Its often said that Stephen King can make anything scary. Clowns. Dogs. Your next door neighbor. The master of horror can twist and weave his way into your psychosis with but a few words on the page. And seeing how its Halloween, let’s revisit King’s novels and take a look at his library to get spooked once again. Here are a few of King’s scariest works, best read after dark.
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Miserydoesn’t have goblins, ghosts, or ghouls, but its horror is more frightening because its horror is based in reality. A chilling look at fandom gone wrong, this book tells the tale of what happens when a work of fiction becomes too much of an obsession. Writer Paul Sheldon suffers an accident during a snowstorm and is rescued by Annie Wilkes. Although seemingly sweet at first, Annie reveals she’s quite insane and is not happy with Paul for the ending of his last book, where her favorite character got killed off. So Annie takes Paul hostage and forces him to rewrite the book. A disturbing portrait of the more psychological variety, this one is also a disturbingly accurate showcasing of an obsessed fan that goes too far that rings even more true today.
4. ‘Night Shift’
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Night Shift is an anthology of short stories that contain some of King’s best and scariest works. Included in this collection are Graveyard Shift, where a group of men investigate the abandoned basement of a steel mill and find it infested with giant rats. Quitters Inc. showcases a hapless smoker who will do anything to stop his addiction. The Mangler is all about an industrial laundry machine that gets possessed by a demon and how it violently kills those who come into contact with it. What are the rest? You’ll have to crack it open and see for yourself, if you dare.
3. ‘Salem’s Lot’
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Salem’s Lotis a chilling novel about vampires invading a small, sleepy little town with a lot of dark secrets. Full of genuinely horrifying imagery, lots of gore, violence, and very frightening vampires, this novel is not for the faint of heart but is sure to please any fans of the children of the night.
2. ‘Durma Key’
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Durma Keyis a lesser known Stephen King work but its just as gripping and scary as any mainstream novel. A scary, psychological story, we aren’t going to spoil anything of this one but its scary the same way Misery is. Its about the perils of creativity, the mysteries of one’s past, and with a touch of supernatural to add some spice, this one is one that should be read by more people.
1. ‘Pet Sematary’
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This is it. Pet Semataryis probably King’s scariest work. King himself almost didn’t finish it because of how upset it made him. Drawing inspiration from a relief life incident where King saved his young son from being struck by a truck, King spun this tale out of his own fears and it certainly shows. When a father’s son is hit by a truck, he buries him in a cursed burial ground that brings the dead back. Having already done this with his cat, the cat comes back meaner and seemingly undead. And when his son comes back, things take a turn for the absolute worst. Riveting, utterly terrifying, and full of frightening imagery, this book will linger with you in ways a book often doesn’t.
But first, let’s set up one rule: all of the monsters on this list have to be fictional. No non-fiction real people. No, “I read a book on Manson and he was evil so why is he not on this list?” No. All these people are fiction, figments of an author’s imagination.
With that said, let’s start off with:
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I have nothing against children (that’s a lie), but she’s just plain EVIL! From the first pages of A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy, you know this girl is trouble, and she is. Duncan and Isadora, two orphans already at the academy, are forced to live in a shack due to not having parents or guardians to sign the permission slip for the dorms. Carmelita begins referring to their shack as the Orphans Shack.
And that’s before our trio, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, make their way into the story.
When she and Violet have the same class, Carmelita takes it upon herself to poke Violet with a stick and whisper “orphan” every few minutes. Plus, she takes it upon herself to remind the orphans that, well, they’re orphans. Even worst, she calls them “cakesniffers!”, a confusing but still ultimately insulting jab at their…lack of cake?
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Come The Slippery Slope, Carmelita meets Olaf and Esmé Squalor face to face. Without a second thought, she abandons her parents and becomes their child.
Think about it. Her parents sent her to Prufrock Preporatory, a boarding school. I know rich people send most of their kids away for boarding school, but this just stinks that her parents don’t even like Carmelita, and honestly, who could blame them?
When Olaf and Esmé have our trio in their grasp they discuss which Baudelaire to leave alive for the fortune, and Carmelita suggests keeping Violet so they can tie her hair to things.
In the Grim Grotto, Olaf shows his human side with his annoyance at this little monster. Who can blame him? Every moment she’s on the page she just shows off how bratty she is.
You’re a cakesniffer and she eats cake! / Image Via Lemony Snicket Wiki – Fandom
Come The Penultimate Peril we’re on Olaf’s side when he abandons her and Esmé, since Esmé refuses to discipline the girl and Carmelita needs to be taken out back and shot Old Yeller-style.
What does Carmelita do next? She submits a book about how wonder she is to be used as evidence in a potential trial against Count Olaf and the Baudelaires.
Disloyal, wicked, and evil, Carmelita is a true monster. Don’t beleive me yet? Here’s the song she sings over and over again in The Grim Grotto:
C is for ‘cute’
A is for ‘adorable’!
R is for ‘ravishing’!
M is for ‘gorgeous’!
E is for ‘excellent’!
L is for ‘lovable’!
I is for ‘I’m the best’!
T is for ‘talented’!
and A is for ‘a tap-dancing ballerina fairy princess veterinarian’!
Now let’s sing my whole wonderful song all over again!
10-The White Witch
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The main antagonist of The Magician’s Nephew and of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Jadis is cold hearted demon. Not only did she murder God (Aslan), she enslaved Narnia to a thousand year winter. That wouldn’t be so bad, trees do annoy me, but she made it so it’s never Christmas but always winter.
To make it worse, she persuaded Edmund to turn against his friends with Turkish delight.
I have the right mind to call Jadis Judas.
IMage Via A Wiki of Ice and Fire – Westeros.org
This is hard, considering a lot of the characters in A Song of Ice and Fireare terrible people, but I say Tywin takes the cake. Yes, Joffrey is a psychopath, but Tywin is worse. Here’s why:
He emotionally abuses Tyrion
He uses Cersei as a brood mare
He sends The Mountain off and “didn’t know” that the Mountain would rape/kill Elia Martell and bash her two baby children against the wall.
Worst of all, Tywin is a perfectly rational person. This isn’t an issue of “bad genes” or anything like that. He was disrespected as a child, and thus he intends to never be disrespected again. Now that he’s an adult with the power he always dreamed of, he hasn’t stopped. He’s not bloodthirsty, he’s apathetic. Family is everything, and he won’t stop until he holds all the power over Westeros, no matter what the cost.
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I know he’s a vampire and that might be a good excuse for biting people, but going strictly off the Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Count is kind of a monster. Yes, he has to suck blood, but I’m not going to hold that against him. At his core he’s a predator. There’s no right or wrong that comes into play here because when you need to eat, you need to eat.
So he is even on this list? Well, let’s look at what he does…
He imprisoned Jonathan Harker.
He impersonated Harker so he could commit heinous crimes in his name, despite the fact he can transform and quickly get away, not impersonation required
He slaughtered an entire ship full of men.
He preyed on Mina just to hurt Jonathan and her family
Dracula doesn’t just feed because he needs to feed, he revels in his predator status just to terrify his prey because he finds it amusing. He’s like a shark that tells you, “I’m going to eat you whole and you’re going to want to scream but you’ll be suffocating as you slide down my throat”.
Dracula takes it a one step, and a couple more, from what his nature requires.
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Morgoth, Melkor, he’s known by several different names, but either way he’s a monster. We learn that in The Silmarillion that, after falling from glory, Morgoth corrupted all those in his wake. You think Sauron is bad? Sauron works for this monster.
It was only when Morgoth, after declaring war against the Elves and Men and slaughtering much of them during the First Age, that he was bound in chains and thrown into the void, leaving Sauron to trouble the world, as we see in The Hobbit and the Lords of the Ring trilogy.
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Worst of all, according to a prophecy, Morgoth will rise again.
Morgoth, Melkor, whatever you want to call him, he’s the OG monster in Tolkien’s leafy universe.
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In a world where everyone doesn’t listen to each other and people are routinely mistaken for others, Patrick Bateman fades into the background, and he loves that fact. But, subconsciously or otherwise, he leads a double life as a murderer.
Wealthy, materialistic, this Wall Street investment banker does less time working and more time going to parties. Plus, he tortures women and poor people and gays and children. Or maybe he doesn’t, it’s left very vague whether all his killings are actually happening.
She eats it, calling it minty. Twist! Since he doesn’t like his girlfriend very much, he given her a chocolate covered urinal cake.
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Real or imaginary, that’s…uh…ewwwww
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Annie Wilkes is the scariest character Stephen King ever created. Obsessive, psychotic, and worst of all…human.
She only appeared in Misery, and she certainly made an impression. The embodiment of every obsessive fan out there, Annie finds popular writer Paul Sheldon after a car crash. So she kidnaps him, ties him to a bed, and refuses to let him go until he writes a book. Paul is forced to indulge her every whim lest there be tragedy consequences.
When he tires to escape, he chops off his foot with an ax and cauterizing his ankle with a blowtorch. When his typewriter breaks down, she cuts off his thumb with an electric knife. When a state trooper comes to her house, she runs him over with her riding law mower.
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The titular character of Fifty Shades of Grey, Christian is abusive, emotionally unstable, and an all around prick who the author doesn’t think is problematic any way.
For one, he claims he’s in BDSM but in reality he just likes hurting women who have brown hair. Like his mom “the crack whore”. When Ana tells him she’s a virgin, he stomps around the room before deciding that he has to ‘take care of it’.
Yes, he was abused by an older woman, but he refuses to say she did anything wrong. Not only does he refuse to say she did anything wrong, but you better not tell him he’s wrong or else…
Not the monster, the doctor who created him. This scientist is the true monster of the story.
After creating life itself, Victor looks upon his creation and sees something that is clearly not human. He sees something breathing, thinking, alive, but less than perfect, and so he rejects it, shuns it from the world.
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The creature seeks revenge against him, but are we to blame the creature? Forced away from the one who gave it life into an unforgiving world, the creature could not thrive, only survive. His vengeance is not just wrath, it’s justice for the mistakes Victor has created.
While he regrets creating the creature, Victor does not look upon the creature with understanding. Instead he calls the creature ‘fiend’ or ‘demon’ and pursues him to the Arctic, intend to kill it. He falls through the ice and dies, warning other not to meddle with life, but failing to teach them the lesson of empathy.
Humbert Humbert uses language to seduce the readers, and he almost succeeds. But lest we forget: he’s a pedophile, obsessed over a girl he calls Lolita. That’s why the book is called Lolita.
For the record, her real name is Dolores.
Back to Humbert. He marries a woman to get closer to his daughter and, once the woman dies, he kidnaps her.
The worst of it is that Humbert Humber makes himself a sympathetic pedophile. He criticizes the vulgarity of American culture, establishing himself as an intellectual, and considers his sexuality to be a sign of his culture.
A monster, if I ever saw one, but nothing compared to our number one pick…
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“The Judge” appears Blood Meridian very early on. We’re following the kid who goes to a revival meeting when a man bursts into the tent and tells the crowd that the preacher up on stage isn’t a real preacher, but a man wanted in three states.
The man who burst into the tent is “The Judge” and you might not know it, but he’s one you have to watch out for.
But compared to the illiterate drunken rapists surrounded you, the Judge is a breath of fresh air. Just look at that first scene! He showed everyone who that ‘preacher’ truly was. He has morals.
If you think about it, that means you’ve put your trust into this monster.
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You see, when the Judge burst into that tent he saw the kid. He didn’t just look at him, he saw into his soul. That’s good. Cormac McCarthy never says who the Judge exactly is, if he has gone mad, but if they told me he wasn’t human, if they told me he was the personification of evil, I’d believe it.
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There’s something fun about bad guys. A memorable villain is just as much a key ingredient of literature as the hero, acting as the antagonist and obstacle in the way of the heroes goals. If done properly, a villain will be just as remembered and often as beloved as the hero, hailed for their command of evil minions, nefarious lines, and the threatening situations they put our plucky main characters in. But who are the best? Who are the cream of the crop among literary bad guys? Well, here are the top ten best and darkest villains in literature!
10. Annie Wilkes- ‘Misery’
Image via Stephen King wiki
Annie Wilkes is a cautionary tale, showcasing how mentally unstable being a ‘superfan’ can make you. When writer Paul Sheldon breaks both legs in an accident, Annie takes him in and begins to nurse him back to health. But slowly, she reveals she’s obsessed with the Misery series Paul writes and the latest book kills off Misery. Annie Wilkes snaps at this and forces Paul to write a new novel that undoes Misery’s death. She subjects him to multiple horrors within her house, such as slicing off Paul’s leg with an axe and stabbing a state trooper who tries to rescue Paul before running him over with a lawnmower. Annie Wilkes grows increasingly psychotic over the course of the novel and just as Paul does, the reader becomes increasing desperate to escape her presence. Annie Wilkes was played by Kathy Bates in the 1990 film adaptation, winning an Oscar for bringing the character to life.
9. Patrick Bateman- ‘American Psycho’
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Debuting in 1991 in the novel American Psycho,Patrick Bateman is a deeply, deeply disturbed man. A young investment banker living in Manhattan during the 1980s, Patrick Bateman is a serial killer who begins the novel in semi-control of his killing urges but spirals completely out of control as the novel progresses. Told from Bateman’s POV, the novel paints him as a racist, a homophobic, a narcissist, and a psychopath. However, Bateman may not even be a serial killer, as the novel frames his crimes as possibly not even having happened after he confesses at the book’s end. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Bateman is a deeply disturbed man and one whose mental state is at rock bottom, even if he’s a serial killer or not.
8. Count Olaf- ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’
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Children’s novels often have brought to life some of the most iconic villains in pop culture and Count Olaf is no exception. The main antagonist for the majority of the series, obsessed with claiming the fortune of the Baudelaire orphans. Over the course of the series, he appears in each location the children find themselves in, from steel mills to a reptile zoo to a carnival. Each time, Count Olaf assumes a new disguise in his pursuit of the kids, fooling everyone but them with his distinct personas. He may be a murderer with a flair for arson but Count Olaf is always a lot of fun, hammy and over the top in his villainy. Yet, at the end of the series, he manages to become a sympathetic figure and even allies with the children against a worse evil before he meets his demise, showing perhaps that he was more complicated than we thought.
7. Big brother- ‘1984′
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Less a character than a symbol of tyranny and oppression, Big Brother is nonetheless the ruling leader of Oceania in 1984. Never seen in person, Big Brother might just a symbol of the tyrannical Party but that doesn’t matter. People believe he exists and the Party reinforces this belief to the oppressed populace. Posters decorate the city that bear the now famous slogan ‘Big Brother is watching you’. The message is always clear: Big Brother sees all and if there is dissent, he knows. Big Brother becomes akin to God, a portrait of a tyranny realized at its terrifying conclusion.
6. Mr. Croup and Vandemar- ‘Neverwhere’
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Croup and Vandemar are a double-act, a pair of villains who are hired to track down the heroes in Neverwhere. It is not made entirely clear what they are but they’re not human, that’s for certain, as they have a habit of eating live animals and sometimes, chunks of furniture! Croup is a small fat man who is possessed with a verbose style of speech while Vandemar is his brutish partner who barely speaks and specializes more in killing things. The pair certainly make a memorable impression whenever they’re onscreen, serving as an excellent and terrifying pair of evil thugs who can’t be stopped by regular weapons.
5. Regal Farseer-‘The Farseer Trilogy’
Regal Farseer is a vain and cruel prince in line to acquire the throne in the fantasy kingdom of Buckeep. However, his plans of ascension are thrown into a snag when a bastard son of his father, Chivalry Farseer, called Fitz (the protagonist) comes to Buckeep. Regal is aware of Fitz’s heritage and plots to kill him. He eventually acquires the throne throughout the trilogy and Fitz is brought into conflict with his half-brother to get it back. Regal embodies jealously, cruelty, and arrogance, being one dark and vicious prince.
4. Randall Flagg-‘The Stand’
Described as Stephen King’s ‘ubervillain’, Randall Flagg appears through Stephen King’s multiverse to wreck constant havoc. He first appears in The Stand, as a demonic cult leader trying to establish a new society filled with his loyal followers after a plague has destroyed the Earth’s population. Flagg seemingly meets his end when his blown up by a nuclear warhead but reappears throughout further Stephen King works, revealing himself to be an immortal sorcerer who travels throughout space and time, his ultimate goal being to climb The Dark Towerto become a god. Assuming a vast number of identities, Flagg is always a manipulative, dark presence who strikes fear whenever he appears, no matter the setting or genre.
3. Professor Moriarty- ‘Sherlock Holmes’
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Even if you’ve never read a Sherlock Holmesstory, you know this guy. Moriarty appears in The Final Problem, becoming famous as the antagonist who would (temporarily) kill Sherlock Holmes. There, Holmes has penetrated his criminal organization and is forced to flee across the country from Moriarty’s wrath. The pursuit ends on Reichenbach Falls, where the two fight and seemingly plummet to their deaths. Moriarty never appears directly onscreen, as the novel is narrated by Watson who never crosses path with the criminal leader but he is practically an overlord of the London underworld, just as brilliant as Sherlock but uses his mind for evil. It’s no wonder Moriarty was promoted to Holmes’s archenemy, he became such an iconic figure that adaptations see fit to use him as Sherlock’s ultimate enemy.
2. Dolores Umbridge- ‘Harry Potter’
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Forget Voldemort, Dolores Umbridge is a far more evil character because of how real she feels. Seemingly a sweet little lady, Dolores Umbridge reveals herself to be sadistic, cruel, and hits all the buttons to make her hate throughout the series. She interrupts Dumbledore during the Feast, she speaks to the students as if they’re a bunch of small children, she punishes Harry for his misbehaving by making him carve the words “I MUST NOT TELL LIES” over and over again into his skin while she watches with a sweet smile. Dolores hides behind her position of authority to inflict her sadistic whims on Hogwarts and its a sigh of relief when gets what’s coming to her at the end, although some think it wasn’t enough for this woman.
1. Sauron- ‘The Lord of the Rings’
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The titular Lord of the Rings, Sauron is unique among fantasy evil overlords in that he never appears directly in the trilogy but his presence consumes everything and he’s responsible for every evil act in one way or another. A former Maiar, a divine angel, Sauron turned away from the light in his lust for power and crafted the One Ring to rule Middle-earth. But the forces of men and elves fought against him, destroying his physical form. Sauron took years to establish himself again, confining himself to his tower in Mordor and building a dark army to conquer Middle-earth while searching to regain the One Ring to claim ultimate victory. Sauron is arguably scarier for how he never appears, only referenced by Gandalf, Saruman, and Gollum but the way they speak of him, how they describe what he is, leaves no doubt that he is one of the greatest villains in literary history. Sometimes, the imagination is more powerful than what we can see.