Some Scary Stories for Halloween

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror

As a self-confessed lover of many of the ‘pleb’ genres (hello Andrew Mitchell) I adore ghost stories. One of the most well-thumbed books on my shelf as a child was the Usborne Book of Ghost Stories, and since then I have sought out the humble ghost story wherever possible. It may also be worthwhile to point out that only short stories will do for me (apparently I have always liked my frights bite-sized). I’m talking MR James, WF Harvey and virtually every Victorian writer worth their salt. Even Roald Dahl has a couple of ghost stories in his canon! Supernatural tales that leave the reader haunted by the text for days afterwards. Particularly at night once you are in bed…

You might not think that children’s books contain many good quality, genuinely creepy tales – but like many other assumptions about children’s literature this one is wrong! Neil Gaiman’s Coraline would be an obvious example of a sinister book, but what about my favourite short story genre? What would I recommend as a great read for this Halloween?

If you want to be incredibly freaked out then I suggest you buy Chris Priestley’s Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror. Although ‘aimed at children’ and written by a modern author (pre-1940s ghost stories are generally so much better than more recent ones!) the stories are just as sinister as any aimed at an adult audience. They centre around Edgar, a boy listening to his uncle’s strange tales behind several artefacts in his rather peculiar house.

The stories Uncle Montague tells to the goody-goody Edgar range from the slightly hair-raising to the full on I’m-so-creeped-out-I’m-not-really-sure-if-I-want-to-turn-the-lights-out-yet variety. There are many scenes that I am sure that parents of the overprotective variety would disapprove of, from the reanimated mutilated corpse of a cliff fall victim to a sinister elm tree reminiscent of MR James’ ash tree.

But it is the macabre Offerings that haunts me late at night and makes my skin prickle. I won’t spoil the story for you here, as part of the fun is the skilful build up of suspense and the gaps left for the reader to fill. Oddly, this was not my favourite when I initially read the stories, but it is the one that stayed on my mind. Perhaps the scariest stories are the ones that let the reader’s imagination supply the terror?

These stories will scare you as much as any good adult ghost story and are thus perfect for Halloween. Maybe good fodder for Neil Gaiman’s All Hallow’s Read initiative?

Just don’t, whatever you do, read them on your own…


What do you like to read at Halloween? Have you got any more scary recommendations?


The Literary Equivalent of Clean Knickers

 One thing an e-reader was supposed to do was to remove ‘library anxiety’ – otherwise known as the worry that people will judge you by the book you read. Unfortunately I seem to suffer from this unfortunate ailment more than ever before, since my kindle wormed its way into the heart of my commute.

You see, all I seem to be able to read on it, is – for lack of a better word – trash (see episode two). If I purchase something on there I deem good, I immediately have to rush out and buy a paper copy. If it is something that I know will be good, or I will read more than once, then of course I want it in a form I can lend to people. In a form that feels much more substantial than a file on an e-reader, that I can read without having to charge a battery. One of my favourite things about my kindle is that it is an ideal receptacle for books that I want to/have to read, but would never deign to give shelf space to. They are all available and there for me to read, but hidden away. Being someone who ruthlessly judges others by what they read, e-readers also perform the function of hiding the fact that I am reading a children’s book/chick lit/Twilight. I can sit on the tube, happily caught up in Alex Rider’s latest adventures or Bella’s incessant whining and no one around me is any the wiser. I could be reading War and Peace for all they know. When I started to read books like that on my kindle, the frequently judgemental looks from other passengers stopped. Any lover of children’s books who uses public transport must be well used to these ‘looks’ by now. They are usually given by women in suits.

However, this has given rise to a new anxiety – one that I didn’t expect. I now spend entire journeys worrying that if I died, like, right now, and all that was left to know me by was my kindle, people would think I was an uncultured, unrefined pleb whose library solely consisted of paranormal romance, Jilly Cooper-esque romps and a couple of token free classics (that the examiner would assume were unread). My spirit would be there screaming ‘go to my house! There are adult books there! Proper ones! Middlemarch and everything!’ If I was reading a print copy of the paranormal romance they might (quite rightly) speculate that I had a broad taste in reading and this was only part of it. But the many many books on a kindle could be assumed to be representative of your general taste in books….

This is a literary version of the always-wear-clean-knickers-in-case-you-get-hit-by-a-bus anxiety, if you will. Clearly it is unlikely that if the tube crashed the kindle would survive. And it is also clear that this all arises from my own biblio-snobbery, and if I were a little less judgemental about others I would probably be less worried about being judged myself.

But as I am unlikely to succeed in dropping the snobbery any time soon I will continue to worry and have a spare copy of Jane Eyre in my bag. Just in case. And nice knickers on – of course.

By Lauren

Episode One: Surely That’s Not A Children’s Book!

Click HERE to download Episode One of Kid You Not Podcast! (28 minutes) or listen to it on the feed player in the right sidebar –>

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This week’s theme: In the first ever episode of Kid You Not Podcast, we discuss one of the many problems with adults – namely, their ambivalence towards children’s and teenage literature! Listen to the episode to learn more about crossover literature, publishing strategies behind adult covers for children’s books, and what it says about you if you don’t feel too comfortable reading children’s literature…

This week’s book review:

Numbers, by Rachel Ward (Chickenhouse)

Tell us what you think of Numbers in the comments!

The next book review will be Mimi, by John Newman.
Get hold of the book and let us now what you think before the next episode comes out!

Other books mentioned:

Junk,  by Melvin Burgess; The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon; Pigeon English, by Stephen Kelman; The Giver, by Lois Lowry ; The Daydreamer, by Ian McEwan; the Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer; the Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling; How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff; Holes, by Louis Sachar; The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. All books mentioned in the podcast or on the blog are listed here.

Thank you so much for downlaoding this episode! It’s our very first one ever and we hope you’ll enjoy it and forgive us for the glitches here and there. It’s all a learning curve!

Please share it with your friends and contribute to the blog and to the podcast by asking us questions and posting comments. You can also email us at .

The next episode, on Quality and Trash, will be released on July 17th. Until then, subscribe to the blog for extra posts and book reviews!

Clem & Lauren