Scary Books.

We are officially in the Boo season.

This time of year, we watch scary movies, like Psycho, the multitude of Halloween and Freddie movies.

Dress up in all manner of scary costumes, and read scary books. 

Recently I was asked to provide a scary line from the scariest book I’d ever read. Well, Stephen King’s Pet Sematary was certainly the scariest book I’ve ever read. With King’s Christine and Cujo distant seconds.  Pet Sematary freaked me out so bad that I got rid of the book after I read it. I didn’t want any bad juju in the house. Have no doubt, after I read Christine I gave every red car the stink eye. And, when that movie Beethoven came out and the St. Bernard started slobbering, it was all I could do to keep from standing up in the theater and yelling, mad dog everybody run. I am a great fan of some of Stephen’s books so a while back I decided to purchase the ones that I think of as keepers.  Pet Sematary of course was on the list. So you know, I put it in a plastic bag inside a lead lined wooden box just in case there was any bad juju inside. Last week I took the box outside, opened it and… big sigh here… gratefully no green fog came out of the plastic bag when I retrieved the book. I sat (outside) and started looking for a scary sentence only to realize there really wasn’t any scariest sentence. The whole thing is creepy.  Each of King’s sentences, paragraphs and pages builds the horror. When I read it, I remember knowing what was going to happen and hoping it wouldn’t.  Reading Christine and Cujo was like watching a train wreck. I could not put the dang books down.

The copy of Pet Sematary I have now has an intro written by King in 2000. In it, he says he is frequently asked what he thinks is the scariest book he’s written and he answers Pet Sematary. After he wrote it, he let it sit for six weeks and when he read it again found it so gruesome he put it away. He had to be convinced to publish it. He also shares the book idea developed from an event with his own son and the book title came from a sign down the road from where they were living. Cue the goose bumps.  He remarks we not only have a funny bone but a fear bone.  Well, yeah, and you sure found mine Stephen.

Oh! And that scary line. I think I’ll go with what King thinks is the scariest line. “Sometimes Louis,” Judi says, “dead is better.”    

Tell me what the scariest book you’ve ever read is and why.


Rita writes thrillers about extraordinary women and the men they love. Under Fire and Under Fire: The Admiral. You can find out more about her by visiting her web home at


45 responses to “Scary Books.”

  1. Gwyn says:

    After my formative years being contaminated by Horror Theater and other such nonsense by two male cousins every Saturday night when our parents’ got together to play bridge, I don’t do scary anymore—at least not that variety. So if anything goes bump in the night around here and the dogs don’t bark, I’m good. 😉


    • Rita Henuber says:

      Ditto on the male cousins thing. Two of mine had me convinced on a very foggy night that you couldn’t see the house across the street that the rest of the world had fallen away and we were the only ones left. My real fear was having to spend the rest of my life with one who was a real jerk.


  2. Kelly Fitzpatrick says:

    I read Amityville Horror while babysit one dark and stormy night when I was a teenager. *shiver* The house was old and creeky and the basement was terrifying.


    • Rita Henuber says:

      I forgot about that book. Ewww! I just got chills.
      A dark and stormy night huh? Not a good time to read that book.


    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Yup, Amityville Horror was what I was going to say. I remember reading it on the couch in our living room and getting to a passage about creepy demonic ooze running down the sides of their fireplace. I was only a couple feet from our living room fireplace and I was TERRIFIED that if I looked over at it, I’d see ooze coming down. The only thing to do was keep my eyes locked on the book….and keep reading.

      I wonder if I’d still find it so terrifying today.


  3. Elizabeth Langston says:

    The Stranger Beside Me.

    Ann Rule wrote it about Ted Bundy. And it’s true…

    The scariest movie I ever saw was Silence of the Lambs. It scared me so badly I have never watched another scary movie since.


    • Rita Henuber says:

      I don’t do stories that are true. Those really do scare me and I can’t get over the fact that someone really did that. I think I watched Silence of the Lambs three maybe four times before seeing the whole movie. When it gets intense I skip parts. Now I watch it as a writing tool.


    • Oh, I was so scared reading The Stranger Beside Me. I’ll never forget, I sitting on the couch and someone knocked on the window behind me. I thought I had a heart attack. I know I jumped across the coffee table.


  4. Kat Cantrell says:

    I am reminded of the episode of Friends where Joey puts Cujo in the freezer because it scared him so much (the book, not the dog). I wish that worked for me! I read a Dean Koontz book in high school and no, I don’t remember what it was, and no, I’m not going to look it up because I slept with the light on until I got married in my late twenties. So I’d rather not reopen that can of scared-out-of-my-mind. LOL I prefer romance novels, thank you very much. 🙂


  5. Tamara Hogan says:

    I think the scariest book I’ve ever read is “Heartsick” by Chelsea Cain. It’s a psychological thriller in which a police detective becomes oddly enmeshed with a female serial killer who captures him, tortures him for ten days, and, for some inexplicable reason, lets him go.

    Their relationship is stunningly rendered.


  6. Hope Ramsay says:

    I don’t do scary. I am officially a total fraidy cat. That being said I do like science fiction. But some si fy has scared the bejesus out of me. The Four D Man, a 1950s movie, had me curled on the theater floor whimpering while my older brother laughed at me. And I had trouble sleeping for days after I finished reading Jurasic Park. I walked out on the movie Aliens during the scene where the monster is “born”. For the record I had trouble watching Saving Private Ryan too. I just don’t do blood very well.


    • Elizabeth Langston says:

      I had a hard time with Saving Private Ryan, too. I was a captain in the Natl Guard at the time–and it was just too real for me. I’d never been in combat before, but it felt as if I was walking right there alongside Tom Hanks.

      This is a good reminder that it’s all about making the reader/viewer forget themselves in the the experience.


    • Rita Henuber says:

      I have no idea how many times I watched that movie before I saw the whole first 30 minutes. Everything during those minutes was something men who had been there went through. A work colleague and a friend took their dads. Both older men had taken part in the Normandy landings. They were both shaken by the movie because of the realism.


  7. Jeannie Lin says:

    I LOVE scary books and movies. Love Stephen King. Probably the scariest recent story I read by him was Big Driver, a novella in Full Dark, No Stars, about an author coming home from a library book signing along a deserted road…shivers…just TOO close to home, you know?

    Some other good scares:
    The Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
    Unholy Ghosts by Stacia Kane


  8. I’m not a fan of scary books (or movies). Which, in some ways, is probably weird since I love writing grittier romantic thrillers. But I classify those as more action related, I suppose. I don’t mind the violence, LOL, but I can’t do scary. 🙂


  9. Laurie Kellogg says:

    I’m with Hope. I don’t DO scary. When I was ten, I tried to watch Psycho and couldn’t get past the shower scene. I’ve never seen the rest. At twelve I saw the movie Wait Until Dark, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Twelve years old, and I shook so badly when I went to bed that night I slept with my mother.

    Years later I saw Sleeping with the Enemy and swore off thrillers forever. I do NOT like the feeling of my heart pounding and my adrenaline pumping.

    So what does my daughter do? She marries a guy who LOVES and writes horror.

    I do, however, love Stephen King’s movies that are thought provoking rather than scary–like The Green Mile and Shawshank Redemption.


  10. Hmmm… I don’t think I’ve deliberately read a scary book in ages, but I remember in 3rd grade working my way through the ghost stories in my school’s libraries. In high school, I read all the Stephen King books I could get my hands on, and CARRIE stands out the most in my mind. But King’s IT stands out, too. If I recall, it was about some kind of creep clown thing that lived in the sewers. Ew.

    As for movies, the Freddie Krueger ones creeped me out, and Poltergeist. I learned pretty quickly that I don’t like scary movies. (Except Scream – I love that movie.)


  11. I don’t do zombies for a reason, which I will not go into.

    I don’t like horror, and I’ll admit I’ve read very few of King’s books. While he is a great writer, I don’t like the subject matter. So during the next week, I’ll watch baseball, football and maybe Hocus Pocus. Love that movie.


  12. Vivi Andrews says:

    Omigod I love Stephen King! My favorite is The Shining. Again, not a single sentence that wigs me out, but the whole slippery sinister progression into AAAAAAAAHHHH! The man made me afraid of TOPIARY after I read that book. GENIUS.


  13. Jenn! says:

    My first ever book I read strictly for pleasure was Pet Semetary. Oh yeah, it scared me. But I was hooked. Somehow I ended up devouring every Dean Koontz book available at the time. I love King and Koontz!

    That said, at night, in bed, I’d watch my cat intensely until I feel asleep. Why? Because if the cat got spooked it was time to *really* be scared. Plus I could grab the baseball bat for protection. Not that it would do any good if the intruder was an evil entity, or something. LOL!

    Great blog, Rita. And frightening picture. 😉


  14. I reeeaaaalllly dislike scary. I think it’s because I had some wacko teachers in the 70’s who would read Edgar Allen Poe out loud during art class. We were required to listen. Goosebumps doesn’t even cover my feelings at the mere mention of “The Tell-tale Heart.”

    And the other scariest was another book read out loud by a camp counselor deep in the woods: Shirley Jackson’s, “The Lottery.” Eeeeuuuwwwww. That book still gives me the jim-jams bad.

    I think that’s why I like romance and my HEA! 🙂 Happy Halloween!


  15. Heidi Luchterhand says:


    Although even reading that book wasn’t as scary as watching those creepy flying monkeys in The Wizard of Oz.


    • Rita Henuber says:

      Heidi. I read this and remembered how those monkeys scared me also. I wonder what it takes to scare kids these days? They are exposed to so much more than I was.


      • Heidi Luchterhand says:

        Pay phones, phones with dials, losing the remote control, the microwave or dishwasher dying, the internet or cable going out, the “red ring of death” on their xbox 360, making a cake from scratch, opening a text book instead of doing an assignment on-line, chest hair, adults without tattoos…

        Yes, I have teenagers. Why do you ask?


  16. Addison Fox says:


    What an awesome post! Unfortunately, I just can’t read horror – and I wish I could because I think Stephen King is absolutely brilliant.

    That said, I do love a good thriller and one of the ones that creeped me out was THE CABINET OF CURIOSITIES by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. That book is fun, macabre and clever.

    The other book that wasn’t scary, per se, but which left me with a few images that I just couldn’t get out of my head (still can’t 15 years later) was THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS by Caleb Carr. The female killer he paints in that book is simply chilling and the book is incredible.



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