The Fright Stuff

Extremely Suspect Boarding Schools

Class is in session, unfortunate souls! I’m Jessica Avery and I’ll be delivering your weekly brief of all that’s ghastly and grim in the world of Horror. Whether you’re looking for a backlist book that will give you the willies, a terrifying new release, or the latest in horror community news, you’ll find it here in The Fright Stuff.

This week we’re going to indulge in one of my favorite horror tropes: creepy boarding schools. Of course the return to school is a quintessentially fall activity, but the schools on this list aren’t all ringing bells and bright futures. Think big, old rambling buildings full of secrets and (often quite literally) ghosts of the past.

catherine house

The Catherine House by Elizabeth Thomas

Deep in the woods of Pennsylvania is an exclusive, experimental school for only the best and the brightest: Catherine House. For three years students are given one of the finest educations available for completely free – but the price is three years of their life completely cut off from the world they left behind. No family, no friends, no contact with the outside world. Ines is ready to trade in her old life for a new world of intense study and discipline, but what she finds instead is a gilded prison of luxury and permissiveness. When tragedy strikes, Ines begins to suspect that the truth of Catherine House is not at all what it seems.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Vermont. The Idlewild School for girls – for the troublemakers, the illegitimate, and the clever. Rumored to be haunted by the small town that surrounds it, Idlewild is the site of mysterious disappearances and strange happenings. In 1950, four roommates bonded together during their time at the school until the day one disappeared. Sixty-four years later, journalist Fiona Sheridan is investigating the death of another girl, her own sister, found dead in the fields near Idlewild’s ruins.

plain bad heroines by emily a danforth cover

Plain Bad Heroines by Emily. M Danforth

Plain Bad Heroines tells the linked stories of two sets of girls whose live are entwined in the history of a mysterious New England boarding school (It’s always New England, right? All we have up here are creepy small towns and creepy, isolated boarding schools, apparently.) In 1902 there’s Flo and Clara, who were students at the school and died tragically. Over a century later, Harper and Audrey are playing Flo and Clara in a horror film about their gruesome deaths and the supposedly cursed Gilded-Age school, only to find past and present becoming tangled together.

Never Let Me Go By Kazuo Ishiguro

At Hailsham the students are cared for and nurtured, raised in idyllic peace in the English countryside and kept ignorant of and almost completely separate from the world outside. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy grew up together safe inside of Hailsham, but when the time comes for them to leave the school they are forced to face the dark truth about Hailsham, its real purpose, and their own identities. Set in an alternate, dystopian England, the horror of Never Let Me Go is made all the more terribly by its subtlety and the resignation of its principal characters to their fate.

Enjoyed reading that? Watch this!

Sometimes you get on a reading trend… and then run out of books. The horror! (Ba dum tish) While there are plenty of other scary school books out there to enjoy, sooner or later (depending on how fast you read) you’re going to run out. So allow me to recommend some scary films to go with this weeks scary reads:

The Woods

Set in 1695, The Woods is about frequently-in-trouble Heather who has been sent away to an exclusive girls school located deep in the woods. And from the strange whispering she can hear in the trees, to the ominous disappearances of her classmates, it becomes clear that there is something terribly wrong at Falburn Academy. The Woods gets horror bonus points, by the way, for including a Bruce Campbell cameo as Heather’s somewhat negligent, but loving father.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

This is one of those bleak winter horrors where everything feels really washed out and intense. So of course I love it. I mean does it get more peak boarding school horror than two girls being left behind over winter break at their Catholic boarding school where the nuns are supposedly Satanists? (If you believe the student rumors and yes of course we believe the student rumors.) And who doesn’t love Kiernan Shipka, right?

Fresh From the Skeleton’s Mouth

Over at Book Riot Rachel Brittain has put together a list of 10 Perfectly Creepy Supernatural Books for Halloween, and Dee Das is discussing Eerie Books by Asian Authors to add to your holiday reading list.

In an oddly coincidental but felicitous happenstance, Books in the Freezer Podcast’s most recent episode launched Tuesday, October 20th and they’re talking all about, you guessed it, Boarding School Horror! So for some fantastic book chatter and a longer list of boarding school titles, go and give them a listen!

We Are Bookish, NetGalley’s readers blog, has a list of 6 Books to Get You in the Halloween Spirit. That includes Opium and Absinthe by Lydia Kang, which has long been on my to-read list because Dracula and Absinthe and dear god I am an easily pleased trash creature that exists solely on pretty horror things.

Diversity in Horror is doing a giveaway on their Twitter. The winner will receive copies of Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves and Category Five by Ann Dávila Cardinal, as well as a 4” goth rainbow sticker (so cute!?), a “Haunted Book Store” candle, a “Segrado Corazón” bath bomb, and some adorable resin bird heads! The details about how to enter can be found here and details about the prize makers can be found in the second thread of the tweet!

As always, you can catch me on Twitter at @JtheBookworm, where I try to keep up on all that’s new and frightening.