Friday, October 26, 2012


More Frightening Things to Read

If you need more books to scare yourself with or to nod back at nostalgically, bookish people — including R.L. Stine and The Hairpin's Nicole Cliffe — recommend the ones that messed with their heads the best/worst. (For me that would be House of Leaves, which prompted a nightmare I still think about; incidentally — or not, maybe, because of Halloween – Mark Z. Danielewski has a new book out.)

Previously: Really Scary Books.

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I tried so hard to get into House of Leaves but I never could. Perhaps I'll give it another shot.


@backstagebethy I think you have to really love metafiction. And if you find metafiction cheesy or too gimmicky, there's just probably not much hope that you'll like it.


Best. Dream. Ever. @k


Oh man RL Stein made me think of Christopher Pike who wrote Whisper Of Death. Which scared the ever loving crap out of 10 year old me.


Mine is House of Leaves too. Holy crap it spooked me, and I'm not easily spooked. And you can't even really point to a specific scary thing, it's just the sense of unease you get while reading it. I think for me, it was the idea that physical space was an entirely relative concept in the book. That you couldn't trust your own understanding of the physical world. And, you know, all the creeping paranoia. But mostly the physical space stuff.


@Emby I remember finishing House of Leaves, thinking "Hm, that was creepy enough, I suppose" and then going to take a shower. It wasn't until I was standing naked under the water that the full force of the creepiness hit me - some weird delayed reaction? - and I had to sit down in the shower, because I felt so ill thinking about that exact sense you describe of not being able to trust my own conceptualization of space. I couldn't bring myself to step out of the shower or anything, I just had to sit and be terrified for a while.


@Emby House of Leaves was my first attempt to read a scary book, since scary movies don't phase me. I got to the part where the house measurements didn't add up and put it down in terror. Why are scary books so much scarier than scary movies?!


@MilesofMountains Right?? I still don't understand why that seemingly innocuous fact is so fucking scary to me. And apparently lots of other people. It's like some hitherto unknown collective unconscious fear of not being able to measure something.


@Emby I was reading House of Leaves while my husband was out of town (because I'm a GIANT idiot). One of the nights he was gone, I had a nightmare that the floorboards in my living room were running north-south instead of east-west, as they actually do. This was years ago, and I still think about that dream. I've also never finished that book.


@MmeLibrarian & everyone: I am going to have to check this out; I am a pretty avid reader and I love The Scary but I honestly had never heard of this book until like a year ago, when I started reading comments here.

Big Rig and Jesse

@Emby Oh man, I am about 120 pages in, and I have been on a week long break from that book. What I can't handle is that I knew its deal from a friend before I started -- the weird typography, the metacommentary, the general dread -- and I thought that would make me immune. Dead wrong! It just makes it that much more unnerving.

Like, what is the deal with the one page with the check mark at the bottom? I've looked, it's the only one. What does it mean and why am I so freaked out by it? Gah!


I bought House of Leaves right when I moved to New York, picked it up off a sidewalk seller. I think that this is at least partially the reason why it took me longer to find a job — I just could NOT put it down even though it scared me shitless.

To me it's scarier than any movie because even though it's all on the page, it's also all in your own head and there's no way to tell your brain to not have an overreactive imagination.

I just started Fifty Year Sword and already I'm freaked, mostly because this time it involves creepy children...

Books like his are why I still buy real books vs e-books - they are works of art in addition to being stories.


SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK. I heard they were reprinting it w/o the illustrations? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQaqLmpPO14

Another thing to read: The Devil In the White City. It's a real thing that happened! Nightmaressss


@Danzig! I read The Devil in the White City while on vacation. In slightly rundown hotel rooms. Worst. Idea. Ever.


@Danzig! Reprinting with new illustrations by the guy who did the Lemony Snicket books. And while he is fine, the Stephen Gammell illustrations are why those books go from "elementary school shiver-inducers" to "HAUNTING NIGHTMARES FOR TWENTY YEARS".

Lisa Frank

@Danzig! Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark freaked me out so much I couldn't sleep with it in my room. And then I just gave it away in a Secret Santa. It was the definitely the illustrations, because the stories themselves were pretty cheesy.


@Lisa Frank Oh my god, those illustrations haunt me to this day.


@Danzig! I started this a while back and couldn't get into it, which is strange because I love true crime and history-based fiction (like The Alienist) and real serial killers (well, I don't love them, but you know...). Then I put it down in favor of something else. I should try again.


@Danzig! OMG. I can't remember if this story was in that one, or the horrifying sequel, MORE scary stories to tell in the dark, but does anyone remember the story about the scarecrow who came to life and skinned people alive and left their skin out to dry on the roof of the house? GAH. WHY.


@Leanne HAROLD


I just asked for spooky reads on my Facebook page! The best reommendation I've gotten so far was M.R. James's "O Whistle and I'll Come to You My Lad" which I just read and now I'm whimpering. It's very short and very scary!


@Decca It's the best story ever written about haunted laundry! (Edit: this sounds kind of snarky, but it's a defense mechanism because that story is way scarier than makes any sense given that it involves haunted laundry.)

Priscilla Peel

@Decca That story is so scary! I love M.R. James and his creepy academic world. My favorite is "Casting the Runes," which is about the horrifying things that can happen to you if you reject someone's conference paper.


I don't know why, exactly 'Salem's Lot horrified me so completely, I only know that it gave me lingering uneasiness for weeks. (It's just vampires! Why does the very thought of the book give me the stomach-crawlies?)


@JanieS My mom read Salem's Lot and was so scared that she bought my sister's and me crucifixes and instructed us to never make eye contact with anyone outside our window.
So as a 10 year old, my mother told me vampires exist and they were coming to get me.


@BuffyBot ...

If my mom had ever told me stuff like that, I would still be hiding under my bed.


@JanieS It is one of my favorite books (which I've said here before, so I apologize for being redundant) and my very favorite Stephen King book ever! I read it for the first time when I was 12 maybe, and have reread it countless times since (though I worry about eventually wearing out the scary). Sometimes I wish I hadn't read it so that I could read it for the first time (if that makes sense). That first read was in the summer and I remember being in my almost-dark bedroom with the window open and constantly thinking about Danny Glick. To have that awesome crazy-scary feeling all over again would be... well, awesome!

@BuffyBot But, considering your user name, you have gotten over your vampire fear... at least a little bit!


You guys remember that story from In a Dark, Dark Room (also by Alvin Schwartz) where the woman always wears a ribbon around her neck? When I was in college I'd always (I mean, not constantly, just like... a normal amount) ask people if they remembered that story and no one ever knew what I was talking about! But I feel like this is a place where everyone would know that story.

Also, has anyone read RL Stine's adult horror novel? I'm intrigued, but reviews don't seem too positive.


@iknowright Yep. And I remember what happens when she removes the ribbon, too!


@iknowright The green ribbon! Lady, there has got to be a more secure way.

A friend described the adult Stine novel as "Goosebumps, but with more cursing."


@Emby No, not "The Green Ribbon" noooooooo ... 2nd-grade-Janie was scarred for life by that story.


@iknowright I remember that story!! My scarred-for-life story was the one about the bride who plays hide-and-seek on her wedding day, hides in an attic trunk that accidentally locks, and is never found. I haaaaaate buried alive stories


@iknowright I was totally freaked out by that one as a kid, and man, what a twisted way to finally tell your husband about the ribbon.


@iknowright I was just going to write on this thread about this story! I read it in In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories. Which is a book recommended for 4-8 year olds. Scared the shit out of me! Also, there was another one about the guy lending a girl his jacket and then it was on her tombstone later..wtf man!


@iknowright That's where that story was from?! I could not remember for the life of me. It was one of those weird stories that got stuck in my brain when I was a kid and then just sat there with no referenece. Next time I'm at my parents' house, I'm going to see if they still have that book.

sudden but inevitable betrayal

@Danzig! The one that still gets me is the one about the guy who kept seeing this horse so one night he catches it and puts horseshoes on it and it turns out the horse was his wife and now she has horseshoes nailed to her hands and feet AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH.


@iknowright This exists! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3PIkV2anqk I loved those scary stories but they still freak me out. Did In A Dark, Dark Room also have the one about the puzzle that a lady (?) is putting together and then it's some dude outside her window?


@Danzig! Mine was one called "The China Doll" or something like that, and there was a pretty yet creepy porcelain doll on a shelf and people were mysteriously dying in the night and then someone noticed that, after each death, the doll's lips were a little bit redder and her nails were a little bit longer and sharper and... oof--goosebumps on me right now!


@iknowright Yeah, Red Rain is... not so good. It's like a fake adult novel, like kids who are slightly too old for Goosebumps might read it and feel like they were reading a book for grownups since it's got sex and swearing in it, but it's really lightweight and predictable and kind of dull.


@iknowright AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH i had forgotten about that one

and now i have to hide under my bed and die of horrible repressed memories

Old Timey Dino

@Danzig! I had forgotten about that story. So scared now. So scared.


If you live in the Mid-Atlantic or Northeast U.S., you could also read Pete Davies' "Inside The Hurricane" (note to self: do not fucking read this right now, no matter how much you want to look up that reference to different track models. I mean it. Do not touch that section of your shelf.)


@area@twitter Ugh, this whole thing is making me twitchy. I'm in Morris County, NJ, and probably safe enough from flooding where I am... which is not the case for my BF who's right between two rivers. In the last three years, he's had to rebuild his downstairs three times after getting flooded (and rescued, guitars and all, by a boat!), with the last one amounting almost six feet of water. The irony is that, tomorrow morning at 9:30, potential buyers are coming to look at his place, which has been on the market forever.


On Tuesday I saw Mark Danielewski read/perform The Fifty Year Sword at the Swedish American Hall in SF. He had a pianist accompanying, and adding spooky sound effects. They performed it so dramatically, and were all around rad.


@melmuu It is now that I will remind everyone that Mark Danielewski is the brother of the musician Poe! And that they collaborated on one of her albums!


@Emby Yesssssss Haunted! Such a good album, touching and creepy at the same time!


@melmuu I did too! They were extremely rad.

all the bacon and eggs

The Witches, now and forever. When I was little I would have to obscure the book on my shelf because the illustration on the cover creeped me out so much! Later I read all the Goosebumps, Christopher Pike, etc., but The Witches is the only one that truly scared me.


@all the bacon and eggs I remember a friend of mine talking about Angelica Huston's performance in the film adaptation of The Witches as a moment of sexual awakening for him, which may or may not give you a different take on that book.

all the bacon and eggs

@Decca HA. And I thought The Witches was weird enough on its own!


@all the bacon and eggs The scariest story was the one about the boy that got stuck in the painting.
Or the one that turned into a statue.
What am I saying, they were all scary!!

all the bacon and eggs

@lora.bee I love all Roald Dahl but I think The Witches scared me especially because I read it when I was like, 6, which in retrospect was probably inappropriate.

superfluous consonants

@lora.bee DUDE THE BOY WHO TURNED INTO A STATUE. at around the time i was first reading "the witches" (8 or so), i also somehow learned the basic facts of frostbite--sort of useless information for a kid growing up in coastal southern california. in any case, frostbite and statue-ism symptoms have some superficial similarities (at least in my third-grade mind), which totally means that TURNING INTO A STATUE IS A REAL THING THAT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY. i was so scared i couldn't get past the first chapter, and made my dad hide the book in his trunk until he could return it, by himself, to the library.


Man, thanks to whoever recommended that Goosebumps blog a week or two ago--I ended up reading the whole thing reverse-chronologically and now I'm sad that there's no more (and I may or may not be thinking about going back and starting over). Best review?


@frigwiggin I was just logging in to say the same thing! I devoured all the entries and then made this face when they ended --> D:


@frigwiggin That was me! Blogger Beware is the best. He hates Slappy so much.


I remember once someone saying Song of Kali was the scariest book they'd read -- anyone have any opinions about that one?


@PomPom As a parent, Songs of Kali scarred me and terrified me. I had to get rid of the book because I didn't want to even lay eyes on it again.

Jolly Farton


why am i reading all the comments T-T


Yay for the shout-out to Bruce Coville's The Ghost Wore Gray! That series is one of my favorites from my early teen years.
Also, I found Bruce Coville's website maybe 4 years or so ago, and I commented there that I loved this series so much. And he responded! And then he came out with a fourth story in the series!!!


@themegnapkin also, the books totally hold up, and they will give you chills and make you stay up late to finish them, but they will not give you nightmares.


@themegnapkin I was just telling my friends a couple weeks ago about how awesome Bruce Coville is. I still revisit his books, and they're still great. The Book of Ghosts anthologies have held up well.


Does anyone remember that Bruce Coville story about the monster who lives outside the girl's window? He slowly gains her trust and she finally lets him in the house and he like, eats her whole goddamn family? JESUS CHRIST. Nothing NOTHING has ever come close to scaring me more.


@katiemcgillicuddy I don't, but I do remember the one about the boy who becomes friends with this vampire, but then the vampire wants to make him a vampire and lurks outside his window waiting to be invited in and eventually gets him by sending people to his house with an evil vampirifying book.

And the one I found most terrifying was about this boy who had this nightmare portal under his bed and he's eventually taken through and forced to send people nightmares.


Does anyone remember Wait til Helen Comes? That book kept me up for multiple nights and made me afraid to be home alone for years.


@themegnapkin I just recently read that! All I could focus on was how melodramatic and campy the writing/story is. I bet it would have alarmed me as an appropriately-aged kid, though.


@frigwiggin Oh, what a bummer! I need to see if my parents have hung onto my copy, maybe re-reading it will help exorcise its power to scare me.


@themegnapkin Oh, no! I said that badly--I had a great, hilarious time reading it, and kept bugging my friend (who was reading a different book on the other end of the couch) by reading parts out loud and cackling. I bought a couple of her other books because it was such fun! Just, y'know, a different experience than you had.


@themegnapkin I loved that one! I still remember the cover art. I remember being kind of baffled and jealous that the narrator lived near a pond #missingthepoint

Priscilla Peel

I've been reading so many creepy stories, and they are all starting to get to me! Did you guys know that E. Nesbit wrote ghost stories? I just read "Man-Size in Marble," and it was surprisingly scary.


Oh! If you want some genuine scary-as-shit stuff, read Junji Ito's Uzumaki or Gyo. They're weird and the weirdness undercuts the scariness sometimes, but his level of artistic detail is so grotesque that it makes it even creepier. His short story "The Enigma of Amigara Fault" in particular makes me feel awful and sick just thinking about it, so if you like that kind of thing...

That said, some of his other stuff that hasn't been officially translated (mostly stuff that's currently being fan-translated by Slug Chicks is not so much scary as goofy and kind of gross. But on the other hand I still wouldn't want to read any of it in a dark house alone at night.


@frigwiggin amigara fault noooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


@frigwiggin whyyyy did I just read this?! I didn't even make it to the end, uuuuuuuuuugh grosssssss.


I never really found Steven King's books that scary (just weird) until i read Gerald's Game. The end of that book made me gasp out loud cause I was so scared.

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