Pumpkins, and skeletons, and witches … oh my! Halloween is just around the corner and it’s time to prepare for a scare with the Somerset County Library System of New Jersey (SCLSNJ). The system will offer a series of programs for children, teens, and adults that will explore haunting legends, ghosts, and more.
In addition to the program series, the system also offers a large selection of scary stories for all ages. According to an article on Parents.com, “reading scary stories can not only provide great entertainment (think of the nail-biting chase scene in Jack and the Beanstalk), they also help kids through key developmental stages.”
To help child and teen readers discover new Halloween favorite reads, Katie Thomas, young adult librarian at SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch, interviewed children’s author J.A. White. White’s books include the newly released “Nightbooks,” and the “Thickety” series (both series available at SCLSNJ).
Thomas: What sparked your interest in writing scary stories?
White: I’ve always been drawn to anything scary: books, movies, haunted houses, Halloween, creepy neighbors, carnivals, etc. I can’t say exactly why. My dad loved reading horror novels, so maybe that was part of it. Strangely enough, I was extremely frightened of the stories I read as a kid. I had trouble sleeping due to nightmares, and I remember staring at my closet door for hours, sure that a clawed hand was going to reach out and open it at any moment.
Thomas: How much were you like your main character, Alex, when younger? Did you also write scary stories?
White: This is probably the most autobiographical novel I’ll ever write. I loved horror movies and writing scary stories when I was a kid and, just like Alex, I was a little embarrassed by it. Part of my reason for writing “Nightbooks” is to help kids understand that they never have to defend or be embarrassed by the things they love, no matter how “weird.”
Thomas: What was your favorite scary book or story growing up?
White: As a little kid, it was “Where the Wild Things Are,” and then the novels of John Bellairs, particularly “The House with a Clock in its Walls.” As I got older, I started reading all these collections of dark fairy tales and urban legends, which terrified me, and then I got really into Ray Bradbury. Both “The October” and “Something Wicked This Way” remain my favorites today.
Thomas: What advice do you have for young writers?
White: Read, of course, but not only in one genre. Even if you love fantasies, for example, read realistic fiction, biographies, history books—don’t just assume you know where your interests lie without a lot of exploration, because you might be surprised. If you’re serious about writing, set a routine and write every day.
Explore these spooky selections for children, tween, and teen readers:
- “School of the Dead” by Avi
- “Zombie Baseball Beatdown” by Paolo Bacigalupi
- “Doll Bones” by Holly Black
- “The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding” by Alexandra Bracken
- “Took” by Mary Downing Hahn
- “Greenglass House” by Kate Milford
- “The Shrunken Head” by Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester
- “The Gathering” by Dan Poblocki
- “Splendors and Gloom” by Laura Amy Schlitz
- “The Screaming Staircase” by Jonathan Stroud
For SCLSNJ’s complete catalog visit: catalog.sclsnj.org.
Discover SCLSNJ’s series of Halloween programs:
History of Witchcraft (adults)
October 9, 7-8 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Watchung Library branch, located at 12 Stirling Road in Watchung
Explore the history of witchcraft from the Middle Ages through Colonial America with Morris County College Professor Debbie Hoeflinger. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/908149.
Inside the Real World of Ghost Hunting (teens and adults)
Paranormal consultant Joanne Emmons will present a behind-the-scenes look at paranormal investigations and recordings of electronic voice phenomena.
- October 10, 7-8:30 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s North Plainfield Memorial Library branch, located at 6 Rockview Avenue in North Plainfield. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/843266.
- October 17, 7-8:30 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Hillsborough Library branch, located at 379 South Branch Road in Hillsborough. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/938549.
Jack the Ripper: Profiling a Serial Killer (adults)
October 13, 2-3:30 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Bridgewater Library branch, located at 1 Vogt Drive in Bridgewater
Explore the story of Jack the Ripper with Dr. Mark Vogel. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/599425.
The President is Dead (teens and adults)
October 16, 7-8 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Peapack & Gladstone Library branch, located at the Municipal Complex on School Street in Peapack
Historian and author Louis L. Picone will discuss stories about the presidents’ deaths, burials, and more. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/876666.
Professor Led Book Discussion: “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley (adults)
October 11, 1:30-3 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch, located at 42 Mountain Boulevard in Warren Twp.
Book discussion of “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley with guest Professor Lisa Tucker from Raritan Valley Community College. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/859129.
Frankenstein Film Series
SCLSNJ’s Somerville Library branch, located at 35 West End Avenue in Somerville
- October 11, 6:30-8 p.m.: “Frankenstein,” 1931
- October 13, 1-3 p.m.: “Bride Of Frankenstein,” 1935
- October 18, 6:30-8 p.m.: “Son Of Frankenstein,” 1939
- October 20, 1-3 p.m.: “Ghost Of Frankenstein,” 1942
- October 25, 6:30-8 p.m.: “Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman,” 1943
- October 27, 1-3 p.m.: “House Of Frankenstein,” 1944
“Frankenstein,” 1931: Film Showing and Discussion (adults)
October 12, 1-3 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch, located at 42 Mountain Boulevard in Warren Twp.
Discuss the 1931 film “Frankenstein.” Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/885262.
Witchy Woman: The History of Witchcraft (teens and adults)
October 13, 2-3 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Manville Library branch, located at 100 South 10th Avenue in Manville
Actress Alisa Dupuy will portray Eliza Blackhart of the Breckenvale Coven and explore the history of witchcraft and Halloween. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/901624.
“Stranger Things” Escape Room (grades 4 – adult)
October 15-17, 3-8:30 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s North Plainfield Memorial Library branch, located at 6 Rockview Avenue in North Plainfield
Grab up to three of your friends and see if you can escape the Demogorgon before time runs out. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/893672.
Night of Horror (adults)
October 23, 7-8 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Mary Jacobs Memorial Library branch, located at 64 Washington Street in Rocky Hill
An evening review of clips from some of the spookiest horror films ever made. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/901514.
Haunted New York, Eerie Tales, and Spooky Sights (adults)
October 24, 7-8 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Bound Brook Memorial Library branch, located at 402 East High Street in Bound Brook
Dressed in Victorian period costume, professional actress and author Leanna Renee Hieber will share ghost stories from New York City and New Jersey. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/903052.
Legends and Lore of Somerset County (adults)
October 25, 7-8:30 p.m.
SCLSNJ’s Warren Twp. Library branch, located at 42 Mountain Boulevard in Warren Twp.
Author Michael Haynes will present stories of ghostly encounters, monster sightings, and spooky occurrences that have put Somerset County on the map for weird activity.
Raconteur Radio Presents: Frankenstein (adults)
October 25, 7-8:30 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Mary Jacobs Memorial Library branch, located at 64 Washington Street in Rocky Hill
Raconteur Radio presents a stage production of the classic science fiction drama, in the style of an old-time radio play. This program is funded by the Friends of Mary Jacobs Library. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/893943.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Ichabod Crane and Washington Irving (adults)
October 27, 2-3 p.m. at SCLSNJ’s Manville Library branch, located at 100 South 10th Avenue in Manville
Actor Neill Hartley presents an interactive one-man interpretation of Washington Irving’s story about the the headless horseman and Ichabod Crane set in the sleepy world of Tarrytown, New York. This program is funded by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities. Register: sclsnj.libnet.info/event/631501.
Registration is required to attend all programs. For more information: SCLSNJ.org.