The Horror…The Horror: 11 Scary Books, Depending on Your Phobia

I was cleaning out some old work ephemera and ran across this column I wrote for Salem Weekly years ago. Enjoy this reprise while waiting for my next blog on what I’ve been reading.

ipiccy scary 1October may be the official month to be frightened, but scary stuff is around all year. Fiction and nonfiction writers alike have offered up some terrifying tales found on the list below. We recommend you keep your personal phobia in mind when considering these reads. If you do choose to read any of these wet-your-pants scary books, be forewarned—you could be reduced to a quivering mass of jelly hiding under the bed.

Medusa’s Child by John Nance. If the idea of hurtling above the earth in a metal tube gives you the shakes, then do not read this book of air flight gone wrong.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. If you suffer from fear of the boogeyman, this prequel to Silence of the Lambs that introduces Hannibal the Cannibal will have you installing double locks … no … quadruple locks on your doors.

Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi. If you worry about someone murdering you while you sleep, it would be best not to read this true story of Charles Manson and his gang.

On the Beach by Nevil Shute and Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick. If you hate the thought of life ending in a flash of a mushroom cloud, don’t read these books about the possible end of the world as we know it. [For the record, the final scene in On the Beach still haunts me.]

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. If you are worried about the avian (or swine, or whatever nasty virus is forecast to hit the U.S.) flu, do not read this true story of a ghastly virus that was almost released in the U.S.

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Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. If you worry about your dream home killing you with psychological terror, don’t read this book about a house that kills by playing with your mind. [I am looking forward to watching the Netflix series.]

Hell House by Richard Matheson. If you have a morbid fear of malevolent spirits in a haunted house scaring you to death, this is not the book for you.

The Shining by Stephen King. If you worry about a rotting corpse coming alive in a bathtub and chasing you down a deserted hallway, or of topiary coming to life, don’t even think about picking up this book. [I will never ever forget the image of the decaying woman rising out of the bathtub.]

It by Stephen King. If you suffer from coulrophobia, do not read this book about the biggest and baddest red-nosed, big-footed entertainer ever to appear in fiction (or nonfiction for that matter).

Last but not least, the number 1 scary book of all time (at least to librarians) is: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. How can we stand the thought of books being burned? The horror … the horror, indeed!

I’ve read numerous scary books since I wrote this list but some of these remain at the top of my list.

So let’s discuss: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?





4 thoughts on “The Horror…The Horror: 11 Scary Books, Depending on Your Phobia

  1. I have to say after reading Ghost Story by Peter Straub in the mid-eighties (published in 79) I have been afraid to read other horror stories. I’d have to re-read it to recall the fears it awoke…but I won’t! I need my sleep….


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