13 of the Scariest Stories Ever

  • October 30, 2015

Sick of reading “terrifying” books that aren’t? (We’re not naming names, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.) Pick up one of these creepy tales — they’re sure to make you sleep with the lights on!


  1. Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. A novella written under the pen name Don A. Stuart, it’s the basis for two movies called "The Thing." Scary because an alien creature takes over scientists' bodies by mimicking what they look like — so no one knows who anyone is! And they’re all trapped at an Arctic research station. If the monster gets out, it will replace every person and animal on Earth. ~Larry (are you sure it's me?) De Maria

  2. It by Stephen King. I'm chickenhearted when it comes to horror, so I don't read a lot of it. But I did read It, and it not only scared the bejeezus out of me, but it was the final nail in the clown coffin. I don't even like that my daughter wants to do circus camp. *Shivers* ~Meg Opperman

  3. The Comfort of Strangers by Ian McEwan. This is the creepiest book I ever read. A hostile setting and menacing characters are enough to cause nightmares. ~Alice Padwe

  4. The Shining by Stephen King. It was so scary, I was almost afraid to finish it. ~Kitty Kelley

  5. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The best literary haunted-house story ever written. (The 1963 movie starring Claire Bloom isn’t a bad adaptation.) Jackson really knows psychological horror. It's chilling, as is her other short novel with the best, most descriptive title ever: We Have Always Lived in the Castle. (Evil laugh.) ~Barb Howe

  6. Goosebumps: A Night in Terror Tower by R.L. Stine. I stopped reading horror as a kid after a bad Goosebumps scare, so I'm nominating A Night in Terror Tower. A medieval executioner sends two kids back in time and stalks them with a giant hatchet. You show me a 9-year-old who's not completely traumatized after reading that, and I'll show you a 9-year-old liar. ~Lindsay Aymar

  7. Pet Sematary by Stephen King. I know it ended up being a less-than-critically-acclaimed movie, but the book itself unnerved me with the twinned sense of longing to be reunited with lost loved ones and the reality of what that meant. It didn’t scare me in a don’t-turn-out-the-lights way but in a shakes-you-to-the-soul way — at least at the time. ~Art Taylor

  8. The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian. A depressed pilot willing to listen to the ghosts of the passengers killed in his botched emergency landing; a creepy door bolted shut in the basement; witchy neighbors; and a lost twin…Could it get scarier than that? Actually, yes, when the pilot's daughters become of interest to both the ghosts and the creepy townsfolk. ~Carrie Callaghan

  9. Dracula by Bram Stoker. "They were evidently talking of me, for every now and then they looked at me, and some of the people who were sitting on the bench outside the door came and listened, and then looked at me, most of them pityingly…When we started, the crowd round the inn door, which had by this time swelled to a considerable size, all made the sign of the cross and pointed two fingers towards me." Imagine you're in a strange town and that happens… ~Joye Shepperd

  10. “The Pit and the Pendulum” by Edgar Allan Poe. I don't read much horror, but I read this one decades ago, and it still scares me. ~Darrell Delamaide

  11. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons. This epic of mind vampires versus an exceptionally motley crew of heroes is unrelentingly tense, punctuated by a nightmarish interlude in Philadelphia. ~Chris Schneidmiller

  12. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Utterly devastating, hauntingly horrific, and bleak as hell. I still sometimes wake up in the middle of the night thinking about those people they found in the basement and wonder what became of them. ~Tara Laskowski

  13. Legion by William Peter Blatty. I read this in broad daylight on the subway in NYC and almost wet myself in fear several times. There is a scene where a detective is talking to murder suspects in an asylum. A large man scampers across the ceiling like a spider, and the detective doesn’t notice. ~Michael Causey
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