Horror Writers Association


Halloween Haunts: A TIC-TACKING RITE OF PASSAGE by A.G. Mock

It was 1978—Friday, October 13th to be precise—when I was finally old enough to stay home alone while my parents went out to dinner and a movie. Or more likely, while they went disco dancing with my aunt and uncle who lived next door. You see, the four had been practicing their grooviest dance moves in the basement every Wednesday for months, the beat of “Night Fever” or “Jive Talkin’” barely stifled by the closed door. This would also be accompanied by the sound of poorly executed dance steps scuffing awkwardly across the unfinished cement floor.

(I once made the …

Halloween Haunts: Magic Pumpkins by Chris DiLeo

My father brought in the victims, two at a time, extra large and heavy.

Pumpkins. Soon-to-be jack-o’-lanterns.

He was an encyclopedia editor, a quiet man who worked tediously at his desk, books stacked around him in fortress walls, a green banker’s lamp pooling light. He was equally methodical and tedious when carving pumpkins. He worked slowly, laboriously, hands careful, eyes focused behind his bifocals.

He penciled faces on the pumpkins, used a ruler to make the isosceles triangle eyes and nose and the teeth, too, of course.

When he took up the large carving knife, the same one used to …


I lead children into houses of horror. I advise them against touching monkeys’ paws. But I urge them to listen to heartbeats thump-thump-thumping beneath the floor.

I’ve taught middle school students for sixteen years now, and I love diving into tales of the macabre with them. From what I can tell, they also enjoy our treks into darkness. Eighth-graders seem eager to consume the stories of Edgar Allan Poe, in particular. Kids nowhere near old enough to imbibe Amontillado drink in the dread that’s developing inside Poe’s musty Italian catacombs. Heck, a malformed vulture’s eye is probably sometimes more palatable …

Halloween Haunts: Halloween’s Own Candyman by E.V. Knight

When I was a kid, my mom always went with us trick or treating and only to our friends’ and family’s home. Why? Because who knows what evils could be lurking within the chocolate of a fun size snickers bar and because the lines at the ER where the police set up free candy X-rays were massive time suckers at the end of a rather exhausting evening.

I always imagined some nefarious witch or creepy old man sneaking razorblades and pins into candy bars. Sitting at their workshop bench, wearing a watchmaker’s loupe so after embedding the torture device and …


Long before my Lily Wong thrillers hit the bookstores, I was possessed by a dark tale of Brazilian magic. An immortal trickster, a California artist plagued by voices, a mixed-race beauty cast out from her family, and Serafina Olegario, a desperate mother who rises from the slums of Brazil to become a fearsome Quimbanda priestess. Their forty-year saga, across three continents and a past incident in 1560 France, channeled through my mind and fingers into a screenplay and many evolutions of a novel before it finally found a home. Serafina lured me into the darkness, bound me with supernatural, psychological, …

Halloween Haunts: Suburbia is Hell by Randee Dawn

Suburbs are hell.

This said by someone who grew up on cul-de-sacs, down streets named after Ivy League universities, on parcels of farmland carved up into intentionally bland, vaguely descriptive development names, on land that was almost certainly stolen from the original inhabitants, then re-distributed and tamed. Or attempted to be tamed

Planned idyllic lifestyles, conformity to the nth degree. All in the name of safety, if not community. All in the name of keeping the kids corralled and controlled, even if most of us keep them indoors and on screens these days. A classic example of a good idea …

Halloween Haunts: Murder, a Cemetery, and Halloween by Lou Lrera

There is a cliché specific to writing we’ve all heard; write what you know. How does a writer of horror, know? Horror research can take the writer, as investigator, down some extremely disturbing rabbit holes of discovery. I hope it goes without saying, writers of hideous crimes and murders, obviously don’t commit the crimes to document the details and horror of torturing and ending lives. Horror authors have produced classic tales of mayhem, and it would be ludicrous to think one would need to build a Poe inspired dungeon, cleave some poor soul in-half under the blade of a swinging …

Halloween Haunts: MAMA AND THE MATCHES by Rosemary Thorne

She had never been fond of Halloween, my poor dear, and as the season approached she used to get thinner and thinner, bluer, much more translucent, her fair skin producing an effect of iridescence, as if she were turning into an ultraviolet bulb, and some would say that it was just because things get busier in the Fall, and she was busier, anyway, she had many more visitors because October is the right time to see the mummy and its light breathing and to get a scare of two if it happens that it opens its eyes, it would look …

Halloween Haunts: Hating Haunted Houses by Kerry E.B. Black

Hope sprang eternal for my father, because every autumn, he’d take my siblings and I to our area’s haunted houses. Designed to raise money for charity and peopled by local talent, including many kids, these weren’t what one could call high theatre, nor were the scares elevated affairs.

However, since I was a child with a far-too-active imagination, I conjured all sorts of terrors.

There were the obligatory witches who feasted on the flesh of children. Headless Hessians mounted Nightmares. Mummies dragged bandaged legs to enact ages-old curses. Creatures, monsters, ghosts, and Dracula. Hammer-style bloodbaths and immortal killers intent on …

Halloween Haunts: Spooky Box Tradition by Brianna Malotke

One of my earliest memories of spending time with my mom was also my first ever haunted house. I was probably the youngest person in line, but I was over the moon to venture out with my mom and her friends to prove I was fearless. I had made it all the way through the line, even with some very animated characters, creepy light effects and bloodcurdling screams coming from within the house looming in front of us. We were finally at the front, ready to enter the scary haunted house. It didn’t take long until I was absolutely in …

Halloween Haunts: If That One Halloween Didn’t Kill Me… by Brandon Ketchum

…I might yet fall victim to a future Friday the 13th.


One night, long ago (the early ’00s), in a place not so far away (Erie and Edinboro, Pennsylvania)…

My late best friend, may he rest in peace, once shared with our little college group a wicked cool tree. This huge, gnarled specimen of unknown species invaded the ground with dark, barky tendrils; from its colossal bole-torso reached giant, twisted limb-branches; in the fall, these bare branches extended into thin, insidious offshoots ending in skeletal wood-fingers and bark-nails. All ’round this Witch Tree, as it was dubbed, …

Halloween Haunts: The Queer Monster Within by Damian Serbu

What if I could become the monster of a horror film?

Perhaps a lot of kids growing up in the 1980s fantasized about the question; many youngsters must have pondered the idea in their make believe realms.

But for me the question contained more potency. More potential. Because I knew such a monster lurked under the surface of my being. Caged. Waiting to erupt. Wanting to scare everyone around me. I knew such a revelation would thrill and empower me.

The notion first hit at a young age, before I recognized the beast within. Something attracted me to the …

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