In honor of Halloween, here are a few of the scariest things I’ve read, in no particular order.
The Turn of the Screw: Henry James’ classic is awkward and slow, like a suspense-building machine. It has visions of ghosts in windows, creepy kids, and an ambiguous ending that is chilling, even if we don’t know what’s happening exactly.
The Ghostly Rental: One of Henry James’ more commercial – and now less popular — attempts, though he never found much commercial success. It’s about a ghost, and rent, and a ghost paying rent. It’s a little scary, but it’s interesting to read these old ghost stories. There was a bad movie made of this called The Haunting of Hell House.
The Shining (Stephen King): And you thought the movie was scary. Swap the ax for a croquet mallet, and give the kid a creepy superpower (and an evil alter ego?). Jack is a complex character and we go as crazy as he does.
Nightmares and Dreamscapes: King’s short stories get really dark. My favorite is “Dolan’s Cadillac.” It’s a creepy but interesting tale of a man’s obsession with revenge.
The Silence of the Lambs: The book by Thomas Harris is as scary and entertaining as the movie. Again, we get to learn a little more about the characters than we do in the movie.
First Blood: I know what you’re thinking: Rambo? But the original book, and the original character, is really dark and disturbing. And the real Rambo isn’t much of a good guy. It’s also a good discussion starter on PTSD.
The Cask of Amontillado: Poe’s tale of torture, revenge, and a dead body.
The Masque of Red Death: Poe’s plague at a masquerade ball.
The Pit and the Pendulum: Poe again. The deadly pendulum keeps getting closer and closer. The room gets smaller and smaller. A lesson in suspense.
I really can’t have this list without “The Raven” and “The Tell-tale Heart.”