Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Scary Books

It's already Halloween here (a fact which means almost nothing to the Koreans), so I thought I'd write about books that have scared me. There aren't that many -- either I'm not reading the right stuff, or I don't scare easily.

In elementary school, a novel called Jane-Emily scared me mightily. My 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Lemmon, read it aloud. That woman knew how to get ominous! I was awake at night most of the next few weeks. Evertime a branch scratched against the screen on the window, I was convinced that Emily was there to do me malevolent harm. I buried my head under the covers and wondered how to mollify a ghost.

When I was in middle school I had a book called 50 Great Ghost Stories that I enjoyed reading by flashlight. The story about Anne Boleyn walking around the castle with her head tucked under her arm was a little too much for me, though. After reading it once, I couldn't even flip past the page with the small pen-and-ink illustration.

As an adult, a novel that creeped me out was Bad Ronald by John Holbrook Vance (also known as Jack Vance, the science-fiction writer). Around the same time, I read a true crime book called The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule. Also around this time, my first husband was taking a lot of business trips. You'd think I would've been more judicious about what I was reading right before bed, alone in a dark house except for a toddler.

The Exorcist irritated me and made me laugh in equal measure. The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, who is one of my all-time favorite authors, didn't really scare me, although I did enjoy the story. (I even read it the proper way -- on Halloween night, several years ago.)

I'm thinking of trying The Turn Of The Screw by Henry James. I've heard that it's chillingly effective. What books have almost literally scared the crap out of you?

8 comments:

jenclair said...

I loved Turn of the Screw and each time I've read it, have had a new take on it.

Silence of the Lambs was pretty scary to me and Ghost Story by Peter Straub was as well.

kookiejar said...

The only book that ever gave me nightmares was "The Shining", but for Halloween I love the anthologies that Alfred Hitchcock put together.

Katya said...

I've never been able to finish much Henry James, but I loved The Turn of the Screw.

Tara said...

All these R.I.P posts and Halloween themed posts have me thinking....I've never read much scary fiction. The books I've been frightened by have been nonfiction.

Sam Houston said...

Both Salem's Lot and The Shining made me very "jumpy" for a few nights. :-)

Eva said...

The Turn of the Screw didn't scare me. But I read it in the summer. I think I need to give it another chance!

When I was in fifth grade, I read this book called Amnesia; then I nominated it for my English teacher to read it aloud, thereby scaring my entire class. This girl wakes up not remembering anything, with her loving sister taking care of her and letting her know her past. But it turns out the sister is really a creepy stalker. And she ends up chasing the girl with a huge butcher knife through a small town. Plus, it turns out the stalker caused the girl's amnesia by popping up in her backseat while she was driving, resulting in an accident. To this day, I check the backseat of my car when I get in; just in case!

I also read a ghost story with an evil doll in it around that time. At one point, the girl buries the doll, hoping it will go away. She's in her room when she starts hearing a thumping noise coming up the stairs. The doll opens the door, and she has dirt smears and leaves all in her hair. Ugh. I'm creeping myself out now!

Dewey said...

I'm not really a fan of scary books (or movies!) because I don't enjoy being scared. I also hate roller coasters for the same reason. But I did read It and Pet Semetary (both Stephen King) during the one year I ever lived alone in my whole life. And I lived across the street from a cemetery! I took showers with my eyes open that year.

joemmama said...

Oh my....The Haunting of Hill House made me wet myself....babysitting in a strange house...kids asleep...and a window blows open....Yikes!!!!!