The Halloween season is the perfect time to curl up with a spooky story and let your imagination venture to some shadowy places. We love a good horror narrative around this time of year, so we decided to give our film-loving eyeballs a rest and kick it old school with some audible terror tales — and who better to read these scary stories than the horror icons we love? We recommend listening to them in the dark.
Christopher Lee reads Dracula
There is no one better suited to read this Bram Stoker classic than the actor who played Count Dracula in the Hammer Films horror series. Christopher Lee’s performance as king of the undead was vastly different from fellow screen vamp Bela Lugosi’s flamboyant version. In Hammer’s 1958 film Dracula, aka Horror of Dracula, Lee barely uttered a word (his lines totaled 13), but he imbued the role with a never-before-seen intensity and eroticism.
Sissy Spacek reads Carrie
We recently made a case for Stephen King’s novel Carrie as being stranger and more radical than you probably remember. “The book features a female protagonist (and largely concerns female characters) — an unusual move for a male genre-fiction novelist scrambling to sell his first book, and one that King wouldn’t repeat until Firestarter,” writes our own Tom Hawking. “It’s structured as an epistolary novel, an idea that King would never really use again, and its constantly shifting point of view tends to disorient the reader.” But Brian De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation certainly holds its own, with a hysterical performance from Piper Laurie as Carrie’s religious zealot of a mother and then 20-something Sissy Spacek as the tortured high school student who unleashes her telekinetic powers on her bullying classmates. Here, Spacek relives her role for an audiobook performance of King’s blood-soaked tale.
Clive Barker reads The Hellbound Heart
Macabre author Clive Barker reads his 1986 horror novella that spawned the writer’s popular Hellraiser film series (the first movie was directed by Barker). This is where readers first discovered the Lament Configuration, a puzzle box that opens a gateway to hell, inviting its sadistic inhabitants, the Cenobites, to barter for human souls.
Vincent Price reads Edgar Allan Poe
Gentleman horror icon Vincent Price was an incredibly gifted actor who could shift easily from theater dramas, to film mysteries and noir, to B-level fright films. Price became popular with genre cinema fans after his turn in a number of low-budget films produced by B-movie king Roger Corman for American International Pictures. The Corman-Poe cycle starred Price in several Edgar Allan Poe adaptations: The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), Tales of Terror (1962), The Comedy of Terrors (1963), The Raven (1963), The Masque of the Red Death (1964), and The Tomb of Ligeia (1965). The House on Haunted Hill actor not only lent a certain level of credibility to the productions, but his stage background helped him deliver a polished performance, still maintaining the wit of Corman’s style.
Boris Karloff reads The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow
Boris Karloff, who secured his place in horror history playing Frankenstein’s monster in a number of 1930’s pictures for Universal Studios, narrates Washington Irving’s 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleep Hollow.” You can listen to the full 1959 LP this recording is taken from over here — which includes “Rip Van Winkle.”
William Peter Blatty reads The Exorcist
William Peter Blatty wrote the scary story to end all scary stories in 1971. The Exorcist, about the turmoil a family experiences when their little girl becomes possessed and the frightening exorcism that follows, was made into a chilling film directed by William Friedkin. Beatty would go on to direct the third installment in the Exorcist series in 1990, an underrated movie starring George C. Scott, Brad Dourif, and Exorcist star Jason Miller. Blake’s sonorous voice lends a palpable atmosphere to the recording.
Tim Curry reads Stephen King
The always entertaining Tim Curry terrified audiences in the 1990 film adaptation of Stephen King’s It as the murderous, cruel clown Pennywise. The English actor, who has a background in theater, returns to the King universe for an engaging reading of “Crouch End” by the author. It’s a Lovecraftian tale that references the Cthulhu Mythos.
Roddy McDowall reads Lovecraft
English star Roddy McDowall is best known as a Hollywood man–about–town who was close friends with the biggest and brightest stars, including longtime pal Elizabeth Taylor. He’s also known for having an encyclopedic knowledge of film and an incredible personal library containing over 1,000 books about the history of Tinseltown and Broadway. But horror fans came to know McDowall as the cowardly late-night television host Peter Vincent in Tom Holland’s 1985 horror film Fright Night. In the above clip, McDonnell reads H. P. Lovecraft’s 1922 short story “The Hound,” (influenced by the work of Poe) using his distinctive voice to capture our imagination.
Robert Englund reads Ambrose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce, who had a penchant for the dark and dreary, wrote the 1890 short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” The twist ending feels reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode or a bad dream. A Nightmare on Elm Street icon Robert Englund seems perfectly cast as the narrator for Bierce’s twisting mystery.
Basil Rathbone reads Edgar Allan Poe
Shakespearean actor Basil Rathbone, known for his appearances in ‘30s horror films like Tower of London and Son of Frankenstein, offers his take on Edgar Allan Poe’s 1842 short story “The Masque of the Red Death.” The South African-born English actor has a pitch-perfect voice for classic horror tales that we could listen to for hours.
Alfred Hitchcock reads ghost stories
Master of Suspense Alfred Hitchcock narrates the intro from his 1962 horror album Ghost Stories For Young People, read by actor John Allen. It’s brief, but sets the tone for a nostalgic trip back in time.
Mia Farrow reads Rosemary’s Baby
Rosemary’s Baby film star Mia Farrow returns to the surreal and Satanic world of Roman Polanski’s 1968 chiller with a reading of the book the movie is based on, by Ira Levin. While this is just an excerpt, the full audiobook is available for purchase over here (and seems to be free with an Audible trial).