For many, the spirit of Halloween is best captured in the timeless stories and legends we relive each year. As the fateful day approaches, we’ve compiled a list of our 13 favorite spooky poems. While each can be enjoyed alone (if you’re brave enough!), these poems are even spookier when read aloud. We’ve collected our favorite excerpts from these poems, but reading the poem in its entirety is definitely worth your while. So turn out the lights, gather around the fireplace, and try not to get too scared.
“Haunted” by Siegfried Sassoon
An evil creature in the twilight looping,
Flapped blindly in his face. Beating it off,
He screeched in terror, and strightway something clambered
Heavil from an oak, and dropped, bent double,
To shamble at him zigzag, squat and bestial.
Headlong he charges down the wood, and falls
With roaring brain–agonidy–the snap’t spark–
And blots of green and purple in his eyes.
Then the slow fingers groping on his neck,
And at his hear the strangling clasp of death.
“A Child’s Nightmare” by Robert Graves
Through long nursery nights he stood
By my bed unwearying,
Loomed gigantic, formless, queer,
Purring in my haunted ear
That same hideous nightmare thing,
Talking, as he lapped my blood,
In a voice cruel and flat,
Saying for ever, “Cat! … Cat! … Cat!…”
“The Vampire” by Conrad Aiken
What shape was this who came to us,
With basilisk eyes so ominous,
With mouth so sweet, so poisonous,
And tortured hands so pale?
We saw her wavering to and fro,
Through dark and wind we saw her go;
Yet what her name was did not know;
And felt our spirits fail.
“The Haunted Oak” by Paul Laurence Dunbar
He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
And he raised his hand to the sky;
But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
And the steady tread drew nigh.
Who is it rides by night, by night,
Over the moonlit road?
And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
What is the galling goad?
“The Spider and the Fly: A Fable” by Mary Howitt
“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“‘Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you did spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many pretty things to show when you are there.”
“O no, no,” said the little fly, “To ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.”
‘The Night Wind” by Eugene Field
Have you ever heard the wind go “Yooooo”?
‘T is a pitiful sound to hear!
It seems to chill you through and through
With a strange and speechless fear.
‘T is the voice of the night that broods outside
When folk should be asleep,
And many and many ‘s the time I ‘ve cried
To the darkness brooding far and wide
Over the land and the deep:
“Whom do you want, O lonely night,
That you wail the long hours through?”
And the night would say in its ghostly way:
“The Little Ghost” by Edna St. Vincent Millay
I knew her for a little ghost
That in my garden walked;
The wall is high?higher than most?
And the green gate was locked.
“The Witch” by Mary Elizabeth Coleridge
The cutting wind is a cruel foe.
I dare not stand in the blast.
My hands are stone, and my voice a groan,
And the worst of death is past.
I am but a little maiden still,
My little white feet are sore.
Oh, lift me over the threshold, and let me in at the door!
“The Hollow Men” by T.S. Eliot
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar
Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us-if at all-not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
“Ghost House” by Robert Frost
I Dwell in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls […]
I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart
“The Only Ghost I Ever Saw” by Emily Dickinson
His conversation—seldom—His laughter, like the Breeze—That dies away in Dimples
Among the pensive Trees—
“The Haunted Palace” by Edgar Allan Poe
But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch’s high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn!—for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him, desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.
“The Apparition” by John Donne
When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
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