What is the scariest book you ever read? (Title already used almost 15 years ago)

Robert E Howard Pigeons From Hell

Ignore the title. It’s a short story in chapters and PFH is the name of the first chapter. Without spoiling, a better title would have been A Face On The Stairs or The Old Blassenville Place. Most of it is just mildly scary. One scene has a character in the dark terrified of what might be happening silently. That scene is without any qualifiers the scariest thing I’ve ever read.

Beyond the deadfall. The Wendigo. “Darling . . .”

“He said his name was Pax-cow.”

“Do not go on to the place where the dead . . . walk”

The Shining circa 8th grade.

King getting a lotta “love” in this thread. When he was on, he was on.

King is the king of making me creepythink. Almost not scared but kinda. Especially his short stories. The Jaunt, The Long Walk, The Mist and so many more. The book that I do not want to think about but still, even after all these years pops up in my brain is Cujo.

Not quite the same as reading it and shitting my pants. Maybe even worse.

Some times, dead is better.

“Lady fingers, they taste like lady fingers.”

The Seed in the Sepuchre (short story) is one written tales that I can’t un-see now.

I avoid horror movies and novels.

The scariest fiction book I ever finished is Earth Abides. I found it terribly near to realistic, and it sticks in my memory far more than almost any other fiction I have read. But if you think we are overpopulated and/or accept the implication that civilization will rise again, it might not bother you much.

With non-fiction, it is The Holocaust by Bullets due to connection with fate of my mother’s family.

I was twelve years old, a voracious reader, and spending the night at a friend’s apartment, when his mom mentioned Salem’s Lot to me and said I could read her copy. I started, I dunno, ten o’clock-ish?, and literally read until I finished at dawn the next morning. It was absolutely terrifying, and he was just so amazing at making it real, like nothing I’d read before then. The Shining also had that kind of feeling, just being gripped at every minute.

I see mentions upthread of Ghost Story, and I had the same experience as someone else, mainly being gripped/scared the first time I read it, but then next time being “oh, that’s really good”, but without the big fear. Part of that is how good Straub is at leveraging your uncertainty at where things are headed, that state of perpetual unease…second time around, you know what the backstory is.

Scariest fiction: The 1980 version of Stephen King’s “The Stand”. I’ll admit that I got a bit nervous when the summer of 1985 rolled around, even though I KNEW it was fiction.

Scariest nonfiction? Too many to mention, although the most recent scary nonfiction book I read was probably this.

Some nominees…

All The Dark Places, J Allan Bosworth — kid goes cave exploring, big cave with rappelling and crevasses to inch across on handholds. Gets lost then loses lantern, to figure out how to get out of this place in the dark

Nightmare in Pink, John MacDonald — Travis McGee gets dosed with a high-octane psychedelic and carted away to a private loony bin where they’ve decided to get rid of inconvenient people by lobotomizing them, and while waiting have him dosed with floaty ecstatic feelgood drugs

Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg — I can’t get the police station scene out of my head. They’ve got the main character, a butch dyke, and demand that she suck cop dicks and when she won’t they submerge her head in an unflushed toilet bowl

The topiary scene in The Shining was pretty scary.

When I was a kid I had a cheap book of what I assume were public domain ghost stories. It was called, More Tales to Tremble By. I still have the book:

As a kid, the stories were really scary. Apparently, these authors were well kmown horror writers at one point, but I never heard of anymof them.

The Red Lodge, by H. R. Wakefield.
Sredni Vashtar, by Saki.
Thurnley Abbey, by P. Landon.
“God grante that she lye stille”, by C. Asquith.
The voice in the night, by W. H. Hodgson.
The extra passenger, by A. Derleth.
Casting the runes, by M. R. James.
The book, by M. Irwin.

Also Pet Sematary.

King is getting a lot of love here. This is my vote too: The Stand, 1980. I remember marveling at the sensation of being afraid by a book. And this was in broad daylight.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris is the only book I ever threw across the room while reading, because I found one of the scenes so very scary.

Revelations about Bugliosi and his illegal/unethical behavior in regard to prosecuting the Manson Family means that Helter Skelter is in part fiction.

Hell House by Richard Matheson is probably the one with the most scenes that stick in my memory and keep me up at night.

Still scared the crap out of me when I read it…

I’m not sure that I have a particular favourite “scariest story” to cite, but I do agree with many of the examples others have provided. Although I do vaguely recall a “sci-fi” type comic book that scared the beejezus out of me when I was a little kid – something to do with horrifically malevolent aliens from another dimension. They were so well drawn that it totally freaked me out!

Also, I don’t know if this truly qualifies as super-scary, but the original pilot of Night Gallery, Rod Serling’s hour-long successor to The Twilight Zone, featured three stories that were all very good. The best one, IMO – and I’m not going to spoiler it – was about a former Nazi hiding out in Argentina who finds solace in an art gallery that he frequently visits, particularly a painting of a fisherman serenely out on a lake. He finds that by concentrating really hard, he can literally enter the picture and become part of it. Until one day this strange ability turns into a worse horror than he could ever have imagined.

Stephen King claimed that one of the scariest things he ever read was The Great God Pan, a novella by Arthur Machen published in 1894. I didn’t find it particularly scary, but it’s regarded as a classic and influenced many later writers. The copyright is long expired and it can be found for free in places like Project Gutenberg.

It’s beautifully written, and the 1963 movie that was made of it (The Haunting) was widely praised by critics and by the likes of Martin Scorsese and Steven Speilberg. Not ever to be confused with the absolutely awful remake of the same name. Shirley Jackson was a great writer with a very unique style, who unfortunately suffered from health problems later in life and was troubled by substance abuse, and died far too young. She also wrote many short stories, which are often cryptic little vignettes, leading you in with an absorbing tale, but often ending abruptly, leaving you wondering WTF that was all about. But leaving readers with these thoughts was very much her style. For a much lighter side of Shirley Jackson, I recommend Life Among the Savages, a light-hearted and often very funny account of her family life, about which she said that their main exports were novels and children, both in abundance.

Yep. One of King’s best. A master at the height of his game. Too bad the movie was so mediocre, but the book was terrific.

I haven’t read it, but I’ve seen the movie several times. It’s very well done.

The Exorcist came out when I was thirteen. One of my mom’s friends dropped off some books for her and The Exorcist caught my eye.

I read it very quickly, realizing it wasn’t meant for me. I loved it.