What are the scariest pieces of non-TV, non-movie media you know?
January 10, 2020 5:11 AM   Subscribe

I almost wanted to say "non-visual" but I'm don't necessary want to rule out graphic novels. I've always been curious if I can find a book that can scare me...but up to now I haven't been able to. Any thoughts on books you find terrifying? Details within!

I realize that as I worded it, podcasts are valid...and well, that is intentional, as I'm curious how scary the medium can be. Weirdly, I'm a HUGE wimp when it comes to movies...but books don't get under my skin, horror wise, in the same way (well, thus far...I haven't tried THAT hard). One book a lot of people said was scary was House of Leaves...I loved that book, but I didn't find it scary in the least.

I also realize that there are different kinds of horror...creature horror, psychological horror, etc. I'm keeping this open...just state whatever you read that scared you and what sort of horror it is!
posted by wooh to Media & Arts (44 answers total) 50 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Ruins by Scott Smith. I am rarely scared by books but I found it terrifying.
posted by pie_seven at 5:13 AM on January 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


If you're interested in graphic novels, I just got Through The Woods by Emily Carroll for Xmas. Read the first story and shivered and thought, "OK, not in the mood for this at the moment" and put it down until we get a warm sunny day. Not a wimp about horror at all, I love all kinds, and that book creeped me the heck out.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:43 AM on January 10, 2020 [6 favorites]


I read a short comic called The Enigma of Amigara Fault some time ago and it freaked me out enormously for years.
But others have read it and not really found it scary at all. So, that's an option.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 5:50 AM on January 10, 2020 [15 favorites]


From Hell shook me to my bones.
posted by rocketman at 5:52 AM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


The epistolary novella 9M9H9E9 - The Interface Series (AKA Mother Horse Eyes) that appeared over a period of several months on a variety of boards on Reddit in 2016 deeply unsettled me in ways that I still can't quite explain.
posted by Chairboy at 6:14 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Any book by Matthew Stokoe. Deeply unsettling if not outright scary. Your nightmares may vary.
posted by chavenet at 6:15 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


There is some highly upsetting imagery in The Wasp Factory that has stuck with me to this day, and I read the book almost a decade ago at this point.

As far as podcasts go, I really like the No Sleep podcast (note: don't start at the beginning, there's definitely a learning curve before they find their groove). There's a lot of different kinds of horror stories represented and some of them are really spooky. Some other spooky/thriller podcasts I've really enjoyed were Spooked, The Black Tapes, Tanis, and Limetown.
posted by helloimjennsco at 6:22 AM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Dracula got to me.
Much worse was Batavia's Graveyard, a non-fiction work about a mutiny. The cruelty detailed in the book messed up my sleep.
posted by Calvin and the Duplicators at 6:23 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs. (PDF)
posted by Winnie the Proust at 6:26 AM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


A bit of a different written medium, but Ted the Caver unnerved the hell out of me. The early-2000s web page format really adds to it, too. You'll need to read an archived copy.

The original Angelfire page is still up but I suggest a good adblocker.
posted by lesser weasel at 6:35 AM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


On a similar Ask a little while back someone suggested The Terror by Dan Simmons and holy cow I loved it. So spooky, and even though it's nearly 800 pages I plowed through it in a few days. Supernatural scares mixed in with some body horror and adventure thriller elements.

The Uzumaki series of graphic novels by Junji Ito are probably the most horrifying things I've ever read. So much body horror.
posted by lindseyg at 6:38 AM on January 10, 2020 [8 favorites]


Some of the entries in the SCP are legitimately frightening. I think they have a similar sort of "violating reality in disturbing ways" vibe to House of Leaves, so they might not do it for you, but the creepiest ones I can remember off the top of my head are:

SCP-701
SCP-1981
SCP-1733
SCP-093
posted by Rock Steady at 6:38 AM on January 10, 2020 [8 favorites]


The Troop
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:42 AM on January 10, 2020


Also, a book that kept me up at night was The Gone World by Tom Sweterlitsch.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Thomas Olde Heuvelt's Hex was psychologically horrifying to me, I also agree with lindseyg in that a lot of Junji Ito's work falls into this category, in particular Uzumaki and The Enigma of Amigara Fault (both body horror).
posted by angst at 6:58 AM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


We Need to Talk About Kevin... haunts me years later.
posted by metasarah at 7:04 AM on January 10, 2020 [4 favorites]


Mod note: A few comments removed. House of Leaves is mentioned in the question, doesn't need to be mentioned in answers.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:11 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Not a 'horror book' per se, but completely horiffying especially body & psychological horror: Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Starts out quirky and weird and sometimes funny. Then, later...
posted by j_curiouser at 7:16 AM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Not sure if it’s the kind of scary you’re looking for, and it’s a graphic novel, but When the Wind Blows certainly gave me nightmares as a child in the 80s.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 7:47 AM on January 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


Written horror rarely scares me, but (mefi's own) Charles Stross's novella A Colder War is a notable exception.
posted by suetanvil at 8:01 AM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


The Magnus Archives podcast takes a while to get going, but I found it deeply unsettling. Not scary always, but it made me doubt reality a bit, especially at night.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:03 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


I lost sleep after The Shining and The Ruins
posted by freshwater at 8:08 AM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Horror is difficult to recommend, because the things we find frightening are so personal.

That being said, the first 2/3 of The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher creeped me out so badly that I had to stop watching and turn on Frozen just to get my mind off it. There's also a legit jump scare in the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I did not expect at all in a book. The Red Tree by Caitlin Kiernan has also haunted me since I read it.
posted by zoetrope at 8:11 AM on January 10, 2020 [5 favorites]


Horror is difficult to recommend, because the things we find frightening are so personal.

Truth!

There's also a legit jump scare in the Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, which I did not expect at all in a book.

My two legit jump scares in books are (1) The Road, by Cormac McCarthy and (2) Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer (book two of the Southern Reach Trilogy, which starts with the excellent and creepy Annihilation.)

The Uzumaki series of graphic novels by Junji Ito are probably the most horrifying things I've ever read. So much body horror.

Seconding this. I never want to eat escargot again after reading Uzumaki.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 8:54 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


Reading The Amityville Horror when I was 13 or 14.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:29 AM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


2666 gave me a nightmare so scary I don't remember it but do remember I woke up sitting up in bed screaming.
posted by potrzebie at 9:37 AM on January 10, 2020


(Sorry about HoL, totally missed it when reading the question.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (Haruki Murakami) is a very weird kind of scary, in parts - it covers both psychological horror, nasty visceral body horror (the Lieutenant Mamiya section), and the banality of evil. It is the book that has come the closest to making me throw up.
posted by minsies at 9:51 AM on January 10, 2020


The Historian scared me so much I asked a question about it!
posted by lunasol at 10:03 AM on January 10, 2020


I found Permutation City by Greg Egan thoroughly unsettling -- it really messed with my head for a few weeks afterwards. Not blood-and-gore horror, more like "makes you question the entire nature of your consciousness and the fabric of reality".

It's the hardest of hard sci-fi, so only a good read if you're into that kind of thing.
posted by mekily at 10:19 AM on January 10, 2020


Seconding Dracula, not only for the horror, but for the writing, as well.
posted by Dolley at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2020


Wake, by Elizabeth Knox, has some deeply upsetting scenes. It's supernatural horror set in contemporary New Zealand and while Knox is one of my favorite authors, I could barely get through it, due to the content.
posted by merriment at 11:04 AM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


Are you looking for something that's scary but worth reading (because it's scary in an ultimately fun way, has literary merit, etc.), or are you just trying to figure out whether written works can scare / disturb you?

If the former, Jerzy Kosinsky's The Painted Bird is fictional (although it was originally implied to be autobiographical), traumatic and very powerful. It's told from the perspective of a child wandering through Eastern Europe during World War Two. "The book describes the wandering boy's encounters with peasants engaged in all forms of sexual and social deviance such as incest, bestiality and rape, and in other forms of extreme violence exciting lust [...] Kosiński sums up a Bosch-like world of harrowing excess where senseless violence and untempered hatred are the norm." I read it during my commute, at a point when there was a poster campaign on trains to raise funds for Syrian child refugees, which added to the impact.

If the latter, the answer is almost certainly yes, but you may regret finding out where that particular boundary lies. As a teenage edgelord and horror enthusiast I found out that I could, in fact, be truly disturbed by a book after reading some of Peter Sotos' non-fiction. I felt like a worse person for having read it, and recommend that you don't, but it answered this question for me.
posted by inire at 11:10 AM on January 10, 2020


Another recent Ask about spooky books had a number of recommendations. I haven't gone wrong with anything suggested so far.
posted by subocoyne at 11:57 AM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells. Absolutely terrifying. I'm a horror movie head, so it's not that easy to scare me, but I was legit afraid to walk back from the subway at night after reading that book. If you don't want to go hide in a closet after reading the scene where Prendick first meets the Beast Folk and hears the Sayer of the Law recite the law, all I can say is that you're made of stronger stuff than I am. Don't even get me started on the stuff with the puma.
posted by holborne at 12:00 PM on January 10, 2020


I tried to read It some years ago and gave up after about 75 pages because it was just too creepy.
posted by fso at 12:29 PM on January 10, 2020


The Island of Doctor Moreau, by H.G. Wells. Absolutely terrifying.

Follow the Amazon link if you want to read a physical book (and kick some affliate money MeFi's way) - but be aware that TIODM is out of copyright and you can read the text online at wikisource, or at Gutenberg (where you can download ebooks of the text in various formats), or you could check out a scanned copy with some sick cover art at the Internet Archive, or you could DL a public domain audiobook at LibriVox.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 12:48 PM on January 10, 2020 [1 favorite]


As terrifying as The Exorcist film version is, the novel is even worse.

+1 to Amityville Horror. Also, the novel of Gerald's Game is the only book I've had to set down for a break because of its content.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 2:01 PM on January 10, 2020


A bit late to this, but A Collapse of Horses by Brian Evenson is deeply unsettling, paranoia-filled, slow-descent-into-madness kind of horror which I found very scary.
posted by torisaur at 2:17 PM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


The Stephen King book Pet Cemetery kept me up at night.
posted by COD at 2:26 PM on January 10, 2020 [3 favorites]


How Late It Was, How Late by James Kelman is a book I found deeply disturbing. I like to re-read books a lot, but I've only read this one twice since I first read it in the mid-90's because of how much it gets to me.

It's written as a stream of consciousness, in Scots, from the point of view of a man who has been beaten so severely that he has gone blind. I found that I was in this man's mind, I was going through what he was going through, and it freaked my poor little melon.

It's worth trying. The Scots dialect might seem somewhat impenetrable if you're not used to it but it's worth perservering, in my opinion anyway.
posted by h00py at 8:24 PM on January 10, 2020


And I had blocked it out until now...I still have a wee bit of PTSD from a short passage in Pet Cemetery. Jesus, I feel as if that piece of narrative was 'inflicted' upon me. Last horror I ever read (on purpose, nobody warned me about geek love). So, now I read mostly funny stuff.
posted by j_curiouser at 9:44 PM on January 10, 2020


Agreement on Pet Semetary. That one digs in and digs in hard. In terms of King though, his best work, in my opinion, is the lesser known Lisey's Story, which is both beautifully written and incredibly disturbing and suspenseful. I was legitimately terrified the first time I read it, and it's become my favorite King and one of my overall favorite books.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 10:58 PM on January 10, 2020 [2 favorites]


Any thoughts on [graphic novels] you find terrifying?

Quick reaction: Garth Ennis' recent A Walk Through Hell. I've read a good chunk of horror and not been creeped out by it, but this ... creeped me out. Bad.
posted by WCityMike at 9:34 AM on January 15, 2020


The first encounter with the Beast in the novel The Magicians scared the pants off me. Viscerally terrifying.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:56 PM on February 28, 2020 [2 favorites]


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