The sun is setting earlier every day and the air should be turning crisp soon, along with the leaves on the trees and we’re reaching the end of September.You know what that means - spooky season is here!
There’s a variety of scary, creepy or downright horrific reads that fit right in with spooky season. We have four pages of Read Feed lists devoted to them, after all! The stories that always get to me, though, at this or any time of the year, are those about cryptids and folkloric creatures - animals and monsters that people claim exist or truly believe they’ve seen, but have never been documented by science. Think: Sasquatch, the Loch Ness monster, mermaids, unicorns or local legends like the Snallygaster or Goatman. Is it just humankind’s fertile imagination at work - seeing things in the shadows of the water or the forest, or adding mythical powers and features to very real animals? Or are these creatures really out there? Below is a gathering of such creatures to be found in the pages of literary fiction.
The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff
This is the debut novel from Groff, author of Fates and Furies and Arcadia. Groff brings the reader into the life of Wilhelmina Cooper and her hometown of Templeton, NY, on the shores of Lake Glimmerglass. Wilhelmine Cooper returns home to Templeton, NY, after the end of an affair with her older, married professor. Picturesque Templeton is on the shores of Lake Glimmerglass, and shortly after Willie’s arrival, a prehistoric monster surfaces in the lake. Other murky history surfaces when Willie learns her mother has kept her biological father’s identity a secret her whole life. As Willie researches her family tree, she learns more about the town’s past, including the monster.
The Round House by Louise Erdrich
In 1988 on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota, Geraldine Coutts, a tribal enrollment specialist, is brutally attacked and raped. She is traumatized and refuses to identify the attacker, and her family is shattered in the aftermath. Fourteen-year old son Joe, with help from his father, Judge Bazil Coutts, and his friends, attempts to piece together what happened. Eventually to save his family he must confront the wiindigoo, a cannibalistic creature that could “cast its spirit inside of a person.”
The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
Set in England in 1893, Cora Seaborne finds the death of her husband as much a relief as it is a cause for sadness. With a keen mind and a passion for the natural sciences, Cora escapes London and the memories of her unhappy marriage, along with her 11-year old son and her son’s nanny. Cora finds refuge in the fresh air and natural world of coastal Essex, where the locals are obsessed with sightings of a long-rumored legendary creature that roams the marshes claiming human lives. Cora believes the beast might be a heretofore undiscovered species, while William Ransome, the local vicar, believes the rumors stem from a moral panic. Perry's novel Melmoth also features another mythical creature.
The Terror by Dan Simmons
As the men on board the HMS Terror are stranded for another summer as they search for the Northwest Passage, they face dwindling supplies and crushing ice. More terrifying is that they are being stalked by a monstrous predator lurking behind the ice. With the death of the expedition’s leader, Captain Francis Crozier takes command and the crew attempts to escape south across the ice pack. As another winter approaches, Crozier and his men fear there is no escape. Simmons also wrote The Abominable, which may or may not feature yetis.
The Sea House by Elisabeth Gifford
In 1860, Alexander Ferguson moves into the Sea House on the windswept coast of the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. As he takes up his post as parish priest, he hopes to uncover the truth behind the legend of the selkies - seal people who have been spotted off the coast of Scotland for centuries. Flash forward 130 years and newlyweds Ruth and Michael move into the house, now dilapidated, and they work on creating a home for the family they hope to start. As they begin to renovate, they make a shocking discovery: a skeleton of an infant with legs and feet fused together. Ruth must try to uncover the secrets of the past while facing her own traumatic past.