Is there any better way to experience a good scary story than hearing it aloud? There’s a reason why we persist in sharing horror stories by a campfire, or ghost stories by candlelight. Anticipation hangs on the breath of a skillful teller, as fear gathers in the dark corners of our mind. Here are a variety of excellent horror stories to usher in autumn, from mildly spooky to utterly terrifying. 

To recapture the giddy frights of childhood or share with your own kids, what could be better than Ray Bradbury’s beloved 1972 classic “The Halloween Tree”? Nine costumed boys are out trick-or-treating when one of their number disappears. Desperate, the remaining eight turn to the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud, who ushers them on a fantastic journey to discover the true meaning of Halloween, whisking them across the centuries from Egyptian tombs to druid Britain, and from the gothic superstitions of medieval Paris to Día de los Muertos observances in a Mexican village. Narrator Kirby Heyborne fully commits to the breathless lyricism of Bradbury’s prose poetry, casting a delightfully spine-chilling spell, alive with drama, agape with wonder and bristling with delicious shivers. This carnival ride through the long history of our rituals of death and rebirth will inspire you to keep the spirit of Halloween in your heart all year long.

In Dan Simmons’ “Summer of Night,” narrated with affable ease and juvenile brio by Dan John Miller, we join a group of boys — and one tomboy — as they seek to warn the sleepy hamlet of Elm Haven, Illinois, circa 1960, about the ancient evil radiating out from the town’s moldering gothic heap of an elementary school and manifesting in a stunning and increasingly grotesque array of guises. The sequel, “A Winter Haunting,” begins “Forty-one years after I died, my friend Dale returned to the farm where I was murdered. It was a very bad winter.” That’s an understatement. Narrator Bronson Pinchot takes us into the depressed and unraveling mind of Dale, a recently disgraced and divorced professor who ill-advisedly decides to spend his sabbatical back home in Elm Haven. Rivaling Stephen King at his best, both novels slowly build from a base of nostalgic Americana though increasingly weird mind-bending terrors to gruesome climactic fright-fests that pull out all the stops.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that Robin Miles would be narrating Iain Reid’s latest book, “We Spread.” Embarking on a narrative by Reid, whose disorienting “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was adapted for the screen by the equally mind-bending director Charlie Kaufman, is something of a trust exercise, but Miles’ consummate skill and moment-by-moment authenticity assured me that if I wandered from the path, it would be for all the right reasons. Miles portrays Penny, an aging surrealist painter whose growing fragility finds her abruptly uprooted from her apartment of 50 years and moved to Six Cedars, an assisted living facility whose disconcerting features may or may not be aspects of her own cognitive decline. Reid’s immersive prose and Miles’ vivid, heartfelt narration draw us irresistibly onward through spiraling paranoia toward an unpredictable ending. 

Listeners who relish these subtle psychological perplexities may also enjoy Catriona Ward’s “The Last House on Needless Street,” with Christopher Ragland narrating three discordant points of view: a socially awkward recluse suspected of abducting a young girl, his shut-in daughter Lauren and their Bible-reading cat Olivia. Spoilers would be unforgivable, but rest assured that Ward and Ragland keep us marvelously unbalanced and on edge from start to startling finish.

Listen to Angela Dawe’s eerie narration of the first seven minutes of Camilla Sten’s “The Lost Village”; I defy you to stop there. Billed as “The Blair Witch Project” meets “Midsommar,” Swedish author Sten’s creepy stemwinder tells of a badly crowdfunded documentary crew working on a film about the remote Swedish ghost town of Silvertjärn, flashing back to the bizarre, horrific events 60 years before that led to the mining town’s abandonment. Dawe keeps the alternating timelines and the squabbling film crew’s personalities clear as she varies a measured, moody revelation with intensely emotional episodes. Narrator JD Jackson is similarly adept at juggling the documents, recollections, and scenes of sheer terror combined in thought-provoking ways in James Han Mattson’s “Reprieve.” Teams who make it through all five cells of Lincoln, Nebraska’s, Quigley House, a horrific hardcore escape adventure, without uttering the safe word — “Reprieve” — take home $60,000. Having braved an escalating series of shocks and indignities, Victor, Jane, Jaidee and Bryan are this close to claiming the prize when the nightmare becomes utterly real. As we sift through the evidence and the contestants’ past lives, the house of horrors is gradually revealed to be the bleeding edge of a more ubiquitous contest, bedeviled by racism, misogyny and xenophobia, and for which there is no safe word.

Illustration by Jenny Kwon