In the (restless, unholy) spirit of Hallowe’en, I polled my contribs on the scariest books they’ve ever read, and they delivered: From traumatizing childhood reading experiences to thoroughly enjoyable spine-tinglers, here are some of the scariest words on paper the Art and Lit writers have encountered.
Vanessa: As for my favourite scary book, that would definitely be The Shining by Stephen King. I know it’s obvious, but everything about that book is just creepy. Though I think, by far, the scariest moment in that book is when Jack visits room 217.
Sheryl: I actually go out of my way to avoid reading scary books. As a very young child, I was completely done in by Maria Leach’s collection of ghost stories, The Thing at the Foot of the Bed, and Washington Irving’s classic The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Although tame by nearly everyone else’s standards, these two books totally cemented my lifelong fear of the dark. What can I say? — I’ve always had a VERY active imagination!
Tiffany: Mostly Ghostly: Eight Spooky Tales To Chill Your Bones was probably my most formative scary book. I grew up on Goosebumps, Fear Street, and the works of Christopher Pike, but it was ultimately Mostly Ghostly that got me hooked on Gothic lit. It contained work by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Washington Irving, Ambrose Bierce, and, my favourite short story ever, “Lost Hearts” by M.R. James. It also had really creepy cross-hatched illustrations, kind of in the vein of my other childhood favourite, Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.
Mercedes: I have never been very into scary stories (to the dismay of my many horror-loving friends), because I am a huge baby. But I was absolutely traumatized after reading The Witches by Roald Dahl. They turn the kid into a mouse! AND HE STAYS A MOUSE FOREVER. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’ll never trust a woman wearing gloves again.
Allison: As a rule, I’m a total wimp. I don’t read anything if I think it could potentially be scary. If Prisoner of Azkaban had been the first Harry Potter instead of the third, I might not have gotten through the series. The scariest book I’ve ever read was when I was about nine. It was called Ghost Cat, and I couldn’t even finish it I found it so scary. Yeah, it was about a phantom CAT and I was too scared. Also, I read Jaws when I was about 12, and didn’t sleep a wink for the next week. Stephen King may be one of the best writers of our time, but I will never know.
Chelsea: My favourite sort-of-scary book is Wormwood: Gentleman Corpse.
Kathy: Oooh, scary books. House of Leaves freaked me out so badly I couldn’t finish it, so that probably doesn’t count. I scare pretty easy so I don’t read a ton of horror/spooky novels. BUT I think we could argue that there’s enough spooky/scary/haunting stuff in Garth Nix’s Sabriel/Lirael/Abhorsen novels that I’m going to put those in for this one, even though they’re not traditional horror books. I recommended them to a friend of mine and she came to me a week later yelling that they’d freaked her out but she couldn’t stop reading, and why didn’t I warn her not to read them at night. Whoops.
KD: Since I don’t read horror, I don’t have a favourite horror novel. That said, I doubt I could read anything more horrifying than Twilight. The bland prose, the main character who could easily be replaced by a stuffed animal, the complete desecration of the vampire (a being, I’d like to point out, that is supposed be to terrifying and represent undying death and torment, not sparkle), and — the most unnerving aspect of the books — its ability to brainwash those who read it. The slavish devotion of Twilight fans scares me more than any Stephen King novel could.
How about you? What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read? What author (or character!) gives you nightmares on the regular?