5 Favourites: Scary Stories

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (1872)


‘Nevertheless life and death are mysterious states, and we know little of either.’

The story in six words lesbian vampiric killer lusts after victim

Something wicked this way comes… Count Dracula has nothing on Carmilla. The ancestor of the innocent-victim-of-the-undead novel, Carmilla unveils its devilish desires with biting and blood in abundance.

Scare yourself silly? Other myths of those that metamorphose into more frightening forms, from vampires in Dracula and the darker, more modern-day Let The Right One In, to werewolves in the Little Red reimagining The Company of Wolves and the growing-up-meets-loup-garou film Ginger Snaps.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1938)


‘I could fight the living but I could not fight the dead.’

The story in six words sinister slow-burn about absent ex-wife

Something wicked this way comes… Last night you might have dreamed you went to Manderley, but after reading du Maurier’s Rebecca, you’ll be having nightmares about marital murder, obsessive maids, and burning mansions.

Scare yourself silly? Get really haunted with Hitchcock’s faithful film adaptation starring Judith Anderson as the scene-stealing, spine-tingling, ever-faithful servant, Mrs Danvers.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (1979)

Sondheim's Sweeney Todd‘There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
And it’s filled with people who are filled with shit
And the vermin of the world inhabit it…’

The story in six words demon barber demands blood as retribution

Something wicked this way comes… Sondheim’s thrilling, chilling, blood-spilling musical follows the Fleet Street barber as he shaves the faces of gentlemen who never thereafter were heard of again, all framed by a baleful Brechtian ballad that chills to the bone.

Scare yourself silly? There’s many a musical nightmare out there, from the creepy-but-cute The Nightmare Before Christmas to Benjamin Britten’s darkly dramatic and dissonant opera, The Turn of the Screw. 

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

The Woman in Black

‘I did not believe in ghosts. Or rather, until this day, I had not done so…’

The story in six words darkly dressed woman predicates children’s deaths

Something wicked this way comes… With all the tropes of true terror, this ghost story of strange-goings-on will have you on-edge for a long time, as pages filled with unexplained creaks, cracks and cries will plague even the pluckiest folk.

Scare yourself silly? Ghostly goings-on in the similarly child-centred, story-within-a-story The Turn of the Screw and the psychologically spine-chilling The Haunting of Hill House. 

Royal Ballet’s Frankenstein (2016)

‘Beware, for I am fearless and therefore powerful.’


The story in six words who’s the monster, who’s the man?

Something wicked this way comes… Liam Scarlett’s scary yet lyrical choreography for Frankenstein’s Creature fuses lurid monstrosity with human longing, and this dance adaptation focuses on the loneliness at the heart of Shelley’s story, with some spectacular lightning striking the monster and the moment to life.

Scare yourself silly? The man vs the monster is the ultimate fight, so read the original in Frankenstein and find the poignant parallels in the morbidly funny Poor Things.

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