Just in time for Halloween, here’s my top ten list of books that seriously freaked me out while reading:
1. Salem’s Lot, Stephen King. It was hard to pick my favorite Stephen King horror book. There are many, but Salem's Lot was the first for me, so I'm going with this one.
A man goes back to his childhood hometown to discover that the residents are turning into vampires and come out at night to invade the town. I read this as a teenager – back when vampires were scary and didn’t sparkle. King dives into your imagination to the world of scary monsters that during the time, weren’t made sexy and seductive. Vampires sucked the life out of you. Violently. But as with many of King’s books, it’s more than just a vampire book – it’s a tale of darkness and evil that resides in us all.
2. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice. Vampires again? Yes. Because it’s Anne Rice. And it’s the Vampire Lestat. Period.
3. The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty. This is another one I read as a teenager. At the time, I was being raised in the Catholic church, attending catechism classes, and going to confession on a semi-regular basis. So a story of a young girl possessed, having the devil take over her body and soul?…well, call me crazy, but that young Catholic girl believed that this can really happen. Possession? The devil within? Yah. I can thank the nuns I grew up with for instilling this fear. In my mind, this can be reality, and this book was a bit too close to my Catholic roots. Although I’m only a very semi-practicing Catholic now, this book still creeps me out. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ve only sampled a taste of the freak factor. Think about that one the next time you see Linda Blair creek walking backwards down those stairs. Just a taste.
4. World War Z, Max Brooks. Zombies have taken over. The plague has arrived. World War Z is more like an oral history and reads like a government report. It’s a gripping tale of what happens when the zombies take over and nearly eradicate the human race. It’s not a narrative, descriptive novel where you can root for a particular character or outcome. It’s factual in nature, at times cold and unemotional, and makes you question if this is real, or if it could be. If you’ve only seen the movie, well, go read the book. The only thing the movie and the book have in common is the title.
5. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis. Handsome, educated, rich dude has everything he wants. It’s the 80’s consumerism at the height of Dynasty-esque, "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" living. The main character, Patrick, is living that lifestyle…by day. By night, he’s bringing home women, abusing, raping, torturing, and killing them. It’s twisted and dark. Creepy. *shivers*
6. Dead Sky Morning / Lying Season / On Demon Wings, Karina Halle. These are tied as the most creepy and disturbing books in a series. In Halle’s Experiment in Terror series, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray go chasing stories of ghosts, demons, hauntings, and other unexplained behavior. The only thing is while they’re chasing down ghosts, Perry can really see them, and they start attacking her and Dex. In Dead Sky Morning, it’s them camping on an island, a freaky dead woman, skeletal remains of lepers that are washing onto the shore and trying to pull Perry under, and a deer that keeps staring at them. Lying Season continues with Perry dealing with a woman from Dex’s past. A dead woman. Then, in On Demon Wings, Perry finds out she’s carrying a child, except, it’s not really a child. It’s a demon baby. Sounds outlandish and campy? Maybe. But it’s well written, suspenseful, full of dark imagery that makes for good novels.
7. Hell House, Richard Matheson. It’s a haunted house. It’s scary as hell. Isn’t that enough?
8. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin. A young couple moves to a New York City apartment, and the husband befriends the neighbors. The neighbors are leaders of a satanic coven, who plan to steal Rosemary’s child after it’s born. While believing they want to sacrifice the infant for their cult, the true identity and reason for the cult’s interest in the baby is revealed. Once again – the church, the devil, cults, all make this a horror classic. Another one where the film pales in the scare factor to the written words.
9. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Alvin Schwartz. Folklore. Urban Legends, creepy ass illustrations. Let me just share some of the titles: The Old Woman All Skin and Bones. The Dead Man’s Brains. The Big Toe. The Ghost with Bloody Fingers.
Seriously, this shit goes on and on. When you’re a kid – reading these? Sleeping with the lights on people. Not ashamed. Sleeping with the lights on.
10. The Raven, and other stories, Edgar Allen Poe. Are you kidding me? Poetry, horror stories, and things that are scratching under the floorboards.