In CeeCee’s world, the Fourth of July is all about ghosts, goblins and hot summer storms…not so much those loud, obnoxious fire hazards called fireworks. Seriously, y’all, most of us are living in hot, dried out tinderboxes these days, so let’s cool it with the pyrotechnics. Also, that shit is obnoxious AF.
Either way, I digress. Here, CeeCee has rounded up her favorite horrific summertime tales. Read on…if you dare!!!
For Campy Horror Movie Buffs
Summer of Night by Dan Simmons
This is a fun summer read for fans of Goonies, Stand by Me, and It. The author took his time with the setting and really lured me into the sleepy Midwestern town where kids filled their long summer days playing pickup baseball, riding around town on bikes and poking around in forbidden places. I also really enjoy a good campy horror movie setting, which this book delivers in spades. There’s a lot of creepy stuff happening to these kids. There’s reanimated corpses, a demonic truck driver, gun-toting bullies and the Mount Everest of haunted schools! A word to the wise: Read this with the lights on.
It by Stephen King
I’ll start off by saying that the new movies are the perfect blend of camp and cheese, yet they don’t hold a candle to this massive tome. I mean, how could they? Stephen King took his sweet time with every character, allowing me to almost become one with all the kiddos. In horror stories, this is crucial because the fear isn’t real unless you can truly get inside the characters’ minds. And trust me, there are some truly frightening scenes involving oodles of monsters and ghoulies. Just to name a few, we’ve got Frankenstein’s monster, a man-eating bird, a pervy homeless leper — even an animated Paul Bunyan statue. Mister King really pulled out all the stops on this one! My only gripe is that he needed to rethink that concluding chapter, which was beyond cringe…and not in a fun spine-tingling way.
For the Disney Fans
The Watcher in the Woods by Florence Engel Randall
There’s no denying that The Watcher in the Woods is one of the darkest, spookiest Disney movies ever made. The old, paled-faced Bette Davis shrouded in black, the isolated estate surrounded by dark woods, the clairvoyant little girl – everything about it gave me the willies back when I was a kid. Oh heck – who am I kidding? This movie still gives me nightmares! The little hairs on the back of my neck still stand on end when I think about the funhouse scene where a blind-folded Karen appears in the mirror maze mouthing the word “help.” Or when the little bratty sister falls into a trance and writes the name “Karen” backwards on a dusty window. And who can forget the motorcross scene where a message from beyond saves Jan from getting reamed by a flying motorcycle? Go here to read my book v. movie comparison.
For the Forever Young Adults
Camp So-and-So by Mary McCoy
Magic and mayhem ensue as five cabins of campers fight for their lives in a series of paranormal events. Controlled by nefarious puppet masters, they must outsmart the evil overlords in order to survive. Very “out of the frying pan into the fire.” This book is nothing if not imaginative! It reads like a play, complete with a mysterious all-omniscient narrator, opening scene descriptions and theatrical actors. I’ve never read anything like this, so hats off to the author for pulling off a new and daring concept!
Closed for the Season by Mary Downing Hahn
This right here might be Mary Downing Hahn’s best piece of work! I love everything about this book—the murder mystery, the secretive small townsfolk, the spooky dilapidated theme park—it’s all good fun! I also just love a summer story involving kids tooling around town on their bikes looking for adventures and mysteries to solve. I really enjoyed watching the friendship flourish between the adorkable boy next door (think Kimmy Kibbler meets Erkle) and the new kid on the block Logan. They make a great crime-solving team, and I really enjoyed tagging along on their adventures!
Deep, Dark and Dangerous by Mary Downing Hahn
The illustrious Mary Downing Hahn is the Barbara Michaels of children’s books. I’ll download one of her titles whenever I have a hankering for a gothic ghost story devoid of predictable romance. As expected, this book is heavy on atmosphere and light on the mystery. But hey, this is for middle-grade readers, so I’m not going to hate too much on the plot twist. I will say that any astute ghost story aficionado will immediately figure out the situation with Sissy, the world’s worst girl-next-door who will never go away. Seriously, she makes Kimmy Kibbler of Full House look like a respectable houseguest, and that’s not OK! Aside from my gripes, this is a great G-rated book for young readers who, like me back in my misspent youth, like to walk on the dark side. Parents, have no fear! I’ve seen scarier Scooby Doo cartoons, but the gloomy scenes in the overgrown graveyard and on the misty bank of the haunted lake were enough to give me the shivers on a hot summer’s day.
The Lake by Natasha Preston
This book is on the short list for my top scary summer reads due to the nostalgic summer camp setting and the whole Fear Street vibe. The whodunnit guessing game was fun, and I really liked playing along with the conspiracy theory game. Could the killer be in cahoots with the uptight camp director in high-waisted shorts? Or could it be the hunky CIT’s with questionable backstories? Maybe it’s the quiet, Nervous Nelly CIT with secrets to hide? The ending had me…what are the kids saying these days…all shook! I really thought I had the conspiracy theory all worked out, but then the author ripped the rug out from under me with the grand finale!