Oh Essex! Beneath the bling and the in-your-face glamour our fair county harbours some deep, dark secrets.

With Halloween season upon us, there’s no better time to allow yourself to become delightfully terrified than by booking a room at one of the county’s haunted homes or hostelries.

It’s also the perfect month to pick up a dusty old Gothic horror novel and explore its connections to Essex.

So let’s start with the classics – Frankenstein and Dracula – as Essex gets a shout out in both of these literary masterpieces.

Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” was first released on January 1, 1818. Since then the book has never been out of print and has sold millions of copies across the globe and been translated into 29 different languages. Essex has some strong connections with the book and also with its author, Mary Shelley.

For a start, Tilbury in Thurrock, gets a mention. The narrator and famous creator of ‘the monster,’ Victor Frankenstein, describes sailing from Rotterdam to England in the novel and describes reaching the coast –“The banks of the Thames presented a new scene; they were flat but fertile, and almost every town was marked by the remembrance of some story.

We saw Tilbury Fort and remembered the Spanish Armada, Gravesend, Woolwich, and Greenwich-- places which I had heard of even in my country.”

But more fascinating still is that in 2014 a collection of 13 unpublished letters by Mary Shelley were discovered, out of all places, hidden away at the Essex Records Office in Chelmsford. They were found by an unsuspecting academic doing some research.

The 13 letters had been written to stockbroker Horace Smith and his daughter, Eliza by Mary Shelley between 1831 and 1849. Although the letters do not contain any information about Frankenstein, they do feature personal and interesting details about Mary Shelley’s life, including how one time she summoned a hairdresser at 3am on the morning before William IV’s coronation in order to look her best.

Decades later, in 1897, another famous gothic horror was published which also featured a nod to the south Essex coast. Bram Stoker’s Dracula names “Purfleet” as the location for Count Dracula’s English estate and the late Thurrock Museum creator and historian Jonathan Catton believed it was likely the author could have taken inspiration for the name during a personal visit to Purfleet.

Mr Catton, who died in 2016, conducted extensive local history research into the Dracula/ Purfleet connection. He revealed how Irish author Bram Stoker was likely to have visited the Essex area: “In Victorian times was something of a leisure attraction. Easy access by train from Fenchurch St. Station to Purfleet station, opened in 1856, allowed Londoners to experience the countryside and riverside pleasures at one resort,” he said.

“It appears that while Bram Stoker was Acting Manager of the Royal Lyceum Theatre in London, he and his thespian friends would often travel out on Sundays, traditionally a black day for theatres, to visit friends and attractions outside of the capital.

“ So it is quite possible that Purfleet was visited by Stoker.”

Fancy sleeping at a bewitching Essex hotel? Here are five chilling choices for that perfect Halloween haunt..

1. The Red Lion Hotel, High Street, Colchester

A hooded monk, a ghostly chambermaid?

As one of the oldest inns in Colchester it’s no wonder the Red Lion is said to be home to all of these spirits.

The ghost said to be most often encountered by guests and staff at the Grade I listed building is that of Alice Miller. Miller was a former chambermaid at the hotel and she was murdered by her lover in 1638. Guests and staff has reported seeing Alice’s apparition mostly in room’s 5, 6, and 10.

She’s also been seen in the kitchen and walking to her old room and through the blocked wall where her door once stood. In addition, the figure of a hooded monk has been seen, mostly during the early hours. Often witnessed around reception and the corridors.

He’s believed to be the ghost of a monk who died in a fire at the inn several hundred years ago while trying to save some children.

Dare you book? red-lion-hotel.co.uk

2. The Green Man Hotel, Mulberry Green, Old Harlow

Situated in a peaceful hamlet near Old Harlow, The Green Man is a historic 14th century Jacobean style inn. Whitewashed and ivy clad with green shutters, The Green Man is a picture- perfect place to stay.

It’s also said to have a ghost. A bereaved mother with a tragic tale is believed to haunt the 600- year- old coaching Inn.

It is thought her powerful desire to have children led her to forge an adulterous relationship with the local blacksmith.

She fell pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl.

The girl was sadly burned to death in a fire. The distraught spirit of the mother is said to still be searching for her child…

Dare you book? www.chefandbrewer.com/pubs/essex/green-man

3. The Royal Hotel, Purfleet

Since being built in the 18th century, the hotel has had several names, one of which was the “Bricklayer’s Arms”, named after the workers from the nearby chalk quarries who were regular customers.

They were eventually replaced by London actors, actresses and politicians who came to Purfleet for weekends. The hotel’s room number 31 is reputedly haunted by the ghosts of a young couple who died at the hotel in years past.

Of course Purfleet has its own Dracula connection too and is the place the count kept his country estate…

Dare you book? theroyalpurfleet.co.uk/rooms/

4. Talliston House and Gardens, Great Dunmow

This surely needs to be top of your list if you are looking for an extraordinary space to stay with more than a touch of Gothic beauty and a few tales to tell.

The seemingly ordinary family home in the Essex countryside is the life’s work of owner John Trevillian who spent a quarter of a century transforming it into a location which combines art, decoration and design within 13 locations, each set in a different time and place.

By the power of word of mouth alone it has since become known as one of Britain’s Most Extraordinary homes.

John does not like the house to be described as a fantasy - it is very real and inspired by his own numerous travels across the world when he collected 2,000 beautiful pieces of art and furniture which now live within the semi-detached property in Dunmow. John, a writer, first created himself an idea office for writing in and then moved on to the remaining rooms which, perfect for October 31, include the Haunted Bedroom and the Voodoo Kitchen, styled on a 1950s New Orleans’ maid’s kitchen.

All 13 rooms have two names so the Haunted Room is also known as the Scottish Edwardian Room. The dual naming came about when John began writing his latest book, the Stranger’s Guide to Talliston, aimed at young adults.

Dare you book? Overnight stays, bed and breakfast, can be booked via Airbnb and are £125 for the Haunted Bedroom (Scottish Edwardian room) ; £85 for the Room of Dreams (Moorish Spain room) and £85 for the the Cabin, a rustic Canadian log cabin. www.invitationtoview.co.uk/properties/talliston-housegardens

5. The Royal Hotel, Southend

This famous hotel dates back to the late 1700s and although it’s not ‘officially haunted’, it’s the perfect place for some Halloween fun.

Down within the basement of the hotel, guest will find the atmospheric speak-easy absinthe bar, Dr Legba’s Emporium of Cocktails and Curiosities.

Here,’ Tales from the Shadows’ events are regularly held where haunting stories and unearthly illusions, are retold. From spine-chilling stories about ghosts and murder, to history mixed with magic, locals will learn a lot more than they might want to know about Southend’s mysterious past.

Guests are also invited to join in the ghostly acts, acting as assistant to the host. If you want the bejesus scared out of you- this is the place to go.

Dare you book? Royalhotelsouthend.com