AWESOME-tober-fest 2007: Some of my favorite scary books

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Let the Halloween season begin! I was going through some of my books at home deciding what I should keep, what needs to be thrown out, what needs to be taken to the local used book store or what needs to be put up on my Book Shelf at PaperbackSwap.com (great site, check it out). I’m a pack rat. Also, my wife and I love to read, so the paperback graveyard at our house is out of control. So, I was going through some of these books for the above reasons and found many “scary” books that I loved, both recently and when I was a kid. Several of these books seriously freaked me out. The type of book that has you staying up at night staring at the drapes wondering if a guy with a knife is just watching…and waiting. Since it’s Halloween, I thought it would be fun to take a look at a few of these. Maybe you’ve read a few of them.

Scary Stories to Tell in the DarkScary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz; illustrations by Stephen Gammell. This was the first book in a series of three. The two sequels were More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3: More Tales to Chill Your Bones. I read these in elementary school (the first book was released in 1981) and they seriously messed up my sleeping patterns. It wasn’t just the stories that were included in these books, Gammell’s illustrations lean intensely towards the macabre. The combination of the chilling stories and the illustrations helps to build the effect in your mind and it winds up decidedly stopping your ability to sleep for the next few days. Click on the book image to see a bigger picture. Look what they chose to put on the cover of the first book. How insanely creepy is THAT?! That’s the kind of mind job that awaits. Each of these stories is collected from American Folklore and have been passed down, in one form or another for generations. Because of this, you’ll get familiar stories like The Hook and The Babysitter, but there are other stories I’ve never heard of. The one that has always stuck in my mind is called Room for One More. BONE CHILLING. At least, it was to me as a kid. If you haven’t read these books, check them out at your library or you can get the collected set of all three books here.

This series of books has been one of the top ten most challenged books by the American Library Association for inclusion on school library shelves. The ALA feels it is too violent, insensitive and inappropriate for its target age group.

13 Alabama Ghosts13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey by Kathryn Tucker Windham. I was born in Birmingham, AL. I went to elementary, junior and high school in Birmingham. Kathryn Tucker Windham’s Southern ghost story series staring the titular spook, Jeffery, was extremely popular. Jeffrey supposedly haunted Windham’s Selma home and living with him inspired her to write her ghostly series. There were like 12 books in the series and it included other states like Mississippi and Tennessee. Each book told of a “famous” Southern ghost story in a different town of the state. Windham really tried to incorporate Southern lifestyles into the stories. She focused a lot on the characters and the times in which they lived, almost as much as the ghost the story was about. The stories were cool because they happened in places I’d heard of, but they were also pretty creepy. They all seemed to take place in old abandoned mansions or hotels. The most famous story in the book is about the Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton, AL. This courthouse is famous for the ghostly image that is seemingly burned into one of its attic windows. Very cool book that is very respectful of Southern life and culture but adds the eerie element of long-ago ghost stories.

Monkeys PawThe Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs. Published in England in 1902, this short horror story is a literary classic. It has been retold numerous times in other books, comics, tv shows, movies, etc. The Simpsons even did a parody of it in one of their Treehouse of Horror episodes. In the story, the monkey’s paw is a magical talisman that grants wishes, but the wishes come at an enormous price. Very, very cool story, yet it’s extremely horrifying. If you want to read the short story you can read it in full on this website.

Monkeys PawThe Lottery by Shirley Jackson. Published by the New Yorker in 1948, it’s a short story that has come to be considered an American classic. I read this in high school and was fascinated by it. For the first two-thirds of the story I was baffled and a little bored about seemingly normal events. It’s the final third of the story that grabs and horrifies you. I liked it so much that for an eleventh grade Honors English project I chose to write a short sequel that I called The Last Lottery. It received very high marks from my teacher and she had me read the story to the class. I, unfortunately, do not have a copy of that story, otherwise I would put it up here. If you want to read The Lottery, you can read the text in full here. I’ll see if I can scrounge up the one copy of The Last Lottery that is in existence.

Whoever Fights MonstersWhoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler. True crime account by one of the first and leading criminal profilers. Ressler spoke at Auburn when I was in college and I was fascinated by the killers he has profiled. John Wayne Gacy, Charles Manson, Sirhan Sirhan and many others. He even describes some of the cases surrounding these killers. A truly chilling account of real life crime and how the serial killer thinks.

The Last VictimThe Last Victim by Jason Moss. Another true crime novel. This is even scarier. Teenager Jason Moss starts writing letters to famous serial killers. He tries to become their ideal victim from within his letters to see what makes them tick. He gets too close and actually visits John Wayne Gacy in prison. Absolutely terrifying. A look at how these real life killers think, but from the victim’s point of view.

Monkeys PawSkeleton Crew, Night Shift, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Everything’s Eventual and Four Past Midnight by Stephen King. Stephen King has a lot of scary stories, but his best stuff are his short stories. Not all of them are horror. Some are funny and some are random and weird, but some are chilling. And since the story is shorter, the eeriness seems to be even higher because the text is so concentrated. There are several stories in each of these 5 short story collections that were damaging to my calm. A few of my favorites:

“The Monkey” about a toy monkey that kills every time it beats its cymbals.

“Children of the Corn” about a small town inhabited only by children under 19.

“The Moving Finger” about a regular guy haunted by the appearance of a finger trying to claw its way out of his bathroom sink drain (sounds weird, but it’s almost maddening to think about when you read the story).

Autopsy Room 4 about a man waking up in a medical lab realizing that a doctor is about to perform an autopsy on his body, and he can’t move or speak to stop it.

There are others in the 5 King books that are haunting and chilling and wonderful. I love these collections more than King’s full novels. If you haven’t, and you love Stephen King, read them, please.

Well, those are some of my favorite scary books. What are some of yours?

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21 Responses to “AWESOME-tober-fest 2007: Some of my favorite scary books”

  1. I remember reading the Alvin Schwartz books when I was in elementary school too. I’ve read The Lottery and just about every Stephen King book as well.

    When I was a kid I was really into the Fear Street series by R.L. Stein. I loved how the murderer was always someone that the people trusted and I would just devour them!

    I was always into true ghost stories and stuff like that when I was younger too.

  2. PLEASE find The Last Lottery. 🙂

  3. Kathy, I’ll do my best.

    😉

  4. Perhaps I can recommend two by Scottish author (and one-time TUBE presenter) Muriel Gray. Her frst two novels, The Trickster, and Furnace, both set in America, are great scary tales. If you check out my blog there’s a short story from me just nice for Halloween!

  5. I’ve read the Tennessee version of the Alabama ghost stories book. It’s really scary when they attach names and places that you’ve heard of!

  6. Scary Stories series is my favorite of the list; hands down… The stoires were gerneraly pretty scary, but it was Gammell’s artwork in them that drove me over the edge when I was young. Even now I say those are some of the most disturbing, nightmarish images I’ve ever seen. Those are the only books that have given me nightmares. >_<

  7. Wow. And I thought that I was one of few that loved the above books and stories. I absolutely devoured anything R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Stephen King, or generally scary and/or mysterious for that matter. Thank you for posting this, because I could not remember the name of a book I was searching for, but the story is always on my mind, since 5th grade. Especially when I go to get on an elevator…i mean, no matter how packed it is, there always seems to be room for one more…

  8. brittney shipman Says:

    I love scary everything and when I found your website I was realy into all the books you talked about.I hope I can find more scary books for my collection.

  9. i want recomend a few books a well just type in deep dark and dangerous on internet explorer and its a really good book

  10. you really should read a book called black cathedral by L.H. Maynard & M.P.N. Sims

  11. i ma going to try the last victim and the skeleton crew because i love scary books!! i would recommend anybody to read these 2 great books!! =]

  12. Nice blog! Correction though – the American Library Association is not the organization challenging or banning the books. The opposite is true – they are the ones who compile the lists and offer support for intellectual freedom rights for anti-censorship. Just had to clear that up (2 years after the fact…)

  13. The Last Victim is now a film! “Dear Mr. Gacy”, starring William Forsythe, will come out next year. See http://www.facebook.com/dearmrgacy and look for web site launch next week (December 10, 2009).

  14. Thank you for having the time to write about this subject. I really appreciate it. Ill post a link of this entry in my website.

  15. The scariest story? Stephen King’s short vampire story One For The Road. It doesn’t get any creepier than that.

    Be sure to read Vanessa Morgan’s Drowned Sorrow and The Strangers Outside too… both are now being turned into a movie.

  16. Just To Let You Know There Is Better Books Out There In Stead Of These From The Sixties That Make Us Laugh So Technecly These Books Suck!!!!!

  17. i want those books but how do i get them..?

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