Real-life Haunted Places, Gothic Imagination Exhibition & Classic Halloween Reads

Posted by on Oct 31, 2014 | Leave a comment

It’s Halloween!

Halloween pumpkins



Top 5 Real-life Haunted Places


Oxburgh Hall Kendra Leighton


Today, I’m over on author Kate Ormand’s blog sharing my favourite real-life haunted places in the UK. Take a look here and see if there are any we share. I love a good haunted house — though you won’t catch me visiting any tonight, because I am also a wimp.



Gothic Imagination at the British Library

Gothic Imagination British LibraryI’m feeling properly in the mood for Halloween this year. A couple of weeks ago I visited the Gothic Imagination exhibition at the British Library in London, which was a fantastic reminder of everything I love about the genre. I’ve mentioned my love of classic Gothic fiction numerous times, and this exhibition is an enthusiasts’ dream. It traces the beginnings of Gothic fiction from Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, through Ann Radcliffe, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Brontës, Edgar Allen Poe, M.R. James, right up to modern horror novels and films.


Gothic Imagination British LibraryRight at the end of the exhibition are a number of modern novels with Gothic influences, and I had to smile because so many were MG or YA — Tinder, Coraline, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Goth Girl, Twilight, A Monster Calls, and Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror.

If you’re still in a spooky mood after Halloween and don’t mind looking at old books, I’d highly recommend going along to the exhibition. It runs until the end of January — more details here.



I recently posted my recommended YA Halloween reads. Inspired by my visit to the exhibition, here are a few of my very favourite…


…Classic Halloween Reads


classic gothic fiction



The Italian by Ann Radcliffe (1797)

The ItalianFrom the first moment Vincentio di Vivaldi, a young nobleman, sets eyes on the veiled figure of Ellena, he is captivated by her enigmatic beauty and grace. But his haughty and manipulative mother is against the match and enlists the help of her confessor to come between them. Schedoni, previously a leading figure of the Inquisition, is a demonic, scheming monk with no qualms about the task, whether it entails abduction, torture—or even murder. The Italian secured Ann Radcliffe’s position as the leading writer of Gothic romance of the age, for its atmosphere of supernatural and nightmarish horrors, combined with her evocation of sublime landscapes and chilling narrative.

Ann Radcliffe was an expert at what have become Gothic-fiction stereotypes: haunted castles, labyrinthine monasteries, ghoulish monks and nuns, hidden passageways, dark forests and lonely mountains. I’ve read most of her novels, but The Italian is by far my favourite.



Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)

FrankensteinMary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was only eighteen. At once a Gothic thriller, a passionate romance, and a cautionary tale about the dangers of science, Frankenstein tells the story of committed science student Victor Frankenstein. Obsessed with discovering the cause of generation and life and bestowing animation upon lifeless matter, Frankenstein assembles a human being from stolen body parts but; upon bringing it to life, he recoils in horror at the creature’s hideousness. Tormented by isolation and loneliness, the once-innocent creature turns to evil and unleashes a campaign of murderous revenge against his creator, Frankenstein.

Everybody knows the basics of Frankenstein, and variations on his monster make an appearance in numerous other books and films (including the current YouTube series, ‘Frankenstein MD’). You really do need to read the book to appreciate the complexity of the original monster — and luckily, the book’s not that long.



Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Robert Maturin (1820)

Melmoth the WandererThis violent, profound, baroque and blackly humorous novel is the story of Melmoth, who has sold his soul in exchange for immortality in a satanic bargain, and now preys on the helpless in their darkest moments, offering to ease their suffering if they will take his place and release him from his centuries of tortured wanderings. Melmoth the Wanderer blended Gothic fiction and psychological realism to create a work of hallucinatory power.



An absolutely insane book, with stories within stories within (really very dark) stories. I’ve read nothing else like it.



The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis (1796)

The MonkPrepare to be shocked. This novel, written in 1796, is a Gothic festival of sex, magic and ghastly, ghostly violence rarely seen in literature. The Monk is remarkably modern in style and tells a breathless tale of temptation, imprisonment and betrayal. Matthew Lewis recounts the downfall of Ambrosio, the holier-than-thou monk seduced within the walls of a Madrid abbey until he heads for the utter corruption of the soul. Meanwhile, two sets of young lovers are thwarted and the reader thrills to pursuits through the woods by bandits and is chilled by the spectre of nuns imprisoned in vermin-ridden and skeleton-crowded vaults.

One of the original Gothic novels, and really fun. Featuring devils, a living-dead nun, and lots of sexual deviancy, it’s all rather trashy (if you can call a book written in 1796 trashy).



Whatever you’re reading or doing this Halloween, I hope it’s fun!


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