Monday, October 29, 2012

In Which I Talk Scary Books

Since we're coming up on Halloween super quick now, I figured today was a good day to list, in no particular order, my top 5 favorite scary books.

House of Leaves - Mark Z Danielewski

A young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane discovers something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story -- of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams
House of Leaves is one of those books where the back cover (the synopsis above) isn't accurate. Though it is a story about a house that is bigger on the inside than the outside, at no point do the children wander off or go missing.
BUT! That said, this books is terrifying. It's a story within a story, following a tattoo artist who discovers a video where a family does an experiment to show that their house is bigger on the inside than the out. The tattoo artist's tale is told via footnotes (pages and pages of them) as he becomes obsessed with this video (and the obsession builds to a point where you can't tell if he's gone crazy, or if the mystery of the house actually has some effect on him). And as you follow his story of obsession, the reader learns everything he learns about the house and the family that lived there.
Seriously scary, both in a psychological way and also in a "WTF is in the HOUSE??" way. But, it's not an easy book to read. At all. At points, the footnotes will last for whole chapters, and they'll be written upside down, and in spirals and in any other weird way you can imagine.
The Amityville Horror - Jay Anson
The Lutzes moved into their dream home on December 18th, 1975. Four weeks later, they fled in terror. The home was the scene of a mass murder a year before, and the Lutzes claimed paranormal phenomena caused them to fear for their lives and forced them to abandon the home
The Amityville Horror is touted as a true story, but it's not. Though, to be fair, the murders did happen, but the Lutzes made up the stuff that happened to them.
BUT!! That does not change that fact that this book is terrifying. This is the kind of book that you can read in broad daylight, in a crowded public place, and still need to set it aside at points because you're just so scared.
The first time I read this (back in high school) I had to share a bed with Twin because I was just that scared. I mean, come on! Ghosts are scary. Very few things scare me more than ghosts.
The book is hard to find, though. It went out of print for a while (I used to snatch up any used copies I could find) though I did see a new paperback at a borders closing last year (snatched that one up too).
The Season Of Passage - Christopher Pike


Dr. Lauren Wagner was a celebrity. She was involved with the most exciting adventure mankind had ever undertaken: a manned expedition to Mars. The whole world admired and respected her.

But Lauren knew fear. Inside—voices entreating her to love them. Outside—the mystery of the missing group that had gone before her. The dead group.

But were they simply dead? Or something else?


This book isn't overtly terrifying. There aren't ghosts, or monsters etc. But there are moments of extreme tension and fear, and most of them take place when the characters are on Mars. And let's get real here, space horror is terrifying because you can't escape it. There's nowhere to go.

There's a scene in this book where the MC is floating on a boat in a cave on Mars and the scene is so wrought with tension and fear, it actually gave me nightmares when I first read it in high school.

Grave's End: A True Ghost Story - Elaine Mercado


When Elaine Mercado and her first husband bought their home in Brooklyn, New York, in 1982, they had no idea that they and their young daughters were embarking on a thirteen year nightmare.

Within a few days of moving in, Elaine and her older daughter began to experience the sensation of being watched. Then came scratching noises and weird smells, followed by voices whispering, maniacal laughter, shadowy figures scurrying along baseboards, and small balls of light bouncing along the ceilings. From the beginning of the haunting, "suffocating dreams" were experienced by everyone except the younger daughter These eventually accelerated to physical aggression directed at Elaine and both the girls.

This book is the true story of how one family tried to cope with living in a haunted house. It also describes how, with the help of a parapsychologist Dr. Hans Holtzer and the medium Marisa Anderson, the family discovered the tragic and heartbreaking secrets buried in the house at Grave's End.


I LOVE this book. I read it at least once a year (it's short and fast. I can read it in one sitting). Like I said, ghosts freak me the eff out, but also, I LOVE reading real ghosts stories.

The author isn't the best writer, but the experiences she and her family had are terrifying and every time I read it, a different experience strikes me as the most terrifying (the last time I read it (a few weeks ago) it was a scene where the youngest daughter went to the bathroom in the middle of the night and when she came back into her room, she saw an old woman sitting on her sister's chest, and she was too scared to say anything so she CLIMBED BACK INTO BED WITH HER SISTER and closed her eyes. OMG I can't even...)

If you like true ghost stories, definitely check this one out. It's also great because they do get some answers to their haunting at the end. Not everything, but quite a bit.

N. - Stephen King


There is something unearthly and mysterious deep in Acherman's Field in rural Maine. There is a Stonehenge-like arrangement of seven stones with a horrifying EYE in the center. And whatever dwells there in that strange, windswept setting may have brought about the suicide of one man...and harbor death for the OCD afflicted "N.," whose visits to the field have passed beyond compulsion into the realm of obsession.


Okay, this is actually a short story/novella in King's Just After Sunset collection. BUT it's also been made into a comic.

This short story is just terrifying. To me it has the number one aspect needed for a great horror story: something that cannot be stopped. It's so creepy, you can't help but wonder if just by reading it, maybe the standing stones will affect you too, which is when you know it's a good story, when you start to wonder if maybe it's not fiction.

So there you have it! My top 5 scary stories.
Let me know some of your fav stories - I'd love to read them!


Jess said...

Gotta love Stephen King! I like The Shining. Haven't read the book, but the movie was sooo great!!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Amityville Horror was creepy. The first movie was cheesy, but the remake with Ryan Reynolds was actually pretty good.

Maria Zannini said...

I simply cannot read scary stories. My brain goes into overdrive and I can't sleep for nights afterwards.

Jen Chandler said...

Been a long time since I wandered over. Glad I did! I love scary...not horrifying, but really scary is always fun!

I'm still trying to read "The Woman in Black". Haven't seen the movie yet, but the short story has me so scared, I stopped reading it a month ago and can't quite get up the guts to finish it!


ashlie said...

House of Leaves is one of my all-time favourites! Such a crazy book!

Talli Roland said...

I read Amityville House Horror and had nightmares for MONTHS. Never again!

Teebore said...

I have a hard time getting scared by books (I also have a hard time getting scared by movies, though). Plenty of books have creeped me out (like parts of King's Insomnia), but nothing as an adult has really scared me to the point where it lingers after I put the book down. It's kinda sad.

Hart Johnson said...

Amityville Horror was my first horror novel I ever read and it set me off on YEARS of choosing horror first almost all the time. I will have to put some of these others on my list, though my favorite scary author is Peter Straub.

Johanna Garth said...

I haven't read a good horror book in so long and Grave's End looks right up my alley!

Matthew MacNish said...

I haven't read any of these! I tend not to do well with scary non-fiction. I've read plenty of King, but not that one.

My favorite scary stories are mostly H.P. Lovecraft.

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

Oh...things that go bump in the night. I'm getting old. As I get older, I like scary things less and less. But these look intriguing.

Ninja Girl said...

You're a brave one. I cannot handle scary. Nope, nuh-huh *shakes head* I can deal with creepy or a little out-of-the-box or suspense/thriller. "Anna Dressed in Blood" was my one foray into the scary side, and it was actually pretty great. But I'm not sure I'd want to live there, you know? Which is why I mostly stick to happy romantic stories or urban fantasy ;) Great post for Halloween!!
Ninja Girl

Ninja Girl said...

Oh, sidenote: I've always enjoyed Poe. Does "The Tell-Tale Heart" count as scary?

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