What is the scariest book you ever read?

Collected ghost stories of M. R. James.

Or Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House.

I asked this question a couple of weeks ago and got a bunch of really good responses. You may want to check out that thread.

Recommend me some good horror

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. The way that it’s presented as a detached, academic, factual report gives it such a sense of reality that makes it even scarier.

Excellent, thank you. Can’t believe I missed that thread.

1984. Oh, and Brave New World. :smiley: :eek: :cool:

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. It’s non-fiction.


His The Demon in the Freezer wasn’t much less frightening. That one was about smallpox. I read it shortly after we went into Iraq. That was a bad choice.

Helter Skelter and Ed Sanders’ The Family: The Manson Group and Aftermath both scared the crap out me when I read them in my 20s. Something about the horror of the crimes (and the numerous unsolved murders that they may have committed) and the bland ordinariness of those hippie girls.

Similar to The Hot Zone, I found The Coming Plague quite frightening.

Yes, I came here to say this. I actually had to put the book down after the first 50 pages and walk away from it, I was so disturbed. I went and watched Austin Powers on DVD or something; the video equivalent of brain bleach.

Steven King’s book of short stories, Night Shift. I was alone in a mountain cabin with a storm blowing out side, along with a heavy snow.
Scared the crap out of me, and I was in my late 20’s at the time.


Stephen King at his best.

I was wondering if anyone was going to mention it. I read it a few years ago (I’m 37 now, so no teenaged fright for me), and it gave me a few sleepless nights.


Salem’s Lot really scared me the first time I read it. Particularly the vampire boy floating outside the window. I would hide the book in another room before I went to bed.

Dean Koontz usually writes not too scary scifi/horror but I though Phantoms was really scary.

The creepiest thing I’ve ever read was Lovecraft’s “The Colour from Outer Space”. The whispering trees and the people disintergrating and going slowly mad still creeps me out.

The Yellow Wallpaper freaked me right out when I first read it, and still does.

Gosh yes, this is a creepy one. Lots of Stephen King gives me the shivers, and Rosemary’s Baby scared the hell out of me.

Funny you should say that. I just started re-reading The Handmaid’s Tale. My first reading was when I was a teenager or in college, and I wanted to read it again. Except I can’t, because I now have a four year old daughter. On my first reading, what really had an impact on me was the feminist issues. It hadn’t really hit home with me the flashbacks by the narrator to her life with her five year old daughter, trying to run from the new regime with her, losing her, and learning that she’d been “adopted” by some Gilead-loyalist familyAfter reading about a third of it and crying about every five pages (I’m pregnant too, so yay hormones), I’ve decided I’m just going to stop. It really is a horrifying book.

But as for fun, cathartic scares:

Definitely House of Leaves - very frustrating at times (you can skim a lot of the footnotes), and imperfect, but damn, the descriptions of the film are freaky.

Prey, by Graham Masterton - a bit silly at the end, but still worth it.

The Doll Who Ate His Mother - totally creepy.

The Ghost Writer, by John Harwood is fun - perhaps a bit more gothic tale than horror, but it has some really fun embedded short stories with a good creep factor.

Stephen King short stories: The Boogeyman, Grey Matter, The Jaunt, and most especially The Moving Finger, which I still have to forcibly not think about during midnight trips to the bathroom.

I was going to mention this book.

The Tommyknockers , by King of course, probably because I’ve always had this irrational fear of my teeth loosening and falling out. Just to make it worse, I read it while pregnant, and the icing on the cake was that, midway through the book, my teeth DID start to get loose! (It’s a common pregnancy thing, but c’mon!)

Non horror, it’d be The Deep End of the Ocean, which was made into a schlockarific movie that’s so bad it’s not even good bad. But the book just perfectly captures the shock, despair and grief of losing a child to a kidnapping. I think. I mean, it hasn’t happened to me, but the book had me in constant panicky tears, and I hugged my son a whole lot for the week or so it took me to get through it.

World War Z… Brr.

I know it’s a corny choice, but the pictures in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark freaked me out as a kid. Some of the stories were good too, but that art… willies!

So it’s a book I read, and it freaked me out. I’ve met the criteria.

ETA: Lynchee kinchy colly molly dingo… dingo…

Scariest book? Pet Sematary- I read it in one night.

However, the scariest story would have to be 1408. Man, I wish the movie had been as good as the short story. I can still give myself chills just thinking about it.