20 Spooky Plays Perfect for Your October Reading List

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

October 20, 2017

Looking to kick your theatre chops up a notch with some spooky reading (while also growing your play library)? Check out these twenty plays perfect for the Halloween season, full of horror, murder, ghosts, and mysterious incidents that remain unexplained.

The Rocky Horror Show by Richard O’Brian

That sweet transvestite and his motley crew did the Time Warp on Broadway in a 25th anniversary revival. Complete with sass from the audience, cascading toilet paper, and an array of other audience participation props, this deliberately kitschy rock ‘n’ roll sci-fi gothic musical is more fun than ever.

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The Edge of Darkness by Brian Clemens

After her disappearance several years ago, Emma finds that her memory is damaged; there is much she does not recognize or understand. Why does she appear familiar with certain Russian phrases; why has she such a horror of a harmless silver bell, of a portrait on the wall, of knives? Is she, in fact, Emma Cranwell? Behind these questions looms a menacing mystery which finally erupts into violence and horror.

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Edith in the Dark by Philip Meeks

As midnight swiftly approaches, Edith gives a reading of her work. Not one of her cherished children’s tales, but her terrifying early horror stories. As the stories unfold it becomes clear all is not what it seems…Someone in the attic is hiding a deadly secret. Edith in the Dark is a haunting glimpse into the nightmarish inner world of an author whose reputation for cosy childhood innocence is only half the story.

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Hound of the Baskervilles by Tim Kelly, based on the story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Holmes’ most spine-chilling mystery is placed in a modern setting in this version – with suspense, humor, and terror. Sir Henry is heir to the vast Baskerville fortune, a legacy that comes with a family curse: death at the fangs of a horror that prowls the moor. Only Holmes can stop the beast. While mysterious lights signal Baskerville Hall and the hound terrifies the countryside, the sleuthing begins and suspicion falls on sinister servants, butterfly collectors, ladies in distress, and escaped convicts. Who wrote the letter that summoned the hound? Is Sir Henry’s romance with the lovely Kathy doomed? Is the supernatural at work?

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The Innocents by William Archibald

This story of unspeakable horror begins when a young governess arrives at an English estate to oversee two precocious, orphaned youngsters. There’s also a motherly cook, but these four aren’t alone – they’re haunted by fears and phantoms and by ghastly shadows. The governess and cook are terrified, but the children are possessed by the spirits and welcome their visitations. The governess learns the spirits are those of the former caretaker and maid, both perverse, who corrupted the souls of the innocents. In a final scene, full of fear and terror, she learns that the two are now inseparable the evil and the innocents.

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Rope by Patrick Hamilton

For the mere sake of adventure, danger, and the “fun of the thing,” Wyndham Brandon persuades his weak minded friend, Charles Granillo, to assist him in the murder of a fellow undergraduate, a perfectly harmless man named Ronald Raglan. They place the body in a wooden chest, and to add spice to their handiwork, invite a few acquaintances, including the dead youth’s father, to a party, the chest with its gruesome contents serving as a supper table. The horror and tension are worked up gradually; thunder grows outside, the guests leave, and we see the reactions of the two murderers, watched closely by the suspecting lame poet, Rupert Cadell. Finally they break down under the strain and confess their guilt.

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Night of the Living Dead Live by Christopher Bond, Trevor Martin, Dale Boyer, Mike Trebilcock, and Jamie Lamb (from George Romero’s 1968 film)

Six strangers, a lonely farmhouse, surrounded by brain-eating zombies – what could go wrong? Night of the Living Dead™ Live is a fun and hilarious re-imagining of George A. Romero’s legendary classic. Set in 1968 and presented in all black and white, it literally feels like the film has been brought to life and placed onstage. The play lovingly examines the movie itself, the period in which it was made, and the film’s undying influence on the horror genre.

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The Woman in Black by Stephen Mallatratt, based on the novel by Susan Hill

The framework of this spine tingler is unusual: a lawyer hires an actor to tutor him in recounting to family and friends a story that has long troubled him concerning events that transpired when he attended the funeral of an elderly recluse. There he caught sight of the woman in black, the mere mention of whom terrifies the locals, for she is a specter who haunts the neighborhood where her illegitimate child was accidentally killed. Anyone who sees her dies! The lawyer has invited some friends to watch as he and the actor recreate the events of that dark and stormy night. A classic of the genre.

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Early Frost by Douglass Parkhirst

A tender yet gripping story of two sisters, Hannah and Louise, who live in an old house. Hannah has been considered peculiar ever since childhood, when a missing playmate was believed carried off by gypsies. When Alice, the sisters’ niece, comes to live with them, Hannah insists that she is the missing child. While playing in the attic, Alice is visited by a strange illusion, which almost leads her to solve the mystery of fifty years ago. Hannah, fearing her long guarded secret will be discovered, tries to silence the girl. It is this tense cat and mouse game between the two that brings the play to a startling climax and affords the actors an opportunity for skillful playing, while holding the audience spellbound.

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Three Japanese Ghost Stories by David E. Eliet

Three plays based on Japanese ghost stories:

The Vampire Cat of Nabeshima: A Demon Cat who kills the Princess O Toyo and assumes her shape in order to suck the blood of Prince Hizen.
Urashima: Once, long ago, a fisherman by the name of Urashima took his boat out to sea where he catches a gigantic turtle who turns out to be a beautiful immortal named Eshun.
The Ghostly Maiden (The Peony Lantern): A samurai’s betrothed dies of a broken heart while waiting for her lover to return.

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Frankenstein by Victor Gailanella, based on the novel by Mary Shelley

Set in nineteenth-century Switzerland, this classic tale of horror and suspense details the ill-fated experiments of young Dr. Frankenstein as he attempts to fathom the secrets of life and death. Purchasing cadavers from two unsavory grave robbers, he give life to a creature both hideous and touching—and so physically powerful and mentally twisted that he soon brings death or destruction to all who stand in his way. Adhering more closely to the original novel than did the famous motion picture versions, the play blends moments of brooding terror and sudden shock with questions of morality and the dangers of unrestrained scientific inquiry.

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Dracula by Steven Dietz, from the novel by Bram Stoker

This new adaptation restores the suspense and seduction of Bram Stoker’s classic novel to the stage. As Count Dracula begins to exert his will upon the residents of London, they try to piece together the clues of his appearances—in a valiant attempt to save themselves from a hideous fate. Rich with both humor and horror, this play paints a wickedly theatrical picture of Stoker’s famous vampire.

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Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Jeffrey Hatcher, from the novella by Robert Louis Stevenson

A new and shocking version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic tale of depravity, lust, love and horror. On the fog-bound streets of Victorian-era London, Henry Jekyll’s experiments with exotic “powders and tinctures” have brought forth his other self—Edward Hyde, a sensualist and villain free to commit the sins Jekyll is too civilized to comprehend. When Hyde meets a woman who stirs his interest, Jekyll fears for her life and decides to end his experiments. But Hyde has other ideas, and so the two sides battle each other in a deadly game of cat-and-mouse to determine who shall be the master and who his slave. With multiple Hydes portrayed by members of the cast.

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The Uninvited by Tim Kelly, from the novel by Dorothy Macardle

Seeking to escape the demands of life in London, Pam Fitzgerald and her brother, Roddy, an aspiring playwright, discover a charming house in the west of England, overlooking the Irish Sea. The house, Cliff End, has long been empty, and they are able to purchase it at a suspiciously low price from crusty Commander Brooke, the village curmudgeon. The reason is soon apparent: The house has an unsavory reputation. Fifteen years earlier a murder may or may not have occurred by the gnarled tree that can be viewed from the parlor window. Slowly the Fitzgeralds begin to sense the evil spirit that still inhabits the house, announcing its presence with a sudden, bone-chilling cold. Their housekeeper’s cat will not enter the nursery, where the sound of a weeping woman adds to the tense atmosphere, and the scent of a flowery, exotic perfume called mimosa comes and goes. The village doctor, the local gossip, and a former governess visit, with strange stories of the beautiful Mary Meredith, who once lived in the house and of the striking, unstable Carmel, who posed for a painting that led to her destruction. With the help of Mary’s daughter, Stella, a beautiful young girl whose mysterious birth holds the key to the puzzle, and a seance arranged by an actress friend of the Fitzgeralds, Cliff End is forced, at last, to reveal its dark secrets. The action then builds steadily to a truly terrifying climax, in which the ghost is discovered to be not only real but dangerous.

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by John Heimbuch and Jon Ferguson, from the short story by Washington Irving

In the quaint village of Sleepy Hollow, stories of wonder and strangeness surround the legend of a mighty headless Hessian. When the humble schoolteacher Ichabod Crane vies for the hand of the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel, the townsfolk might protest, but it is ultimately the Horseman who will decide his fate.

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The Witches by David Wood, from the novel by Roald Dahl

This is a faithful adaptation of Roald Dahl’s classic story in which Boy and his Grandmother defeat the Grand High Witch and her followers, who are holding a Conference in an English seaside hotel. During the struggle, Boy gets turned into a mouse.

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The Canterville Ghost by Tim Kelly, from the story by Oscar Wilde

An average American family acquires historic old Canterville Chase – complete with ghost! Sir Simon, the sporting spirit, succeeds in making life miserable. Then the Americans strike back. Pam and Wendy, daughters of the new owners, attack the poor ghost with cans of hairspray and deodorant! Sir Simon feels this is hardly fair, so he enlists the aid of some friends: Hester the Horrid, Lady Joan the Graveless, the Vampire Duchess, and other things that go bump in the night. Life is hectic and fantastically funny around Canterville Chase until the real solution to the problem of the galloping ghost is discovered.

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A Dybbuk by Tony Kushner, adapted from the play by Joachim Neugrochel

A Dybbuk is the story of a gifted rabbinical student named Chonen who begins dabbling in the mystical text of the Kabbalah. He seeks to use it to prevent the arranged marriage of the girl he is in love with, Leah. Instead, it causes him to die and to possess her body. What follows is a wonderful supernatural investigation as to why Chonen has become ‘a dybbuk’ and how to separate him from Leah without killing her.

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The Haunting of Hill House by F. Andrew Leslie, from the novel by Shirley Jackson

Cut off from the outside world by its remote location and shunned by all who know its forbidding and sinister reputation, Hill House has remained empty and silent except for the daily visits of its grumbling caretaker, Mrs. Dudley. Its isolation is broken by the arrival of Dr. Montague, an investigator of supernatural phenomena who has been granted a short lease by the present owner. His mission is to delve into the morbid history of the house and to come to grips with the occult forces that have made it uninhabitable for many years. He is joined by three others, all unacquainted, but all having their particular reasons for accepting Dr. Montague’s invitation to share his Hill House sojourn. Their visit begins with jovial informality, but their sensibilities are soon jolted by strange and eerie occurrences.

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Dark Rituals by Thom Bennett

Deep in the northern woods, world famous anthropologist Anne McCauley is researching the dark rituals of America’s first nations. Aided by local Shaman Vernon Rivers, she is learning the spine chilling tale of Windigo, a legendary cannibal creature. Suddenly her son and despised daughter in law return to her secluded cottage. A series of diabolical events is triggered that brings the audience and Anne McCauley face to face with the darkest fears that lurk in all of us: that territory where the supernatural blends with murder and ritual death.

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Interested in theatre history? Check out our other features below!

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, a dramaturg, and a photographer.
Thumbnail: Photo by Tertia van Rensburg on Unsplash