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Autumn is the perfect time for creepy tales, and not just because Halloween is approaching. The days are getting shorter, there's a chill in the air. So what better way to spend your evenings than with a warm drink and a scary book?
Here are some of my favorite creepy middle grade books (with one older book snuck in).

Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley

Whenever Edgar visits Uncle Montague in his dark old house—full of subtle sounds and moving shadows—his uncle tells him stories. These mostly take the form of cautionary tales, ending in a child's, often gruesome, death. Is it a coincidence that each story is linked to a physical object in the house? And how does uncle Montague know these stories when in every case the person they occurred to is dead? Edgar begins to wonder if there's more to his mysterious uncle than he'd ever guessed.

I love short stories. I think they work remarkably well for horror as they often leave much to the reader's imagination. Priestly does a great job of weaving these separately scary stories together into one sinister framework. (I must also mention the Edward Gorey-esque artwork by David Roberts which is gorgeous.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

The Blackwoods live in a grand old house on the family estate. That is, half of them do. The other half died tragically six years ago when arsenic was mixed into the sugar bowl one evening. Now, mentally impaired Uncle Julian, big sister Constance, who was accused and then acquitted of the murders, and Merricat, the youngest in the family are the only three living there. Shunned by the people of the town, and terrified of setting foot beyond the garden, Constance hasn't left the grounds in six years. Merricat and Constance live a secluded but insularly happy life until an estranged cousin shows up and everything changes. Even Merricat's magic rituals are unable to stop tragedy from striking and secrets from being revealed. But even then, things might not be what they seem.

So, this is the non-MG book I've snuck in here. But it's worth it. While this book isn't exactly spooky, it's definitely got a creep factor, especially as you begin to realize the truth of what happened to the Blackwoods. Merricat is my absolute favorite example of an unreliable narrator. Even though it's clear from the beginning that we're getting her perspective, it's difficult to foresee just how *different* that perspective will turn out to be.

Tell the Story to its End by Simon P. Clark

When Oli finds a strange creature living in his uncle's attic, he decides to keep it to himself. After all, his mum, aunt, and uncle are all keeping secrets from him—why should he tell them anything? The creature, which Oli learns is called "Eren," is unspeakably old, and its unpredictable moods can turn from comfortingly sympathetic to dark and sinister in a breath. Oli, wary but fascinated is drawn ever inward by the creature's stories. Soon enough, Oli finds himself telling his own stories to Eren. But is it his imagination, or is Eren getting bigger and growing stronger? Oli may just find out that stories can be more powerful than he thought.

Tell the Story to its End (or Eren, in the UK) is a dark and beautiful examination of the enduring power of stories. In its literary and poetic way it manages to be both creepy and thought-provoking. Do stories need to be real to be true?

Lockwood & Co. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

For the last fifty years England has been overrun by ghosts. They only come out after dark, and only children can see them—and fight them. Ghost hunting agencies have sprung up throughout the country, but nobody has been able to identify the cause of what is known simply as The Problem.
Amongst this, Lucy Carlyle is a talented psychic agent looking for work in London. She finds a job at the tiny ghost hunting agency of Lockwood & Co. run by charismatic and somewhat reckless Anthony Lockwood. After a series of dangerous encounters and a case gone horribly wrong, the team find themselves drawn into a job that might be beyond their abilities. It involves surviving the night in the most haunted house in England, and a staircase surrounded by the screams of the dead.

All the Lockwood books are equally amazing and are definitely among my top MG reads of all time. Stroud has an uncanny knack for being both super creepy and super funny in the same book. I couldn't put these books down, even though it meant reading some remarkably heart-thumping scenes by the light of my bedside lamp, surrounded by darkness.

Doll Bones by Holly Black

Zach, Poppy, and Alice are longtime friends. They've always been there for each other and always played together. But things start to change when Zach, pressured by his father, starts to question whether he's too old for make-believe games and friendships with girls. The friendship looks doomed to break apart until a curious incident reunites the three. Poppy begins to be haunted by a china doll. Or, more accurately, by the ghost of the murdered girl whose hair and ground up bones make up the doll. The doll must be returned to the murdered girl's grave or Poppy will face the ghost's wrath. The three set out on a quest to return the doll and find the truth about the murdered girl. Along the way, their friendship continues to be tested as they encounter setbacks, coming to the realization that being 12 makes adventuring a lot harder in the real world than in stories.

This book is wonderfully creepy without being very scary. Ultimately rather than being about ghosts, it's about the struggle of growing up and the way friendships adapt and change as you grow. But, if you're looking for an adventure with a healthy creep factor, this is the one for you.

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