments. Plus, it comes with a carabiner that can attach to a backpack or belt loop.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Tribit XSound Go Bluetooth Speaker; $33-$38 (4.6 stars)

Tribit portable bluetooth speaker
Tribit/Amazon

Tribit’s portable Bluetooth speaker weighs less than a pound and is fully waterproof and resistant to scratches and drops. It also comes with a tear-resistant strap for easy transportation, and the rechargeable battery can handle up to 24 hours of continuous use after a full charge. In 2020, it was Wirecutter's pick as the best budget portable Bluetooth speaker on the market.

Buy it: Amazon

8. VicTsing SoundHot C6 Portable Bluetooth Speaker; $18 (4.3 stars)

VicTsing portable bluetooth speaker
VicTsing/Amazon

The SoundHot portable Bluetooth speaker is designed for convenience wherever you go. It comes with a detachable suction cup and a carabiner so you can keep it secure while you’re showering, kayaking, or hiking, to name just a few.

Buy it: Amazon

9. AOMAIS Sport II Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker; $30 (4.4 stars)

AOMAIS portable bluetooth speaker
AOMAIS/Amazon

This portable speaker is certified to handle deep waters and harsh weather, making it perfect for your next big adventure. It can play for up to 15 hours on a full charge and offers a stable Bluetooth connection within a 100-foot radius.

Buy it: Amazon

10. XLEADER SoundAngel Touch Bluetooth Speaker; $19-$23 (4.4 stars)

XLeader portable bluetooth speaker
XLEADER/Amazon

This stylish device is available in black, silver, gold, and rose gold. Plus, it’s equipped with Bluetooth 5.0, a more powerful technology that can pair with devices up to 800 feet away. The SoundAngel speaker itself isn’t water-resistant, but it comes with a waterproof case for protection in less-than-ideal conditions.

Buy it: Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

5 Popular Back to the Future Fan Theories, Examined

Marty and Doc Brown were best friends. Too bad Doc had to kill him.
Marty and Doc Brown were best friends. Too bad Doc had to kill him.
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

July marks the 35th anniversary of Back to the Future, the enduring sci-fi and comedy classic starring Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly, an amiable teen who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Emmett "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd). Thanks to Doc's DeLorean time machine, Marty winds up in 1955 to save Doc’s life and to make sure his parents (Crispin Glover and Lea Thompson) fall in love, thereby ensuring his existence.

Fans of the film have spent the past several decades wrapping their minds around the movie’s time travel paradoxes and missing pieces of the plot. Take a look at some of the most popular theories, then check out Back to the Future and its sequels on Netflix to see if they carry any weight.

1. Marty McFly’s parents knew he was a time traveler.

Perhaps the biggest mystery of Back to the Future is why George and Lorraine McFly fail to notice that their grown son Marty bears a striking resemblance to the man they knew as “Calvin Klein” who dropped into their lives in 1955 to make sure their romance was intact. One theory explained by Redditor djbred18 offers that George and Lorraine did recognize him. “I mean they had 30 years to figure it out!” the user said. Crucially, George heard “Calvin” using the names of Darth Vader and the Vulcan race from Star Trek years before they materialized, a fact any science-fiction author like George would have picked up on. A scene late in the film where Marty’s parents give him a brand-new truck and offer a knowing smile could be read as a thank you for his efforts.

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in 2020, Back to the Future co-screenwriter Bob Gale explained that they didn't make the connection: It was a simple case of Marty’s parents not recognizing the man they had spent just a few days with 30 years prior. “I would ask anyone to think back to their own high school days and ask themselves how well they remember a kid who might have been at their school for even a semester,” he said. “Or someone you went out with just one time. If you had no photo reference, after 25 years, you’d probably just have a hazy recollection.”

2. Doc Brown was suicidal.

While testing his DeLorean in the Twin Pines Mall parking lot, Doc Brown steps directly in front of the car traveling at 88 mph. The only way he wouldn’t be crushed is if his experiment succeeded and the car vanishes. Yet Doc makes mention of his other experiments being disappointing. Given his lack of confidence in his own abilities, standing in front of the car appears to be a death wish.

When asked about this theory by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2018, Christopher Lloyd wasn’t buying into it. “I don’t think so,” Lloyd said. “Because Doc had so much confidence in what he was doing, he didn’t worry about that ... maybe a little doubtful, but Doc didn’t have a grim nature.”

However, Lloyd did add that: “You’ve given me a lot to think about though.”

3. Marty McFly’s actions altered his girlfriend’s appearance.

Elisabeth Shue, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future Part II' (1989)
Elisabeth Shue, Michael J. Fox, and Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future Part II (1989).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

In the first Back to the Future, actress Claudia Wells portrays Jennifer Parker, Marty’s girlfriend. In 1989’s Back to the Future Part II, Elizabeth Shue took over the role because Wells was dealing with an illness in her family. For a series about time travel, it might be easy to explain why Jennifer’s appearance changes. According to Reddit user j1ggy, Marty’s presence resulted in unseen but demonstrative effects in the lives of Jennifer’s parents, possibly even resulting in Jennifer having a different mother or father. Because Marty seems slightly confused by Jennifer at the beginning of Back to the Future Part II, it’s possible he realizes he changed the past to the point that his girlfriend is now physically different.

4. Marty may have actually turned Biff Tannen’s life around.

At the beginning of Back to the Future, we see town bully Biff Tannen pushing around George McFly and demanding he perform Biff's work duties at their office. At the end of the film, Biff is in a subservient role, waxing George’s car as part of his work owning an auto detailing company. But, as Reddit user SatNav points out, that may have been best for Biff. He went from being dependent on George to assist him with his job to owning his own small business.

5. Doc Brown kills Marty.

At the conclusion of Back to the Future, time-traveling Marty returns from 1955 to witness 1985 Marty disappearing in the DeLorean. While that’s presumably Marty heading back to 1955, one theory has posited that Doc Brown is sending 1985 Marty either to his death or exiling him in time to make room for the returning 1955 Marty. Had he allowed 1985 Marty to continue living, he could have gone back to 1955 to meet the Marty already there. That, or two versions of Marty would have been running around Hill Valley in 1985.

Christopher Lloyd has dismissed this theory. “Doc would never send Marty off to his death, in any kind of scenario,” he told the CBC in 2018. “Doc couldn’t live with that.”