I couldn’t resist going with a festive theme for this week’s Top Ten: Scariest Stories. Since I, myself, am a scaredy cat (seasonal pun intended), I turned to my friends for their suggestions. Several brave souls responded with their selections–some, with many! The list below will show both their choices and who chose them. I got such a good response that there will be more than ten; however, since I haven’t read most of these, some will have less description than others. I broke them up into categories of stories: classics (pre-1960), legends, and modern/contemporary. A special thank-you to all who helped me, and a special group huddle for those who were more faint-of heart-like me. 😉 (All images from Amazon unless otherwise noted; click to buy or read summaries.)
1. “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe
Maybe it was my weakness for the properly punctuated title, or maybe it was an adolescent sense of invincibility, but for whatever reason, I did read this short story. Boy, did this one scare me! I still shudder looking at the cover, although to be fair, it is pretty to-the-point. This was also the #1 choice of Jennifer, as well as my writer friend, Andrea. This one is more a psychological terror than slasher-gore, if memory serves, but if memory does not serve, I still refuse to reread this. Or to read about it. *shudder* But you should. >:] boooohahaaaaaaaa
2. “Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe
I can’t remember which of these Poe classic I read first, but somehow, I made it through both, probably looking something like this.
I remember the thud of my heartbeat more than the exact details of the story…but I still remember the
gross important ones. This one, more than the first, had more than its fair share of gore. It probably pales in comparison to modern books, but, since I personally have nothing to compare it to, I can still claim these are the two SCARIEST books I have EVER read! (Jennifer and Andrea also listed these as tied for top-scariest).
3. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Though I’ve never read this book, I’ve seen the classic movie once and modern movie twice, and they gave me chills each time. (This is the same author who wrote The Lottery, by the way, which I have read, and which could almost be on this list.) This supernatural novel plays on our darkest fears of losing control. My friend Kate went above and beyond with recommendations; you’ll be seeing a lot from her on this list. “Can you tell this is my favorite genre??” she asked. 🙂
4. The Tailypo, a Ghost Story, North American Appalachian Folklore/Galdone
I vaguely remember this one from my childhood. Apparently, it’s a North American folk tale that has been told and retold, particularly in the Appalachian region of the USA. This is a favorite recommended by my friend Misty, who is a fellow blogger and kindergarten teacher. This is what she says about the book: “I teach a little lesson on urban legends around this time of year. Explain to the little ones k-2nd grades what an urban legend is, then read The Tailypo. Kids LOVEEEEEE this story! I have teachers/parents/brothers & sisters all ask what in the world is this tailypo that everyone is talking about in the days/weeks after I read it. And the kids beg to hear it again the next year. In my lesson I don’t let the kids see the book or any pics, I just tell the story…and students have to create a picture of what they think the tailypo looks like in their mind. Then, after the story they get to draw what they think the tailypo looks like!! And of course I play spooky music as they draw and color! It is one of my fave lessons.”
5. Urban Legends
This is another collection of stories recommended by my friend Kate. It’s a “top 20” compilation of urban legends that haunt us in modern times, but some are variations that go back centuries. I made the mistake not only of Googling an image for this item, but also reading the list she posted. I don’t have the taste for horror that Kate does, but I have learned through this research that I’d definitely want my well-studied friend Kate on my team in case of zombie apocalypse or other such horrific disasters. She’d know exactly what to do! If you’re feeling brave, take a peek at some of these popular urban legends. You may even have seen some of them circulating in chain emails (remember those days?) or on Facebook.
6. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Folklore/Alvin Schwartz
More folk tales recommended by Kate. “I would always read this book a kid, and it scared me to death! It was so good.” Kate has nerves of steel. I also remember reading this as a kid, always with a group of friends or classmates. Bravery in numbers, right?
7. Still Missing, by Chevy Stevens
My friend, Lindsey, has been a lifelong fan of this genre. In fact, she was usually the one pulling out that #6 book to read it aloud to us (with voices, of course), or she would invent her own stories to scare us. She is also a writer, and this is her favorite genre to write, too. So for her to pick this book as her all-time favorite horror story, it must be good. From the description, it looks to be an escape story.
8. The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill
First published in 1983, this book doesn’t technically qualify as a “classic,” but it’s become so popular and so often-adapted that it’s often labeled as such. Helping its case is the fact that it’s written in the style of a traditional Gothic novel. From what I understand, it’s essentially a child-ghost story. I wanted to see this movie, but I chickened out and asked Jeremiah’s sister to tell me about it instead. I was still shuddering from her summary, so I think I made the right choice. It’s probably why the book is on Halloween-fanatic Kate’s recommendation list. 🙂
9. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
This grim post-apocalyptic novel won the Pulitzer Prize and was recently adapted into a movie. I’ve been curious about it, but also scared of it, which is why I’ll just have to take my friend Michael’s word for it that it’s a good one. 😉 Although it falls into my usual genre of choice, the horrific elements I’ve heard it has keep me at arm’s length.
10. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
I’ve heard this book mentioned a lot, but the details have been out of my radar. Apparently, Tim Burton is rumored to be doing a movie on this book. “This is in my top 5 all-time favorite books,” says Kate. “It’s amazing. I can’t recommend it enough.” I may actually read this one, if she promises it’s not too scary. 😉
11. Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton
I’ve only read a few pages of this book, but I’ve seen the original trilogy many times. I’m surprised the gore didn’t bother me when I first saw it as a tween, versus now where I can’t watch a lot of it. The idea of dinosaurs coexisting with humans is pretty scary. It’s an interesting exploration of the dangers when humankind messes with evolution.
12. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
“This is my all-time favorite scary/creepy book,” said Kate. That means it will be too scary for me, which is a shame, because this archaeological mystery delving into centuries-old historical secrets looks really interesting. Maybe I can ask Kate to black out the scary parts for me. 😉
13. The Relic, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Another archaeological mystery, this favorite of Kate’s takes place in a museum. It looks like it may have some supernatural elements, too.
14. The Shining, by Stephen King
This novel really stuck with people. I mustered up the courage to see the movie, but I don’t know if I could make it through the book. (Isn’t your own imagination always more terrifying?) Even from the movie, I could see that this story was quite well-written, deserving of its fame. “I’ve never read anything scary since this,” said my friend, Amy (whose creative genius you can see here). I don’t blame you, Amy!
This Stephen King novel was recommended by my fellow blogger friend, Susan. “Towards the end, I actually couldn’t sit alone and read it; how bizarre is that?!” she said of this novel. I’m probably the wrong one to ask, Susan, but I don’t blame you one bit for needing company to get through a Stephen King novel. 😉
Again, a BIG thank-you to all the people who helped me compile this list. Since there was a unanimous vote on my last post to extend the Halloween celebration, perhaps you should continue the festivities by reading one of the selections on this list. I, myself, am more likely to paint a pumpkin, but do let me know if you find a new favorite from this list–or if your own favorite wasn’t listed here!