Scary stories and Halloween go hand in hand. And the Highlands and Islands have provided the perfect backdrop for many spooky tales over the years.
For the more timid among us, there are also plenty of seasonal family stories that are more about Scottish treats than tricks.
But whether it’s a horror movie or a mind-blowing book, many families consider entertainment a luxury this year. As winter approaches, energy costs and economic uncertainty have many of us rethinking our priorities and budgets.
If only there was a free source of entertainment, with no monthly subscription fees and no fees for services rendered.
Of course, that’s what the library is there for. To mark the festive season, staff at the High Life Highland Library and Live Life Aberdeenshire have compiled a list of Halloween stories with links to the Highlands and North East Scotland.
Whether it’s a bizarre thriller about folk magic and small-town life, a sinister crime or a family adventure through fallen leaves, the list runs the gamut of tastes.
And, yes: there are plenty of Draculas and haunted castles.
What’s new for Halloween at the library?
Highland Inspired Halloween Tales for Kids:
- Hag Storm by Victoria Williamson – This children’s book follows the adventures of a young Rabbie Burns. After encountering a witch stone in the family field, it’s up to him to save his family before a climactic Halloween ceremony in the old kirk.
- “Every Witch Way” by Kirsty Ferry – “A Halloween trip through Scotland in a yellow motorhome, with just a touch of magic.” It’s a slogan to inspire any young Highland reader.
For a more grown-up take on the Highland Halloween tale, try these:
- “Pine” by Francine Toon – Lauren and her father Niall live alone in the Highlands, in a small village surrounded by a pine forest. When a woman trips on the road one Halloween night, Niall drives her home in his van. In the morning she left. But that’s just the first of many local mysteries Lauren must solve before her story ends.
- “The Man in the Shadows” by Margaret Kirk – The first in a trilogy of ‘Highland Noir’ thrillers, Ms. Kirk’s debut novel follows former Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler on the hunt for clues to two brutal murders in Inverness. The following books in the trilogy, “What Lies Buried” and “In the Blood”, take readers from Inverness to the Orkney Islands.
- “Broken Ground” by Val McDermid – This fifth installment in the legendary detective writer’s Karen Pirie series takes the titular cold case detective to the Scottish Highlands to unravel another historical mystery. Although part of a series, readers say newcomers should have no problem enjoying this book as a standalone book.
- “Highland Superstitions” by Alexander Macgregor – Previously published as a series of articles in Celtic Magazine, this collection delves into the depths of Highland folklore to discuss druids, fairies, witchcraft, second sight, Halloween, holy wells and lochs.
Don’t forget the quirky Aberdeenshire
The friendly staff at the Live Life Aberdeenshire branch library have put together their own list of Halloween-themed novels with a local twist. With over 40 titles in all, there’s a lot of browsing to do before deciding on the right pick for this Halloween.
Here’s just a taste of what’s on offer:
- “Dracul” by Dacre Stoker and JD Parker – The year is 1868 and 22-year-old Bram Stoker has locked himself in the tower of an abbey to confront a vile and unholy beast. “Dracul” not only reveals the true origins of Dracula himself, but also of his creator.
For the full list of seasonal stories compiled by Aberdeenshire Librarians, go to Live Life Aberdeenshire website.
Highland Halloween treats from local authors
And if you’re going to spend some money on a little seasonal entertainment this year, why not support some local authors?
Inverness-based publisher Pauline Mackay is well known for her whimsical “Wee MacNessie” stories, which she translates into numerous languages. But she also worked with local illustrator Marjory Tait on a perfect Halloween picture book:
- “Happy Broom Day” – The witches of Scairay Island celebrate “Broom Day”, but Greta stays home alone with her cat. Wouldn’t she like to participate in the cat and wand race or the three handle race? And why did she have to be rescued from a cauldron that smelled like frogs? Being different can be dangerous, especially when you’re a witch!
Another Highland author whose work is available at Ablekids Press bookstore on Market Brae in Inverness, Ceitidh Hutton delves into the Gaelic roots of Halloween. Here is a taste of this Gaelic tale from the author:
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[Halloween library ideas for a budget-friendly holiday]