Tuesday, October 21, 2014

My Favorite Scary Stories

For someone who likes scary things, I am very far behind on my scary stories. I haven't read most of Stephen King's massive library, and most horror from the last forty years has gone completely under my radar. I keep telling myself that I can read horror stories outside of October, but it just doesn't happen. A lot of these picks are from stories I've read in just the last few years, but some are from my childhood.  These are in no particular order. These are just ten of the stories that I really enjoy or have scared me at one time or another.


1. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

I'll just say that I was pleasantly surprised that this story was so much different from the Universal classic film. This monster, or "Adam," talks and even waxes philosophically with his beleaguered inventor. The monster was not accepted by Frankenstein, so he goes about completely ruining his life. This book is deep and has some of the most disturbing lines from any book.


2. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

This book was quickly adapted into a pretty decent horror movie in 1963, and was later remade in 1999, shortened to The Haunting. Spoiler Alert: It's not so good. Stick to the first one, or this book. The book deals with a paranormal investigator who brings a bunch of psychics into the house to discover its secrets. The book relies more on subtle terror, and makes you wonder whether there is actually any paranormal activity going on, or if Eleanor, the main character, is just imagining it because she's a crazy person.


3, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson

This ones a short story, and by far one of the most famous scary short stories of all time. The story involves a sleepy town in 1940's America that takes part in a ritual known as "the lottery." I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it, but rest assured that you will be uneasy by the end. Shirley Jackson's short story was included in a 1948 issue of the New Yorker and quickly became the most infamous story they have ever run.


4. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

There are several other titles for this book, but they aren't exactly politically correct. More of a murder mystery than a horror book, but it's got the perfect mood and setting. Ten seemingly random people are invited to a remote island off the coast of England and are all accused of past hidden crimes through a gramophone found inside a large mansion on the island. Mystery and murder ensue! A classic, to be sure.


5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book is the newest book on this list, and is probably my favorite. Yes, it's a young adult book, but it's near perfect in my book. Gaiman has a knack for spookier tales (Coraline, Sandman, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane), and this is his best. Partly modeled after The Jungle Books, the book follows Nobody Owens, a young boy who is taken up by ghosts in a graveyard after his family is murdered by the deadly order known as the Jack of All Trades. Spooky, touching, and heartbreaking all in one spectacular story. I can't recommend this book more. I listen to it every year for Halloween (it's narrated by Gaiman himself).


6. "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving

A short story penned in 1820 as a part of The Sketch Book, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is undoubtedly Irving's most famous story. In this early American classic, the lanky and stork-like school teacher, Ichabod Crane, becomes entangled in a battle for a rich, young woman's heart. Crane ultimately meets a mysterious end, though the reader is left to decide whether it was from the legendary "Headless Horseman, " or Crane's nemesis, Brom Bones. I do enjoy the book, but I do feel that the various film adaptations help bring the story to life.


7. "The Willows" by Algernon Blackwood

Considered by H.P. Lovecraft to be the finest supernatural tale in English literature, "The Willows" tells the story of two men traveling down the Dunabe river, all the time being stalked by a powerful and otherworldly force of nature. This short story is heavy on dread and unease. This is probably the most effective story in terms of freaking me out.


8. "The Veldt" by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury has many short stories that deal with horror and the unknown, but his best is "The Veldt". Bradbury was famously disgusted by modern technology, as evidenced by Fahrenheit 451, and this story is no different. A family lives in a futuristic home where the children have a virtual reality room that projects images telepathically from their mind and project it into the room. The parents become concerned that the room is raising the children and attempt to separate them from it, but find out that perhaps the room is full of more reality than they thought.


9. "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor


I had to read this in a literature class in college, and judging by the title, thought it was going to be a bore. Instead, it's a story about a family who winds up running into a serial killer and his band. It's a fascinating story, and proves once and for all that you should never take your grandmother with you on long trips. Less of a scary story, and more of a surprising, though-provoking evaluation of the human condition.


10. "The Green Ribbon" by Alvin Schwartz

This story has been around for many, many years, but my first encounter was from the children's book, In a Dark, Dark Room and other Scary Stories. There's a young girl that always wears a green ribbon around her neck. She meets a nice boy who asks her about the ribbon, but she refuses to tell him why she wears it. They eventually fall in love and get married, and again he asks, and again she refuses. They grow old together, and when she is on her deathbed, he asks her a final time and she finally tells him that he can remove the green ribbon. Then her head falls off. Yup. This scared the crap out of me when I was young, and is honestly still pretty unnerving.

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