We asked several authors which books frightened them most and which character scared the bejeebers out of them. Here are their answers:
The most frightening book I’ve ever read is Ghost Story by Peter Straub (it was made into a movie of the same name with Fred Astaire).
Without giving too much away, the story is about four aging men in a town someplace upstate New York who get together on a regular basis and over firelight and whiskey, exchange ghost stories. They call themselves The Chowder Society. It is clear that the men have known each other for years and were once teenage / early twenties buddies. The key to this story is that they all hide a tragic secret of something they did during their youth. It is this tragedy that now returns to haunt them in the most chilling way. As the book progresses, the more frightening things become.
Without any shadow of a doubt, the most scary character is the woman in the book (I’m not giving any names away here for fear of spoiling a wonderful read). Just know that the beautiful woman who is now going out with one of the aged men’s son is not all she appears to be!
If you’re looking for a good ghost book (and the movie was brilliant too), seek no further!
I went through a phase of reading Gothic Horror books in my early teens (Point Horror just didn’t do it for me!) and although I found the imagery somewhat unsettling and the penny dreadful plots were enjoyable escapism, no book really ‘frightened’ me until I read about the grimly realistic dystopia set out in George Orwell’s 1984.
Things that go bump in the night are all well and good, but the really frightening thought for me would be to live in a world without art, where literature and expression are suppressed and love is forbidden. Even now, over sixty years since it’s release, the book still feels as though it is talking about a future almost within reach. Scary stuff.
For most scary character: I have to say that although Bram Stoker’s Dracula is not brilliantly written, nor is the plot particularly captivating (I seem to remember there was an awful lot of administration and paperwork) the one character I have found genuinely creepy in any book has been the eponymous Dracula himself. It wasn’t his murder of every last person aboard the ‘Demeter’, his bloodsucking or his shape shifting that bothered me, it was one description early on in the book in which Jonathon Harker looked out from a window in the castle and saw the Count crawling along the castle walls like a spider. That was really quite awful!
To this day I still have visions of it.
I read The Dark by James Herbert when I was about 11 years old, and it scared me for months! Ironically, I don’t mind the dark now, but at the time, I was scared lifeless. Not been scared like that since! As for character that scared me the most, I guess the killer in The Bone Collector is an example of what scares me – real life killers with no remorse or conscience for their victims.
My most frightening book is, I think, one by Graham Masterton, read many years ago. I thought it was called The Manitou, but reading the blurb just now didn’t bring up the memory, so maybe it was one of his others. The cover depicted a heavily-carved chair, I recall. The chair was possessed by a (very) malevolent spirit, which caused it to writhe and wreak havoc on the owner, a decent chap who had taken a fancy to it.
So the scary character is the chair (snigger if you will, but I imagined it manifesting itself at the bottom of the bed for ages – stupid girl!)
I tend to avoid scary stories, on the whole. Wasn’t bothered by The Rats (the ones on I’m a Celeb etc. are so obviously well-fed pet-grade animals, I worry about the celebs hurting them, rather than vice versa). And I find these ‘most haunted’ programmes too ludicrous to watch. What I find horribly frightening are psychopaths and sadists, rather than sobbing blobs of ectoplasm!
Most of the scary stories that made an impression on me I read as a kid – Lord of Rings and the ring wraiths, gothic Edgar Allan Poe short stories (I’ve got a knot in my belly just thinking about the Pit and the Pendulum).
As an adult it’s actually taken kids’ stories to have that same deep emotional impact. The book that made me most fearful was His Dark Materials trilogy with its concept of daemons (people’s souls embodied as most loved companion animals). The experimenters irrevocably separating children from their daemons and Lyra being painfully parted from Pantalaimon were some of the most vivid and moving pieces of writing I’ve read.
Scariest characters? Dementors. Just for that chilling scenario of being locked away in your own head in inconsolable despair. Wonderfully terrifying creations.
The most frightening book I’ve read is James Herbert’s The Rats. And it wasn’t a character that had me checking under my bed and blocking off gaps under my door, it was those delightful furry / hairy creatures.
I have thought long and hard on these questions and have to say I can’t answer either! I have never really read scary books (I don’t call Stephen King / James Herbert scary!) and have no memory of anything I’ve read frightening me. I’ve always been more drawn to Sci-fi than horror. I’m not a big fan of being scared, the closest I get to horror is playing the zombie maps in the Call of Duty games!
I’m not a huge fan of horror novels as such, but I’d have to say that the book that I can distinctly remember giving me the heebie jeebies was James Herbert’s The Rats. There’s a revolting scene in a cinema which still creeps me out when I think about it.
The scariest character which has me hiding behind cushions is The Woman in Black (from Susan Hill’s novel). There’s something about how she silently stands in the cemetery of Eel Marsh House watching Arthur Kipps that makes me want to put all the lights on in the house. And have the dog on the sofa next to me – just in case.