Real Scares for Halloween

Read, Watch, and Listen

  • Lore by Aaron Mahnke (Podcast)

“Lore is a bi-weekly podcast (and upcoming TV show) about the dark historical tales that fuel our modern superstitions. Each episode explores the world of mysterious creatures, tragic events, and unusual places. Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction.”

Each thrilling episode of Lore is filled to the brim with the historical events, and listeners can sign up to receive emails with links to the host’s sources. Great for sceptics and true believers alike!

Available for free on most podcast apps

“A podcast about the unsung heroes of myths and legends-the monsters! We’ll take a look at some monster-centric myths and legends, some not so ancient cryptids, and everything in-between and try to sort out possible origin species, biological impetus for why they do what they do, and why we love to hear about them”

This is another podcast that discusses folklore, but with more of a focus on the stories than the facts behind them. The episodes are also much shorter and less frightening than the typical Lore episode, making them perfect for a younger audience.

Available for free on most podcast apps

“Trapped in the Sierra Nevadas during the bitter winter of 1846, nearly 90 members of the Donner and Reed families longed for California’s “Promised Land.” But an untried shortcut became a death warrant for half of them victims of madness, death, and cannibalism. The program re-creates the Donner Party’s journey from family journals, newspaper accounts, and interviews with historians and descendants.”

The fate of the Donner Party is one that is still remembered by many Americans today. It’s a horrifying tale of real people who broke one of the most universal cultural taboos to survive impossible conditions.

Available on Hoopla

“In the early 20th century, the average American medicine cabinet was a would-be poisoner’s treasure chest: radioactive radium in health tonics, thallium in depilatory creams, morphine in teething medicine and potassium cyanide in cleaning supplies. While the tools of the murderer’s trade multiplied as the pace of industrial innovation increased, the scientific knowledge (and political will) to detect and prevent the crimes lagged. This changed in 1918, when New York City hired its first scientifically trained medical examiner, Charles Norris. Over a decade and a half, Norris and his chief toxicologist, Alexander Gettler, turned forensic chemistry into a formidable science, sending many a murderer to the electric chair and setting the standards that the rest of the country would ultimately adopt. Based on the best-selling book by Deborah Blum.”

Monsters that lurk in the dark are all well and good, but sometimes the scariest monsters are the ones sitting across the dining room table from you! This documentary explores the use of poison as a murder weapon, and how such criminals were eventually brought to justice.

Available on Hoopla

“Beneath the streets of Rome lies an ancient city of the dead known as the catacombs, a labyrinth of tunnels, hundreds of miles long, a cemetery for the citizens of ancient Rome. In 2002, maintenance workers stumbled through an opening in one of the tunnel walls and discovered a previously unknown complex of six small rooms, each stacked floor to ceiling with skeletons. It was a mass grave, locked away for nearly 2,000 years. Who were these people? Why were so many interred in one place, piled atop each other? And most important, what killed them? NOVA’s forensic investigation opens up new insights into the daily life and health of Roman citizens during the heyday of the mighty Roman Empire.”

What is better at Halloween time than skeletons and mysteries? Nothing. Grab your apple cider and watch as these forensic scientists try to scare up the answers to this century old mystery.

Available on Hoopla

“In the heart of Indianapolis in the mid 1960’s, through a twist of fate and fortune, a pretty young girl came to live with a thirty-seven-year-old mother and her seven children. What began as a temporary childcare arrangement between Sylvia Likens’s parents and Gertrude Baniszewski turned into a crime that would haunt cops, prosecutors, and a community for decades to come. When police found Sylvia’s emaciated body, with a chilling message carved into her flesh, they knew that she had suffered tremendously before her death. Soon they would learn how many others–including some of Baniszewski’s own children–participated in Sylvia’s murder, and just how much torture had been inflicted in one HOUSE OF EVIL”

The Sylvia Likens Case is one of the most chilling crimes to have ever happened in Indianapolis. The case even inspired the 2007 movie An American Crime starring Ellen Page. Find out the truth behind the horror in this page turning true crime novel.

Available from the Frankfort Library (364.1523 DEA)

“Death in the City of Light is the gripping, true story of a brutal serial killer who unleashed his own reign of terror in Nazi-Occupied Paris. As decapitated heads and dismembered body parts surfaced in the Seine, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu, head of the Brigade Criminelle, was tasked with tracking down the elusive murderer in a twilight world of Gestapo, gangsters, resistance fighters, pimps, prostitutes, spies, and other shadowy figures of the Parisian underworld.”

While we can lay claim to the likes of Ted Bundy and Jeffery Dahmer, serial killers are far from a uniquely American phenomenon. During WWII, Commissaire Georges-Victor Massu had to navigate a city torn between opposing forces to find the monster stalking the streets of Paris.

Available from the Frankfort Library (364.152 KIN)

“It began in 1692, over an exceptionally raw Massachusetts winter, when a minister’s daughter began to scream and convulse. It ended less than a year later, but not before 19 men and women had been hanged and an elderly man crushed to death. The panic spread quickly, involving the most educated men and prominent politicians in the colony. Neighbors accused neighbors, parents and children each other. Aside from suffrage, the Salem Witch Trials represent the only moment when women played the central role in American history. In curious ways, the trials would shape the future republic.”

Nearly everyone has heard of the Salem Witch Trials that took place in colonial Massachusetts, but the whole story is often lost behind the many portrayals seen in books and movies. Schiff goes into amazing detail, showing the complex lives lived by the people of Salem, as well as the madness and desperation that fueled to trials.

Available at the Frankfort and Mulberry Libraries (345.744 SCH)

“Forget Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula. In nineteenth-century New England another sort of vampire was relentlessly ravishing the populace, or so it was believed by many rural communities suffering the plague of tuberculosis. Indeed, as this fascinating book shows, the vampire of folk superstition figures significantly in the attempt of early Americans to reasonably explain and vanquish the dreaded affliction then known as consumption. In gripping narrative detail, folklorist Michael E. Bell reconstructs a distant world, where on March 17, 1892, three corpses were exhumed from a Rhode Island cemetery. One of them, Mercy Brown, who had succumbed to consumption, appeared to have turned over in her grave. Mercy’s family cut out her heart, which still held clots of blood, burned it on a nearby rock, and fed the ashes to her ailing brother. To Mercy’s community she had become a vampire living a spectral existence and consuming the vitality of her siblings. From documents written as early as 1790 to a recent conversation with a descendant of Mercy Brown, Bell investigates twenty cases in which the vampiric dead were exhumed to save the ailing living. He also explores a widespread folk tradition that has survived generations, as ordinary people today strive to battle extraordinary diseases like Ebola or AIDS with a deeply rooted belief in their power to heal themselves.”

Vampire lore has changed a lot since Count Dracula first menaced the silver screen. The monsters once had more to do with the fear of disease than teenaged love triangles. Bell digs through centuries of New England and European folk lore to explore the deadly origins of the New England vampire lore.

Available from the Frankfort Library (398.450 BEL)

“No disease the world has ever known even remotely resembles the great influenza epidemic of 1918. Presumed to have begun when sick farm animals infected soldiers in Kansas, spreading and mutating into a lethal strain as troops carried it to Europe, it exploded across the world with unequaled ferocity and speed. It killed more people in twenty weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty years; it killed more people in a year than the plagues of the Middle Ages killed in a century. Victims bled from the ears and nose, turned blue from lack of oxygen, suffered aches that felt like bones being broken, and died. In the United States, where bodies were stacked without coffins on trucks, nearly seven times as many people died of influenza as in the First World War.”

Monsters and murderers are scary, but both pale in comparison to a disease that infected nearly a third of the world’s population. Today, most of us think of the flu as a mild inconvenience, but in 1918 a strain of it immerged that would eventually claim between 20 and 50 million lives. Barry tracks the probably origin of the strain, as well as the contemporary scientists who studied it.

Available from the Frankfort Library (614.5 BAR)

Share this Post