Shiver and Shake | Mechanics' Institute

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Shiver and Shake

Halloween will be different this year. But it doesn't mean we have to give up all the chills and thrills of the season. If you're a goosebumps fan and haunted houses excite you, we've compiled a list of terrifying tales, frightening films and spooky virtual tours guaranteed to make you shiver and shake all the way up to Halloween night. 

Terrifying Tales:

Agatha Raisin and the Haunted House by M.C. Beaton - Returning from an extended stay in London, Agatha Raisin struggles to adjust to the pace of the English countryside. Bored, she finds herself falling for charming new neighbor Paul Chatterton and together, they offer to help a cranky old woman solve the mystery of paranormal occurrences in her home. Gentle scares for the faint-hearted. 

Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco - Ben and Marion Rolfe rent a surprisingly inexpensive country mansion in the remote North Fork of Suffolk County, New York for an entire summer. By midsummer, the family is plagued by bizarre experiences, personality shifts and inner turmoil that seem to be emanating from the house itself. This 1973 American horror novel was adapted into a movie by the same name in 1976. 

Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin - After his mother's death, eleven-year old Marcus is sent to live with his great aunt, a reclusive painter with a haunted past. During the lonely hours while his aunt is in her studio, Marcus visits the deserted 'Grief Cottage,' as the locals call it because a boy and his family disappeared during a hurricane 50 years before. Their bodies were never recovered and the house has stood empty ever since. A powerful exploration of grief, remorse and the memories that haunt us. 

Haunted Houses of California by Antoinette May - Paranormal occurrences aren't just the stuff of fiction, they are real and recorded. May's book includes stories of several haunted residences in San Francisco, including the Atherton House, the San Francisco Art Institute, and the Haskell House.

I Remember You by Yrsa Sigurðardóttir - A chilling tale of three friends who set to work renovating a rundown home in a remote, isolated location in Iceland. Partly based on a true story, this title won the Icelandic Crime Fiction Award. 

Rooms by Lauren Oliver - Wealthy Richard Walker has died, leaving behind his country estate full of his belongings. His estranged family -- bitter ex-wife Caroline, troubled son Trenton and unforgiving daughter Minna have arrived for their inheritance. But the Walkers soon find that they are not alone. Also available as an ebook.

The Shape of Night by Tess Gerritsen - After an unspeakable tragedy, Ava Collette flees from Boston and rents a remote cottage in Maine. At Brodie's Watch, Ava finds peace and encounters the ghost of a long-dead sea captain. While he feels very real, she also learns that every woman who has ever lived at Brodie's Watch has died under suspicious circumstances. 

The Voices by F.R. Tallis - A page-turner about a film soundtrack composer who moves his family into a faded Victorian home in north London in 1976 and becomes obsessed with the voices he hears through the baby monitor. 

White is for Witching by Helen Oyemeyi - In Dover, England, the grand and cavernous Silver family house with its hidden passages and buried secrets has been home to four generations of Silver women -- Anna, Jennifer, Lily, and now Miranda, who lives there with her twin brother, Eliot. Oyemeyi's eerie mystery novel is a meditation on race, nationality and family legacies. 

The Widow's House by Carol Goodwin - Hoping to rejuvenate their waning writing careers, a married couple moves into Riven House, an aging estate in New York's Hudson River Valley. A spellbinding ghost story. 

Frightening Films:

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - This 1947 film based on Josephine Leslie's novel written under the pseudonym of R.A. Dick stars Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison. An impoverished young widow moves into a seaside cottage with her young daughter and loyal maid. She quickly learns the place is haunted by its previous owner, a salty sea captain. Part romance and part fantasy, this 1947 film directed by Joseph Mankiewicz received an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.

The Haunted Castle - Frederich Willhelm Murnau's moody drama about a storm-bound manor and the grim mystery that lurks within was a precursor to his later classic horror films, including Nosferatu, Faust and The Last Laugh. For viewing on Kanopy, MI's streaming platform.

The Haunted House - A bank clerk ends up in a seemingly haunted house that is actually a thieves' hideout. This 1921 silent film was written and directed by Buster Keaton and Edward Kline. This comedy won't make you shiver in fright but will bring on a chuckle or two. Streams on Kanopy.

The Haunting - A trained anthropologist tries to conduct an experiment on Hill House, a place that has claimed the lives of several young inhabitants, in the hopes of identifying the source of its terror. Based on Shirley Jackson's 1959 novel, The Haunting of Hill House, this 1963 film starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom remains as creepy as ever. 

The House on Haunted Hill - This 1959 campy horror film about a millionaire (Vincent Price) who offers $10,000 to each member of a diverse group if they spend the night in a haunted house is also based on Shirley Jackson's novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Streams on Kanopy.

Paranormal Activity - If you happen to be a Blair Witch fan, you'll enjoy this film shot security-camera style. It's a familiar story: a young couple moves into their first home only to find it's haunted. The movie excels at psychological creepiness, which spawned a series of films, all with the same title. The seventh Paranormal Activity installment is scheduled to hit theaters in 2022. 

Psycho - Beware the motel that adjoins an eerie Victorian mansion, especially if its owner evenly remotely resembles Anthony Perkins. More psychologically creepy than gory, you haven't truly lived until you've experienced this classic horror film by Alfred Hitchcock. 

The Shining - Technically not a house but an isolated and snowbound resort hotel sheltering an aspiring writer and his family during the off-season. When the hotel's ghostly occupants drive the caretaker, played by Jack Nicholson, insane, his wife and young son find themselves in grave danger. This classic film, based on Stephen King's 1977 novel by the same name, was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Truly terrifying. 

The Uninvited - A pair of siblings purchase a surprisingly affordable, lonely cliff-top home in Cornwall, England. Soon, they're caught up in a strange, romantic triangle from beyond the grave. The 1944 film is based on Dorothy Macardle's novel Uneasy Freehold. This delightfully shivery movie was filmed on location in San Francisco and Phoenix, AZ.

Spooky Locations and Virtual Haunted House Tours:

The Pittock Mansion - This 46-room mansion in Portland, Oregon was the home of Georgina and Henry Pittock, publisher of the Oregonian newspaper. Both passed away less than five years after its completion. Visitors to home, now a museum, report strange happenings such as ghostly sightings, weird flowery smells and moving objects. The 3-D virtual tour is truly impressive.

The Stanley Hotel - Chances are you've seen this hotel before, perhaps not in person but as the film location in the movie, The Shining. In 1974, Stephen King and his wife arrived at the hotel just before it shut down for the winter. The only room available was Room 217, which is where King drew the inspiration for his 1977 novel, The Shining. There's a remarkable backstory here as to what happened to King while staying at the hotel so be sure and take the walking tour.

The Winchester Mystery House - For 30 years, Sarah Winchester renovated her mansion nonstop. Legend has it that the widow believed that the ghosts of every person killed by a Winchester rifle haunted her, so she remodeled her home to thwart the spirits.

Posted on Oct. 22, 2020 by Celeste Steward