Hallowe’en is the time of year when everyone starts making a list of scary books. Of course, everyone has a different idea of what is scary. Sort of a Saw versus The Others kind of thing. I can actually take a little bit more graphic violence on the page than I can on the screen and so I would never go see Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That said, despite the fact that I have heard that The Cabin in the Woods has a pretty high squick factor, I may have to bite the bullet and watch it because I have so much love for Joss Whedon. (Edited to add: Saw this movie and it was awesome in all the right ways…and not too gross even for a wimp like me!)
But I digress: this post is about books, not movies. And it’s not a definitive list by any stretch; it is limited by my own reading.
Here is my list – in no particular order – of books which have scared me over the years. Not all of these books are ‘horror’ in the strictest sense of the word – but all of them have sent shivers up and down my spine.
Two monstrous evils. The quiet suburban town of Hamstead is threatened by two horrors. One is natural. The hideous, unstoppable creation of man’s power gone mad. The other is not natural at all. And it makes the first look like child’s play.
I barely even remember what this novel is about; I read it 35 years ago. What I do remember is this: my room was in the basement away from everyone else in the family. I started the book one weekend when the rest of the family was out of town. I slept with the lights on.
Greetings. There is body buried on your property, covered in your blood. The unfortunate young lady’s name is Rita Jones. In her jeans pocket you’ll find a slip of paper with a phone number on it. Call that number. I strongly advise against going to the police, as I am watching you.
In the same vein as Dean Koontz, Blake Crouch’s novel was a high speed adrenaline rush, with enough creepy bits to keep me turning the pages long past midnight.
It’s where he was born. It’s where he and Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. There are endless wonders that let loose Jack’s imagination – the snake under Bed that he constructs out of eggshells; the imaginary world projected through the TV; the coziness of Wardrobe beneath Ma’s clothes, where she tucks him in safely at night, in case Old Nick comes.
I recently finished this beautifully written, but ultimately creepy tale of a mother and son in captivity.
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet.
Stephen King’s son’s debut novel is fantastic fun and also really freakin’ creepy.
…Bag of Bones recounts the plight of forty-year-old bestselling novelist Mike Noonan, who is unable to stop grieving even four years after the sudden death of his wife, Jo, and who can no longer bear to face the blank screen of his word processor.
I would consider myself a huge King fan, even though I haven’t read all his books and there have been a few I haven’t liked. But the books I’ve liked, I’ve liked a lot and Bag of Bones is one helluva ghost story.
Chyna Shephard is a twenty-six-year-old woman whose deeply troubled childhood taught her the hard rules of survival, and whose adult life has been an unrelenting struggle for self-respect and safety. … Suspicions she learned in childhood still make her uneasy in unfamiliar houses – even this one, where her closest friend is sound asleep down the hall. And in this case her most disturbing instincts prove reliable. A man has entered the house…
I could NOT put this book down and I was afraid the entire time I read it. If you’ve never read Koontz, this is a great place to start.
In sixteenth-century Hungary, Countess Elizabeth Bathory tortured and killed over six hundred servant girls in order to bathe in their blood; she believed this brutal ritual would preserve her youth and beauty.
Um, hello. creepy. This debut by a Canadian is really good. And scary.
Three decades earlier, forty-one-year-old school nurse Kate Cypher’s dirt-poor friend Del – shunned and derided by classmates as “Potato Girl” – was brutally slain. Del’s killer was never found, while the victim has since achieved immortality in local legends and ghost stories.
This is part mystery and part ghost story and all good.
One of the great masterpieces of horror of this century, Song of Kali will leave an indelible imprint on your soul. Once you read it, you’ll never forget it. Never.
Okay, so I know publishers say that stuff to get you to buy the book, but I have to admit that Song of Kali, while perhaps not scary in the traditional sense(whatever that is), really did freak me out and stayed with me for a long time.
Baird College’s Mendenhall echoes with the footsteps of the last homebound students heading off for Thanksgiving break, and Robin Stone swears she can feel the creepy, hundred-year-old residence breathe a sigh of relief for its long-awaited solitude. or perhaps it’s only gathering itself for the coming weekend.
Despite the stereotypical cast of characters, this book was really scary. Really. Scary.
In a private school in New England, a friendship is forged between two boys that will change their lives forever. As Del Nightingale and Tom Flanagan battle to survive the oppressive regime of bullying and terror, overseen by the sadistic headmaster, Del introduces Tom to his world of magic tricks.
I love Peter Straub and this is a book that has stuck with me for many, many years.
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they were grown-up men and women who had gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them could withstand the force that drew them back to Derry to face the nightmare without and end and the evil without a name.
I carried this book everywhere the year it came out. Not only was it – 25 years ago when I first read it-supremely scary, King’s characters were breathtakingly human and fragile and brave. I actually cried at the end of this book. I gave this book to a student in my grade ten class last year who claimed it was impossible to be scared by a book. Yeah.
Two young couples are on a lazy Mexican vacation – sun-drenched days, wild nights, making friends with fellow tourists. When the brother of one of those friends disappears, they decide to venture into the jungle to look for him. What started out as a fun day trip slowly spirals into a nightmare when they find an ancient ruins site…and the terrifying presence that lurks there.
It isn’t so much the ‘ancient presence’ that’s the most scary thing about this book – although that’s pretty scary too. If you’ve already read The Ruins, I highly recommend Smith’s first book, A Simple Plan. It’s a roller coaster ride to hell.
Cheerleader Isobel Lanely is horrified when she is paired with Varen Nethers for an English project, which is due –so unfair- on the day of the rival game. Cold and aloof, sardonic and sharp-tounged, Varen makes it clear he’d rather not have anything to do with her either. But when Isobel discovers strange writing in his journal, he can’t help but give the enigmatic boy with piercing eyes another look.
Fans of Edgar Allan Poe will be especially intrigued by this YA novel. Plus, my heart did race with fear more than once.
September. A beautiful New York editor retreats to a lonely cabin on a hill in the quiet Maine beach town of Dead River – off season – awaiting her sister and friends. Nearby, a savage human family with a taste for flesh lurks in the darkening woods, watching, waiting for the moon to rise and night to fall…
There’s a high gross out factor with this book. Also, really frightening.
Suburbia. Shady, tree-lined streets, well-tended lawns and cozy homes. A nice, quiet place to grow up. Unless you are teenage Meg or her crippled sister, Susan. On a dead-end street, in the dark, damp basement of the Chandler house, Meg and Susan are left captive to the savage whims and rages of a distant aunt who is rapidly descending into madness.
This book is beyond scary because it illustrates the horrible things we do to each other. It’s based on a true story and it’s a story Ketchum tells without fear. Seriously disturbing.
How about you? Read any really good scary stories?