‘Tis the season to be scared – just be prepared to be shaken long after Hallows’ Eve if you pick up one of these reads. From unsettling to nightmare inducing, we’ve rounded up some of the scariest books ever written. Enjoy?
The House of Leaves – by Mark Z. Danielewski
Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth — musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies — the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations, who not only found themselves in those strangely arranged pages but also discovered a way back into the lives of their estranged children.
Now, for the first time, this astonishing novel is made available in book form, complete with the original colored words, vertical footnotes, and newly added second and third appendices.
The story remains unchanged, focusing on a young family that moves into a small home on Ash Tree Lane where they discover something is terribly wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.
Of course, neither Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Will Navidson nor his companion Karen Green was prepared to face the consequences of that impossibility, until the day their two little children wandered off and their voices eerily began to return another story — of creature darkness, of an ever-growing abyss behind a closet door, and of that unholy growl which soon enough would tear through their walls and consume all their dreams.
Beloved – by Toni Morrison
After Paul D. finds his old slave friend Sethe in Ohio and moves in with her and her daughter Denver, a strange girl comes along by the name of “Beloved.” Sethe and Denver take her in and then strange things begin to happen. Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, this profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is Toni Morrison’s greatest novel, a dazzling achievement, and the most spellbinding reading experience of the decade. A brutally powerful, mesmerizing story. At the center of Toni Morrison’s fifth novel, which earned her the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, is an almost unspeakable act of horror and heroism: a woman brutally kills her infant daughter rather than allow her to be enslaved. The woman is Sethe, and the novel traces her journey from slavery to freedom during and immediately following the Civil War. Woven into this circular, mesmerizing narrative are the horrible truths of Sethe’s past: the incredible cruelties she endured as a slave, and the hardships she suffered in her journey north to freedom. Just as Sethe finds the past too painful to remember, and the future just “a matter of keeping the past at bay,” her story is almost too painful to read. Yet Morrison manages to imbue the wreckage of her characters’ lives with compassion, humanity, and humor. Part ghost story, part history lesson, part folk tale, Beloved finds beauty in the unbearable, and lets us all see the enduring promise of hope that lies in anyones future.
The Hellbound Heart – by Clive Barker
Frank Cotton’s insatiable appetite for the dark pleasures of pain led him to the puzzle of Lemarchand’s box, and from there, to a death only a sick-minded soul could invent. But his brother’s love-crazed wife, Julia, has discovered a way to bring Frank back – though the price will be bloody and terrible…and there will certainly be hell to pay.
The Colour Out of Space – by H.P. Lovecraft
Set in the fictional town of Arkham, Massachusetts, an unnamed narrator investigates a local area known as the ‘blasted hearth.’ After failing to extract any information from the Arkham locals, the narrator encounters an old man, Ammi Pierce, who relates the story of a farmer who once lived there. The hearth, he claims, was caused by a meteorite that fell onto the farmer’s field in 1882. The Color Out of Space is one of H.P. Lovecraft’s best-loved and most critically acclaimed stories. According to the author, it was also his personal favorite. It has been adapted twice for film; first in 1967 and later in 1987.
Your House is on Fire, Your Children All Gone – by Stefan Kiesbye
Shirley Jackson meets The Twilight Zone in this riveting novel of supernatural horror – for readers who loved Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
A village on the Devil‘s Moor: a place untouched by time and shrouded in superstition. There is the grand manor house whose occupants despise the villagers, the small pub whose regulars talk of revenants, the old mill no one dares to mention. This is where four young friends come of age – in an atmosphere thick with fear and suspicion. Their innocent games soon bring them face-to-face with the village‘s darkest secrets in this eerily dispassionate, astonishingly assured novel, infused with the spirit of the Brothers Grimm and evocative of Stephen King‘s classic short story “Children of the Corn” and the films The White Ribbon by Michael Haneke and Village of the Damned by Wolf Rilla.
The Strain – by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
When a Boeing 777 lands at JFK International Airport and goes dark on the runway, the Center for Disease Control, fearing a terrorist attack, calls in Dr. Ephraim Goodweather and his team of expert biological-threat first responders. Only an elderly pawnbroker from Spanish Harlem suspects a darker purpose behind the event–an ancient threat intent on covering mankind in darkness. In one week, Manhattan will be gone. In one month, the country. In two months–the world. This horrifying first chapter introduces an outbreak of diabolical proportions that puts a terrifying twist on the vampire genre! Collects issues #1 through #11.
Gerald’s Game – by Stephen King
Now a Netflix movie directed by Mike Flanagan (Oculus, Hush) and starring Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood.
A game. A husband and wife game. Gerald’s Game.
But this time Jesse didn’t want to play. Lying there, spreadeagled and handcuffed to the bedstead while he’d loomed and drooled over her, she felt angry and humiliated.
So she’d kicked out hard. Aimed to hit him where it hurt.
He wasn’t meant to die, leaving Jesse alone and helpless in a lakeside holiday cabin. Miles from anywhere. No-one to hear her screams.
Alone. Except for the voices in her head that had begun to chatter and argue and sneer…
The Anomaly – by Michael Rutger
A rogue archaeologist is trapped in a Grand Canyon cave as a conspiracy theory comes to life in this “take no prisoners” survival thriller that’s the first installment in the exciting Anomaly Files series. (Preston & Child).
Not all secrets are meant to be found.
Nolan Moore is a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists.
Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways.
Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?
The Cabin at the End of the World – by Paul Tremblay
“A tremendous book―thought-provoking and terrifying, with tension that winds up like a chain. The Cabin at the End of the World is Tremblay’s personal best. It’s that good.” — Stephen King
The Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Head Full of Ghosts adds an inventive twist to the home invasion horror story in a heart-palpitating novel of psychological suspense that recalls Stephen King’s Misery, Ruth Ware’s In a Dark, Dark Wood, and Jack Ketchum’s cult hit The Girl Next Door.
Seven-year-old Wen and her parents, Eric and Andrew, are vacationing at a remote cabin on a quiet New Hampshire lake. Their closest neighbors are more than two miles in either direction along a rutted dirt road.
One afternoon, as Wen catches grasshoppers in the front yard, a stranger unexpectedly appears in the driveway. Leonard is the largest man Wen has ever seen but he is young, friendly, and he wins her over almost instantly. Leonard and Wen talk and play until Leonard abruptly apologizes and tells Wen, “None of what’s going to happen is your fault”. Three more strangers then arrive at the cabin carrying unidentifiable, menacing objects. As Wen sprints inside to warn her parents, Leonard calls out: “Your dads won’t want to let us in, Wen. But they have to. We need your help to save the world.”
Summer of Night – by Dan Simmons
This masterfully crafted horror classic, featuring a brand-new introduction by Dan Simmons, will bring you to the edge of your seat, hair standing on end and blood freezing in your veins.
It’s the summer of 1960 and in the small town of Elm Haven, Illinois, five twelve-year-old boys are forging the powerful bonds that a lifetime of change will not break. From sunset bike rides to shaded hiding places in the woods, the boys’ days are marked by all of the secrets and silences of an idyllic middle-childhood. But amid the sundrenched cornfields their loyalty will be pitilessly tested. When a long-silent bell peals in the middle of the night, the townsfolk know it marks the end of their carefree days. From the depths of the Old Central School, a hulking fortress tinged with the mahogany scent of coffins, an invisible evil is rising. Strange and horrifying events begin to overtake everyday life, spreading terror through the once idyllic town. Determined to exorcize this ancient plague, Mike, Duane, Dale, Harlen, and Kevin must wage a war of blood – against an arcane abomination who owns the night…
Midnight – by Dean Koontz
Dean Koontz, the bestselling master of suspense, invites you into the shocking world of Moonlight Cove–where four unlikely survivors confront the darkest realms of human nature.
The citizens of Moonlight Cove, California, are changing. Some are losing touch with their deepest emotions. Others are surrendering to their wildest urges. And the few who remain unchanged are absolutely terrified–if not brutally murdered in the dead of night…
The Troop – by Nick Cutter
WINNER OF THE JAMES HERBERT AWARD FOR HORROR WRITING
“The Troop scared the hell out of me, and I couldn’t put it down. This is old-school horror at its best.” – Stephen King.
Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip – a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. But when an unexpected intruder stumbles upon their campsite – shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry – Tim and the boys are exposed to something far more frightening than any tale of terror. The human carrier of a bioengineered nightmare. A horror that spreads faster than fear. A harrowing struggle for survival with no escape from the elements, the infected…or one another. Part Lord of the Flies, part 28 Days Later – and all-consuming—this tightly written, edge-of-your-seat thriller takes you deep into the heart of darkness, where fear feeds on sanity…and terror hungers for more.
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West – by Cormac McCarthy
“The fulfilled renown of Moby-Dick and of As I Lay Dying is augmented by Blood Meridian, since Cormac McCarthy is the worthy disciple both of Melville and Faulkner,” writes esteemed literary scholar Harold Bloom in his Introduction to the Modern Library edition. “I venture that no other living American novelist, not even Pynchon, has given us a book as strong and memorable.”
Cormac McCarthy’s masterwork, Blood Meridian, chronicles the brutal world of the Texas-Mexico borderlands in the mid-nineteenth century. Its wounded hero, the teenage Kid, must confront the extraordinary violence of the Glanton gang, a murderous cadre on an official mission to scalp Indians and sell those scalps. Loosely based on fact, the novel represents a genius vision of the historical West, one so fiercely realized that since its initial publication in 1985 the canon of American literature has welcomed Blood Meridian to its shelf.
“A classic American novel of regeneration through violence,” declares Michael Herr. “McCarthy can only be compared to our greatest writers.”
The Woman in Black – by Susan Hill
The classic ghost story from the author of The Mist in the Mirror: a chilling tale about a menacing spectre haunting a small English town. Now a major motion picture starring Daniel Radcliffe.
Arthur Kipps is an up-and-coming London solicitor who is sent to Crythin Gifford—a faraway town in the windswept salt marshes beyond Nine Lives Causeway—to attend the funeral and settle the affairs of a client, Mrs. Alice Drablow of Eel Marsh House. Mrs. Drablow’s house stands at the end of the causeway, wreathed in fog and mystery, but Kipps is unaware of the tragic secrets that lie hidden behind its sheltered windows. The routine business trip he anticipated quickly takes a horrifying turn when he finds himself haunted by a series of mysterious sounds and images—a rocking chair in a deserted nursery, the eerie sound of a pony and trap, a child’s scream in the fog, and, most terrifying of all, a ghostly woman dressed all in black. Psychologically terrifying and deliciously eerie, The Woman in Black is a remarkable thriller of the first rate.
Heart-Shaped Box – by Joe Hill
Judas Coyne is a collector of the macabre: a cookbook for cannibals…a used hangman’s noose…a snuff film. An aging death-metal rock god, his taste for the unnatural is as widely known to his legions of fans as the notorious excesses of his youth. But nothing he possesses is as unlikely or as dreadful as his latest discovery, an item for sale on the Internet, a thing so terribly strange, Jude can’t help but reach for his wallet.
I will “sell” my stepfather’s ghost to the highest bidder…
For a thousand dollars, Jude will become the proud owner of a dead man’s suit, said to be haunted by a restless spirit. He isn’t afraid. He has spent a lifetime coping with ghosts—of an abusive father, of the lovers he callously abandoned, of the bandmates he betrayed. What’s one more?
But what UPS delivers to his door in a black heart-shaped box is no imaginary or metaphorical ghost, no benign conversation piece. It’s the real thing.
And suddenly the suit’s previous owner is everywhere: behind the bedroom door…seated in Jude’s restored vintage Mustang…standing outside his window…staring out from his widescreen TV. Waiting – with a gleaming razor blade on a chain dangling from one bony hand.
A multiple-award winner for his short fiction, author Joe Hill immediately vaults into the top echelon of dark fantasists with a blood-chilling roller-coaster ride of a novel, a masterwork brimming with relentless thrills and acid terror.