When writing, The Stand (published in 1978) - a hugely famous dark fantasy novel in King's repertoire about a pandemic powered by a weaponized version of the flu (does this sound relevant?) - King struggled to continue after reaching the 500 page mark.
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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Misery doesn’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 Lot is 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 Key is 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 Sematary is 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.
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Vampires. The very name conjures images that are a long cherished part of culture: spooky castles, hordes of fluttering bats, ancient cobweb-drenched coffins, and bloodsucking monsters who arise when night falls. Vampires have been haunting our collective imaginations for a long, long time and although they’re hugely represented in television, movies, and video games, they also are a huge part of literature. But who are the best among the children of the night? Let’s have a look at the top ten best vampires and see who comes out on top!
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10. D from ‘Vampire Hunter D’
Vampire Hunter D is a series of Japanese novels (twenty six as of this writing) by Hideyuki Kikuchi, centering around D, a half breed child of a vampire and a human. He hunts vampires across a post-apocalyptic world, full of monsters, mutants, bandits, lovecraftian beasts, and other horrors that have to be seen to be believed. Extremely stoic, D rarely allows himself to feel emotions in order to avoid giving into his ever present vampiric hunger for blood, which he actively resists. Owing to his half-breed status, he has a variety of supernatural and magical powers but often prefers to rely on his sword in combat. He’s also exceptionally beautiful and has a sidekick in the form of his left hand, a sentient symbiote known as Left Hand who enjoys needling his host and providing much needed comic relief. D tackles a variety of hunts throughout the novels, acting as a lone wanderer across the barren world, always showing up when there’s trouble but never lingering too long after the job is done.
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9. Don Simon Ysidro from ‘Those who hunt the Night’
Those Hunt The Night by Barbara Hambly features a complex vampire known as Don Simon Ysidro, who proves a seemingly charming, intelligent, even kind man to his ally Professor James Asher in their quest to hunt down vampires haunting Victorian era London. But beneath his seemingly all too human aura, Ysidro is an unapologetic predator, who has a reputation for murdering people throughout the centuries and when the predator comes out, he reveals himself as a monster through and through.
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8. Lestat de Lioncourt from ‘The Vampire Chronicles’
The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice features one of the most famous literary vampires of all time: Lestat de Lioncourt. Beginning as an antagonist in Interview With a Vampire, his popularity promoted him to the series protagonist and overall narrator. Vain and self-obsessed, Lestat is passionate about the arts, literature, and especially fashion, often pausing mid-narration to give the reader a description of what he’s wearing. His vampiric hunger knows no limits, as he is bisexual and will happily feed on both men and women. As an anti-hero, he is often framed as both a monster and a hero, quick to defend his behavior but often not backing it up. Both terrifying and compelling, Lestat is always the center of attention whenever he appears and for good reason.
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7. Thomas Raith from ‘The Dresden Files’
Thomas Raith from The Dresden Files is the brother to the main character of the series, Harry Dresden, a vampire of the White Court. Thomas, instead of sucking blood, preys on human emotions and energies, mostly often sexual energy. Thomas, thanks to his brother’s help, begins to overcome his monstrous affliction but struggles to retain it, often slipping in and out of his predatory behavior. Its hard for women to ignore him as well, thanks to his vampiric aura and exceptional good looks. But Thomas cares deeply for his brother and always remains a staunch ally, ready to fight by Harry’s side no matter what.
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6. Count Magpyr from ‘Discworld’
Count Magpyr from Discworld is a more comedic take on vampires, being a parody of Dracula and totally embracing hokey vampire tropes. The good Count wants to teach his children how to be vampires, such as avoiding garlic, religious symbols, and how to choose to best people to feed on. Hailing from a mounty, wintery region known as the Uberwald, Magpyr lords over his vampire family and dominates the poor villages near his castle. He can also turn into a flock of magpies and often uses them as spies around his kingdom. Colorful and comedic, the Count is a total blast of a villain and one who loves being a vampire.
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5. Yuki Cross from ‘Vampire Knight’
Yuki Cross is the star protagonist of the Japanese manga series Vampire Knight. Awakening with no memory of her past, she attends an academy called Cross Academy, where students are divided into two classes: Day Class (humans) and Night Class (vampires). She is appointed a guardian, which means she has to stop the different classes from killing each other as they try to learn from the school’s secrets. Colorful and comedic, Yuki is a cheerful girl who is brilliant but lazy and who hides a dark secret unknown even to herself at first: she’s a Pureblood vampire, meaning she possesses unique powers and abilities far surpassing most vampires. Unfortunately, her unique blood makes her a prime target of her kind, who wish to consume her blood for their own purposes.
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4. Lord Ruthven from ‘The Vampyre’
One of the first vampires in English literature, Lord Ruthven is the star of the 1819 novel The Vampyre by John William Polidori. He shares many of the characteristics that made Dracula famous but actually predates him considerably, being mysterious, alluringly sexual, but dark and violent beneath his aristocratic aura. However, unlike most vampires, he is not harm by sunlight or crosses but can be killed by mortal weapons. Hence, Ruthven tries to hide more than other vampires and anyone who learns his secret ends up dead.
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3. Kurt Barlow from ‘Salem’s Lot’
Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot by Stephen King is the master vampire of a brood of vampires that invade the sleepy town of Jerusalem’s Lot. So old, he predates the founding of Christianity, his origins are unknown but he is speculated to be a nobleman of Austria, which is backed up by his accent. Arriving in a box to the town, Kurt Barlow begins quietly building up an army of vampires, attacking victims in the dead of night and slowly spreading his evil inch by inch, block by block. In confrontations with him, Barlow easily overwhelms the protagonists, even shrugging off being threatened by a cross. Although he is killed at the novel’s end, staked in his coffin, his vampires remain and take over the town, making it a permanent nest to their kind.
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2. Carmilla from ‘Carmilla’
Carmilla of the 1872 novel of the same name. Carmilla is a lesbian vampire who preys on a young women (the narrator) and expresses homosexual desire toward her. Carmilla preys on the narrator multiple times before being hunted down and brutally staked by a hunting party led by Baron Vordenburg, a descendent of vampire killers. Carmilla predates Dracula and is often thought of solidifying vampiric traits, as well as being a sympathetic character and showcasing homosexual themes.
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1. Dracula from ‘Dracula’
The one, the only. The most famous vampire of all, Dracula made vampires cool, popular, and enduring all at once with his little novel. In contrast to his screen appearances, Dracula in the novel is quite threatening, beginning the novel as a recluse living his castle in the mountains and taking the appearance of a decrepit old man with hairy palms. He crawls up walls like a lizard, summons swarms of rats, his breath is rank like a corpse, and is generally thought to be a symbol of a sexual deviant. Dracula is a contrast to the movies and television appearances that made him famous but he’s still an icon on page and somehow, much more terrifying. After all, he doesn’t drink…wine.
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It may be hard to keep track of all the Stephen King adaptations being made or coming out, but let’s add another one to the list!
‘Salem’s Lot, King’s second published novel, will be remade into a new horror film. The novel tells the story of a writer who returns to his childhood home only to find out that the residents are turning into vampires.
The book will be adapted by James Wan and Gary Dauberman. Both have been involved in various ways with The Conjuring films. In addition to directing blockbuster films like Aquaman and Furious 7, Wan directed the first two Conjuring films and produced the Annabelle and The Nun spin-offs. Dauberman wrote the two Annabelle films and is set to make his directorial debut with the third film.
This isn’t the first time that ’Salem’s Lot has been adapted. A miniseries based on the novel was released in 1979, with a sequel miniseries coming out in 1987. TNT released their own miniseries adaptation in 2004 with Rob Lowe starring as the main protagonist.
Are you a fan on ’Salem’s Lot?
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Vampires are a classic staple of literature. They can represent endless possibilities, from tragic figures of gothic romance to rampaging beasts of the night. These varied roles have contributed to vampires as enduring fixtures of literature. In addition to a thousand vampire books out there, it can be hard to judge those that have true ‘bite’ from the shambling ghouls. But below are five excellent vampires novel of which any bloodsucking fans will be enraptured by. Just be careful… don’t read them after dark!
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5. ‘Anno Dracula’ by Kim Newman
Anno Dracula is functions as both a sequel to Dracula and a new twist on the mythology of the classical Dracula lore. Dracula claims victory at the end of the original book instead of dying and marries Queen Victoria, establishing an order of vampires that rule London from the shadows. But Jack the Ripper stalks the streets, threatening Dracula’s regime as his murders grow out of hand, forcing a human detective named Charles Beauregard is dispatched to hunt down the killer. But instead, he finds himself drawn into a web of intrigue with a plot to overthrow Dracula’s rule. The story is full of politics, murder, and cameos from dozens of literary characters, Anno Dracula is an intriguing, deliciously dark read.
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4. ‘Vampire Academy’ by Richelle Mead
Imagine if you will a hybrid between Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Harry Potter. If you liked the sound of that, you’ll love Vampire Academy. The book tells the story of Rose Hathaway, a Dhampir who is the bodyguard to a vampire princess. Both of them end up at the titular academy, where they must blend into both the social scene, ritualistic classes, and fight off the dangerous vampires hunting them both down. Rose, an exciting and stylish protagonist, is a fun character to get to know for young readers.
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3. ‘The Strain’ by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro
The Strain reimagines vampires much like zombies, the apex for a horrendous vampiric plague that will cover the world. On a darkened runway, a mysterious plane lands, refusing to respond to communicating channels, the shades on its windows drawn. What is found inside unleashes the vampire plague upon New York City and begins an apocalypse. The Strain is a ‘realistic’ take on the vampire genre that feels horrifically terrifying while not sacrificing its monster for realism sake. The intro alone will grab you in a heartbeat. Check this one out; its a heart stopper.
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2. ‘Fevre Dream’ by George R.R. Martin
Fevre Dream is a 1982 novel by George R.R. Martin, who needs no introduction. Set in Mississippi during 1888, the story follows riverboat captain Abner Marsh, as one Joshua York approaches him an offer that drags him to the very heart of darkness. The novel works as both an adventure and horror story, filled with memorable characters, dazzling atmosphere, and exciting action. The vampire society is examined in high detail in this novel, making great characters alongside the human protagonist. The cherry on top is the high detail in the setting, with George R.R. Martin’s keen eye providing a lush world that feels very lived. Check it out!
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1. ‘Salem’s Lot’ by Stephen King
Salem’s Lot is scary. No less should be expected by the master horror writer, Stephen King, but this novel stands as one of his truly most terrifying—all the more impressive by this book only being his second published. The story focuses on writer Ben Mears, who comes to the sleepy New England town of Jerusalem’s Lot. But disappearances begin to happen, along with strange events, Mears suspects something sinister is arriving in the town. The plot functions as more of a mystery, with the vampires not revealing their presence until over halfway through of the book, but the chilling atmosphere and memorable characters eagerly hold reader’s attention. And when the vampires begin to siege in force, the book grabs the reader by the shoulder and doesn’t let go until the last line in the final chapter. Scary, well written, and paced perfectly, and Jerusalem’s Lot is the cream of the crop in the vampire genre.