‘Tis the Season (For All Things Spooky): Best Halloween Books and Documentaries

Here’s our pick of books to read and documentaries to watch to get you in the mood for Halloween. Warning: this list is not for the faint-hearted.
by Uptime Staff / 2021-10-13

It’s spooky season.

We love Halloween here at Uptime. Who doesn’t? It’s a time where everyone can get together, share some scary stories, do some pumpkin carving, come up with fun Halloween costume ideas, make some Halloween cupcakes, cookies, and candy, go trick or treating and eat other people's Halloween cookies, and candy... then proceed to scare the living hell out of each other. (Haunted house, anyone?)

There’s something for everyone. Whether you prefer to sit down with some popcorn and watch Freddy Krueger skip through blood-soaked dreams in "Nightmare on Elm Street", or watch everyone's favorite hockey mask-wearing psychopath ruin some people’s lakeside holidays in "Friday the 13th". Or maybe, like us, you like nothing more than sitting down with a nice glass of something and digging into the best horror novels by scary book royalty Stephen King - if psycho clown killers are your thing, for instance, "IT" may be for you. Or if you fancy a cozy night in with your most adoring fan, try "Misery" out for size. 

The one thing both film and fiction books have in common is that you can rest easy knowing that none of it is real. But what if we had something that could take that comfort away? 

quotation marksAfter all, the only thing spookier than a fictionalized horror story is a TRUE horror story.

So settle down as we give you a haunting list of some of the most creepy, unsettling, or just downright spooky Knowledge Hacks on Uptime. From unpacking the mindset of psychopaths to famous real-life female serial killers, this list of Knowledge Hacks have been hand-picked especially because of their ability to creep you out and keep you awake at night. But don’t blame us - we tried to warn you. Continue at your own peril...

Lady Killers - Tori Telfer

On Uptime

History is littered with stories of the most fabled of murderers - serial killers.

We may instantly think of Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy or the Zodiac Killer, but did you know there have been many female serial killers too? Stories of serial killers have long fascinated readers, but many stereotypes surround the figure of the 'murderer' - one being that they're inevitably male. Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer's stories made the news all around the world, but the media still seems hesitant when it comes to portraying murders committed by women.

Tori Telfer unleashes the true stories of the most brutal female serial killers, unearths society’s historical dismissal of women’s potential for blood-drenched violence, and the potential consequences this can create. 

1. Murder is an equal opportunity occupation

History dictates that most gruesome murders and acts of sheer violence are more often committed by men. Society is used to the idea that women are 'the weaker sex' and incapable of aggressive behavior, which is why examples of women's brutality are dismissed as statistical glitches. The bare-faced truth is that female serial killers have always been around; we’ve just been taught to not notice them. 

2. We don’t recognize the existence of evil in women

From Maleficent to Bellatrix Lestrange of Harry Potter fame, independent women in fiction are represented as the enemy - evil, erotic and uncontrollable. 

When confronted with actual women murderers, such as Kate Bender, Marie Ann Cotton, or Elizabeth Ridgeway, we often reach for archetypal images to make them feel safer and more familiar. We compare female serial killers to witches, demons, and monsters, dehumanizing them to avoid the fact that they are real-life people who live among us and fulfill social roles.

3. Violence is not a gendered trait

As a part of human nature, violence is just as likely to be a female trait as it is to be male. Women will kill for many of the same reasons that men do. 

Yet historically women are seen as the weaker sex. In some cases, female serial killers have been dismissed by police even after confessing to their crimes - as the idea of them being able to do such wicked things was considered frivolous. This has allowed cunning killers to go undetected for years, simply because they lived in a society that emphasized female passiveness, and people thought they 'didn't have it in them'.

quotation marksAnd just for the record, this denial is exactly why so many charming grandmothers managed to kill for decades without being suspected of a thing.

To find out more about this book's fascinating insights, have a look at our Lady Killers book summary on Uptime.

Crazy, Not Insane - Alex Gibney & Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis

On Uptime

Looking for your next documentary about a serial killer? This serial killer documentary takes a slightly different angle: exploring the question of what makes someone turn to murder in the first place.

There may be a number of reasons why someone may murder another person - love, passion, anger, or even revenge. But what makes someone carry on killing?

Alex Gibney’s documentary explores why people become serial killers alongside Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis. 

quotation marksThe more we understand about the genesis of violence, the harder it is to draw a line between guilt and innocence, sanity and insanity.

1. The embodiment of evil

Stories can be scary. But there’s nothing more frightening than what real life can muster up.

Dr. Dorothy's research showed that serial killers commonly suffer from dissociative identity disorder. But it also showed that serial killers are made, not born. So how do you 'make' a serial killer?

2. Homicidal Trauma

Children with signs of homicidal tendencies have commonly either suffered abuse in their pasts, or had naturally arising brain dysfunctions. 

It was this work that led Dr. Dorothy to the chance to examine Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. It also led to her being called as an expert witness to numerous trials of serial killers. 

3. There’s no such thing as a sociopath

Dr. Dorothy’s research brings into question the existence of real sociopaths. She believes that no one can commit atrocities such as serial murders and have nothing medically wrong with them, aside from a sheer lack of empathy. 

With this in mind, Dr. Dorothy starts to reach the conclusion that it is nurture, not nature, that makes a serial killer. 

To find out more about these ideas, you can have a look at our Crazy, Not Insane summary on Uptime.

All The Ghosts in the Machine - Elaine Kasket

On Uptime

Do you believe in ghosts?

Whether or not you think you've ever had an interaction with the paranormal, author Elaine Kasket is about to make you a whole lot more uncomfortable about something you use every day of your lives: the internet.

What happens to our social media profiles when we die? What will happen to yours? Will it continue to exist online long after you've died? In this book, Kasket underlies the intricacies of a very modern phenomenon: online grieving, and the social media profiles of the deceased.

1. The handling of the data and profiles of users who has passed away is still largely unregulated

It is now increasingly evident that a larger number of mourning families and friends are finding consolation in continuing the digital legacy of their dead. Families have full access to the account of a 'memorialized' user, including messages.This is probably the most contentious point, and something that comes about only because social media companies confuse data privacy and mourning.

""Social media makes the deceased much more present. The internet is tailor-made for continuing bonds; it makes it exceptionally easy."

2. Modern psychology still underestimates the devastating impact of grief

Seeing as so many of us will experience loss of a loved one at some point in our lives, it's surprising that grief has not been handled more seriously as a serious psychological condition. At the very least, American psychiatrists have recently agreed that bereavement triggers the same symptoms as that of serious depression. However, psychiatrists still cling to a rudimentary model of bereavement that includes a set of stages, rather than addressing the fact that grief can be a very personal, very isolating journey, and that many of us handle it in very different ways. There's no set time it takes to recover from grief; it's completely down to each individual, their relationship with the bereaved, their characteristics and tendencies, etc.

3. Cultural differences in how we approach mourning has made it harder for us to grieve

In many cultures, grief and bereavement are important social events that involve large groups of people.Western culture, on the other hand, is more inclined towards individualistic mourning. Comparatively, its social and familial support for those in mourning feels lacking. Online mourning creates a mourning style reminiscent of care cultures - and our summary will tell you exactly why ;)

Most people don't really think about what's going to happen with their social media accounts after they die. Have you?

This is exactly why we should focus on coming up with post-mortem privacy laws parallel to property inheritance laws. To keep exploring these unsettling insights, have a look at our All The Ghosts in the Machine book summary.

Want more Halloween books?

We’ve got a whole host of spooky Knowledge Hacks that are sure to scratch your itch for the weird and wonderful Halloween reads. Whether you’re looking for the best Halloween books for adults, children, or anyone who wants to dig into the best horror novels around - we’ve got you covered.

If you’re left wanting more, be sure to try:

  • Fear Is Not An Option: just in time for Halloween, we've got Monica Berg’s study of how we can conquer our fears
  • The Soul of an Octopus: What does it mean to have a soul? Sy Montgomery unpacks the extraordinary world of one of our most extraordinary animals, the octopus, relating her experience with them with that of the human soul. (Plus, octopuses just look so creepy, don’t they.)
  • Outwitting the Devil: Have you ever wondered what it would be like to face up to the devil himself? Napoleon Hill debunks the roots of evil in his imagined conversation with Lucifer himself. 
  • Bad Blood: If you want a story scarier than fiction, maybe you'd be interested in the story of Theranos. When you are promised the world but are left with nothing but deception and lies, who can you blame? John Carreyrou unravels the scarier-than-fiction tale of ex- businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes.
Wrap Up

Who knew that psychology books and horror stories had so much in common? 

With Halloween just around the corner, now's the time to get your research done and look for your book character costumes or novel ideas for scaring your friends. And what better way to get you in the mood for the spooky season with these psychological horror reads?

But you know what’s really scary? The state of your bedroom. Learn how to clean it up a bit here.

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