Halloween (Literary) Horror Stories

Image: Getty

Image: Getty

What's the scariest book you've ever read? I asked this questions of our editors. The results were decidedly high brow, and to remedy this, I think we should all spend a month reading Stephen King. Or at the very least Mark Z. Danielewski's House of Leaves.

— Laura Creste

"In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. In the first couple pages, I remember reading, "four shotgun blasts that, all told, ended six human lives," and thinking: this book is going to be intense. Intense turned out be an understatement." 

 — Alisa Koyrakh, managing editor

"I was living alone, without air conditioning when I read As I Lay Dying. I may have thought my corpse was melting."

— Holly Mitchell, assistant awards editor

"Demons by Dostoevsky still haunts me for the philosophical arguments it puts forward: the extent of free will, the repercussions of manipulation, the inability to ever truly know people's intentions, etc. By the end of the book, I was unnerved by the various characters and their respective fates. It was the first book in a long time that left me guessing how it would end until the very last page."

— Nicholas Carlos Fuenzalida, layout editor

"After reading the short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, I never trusted any kind of decorative or textured paper pasted onto the walls of a room."

— Alisha Kaplan, web/pr editor

"What first comes to mind is Don DeLillo's The Body ArtistIs it me, or does he seem to have a way of making language itself feel haunted, turning words into ghosts and doorways? It may just be that his writing is so beautiful it terrifies me." 

— Devereux Fortuna, assistant web/pr editor

"Go Ask AliceAs a younger person I thought it was possible for someone to offer you a soda, which you would politely drink, subsequently trip on acid, rip out your hair, be fired from your responsible baby-sitting job, sent to rehab, and die. (Candy dishes also to be avoided.)" 

— Lindsey Skillen, assistant managing editor

"There's a scene in the final chapters of Madame Bovary that is more horrific than William Friedkin's The Exorcist, featuring ominous strangers and a young lady vomiting blood and collapsing in convulsions."

— Bruna Dantas Lobato, assistant international editor

" Dracula.  Just kidding that book sucks." [Editor's note: not really though]

— Chase Berggrun, poetry editor 

"This isn't exactly scary but viscerally unsettling  Guts by Chuck Palahniuk: there is a general legend surrounding the short story that at readings people fainted or vomited in the aisles. Teenaged-me called bullshit at first. Those people must have been weak-willed. But then I read it. To this day, it's one of those stories that makes stomach do a little flip." 

— Melissa Bean, awards editor

"After reading Rosemary's Baby I had a hard time trusting infants. Ira Levin also taught me to beware of anagrams."

— Laura Creste, web/pr editor


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