The witching hour is fast approaching, and to mark the upcoming arrival of ghouls and spooks, witches and weird creatures upon us (and we’re not just talking about the rogue trick-or-treaters that come knocking at the door), The Reader Online presents a collection of the most spine-chilling, bone-shaking poems that will send a shiver through you this Hallowe’en – and perhaps for some time afterwards. Just to be on the safe side, it’s best to read them aloud to someone to share the scare – or otherwise get some comfort.
Hallowe’en – Robert Burns
Where better to start than with the night itself? A haunting but also entertaining account of the traditions and ceremonies of All Hallows Eve in the heart of the West of Scotland, replete with ‘charms’, ‘spells’ and ‘prophecy’.
The Apparition – John Donne
A warning from a wronged lover, or something far more sinister…? Just who is the more fearful apparition here is something to work out, but it’s certain that the notion of a ‘poor aspen wretch…bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat’ is something to bring you out in chills…
Haunted Houses – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
‘All houses wherein men have lived and died/Are haunted houses.’ – a sobering thought; should we be apprehensive or accepting of ‘the harmless phantoms on their errands’? Longfellow would seem to suggest the latter…
The Lake – Edgar Allan Poe
No selection of Hallowe’en poetry would be complete without something from Poe; this tale about a ‘lone lake’ may not seem terrifying at first, but delving deeper under the surface will leave you quite unnerved…
Witches’ Chant (from Macbeth) – William Shakespeare
Three witches gather round about the cauldron to stir up some ‘double, double toil and trouble’ in this classic Hallowe’en chant. A terrifying list of ingredients if there ever was one – we wonder if there’s a shop where you can buy ‘eye of newt’ or ‘toe of frog’? (the Witches’ Chant sits along some other very spooky stories in A Little, Aloud for Children)
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came – Robert Browning
A journey towards a Dark Tower is certainly a test for a medieval knight, and this poem is full of dark and intimidating images that conjure up Hallowe’en-ish scenes and sounds, including ‘a howlet of a bat’ and a ‘skull-like laugh’ of a mysterious, suspicious man. Complex and creepy.
The Witch – Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
Another vision of a witch, which contrasts with the cackling, plotting kind evoked by Shakespeare, yet perhaps this one is even more haunting, with its melancholy figure of a little maiden with ‘white feet’ and hands of stone lingering, and begging to be lifted over the threshold and let into the house…
The only Ghost I ever saw – Emily Dickinson
Surely it would be hard to be scared of the ghost Emily Dickinson encounters, with soft footsteps and shy laughter – yet she certainly does seem shaken, suggesting that appearances can be deceptive – especially when it comes to sceptres.
Nine Little Goblins – James Whitcomb Riley
This gaggle of goblins sitting on a fence are an inquisitive bunch and funny in appearance and behaviour, but are they real or just illusions? Never mind green-glass eyes and black faces; the promise of ‘ a supper of cold mince-pies’ is perhaps a far more horrifying prospect for many.
Fear No More The Heat Of The Sun – William Shakespeare
After all that scariness, it’s time to take some courage from this poem – another piece by Shakespeare. If you’re feeling a little too spooked out, remember these words: “No exorcise harm thee! Nor no witchcraft charm thee!” (this poem can also be found in our anthology, Poems To Take Home)
If these super spooky poems have got you in the mood for more Hallowe’en reading, then why not join us for our two free Haunted Library events in Wirral this week? Members of our Wirral team will be ready to give a good scare with lots of stories and Hallowe’en fun and games at:
- Seacombe Library, 3.30-4.30pm, this afternoon (Monday 29th October)
- Beechwood Library, 3.30-5.00pm, Tuesday 30th October
Call 0151 650 5466 for more information.
If you can’t make it along, you can still get your Hallowe’en reading treat by visiting our A Little, Aloud blog, which as part of last week’s half-term celebration of the book featured a day dedicated to going Round About the Cauldron.