October Screams: A Halloween Anthology edited by Kenneth W. Cain is jam-packed with twenty-seven amazing tales of Halloween horror! Each one is bite-sized just like the candies you’d get while trick or treating! Just be warned, some candies are sweet, some are sour, and some may just be hiding something else inside…
Let’s dive in!
My Thoughts on October Screams: A Halloween Anthology edited by Kenneth W. Cain –
My favorites from the collection include:
- Free Candy and Telescopic Views by Red Lagoe
- In The Night, A Whisper by Robert Stahl
- The Hooper Street Halloween Decoration Committee by Gemma Amor
- November Eve by Bridget Nelson
- The Collecting by Cassandra Daucus
- Doll by Ryan Van Ells
- Scattergoods by Kevin Kangas
Per usual, here are my thoughts on each tale!
Sweetmeat by Clay McLeod Chapman –
After his son has been trick or treating, he inspects his candy, taking out a piece that looks odd. But rather than throwing it out, he eats it.
Wow, what a story to kick off the collection! We’ve all heard the old stories of candy being tainted, even though it was tracked down to the parents attacking/killing their own children and trying to pass it off on the candy from strangers. This tale takes this fear and adds an even more brutal twist.
The Magic Trick by Gregory L. Norris –
On a Halloween night, a magician who comes to this old man’s door triggers quite the trip down memory lane.
This grief horror tale was blood-boiling and heartbreaking. The friend’s comments about monsters broke me.
The Trick-Or-Treater by Evans Light –
Surprised when a young boy rang the doorbell later than normal and twisted the visit around so he was the one asking treat or trick, this man wasn’t sure what to think.
My gosh, the ending of this one!
Tutti I Morti by Steve Rasnic Tem –
Going for a walk one evening, this man knows his son wouldn’t approve. But he ends up walking for hours in a mass of people.
I loved not knowing what was going on here, but getting little hints throughout that let you try to guess.
The Last Halloween by Larry Hinkle –
Seeing meteorites fall from the sky, this father thinks this night will be exciting even through his dread that this will be the last Halloween he spends out trick or treating with his daughter. He has no idea what’s to come.
The way this tale slowly dialed up the creep factor was amazing.
Katrina’s Halloween Candy Journal (2023) by Patrick Flanagan –
This bossy little child gets her friends to do everything she wants until things start going wrong. Angry, but not to be let down, she and her other strange friend make a second loop of the neighborhood.
This tale was wild! The intensity of this little girl getting everything she wants and needing others to live up to her exact expectations was terrifying! Like a much darker version of Veruca Salt.
The Wind by Brennan Fredricks –
While on watch, this character’s sole goal is to stay awake. Unfortunately, he’s struggling and dips in and out of sleep and memories of Halloween nights when he was younger.
The choppy storytelling style is so unsettling! What was real and what was a dream?
Free Candy and Telescopic Views by Red Lagoe –
Not wanting to go home at the end of Halloween night, this young girl spots a sign for free telescope views. The only thing she loves more than free candy is space, so she quickly heads down the dark drive. Once there, she learns a great deal from the woman who lives there.
Immediately feeling for this character, I was so hoping we would get a happy ending. I loved her interest in space and how she could see right through her new friend. I would love a whole book about the girl and the older woman!
The Halloween Lost by Frank Oreto –
Sitting outside with a bunch of bags of popcorn, this man is determined to greet the trick-or-treaters, even if most others have given up on the holiday. Of course, there’s very good reason as to why most no longer celebrate.
Gosh, this is some powerful grief horror. What an absolute nightmare of a situation. And what strength to still continue the tradition.
Tate by Ronald Malfi –
Still grieving the loss of their son, things are tense on the one-year anniversary.
My goodness, this one is bleak. What an awful situation all around!
A Perfect Night for a Perfect Murder by Jeremy Bates –
Kicking off with a presentation on how to write about the perfect murder, we then get a look at the writer and how he knows this information.
This one starts out so lighthearted even while discussing such darkness. But of course, the story takes a dark turn.
Eleven One by Philip Fracassi –
Going through a shocking breakup, this woman drowns her sorrows in booze. Luckily, trick-or-treaters show up the next day to cheer her up.
Such a brutal tale of heartbreak and the aftermath that comes roaring in much too quickly.
In The Night, A Whisper by Robert Stahl –
Set up in quick snapshots of Halloween night, this builds to a dangerous point!
Oh my gosh, I loved this one so much. I had an eerie vibe at the start, but once I finished the tale and learned what was going on, I had to go back and read from the beginning!
The Hooper Street Halloween Decoration Committee by Gemma Amor –
When invited to the Halloween Decoration Committee meeting, this couple makes the mistake of skipping the event. They soon learn how seriously the neighborhood takes the holiday. But the neighborhood is about to learn something about the couple as well.
This tale is wildly unsettling. How petty people can be is truly terrifying! I’m a people pleaser, so thinking of one person that I’ve upset kills me enough. I can’t imagine an entire neighborhood being upset!
Sown by TJ Cimfel –
A family outing to find a good pumpkin turns into quite the trip.
This tale was so bizarre!
The Iron Maiden by Rebecca Rowland –
After hearing a wild story from their friend, this group decides to go with him and break into a house to try to see if what he said he saw was real.
Of course, trouble wasn’t far behind here… I was so ready for a jump scare at every turn. What we got here was much more devastating.
Spiders Under My Skin by Larry Hodges –
After stealing candy from his brother, this person becomes cursed with spiders crawling under his skin. Determined to make it stop, he tries to kill himself a different way each Halloween. But this year, he has a new plan.
Oh my gosh. Reading this at any normal time I’m sure would have had me squirming. Reading this while insanely itchy with PUPPS during pregnancy made me want to rip my skin off even more!
November Eve by Bridget Nelson –
While at a Halloween party, these teens partake in a tradition one of their grandmothers had told them about. Unfortunately, they didn’t take the warning of danger seriously and things go very wrong.
Reading this was so nerve-wracking! I was equally excited and terrified to see what would happen next! So many bombshells were dropped that I actually gasped.
Let The Dark Do The Rest by Kealan Patrick Burke –
A man who has clearly gone through some stuff is not enjoying this Halloween night. As he keeps going outside to smoke, he just gets more and more worked up about something lurking in the shadows.
What an unsettling tale! I’m glad I read this one at 11 a.m. to have plenty of time between now and nightfall to process the story! Things lurking outside of a house at night just gets to me every time!
Twin Flames by Gwendolyn Kiste –
Forced to return home, this woman dreads every second of the trip. While she still tries to keep many things secret, she will soon regret not giving her girlfriend more details as her girlfriend refuses to let her go alone.
I loved how this story revealed itself slowly! What a terrifying plot!
The Collecting by Cassandra Daucus –
Sent out once a year to collect, these young ones are looking for something other than candy and treats.
My gosh. I love this tale. I especially enjoyed the scene with the trick-or-treater. I would love to learn more about this family and see the outcomes of scenes like that in a longer version. But of course, this was perfect as is!
The Puppeteer Of Samhain by Todd Keisling –
Telling his children a story from childhood, this man struggles to keep his composure.
My gosh, that ending!
Any Other Wednesday In A Bar by Cat Voleur –
One Halloween night, a woman dressed as a vampire goes to a bar seeming to be the only one celebrating. Catching the eye of a man with some cheesy lines, she’s about to show him why she loves Halloween so much.
The foreshadowing here for the ending was perfect!
No Such Thing by Jacqueline West –
Regretting telling her kids a spooky story about a ghost, this mom is soon telling herself there’s no such thing.
A lovely quiet horror tale set at bedtime with an eerie story neatly tucked inside!
Masks by Brian Keene and Richard Chizmar –
Planning to rob a convenience store on Halloween, these kids get more attention than they bargained for!
Oh man! What a cliffhanger ending!
Doll by Ryan Van Ells –
A story told in sets of Halloween memories, we see the family go through a lot over the years. The latest Halloween could be the worst of them…
I love a great haunted doll! Oh boy was this one perfect!
Scattergoods by Kevin Kangas –
Before moving to the West Coast, this man decides to go to his childhood home and walk the neighborhood just like he used to as a kid every Halloween. But this Halloween, he’s reminded of a local urban legend. Remembering events from his past like a shock of lightning hitting him, he’s determined to make sure a lone kid gets home safe.
Jeeeeeeeze. Two scenes here gave me jump scares! I loved this tale so much. I need a shirt made from this asap.
My Favorite Passages from October Screams: A Halloween Anthology –
I leaned into the mirror and pulled back my upper lip. Sure enough, it looked as if I hadn’t brushed in months–Jesus, years. These cavities were wreaking absolute havoc throughout my mouth. My teeth wobbled about the gumline, tipsy passengers onboard a pink cruise liner in the middle of a monsoon, all of them falling overboard.
— Sweetmeat by Clay McLeod Chapman
“Some people are not meant to live among humans. Some are born with too much evil.”
— Free Candy and Telescopic Views by Red Lagoe
I scrolled down the street happily taking everything in- laughing kids playing in a pile of leaves with a fulty white American Eskimo puppy; an elderly couple sizing on their rockers, sipping fo steaming mugs; some of my classmates walking on the opposite side of the street, wearing thick flannels; a father and daughter on a blue lawn tarp, carving a smiling face onto their bright orange pumpkin. I wished I could live in October year-round. Taking one more cleansing breath of the cool, intoxicating air, I let myself inside.
— November Eve by Bridget Nelson
A lonesome breeze sends dead leaves skittering up the street. Bradbury would love it. I watch them for a moment before I notice the air smells faintly of cotton candy, and there go those alarm bells again. I’m just going to say for the record that if it’s an evil clown out there, I’ll shit my pants in three different languages.
— Let The Dark Do The Rest by Kealan Patrick Burke
Roxanne knows how to make me feel better, to make me feel like I’m someone else entirely. She and I couldn’t be more different: I’m a woman with a past, and she’s a woman with a future. I tell myself if I can only hold on tight to her, then maybe I can have a future too.
— Twin Flames by Gwendolyn Kiste
He was about to whisper Roddy’s name when the room was suddenly illuminated in an amber light, and Ben saw what might have been ripped straight from his ten-year-old mind. The thing that would haunt him for years to come. The thing he’d see in nightmares that would jerk him awake, his shirt soaked with sweat, his heart racing as if he’d just finished a marathon.
— Scattergoods by Kevin Kangas
My Final Thoughts on October Screams: A Halloween Anthology –
October Screams is the perfect collection to read to kick off the spooky season. Covering such a wide variety of Halloween-related things, each story in the collection is so unique that all horror fans are sure to find something here that they love.
Thanks for reading!
And a shout-out to the publisher for sending a copy my way! Look at all those fun goodies that came with it!