Chilling Reads for Halloween

Halloween is certainly a different time when you are older. Instead of daydreaming about candy, you're thinking about hosting a party, or designing your costume, or getting your children outfitted for the big day. It's not always as magical as it was when you were little. I have flashbacks of my childhood Halloweens. I remember pumpkins on every doorstep, the magic and excitement of seeing everyone dressed up and celebrating. I remember a feeling of community and fun. I don't really have those feelings very often any more. Around here there aren't a lot of people who celebrate the holiday, in fact, it's often dark and empty on Halloween. I've been trying to combat this, not only by decorating my home to the nines, but also just doing little things to bring back that magical feeling. One thing I have found that puts me in the mood for Halloween is reading. A good book can conjure all sorts of imaginings and emotions. I've compiled a list of must reads for you. Today I`m writing about Vampire books, mostly anthologies because I prefer having a lot of literature in one book. Some of these books are available for e-readers, and most from your public library! So check them out if possible.

Vampires have always fascinated me. Since childhood I can recall my adoration for the undead, and out of all the creatures of the undead the vampire had a certain believability about them. It`s a strange thing to say when you consider they could die from sunlight, somehow live off of blood, and be killed by a simple stake through the heart (or decapitation depending on your preferences in myth). What could possibly be believable about any of that? Well out of all the monsters the vampire has a more religious aspect to them. If anything they`re demonic; they defy the laws that god implements. They are these unholy, soulless creatures that can go on living and destroying the pure, god-fearing people. I`m not religious by any means, but as a child I was dragged to church and had to eat the body of Christ (blech!) and drink his blood. So at that point I was thinking, if god exists, and we`re drinking blood (even if it`s not literally), then why couldn`t there be such things as vampires?

As I aged I became more knowledgeable and realized that there is no such thing as vampires (and debatably a higher power). Sure there are many people claiming they are vampires *rolls eyes* but in terms of science vampires couldn`t possibly exist. Even with science holding my views in check, a part of me still likes to fantasize about the existence of real vampires. I still like to wonder if something dark lurks amongst the trees at the roadside at night. I still like to imagine that they hide in castle catacombs, preying on lost travelers. There`s something enjoyable about them. Sure there are plenty of disturbing people who will try to harm others, there`s nothing enjoyable about that, but I believe when we think of supernatural beings committing these crimes there`s more to wonder about. If vampires did exist and were killing us off, we`d be terrified, but it would give us something pure to believe in. If something supernatural and evil existed then logically there would have to be a good supernatural being to oppose them, like god, or superheros. However, when it`s just some deranged human being committing violent acts there`s nothing to believe in, it`s just depressing. I think this is why we prefer to read about monsters, because it projects our fears about violence onto something that`s not human. Maybe it makes us feel a little more safe, or a little less insane.

I really hope you enjoy today`s recommendations. I like the traditional vampires much better than those icky pretty boy ones that have come out in recent years. I`m not much of an Anne Rice fan, so you won`t see any of her stuff here (sorry), but there`s enough material in these books that you`re sure to find something you may enjoy!

The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead
By: J. Gordon Melton

I'm sure the idea of reading an encyclopedia is rather daunting, but there's something really brilliant about this kind of encyclopedia. When I think of encyclopedias, I think of the most boring books that I had to flip through when writing papers in high school. I think of paperweights, because really, that's all they seemed good for. This encyclopedia is much better, it's entirely about vampires so you're sure to find something interesting to read. You're also not obligated to read the book from front to back; you can pick and choose what you would like to read. In that respect it makes a great "coffee table" book, in other words, a book your house guests can flip through when visiting.

The Vampire Book: Encyclopedia of the Undead explores the various aspects of vampires, including origins, characteristics, and folklore; as well as their existence through popular culture, like comic books and televisions shows. I personally tend to skip over all the role-playing, film, and comic book segments, which sadly make up a large percentage of the book. It's great if you're interested in getting into a new show, or comic book, but if you're not into any of that stuff, it's rather lacking. I really wish the pop culture entries had existed separately from the folklore in two different books, however, for the die-hard vampire fan it is a one-stop resource for just about everything vampire related.

 I should warn you that the material in the book does not always approach things from a skeptical viewpoint; it does refer to people who actually believe they are vampires as though they really are vampires. I don't mind role-playing, but I hate people who run around claiming they're the living dead and try to convince you they are. Remember, I'm a scientist at heart and I believe in cold hard facts. There are also numerous errors made in the book, and even though there have been new editions released they still have not corrected all the previous mistakes (which is rather lazy, in my humble opinion). All in all, this book is entertaining enough, and can certainly put you in the mood for Halloween!

Vampires : Encounters with the Undead 
Edited by: David J. Skal

It looks similar to The Vampire Book, but not to be confused with it; this is not an encyclopedia, it's an anthology. Vampires: Encounters with the Undead delves into vampire literature from decades long since past, and all the way up to more modern pieces. It includes both excerpts and short stories. I have to admit, I haven't made my way through this book yet, it's quite large! It contains some old favorites of mine, but I won't pour out my biases onto you! This book gives you a variety of vampire stories to choose from, and like the The Vampire Book you're sure to find something decent inside. The book also features informative tidbits in the sidebars about other stories, the authors, or just unique little facts. It's well worth adding to your collection.

Dracula`s Guest: A Connoisseur`s Collection of Victorian Vampire Stories
Edited by: Michael Sims

Dracula`s Guest: And other Victorian Vampire Stories is another anthology. Unlike the aforementioned Vampires, this anthology is a little more achievable at only 464 pages. This book focuses specifically on Victorian vampire literature. There are some real classics in this book, like Carmilla, and some pieces you may have never even heard of before. If, like me, you prefer the classics then this is the book to buy! I found each story rich and engaging, and it often evoked images of dark and dreary nights. Perfect for Halloween!

By Bram Stoker
Of course I would have to be crazy not to include Bram Stoker`s Dracula. The ultimate classic. Even though I`m sure I have read this piece enough times, I will probably read it again this year. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this novel, it focuses on a young English solicitor named Jonathon Harker. Harker is employed by Count Dracula to assist in a real estate purchase. During this legal dealing, Harker stays at the Count`s decaying castle in Transylvania. Soon Harker discovers that the Count is not a frail old man, but instead he is something monstrous. In fear Harker attempts to flee the castle and leave Dracula and his ghoulish ways behind, but soon thereafter this demonic entity finds ways to infect and corrupt Harker`s life. This book is definitely a must read! If you haven`t already head on down to your public library and check this novel out!

I hope you enjoy these selections and that they help you get into the Halloween spirit. If you too have some reading suggestions I`d like to hear them! I`m always looking for a good book. :)
Kind regards,
- Phantasm