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Halloween Special: Scary Books that became Scary Movies


There’s a slew of spooky stories that have become feature films, some for good and others for ill. Here’s a selection of some of our favorites!

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

UK First Edition
Published by Bloomsbury

First published in 2002 by Bloomsbury in the UK, Coraline is a dark fantasy children’s novella by the famed British author Neil Gaiman. In 2003 it won both the Hugo and Nebula Award for best novella.

When Coraline Jones moves into a new apartment with her busy and distracted parents, she finds another world behind a locked door in her new home. Behind that door is a copy of her flat, complete with an ‘Other Mother’ who lures her in with promises. She beckons Coraline to stay in the other world by allowing her ‘Other Mother’ to sew black buttons over her eyes. Coraline hesitates, and the “Other Mother’ kidnaps her parents. On her quest to find them, Coraline discovers ‘Other Mother’ has stolen the souls of children she’s previously captured. 

In 2009 the stop-motion film Coraline was released by Focus Features. 


Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin 

In 1967, American writer Ira Levin released his second book, Rosemary’s Baby, which quickly became the bestselling horror novel of the 1960s, selling over 4 million copies.

Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy move into an old apartment building that is rumored to have a disturbing history. Rosemary would like to start a family, but her husband, a struggling actor, wants to wait until his career is established. He begins spending time with some odd neighbors, and at the same time, his career begins to pick up speed. Guy finally decides the time is right for a baby. A haunting dream plagues Rosemary, where her husband is replaced by a yellow-eyed beast during the baby’s conception. Once she’s pregnant the difficulties compound on her through intense sickness and cravings for raw meat. Rosemary realizes that her husband’s friends aren’t quite what they seem.

The novel was adapted into a film in 1968, directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow. 


The Birds & Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

Although most famous for her novel Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier was also a prolific short story writer of horrifying tales. The British author was born in London in 1907 and lived most of her days out in Cornwall, England until her death in 1989.

Two Du Maurier stories were made into popular horror films. “The Birds” was first published in a 1952 collection The Apple Tree.

In 1963, the story was adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock, and the short story collection was re-released as The Birds and Other Stories. In the story, a small Cornish seaside town becomes the target of bird attacks which grow in intensity until the situation grows dire.

Not after Midnight and Other Stories was a collection of five long stories published in 1971 by Gollancz in Britain, and in America by Doubleday as Don’t Look Now. In 1973, a film was made, directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a married couple traveling to Venice after the accidental death of their daughter. In both the book and the story, the married couple meet a pair of sisters, one of whom is psychic and warns them of the dangers of staying in Venice. The husband also has the gift of second sight but misinterprets the signs he is given and unwittingly runs into his own murder. 


The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

The Exorcist is a 1971 horror novel by William Peter Blatty. The story of a twelve-year-old girl possessed by a powerful demon was inspired by a tale Blatty heard while an undergraduate student at Georgetown University. The novel topped the New York Times best-seller list for 17 weeks and stayed on the list for 57 consecutive weeks, selling more than 13 million copies.

In 1973, The Exorcist was adapted into a horror film of the same title. The film was the first-ever horror film to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture. Blatty won an Academy Award for his screenplay, as well as Golden Globes for best picture and best writing. In 2011, a 40th-anniversary edition of The Exorcist was released that the author celebrated as his second draft and the version he hoped would be remembered by people as it was more polished. 


I Know What You Did Last Summer  by Lois Duncan

1975 Archway Paperback
for sale by Stella Used Books

I Know What You Did Last Summer is a 1973 suspense novel by Lois Duncan that was written for young adults. A group of four teenagers tangled in the complexities of personal relationships accidentally hit a boy on a bike while driving home from a party. They tell no one, but the following summer they begin to receive notes stating ‘I know what you did last summer’ and it becomes clear that someone dangerous is pursuing them through their lies.

In 1997 a film loosely based on the novel was released starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillipe, and Freddie Prinze Jr, the adaptation was more slasher film than novel-based, following the success of 1996’s celebrity-heavy Scream flick that revitalized horror movies.

In 2010, Little Brown reissued the novel with modernized content, including giving the characters cell phones and updating the War the brother fought in from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War. 


Psycho by Robert Bloch

Psycho is a 1959 thriller written by American writer Robert Bloch. One of the most influential horror books of the 20th century, the novel centers around Norman Bates, a middle-aged bachelor and care-taker of the Bates Motel. Norman is dominated by his puritan mother who gets murderously jealous of his interaction with other women, so when Mary Crane stops at the motel looking for a place to hide, things begin to get messy.

In 1960, Bloch’s novel was adapted into a feature film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, which is rated number one on the America Film Institute’s one hundred most thrilling films list and has given us one of the most iconic shower scenes in modern film.


The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris

The Silence of the Lambs is a psychological thriller written in 1988 by Thomas Harris as a sequel to Red Dragon (1981). Both novels feature the cannibalistic serial killer Hannibal Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling.

Starling, a young FBI trainee, is charged with interviewing Hannibal Lecter, a brilliant forensic psychologist who is serving nine life terms at a mental institution for a series of murders. Through their odd relationship, Starling collects clues that help her solve the case of a serial murderer named Buffalo Bill while trading that information for personal details about her traumatic life growing up as an orphan. 

 A feature film was released in 1991, starring Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, and it won five Academy Awards. 


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

First Illustrated Edition published by Henry Colburn and Richard Bentley in London, 1831
for sale by Quill & Brush

Published in 1818 in London when Mary Shelley was just 20 years old, Frankenstein is arguably the first science fiction novel. Reportedly created as a contest to write the best ghost story on a couples getaway with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, step-sister Claire Clairmont, and Lord Byron in Geneva in 1816. The story, about a scientist obsessed with his experiments who creates a way to reanimate dead objects, creating a man from corpses, and once alive, he becomes out of control and dangerous.

1931 Movie Tie-in
for sale by John W. Knot, Jr Bookseller

Frankenstein has spawned an entire culture of horror stories, films, and plays. Universal Studio’s 1931 Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff is perhaps the most iconic. Other classic monster movies from the 1940s include Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein and Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man. In 1994, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a box-office hit, starring Kenneth Branagh, Robert DeNiro, and Helen Bonham Carter amongst others. 


The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The Amityville Horror was initially published in 1977 by Prentice Hall as “A True Story” by Jay Anson.  The book is based on a recount of the paranormal experiences that occurred after a young family moved into a large Dutch Colonial house in the town of Amityville, NY. The house has a sad history, though, where on November 13, 1974, Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents, two brothers, and two sisters. In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into the house, and in less than a month they vacated due to the frightening occurrences in the house.

Movie tie-in
for sale by Turtleman Books

A number of movies have been released related to The Amityville Horror, the two major films based on the book being the 1979 horror classic starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder, and a 2005 remake of the same name starring Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George.  The 1979 version grossed over $80 million, becoming one of the highest-grossing independent films in history. 


The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

The Body Snatchers is a novel by American author Jack Finney. It was first serialized in Colliers in 1954. Published in the US by Dell and the UK by Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1955, this science fiction tale tells of tiny spore-like seeds that travel to earth from space to a small town in California and create pods that replace sleeping humans with duplicates that can’t feel emotion or reproduce. 

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Fotonovel
for sale by Dark Hollow Books

The first film version was retitled Invasion of the Body Snatchers and released in 1954. In 1978, Dell released a revised version of the novel that accompanied a new movie, and a Fotonovel with 350 color stills from the film was released as well.


The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

The Woman in Black 1st UK Edition
for sale by Peter Harrington

The Woman in Black is a 1983 horror novel by English author Susan Hill.

This ghost story about a mysterious specter that haunts a small fishing town, heralding the deaths of children, has been adapted for film and stage.

Daniel Radcliff starred in the 2012 film version, and Stephen Mallatratt’s stage adaptation has been the second longest-running play in the history of London’s West End.


Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

Published in 1995 by G.P. Putnam and Son’s, Practical Magic is a novel by American author Alice Hoffman.

The Owens sisters have always been outsiders – raised in a Massachusetts town by their Aunt, witches who teach them ‘practical magic’ and cursed to bring doom upon any man they love.  

In 1995 the novel was adapted into a popular film of the same name starring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman. Midnight margaritas!


Spooky Reading!

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