Only one more day to get SPOOKY before Halloween! Just in time, we have ten terrifying tales that are sure to keep you up all night. From truly frightening ghost stories like The Haunting of Hill House to psychological thrillers like American Psycho, the works of Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, and other great writers will make you want to leave all the lights on!
Who remembers these frightening tales? A collection of stories published in a series of three books between 1981 and 1991, these were seriously terrifying. They are so scary that they were listed as the most challenged series of books from 1990-1991 and the seventh most challenged from 2000-2009 by the American Library Association for violence. Needless to say, you do not want to read one of these alone—especially if you are under the age of 13…or maybe even as an adult.
While there are many Edgar Allen Poe short stories and poems to choose from for this list, The Tell Tale Heart stands out as one of his most terrifying. The unnamed narrator who suffers from “nervousness” is distressed by the “vulture-like” eye the old man who lives with him has, and decides to kill him. After doing so, he dismembers the body and hides it under the floorboards in the old man’s room. Due to a neighbor hearing screams, the police arrive and—because there is no visible evidence—the narrator invites them to sit in the old man’s room. He then hears a “thump”, which gets louder and louder until he is finally driven crazy and confesses to the crime. Although this story does not sound “terrifying”, the anxiety felt by the narrator is almost too much for the reader at times—projecting this stress upon them.
A rather new pick that all comic book lovers should check out is The Woods. James Tynion VI is known for his work on DC’s Batman comics and has created his own world about a Midwestern high school that is transported to an alien planet. The story follows the 513 people that are forced to explore a strange land. The comic is able to capture teenage issues and alien horror all in one place, which definitely gets it put on our Sci-Fi/Horror shelf.
REDRUM. The iconic book that was made even more famous by Jack Nicholson’s frightening performance in the movie is one of the most horrifying novels of all time. The story follows a family as they move into a haunted resort to be its winter caretaker. The son, Danny, is telepathic and has premonitions. He begins to see ghosts and frightening things in the house. When the house tries to possess him, but cannot, it then moves to his father, Jack. The house is able to possess Jack and the story turns into a crazy hunt to kill his wife and son. Stephen King’s novels are always scary, but this is definitely one of his most hair-raising works.
The household name has been terrifying children since being published in Germany in 1812. Made even more popular in America by Disney’s never-ending adaptations, the Grimm brothers certainly were not fans of “happily ever after”. There are many versions of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, so it is hard to tell which are truly horrid. But, for example, in one version of Rapunzel the prince falls out of the window and is blinded by thorns, in Snow White the evil Queen is forced to dance in burning shoes until she drops dead, and in Cinderella her evil stepsister’s eyes are plucked out by doves. We can’t imagine why Disney did not include these aspects in their final cuts.
Published in 1897, Dracula introduced Count Dracula and Van Helsing—two characters who will forever be popular figures in culture. The story follows Dracula as he infects a beautiful woman, causing her to die and turn into a vampire. Vampire-hunter Van Helsing kills her by stabbing her in the heart, beheading her, and filling her mouth with garlic. The book is was especially frightening in the late 1800s, as one of the first mentions of vampires in gothic fiction. Needless to say, no one wants to be near Count Dracula.
A young girl becomes possessed after moving to Georgetown. After unsuccessful medical treatments, her mother seeks help from a priest, Karras, who realizes she is demonically possessed and appoints a priest, Merrin, who recently returned from finding a statue of a demon in Iraq, to exorcise her. Merrin dies in the process and Karras is forced to finish the exorcism by forcing the demon out of the girl and in to himself, causing him to jump out the window and die. The book is disturbing on many levels, and even more so since exorcisms and demons have become so popular in horror culture.
A true ghost story, The Haunting of Hill House surrounds four characters in their attempt to discover evidence of supernatural existence. Many unusual events happen and one of the four, Eleanor, ends up becoming possessed by the house. When she is forced to leave, she ends up being killed in a car crash on the property. Master of horror, Stephen King, has praised The Haunting of Hill House as one of the best horror novels of the late 20th century. Reading it is a terrifying experience.
This novel was extremely influential in developing the zombie genre. Most recently adapted into a film starring Will Smith, the novel was originally published in 1954 and follows the journey of Robert Neville as the only survivor of a pandemic. Neville is trying to understand and cure the disease which he is immune to. Symptoms of the disease resemble vampirism, an affliction which caused Neville to kill his wife. Unlike the movie adaptation, the infected evolve and are able to start their new society—killing Neville. While it’s less “terrifying” than some others, it’s a very interesting piece of literature that reflects on human nature in a time of survival.
American Psycho is perfectly described in its title. The reader never truly knows what is actually happening, and what is a hallucination. The main character, Patrick Bateman, is an investment banker in Manhattan during the financial boom of the late 1980s. However, by night, he is a murder whose crimes escalate throughout the book until he commits a shooting spree of random people in the street. This leads to him confessing his murders on his lawyer’s message machine—but only to be received with much disbelief since he recently had dinner with one of Bateman’s “victims”. This psychological thriller is quite disturbing—and even more so because it is difficult to separate reality from dream-sequences.