What is the scariest story you ever read?

The recent thread about “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream” got me thinking about scary stories in general.

What is the scariest story/novel you have ever read? Mine would have to be:

Story - Harlan Ellison’s “All The Birds Come Home To Roost” or “Flopsweat.” No…it’s “Flopsweat.” No doubt about it.

Novel - William Blatty’s “The Exorcist”

Scariest fiction masquerading as non-fiction - Al Gore’s “Earth In The Balance.” I find it very scary that there are nutballs like this loose in our political system.

What are your scariest reads?

WallWalkers dont know the aurthor but its a freaky book you’ll have to order it from Barnes&Nobles it’s outta print its about this ode hospital and the people who’ve passed live inside the walls its a real good book!!

“The Shining,” which made the movie version all the more putrid.

When Danny goes up and finds the woman in the bathtub…

I slept with all the lights on.

Edgar Allan Poe, especially “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Premature Burial”, “A Cask of Amontillado” and “Hop-Frog, or the Eight Chained Orang-utangs”. Brrrrr.

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”, flawed as it’s turned out to be, made quite an impression on 12-year-old me.

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Ray Bradbury, about a future ‘automatic house’ that continues to cook food, clean, and read to a family that is lying in charred pieces around it, killed in a nuclear apocalypse, is pretty scary.

I’ll second The Shining. The first time I read that, I couldn’t sleep for days. I kept expecting the dead woman from the bathtub to come into my room.

Anything post-apocalyptic really bothers me. Ray Bradbury tends to freak me out.

This doesn’t really count as “read” per se, but when I was a kid, my mother had a recording The Tell Tale Heart read by a man with a very desperate, scary voice. We listened to it on a portable casette player while on a camping trip. I didn’t sleep at all!

Books and Stories have never really scared me too much. I think of them more as ‘shocking’. That said here are some fave:

The Boogeyman by Stephen King (short from Night Shift)
Cain Rose Up by Stephen King (short from Skeleton Crew)
The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (short)
It by Stephen King
The Black Cat by Poe
The Cask of Amantillado by Poe
American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
The Human Chair by Edogawa Rampo (short)
Apt Pupil by Stephen King (novella)

I know there are more I may post again after I revisit my bookshelf tonight.

duh…forgot the obvious…The Shining without a doubt!

Most HP Lovecraft. I found the short story, “The Colour from Outer Space”, which is an early imagining of radiation poisoning, to be particularly creepy.

The Stand is the only book to give me a nightmare.
Though Lovecraft creeps me out quite a bit. Especially a story of his where a guy is has a life in a different world when he dreams then his waking life.

I wish I could remember the title. It’s a short story by Ray Bradbury involving a Halloween party at a house, which has the usual “turn off the lights and pass around peeled grapes and say it’s a dead witch’s eyes” routine. Spoiled information within …I recall it being at the home of a husband and wife who were in the final stages of an acrimonious divorce. They were throwing a Halloween party for their young daughter. The last part of the story involved the mother herding the children down into the basement, and the father kept the daughter upstairs and then came down, turning the lights off before he came and started the game. The world-wise kids knew what the game was, and kept saying “Oh, those are just grapes!” and “Oh, that’s just spaghetti!” Eventually, the mother wonders why her daughter hasn’t said anything, turns on the light, and screams.

Shirley Jackson’s novel The Haunting of Hill House had me wigged out for days.

And then there was Stephen King’s Gramma, a short story from Skeleton Crew. I was warned. My mother told me that, before reading that story, I should make sure that it was in the middle of the afternoon, in bright daylight, with the lights on. So, I made sure I read it when I was working security at a deserted construction site in the middle of nowhere at thee in the morning.

I didn’t know I actually had bejeesus, but there it went.

I cut my horror teeth on Poe and Harlan Ellison, with Bradbury’s “The Illustrated Man” thrown in for good measure, Robert Bloch’s “Psycho”, and Daphne Du Maurier’s “The Birds”, but the first book that actually scared the crap out of me was “The Exorcist”, which had me looking over my shoulder and turning all the lights on in the house. A close second was “Salem’s Lot” and “The Shining”, by King.

I’ll second ‘The Colour out of Space’ – I read it at 2 am whilst living in a house deeply isolated in the woods…

Also, John Campbell’s ‘Who Goes There’ – read that one alone in a flat, late at night, during a snowstorm, whilst waiting for someone to come home from the airport…the flat front door was accessible only by a set of wooden steps, and, being slightly crippled in one leg, and concerned about slipping on the snow, he had a rather heavy, slow tread…

On the Beach is both scary and tragic, cos you know how it’s going to end…

The Exorcist – just the actual book, before I finally read it – scared me to death as a child, because my mum was extremely religious, and she honestly believed that the story was in fact a thinly fictionalised account of a possession. She kept the book on a shelf in our front room, and I used to be afraid actually to go near that particular bookshelf! I’d got it into my head somehow that even just handling the book would cause a demonic possession, and I had enough problems growing up. Although come to think of it, being able to rotate my head 360 degrees might have come in useful…hmmm.

I think I was at uni before I realised it was a novel…mum still thinks it’s a documentary…

Does Animal Farm count? It’s not leave-the-light-on scary, but it has a great oh-my-god-this-actually-happens factor.

Oh, “The Shining” was by far the scariest book I ever read. For me, though, it wasn’t the lady in the tub, it was that damned fire hose Danny kept trying to get around. Or the hedge animals. Or the wasps.shudders

Come to think of it, a lot of King’s earlier work had me looking over my shoulder.

One story that was frightening for me but in a different way was “Alas Babylon” by Pat Frank. I read it years and years ago and found it very disturbing. Probably because my young impressionable mind knew that inanimate objects don’t generally cause problems but men with their fingers on red buttons could launch us all into a holocaust.

Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life” remains for me a pure glimpse of Hell, more by the possibilities inherent in the story than by what actually takes place. Imagine being at the mercy of anything an undisciplined child can imagine.

I would like to contribute to this thread, but I see that y’all have covered the stuff that occurred to me right away (damn you Baldwin!). For now, I’ll just recommend you find short stories by King, Bradbury, and Richard Matheson. MMM, that’s good readin’!

I don’t know the name of the story, but it was in a recent Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and it involved a child who fell asleep with his mouth open and swallowed a fairy. Yaaaaah! It’s horrifying.

That’s a fantastic anthology, by the way, with some very very creepy horror in it.


A huge second to this one. It’s funny, I’d probably read this story a dozen times or more over the years but it wasn’t until I became a parent myself that it really grabbed my by the guts and twisted. In the same vein–as a child I was absolutely terrified by a folk-horror story I’d read involving naughty children whose mother abandons them to the care of new “mother” with glass eyes and a wooden tail. I looked it up as an adult and was almost amused at how tame it was. Just goes to show how closely our fears are tied to that which most relates to our everyday lives.

I haven’t read The Shining yet, so this may change.

The scariest thing I ever read is Stephen King’s “Gerald’s Game.” It’s more of a psychological terror, but it was much more probable to me than any of his other works.