It has happened to us all at least once. You decide to read a few pages before going to sleep. What could be better than winding down with a good book? Alas, the thrilling horror that kept us turning the page all day and made the commute fly by, is now the terrifying architect of your nightmares. These creepiest ever lines from horror books are proof of just that, and sure to make an appearance in your dreams tonight. It is a testament to the skill of a great writer that the sentences they craft can elicit such strong emotions from readers, however sometimes things can be a little too real. And a little too scary.
Everyone has their own particular thing or situation that scares them. Whether it's being buried alive, the eerie awareness you are not alone, or the many vivid and unnerving incarnations of hell that literature has presented us with throughout the centuries, we hang on to these images and memories when we would most rather forget all about them. But that's part of the power of a truly terrifying sentence — even if you want to forget them, you probably can't quite let go. So if sleeping tonight isn't really on your agenda, read on for the spookiest sentences in literature.
1. "There were worse things than crucifixion, there were teeth."
Stephen King penned this line in The Stand. No wonder he's nicknamed King of Horror — seriously, death by teeth? Urgh. Thank goodness this was never made into a film. Oh... Wait...
2. "And then screamed as she felt Regan's tongue snaking out at her ankle."
Most people have seen The Exorcist, but have you read the book? The novel by William Peter Blatty is considered to be the scariest ever written and is packed with horrible details that never made it into the film. If you know what Regan looks like, just imagine that creature licking your ankle...
3. "He held up the curtain of the bed and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me."
Nobody wants to see a creepy figure at the foot of their bed. But that's what Mary Shelley envisioned when she wrote Frankenstein. This horror classic is flush with dark and unrelenting imagery of Victor Frankenstein's terrifying creation and the horror that ensues.
4. "The last man on earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door..."
Fredric Brown's short story Knock is creepy AF. What happened to the rest of the human race and what the hell is behind that door? You'll have to read it to find out.
5. "I was 14 when I was murdered on December 6, 1973."
Only a few sentences into Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones and you just know you're going to be thinking about it all night. What a way to start a book.
6. "It was a pleasure to burn."
The opening line of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 kicks the book off to a pretty dark start. What kind of person finds it pleasurable to burn? But then, is the thing telling the story even human?
7. "Yesterday, upon the stair, I met a man who wasn't there. He wasn't there again today. I wish, I wish he'd go away..."
William Hughes Mearns' creepy poem Antigonish is based on a true story. At the time he wrote this piece, there were reports of a ghostly figure roaming the stairwell of a haunted house near where he lived. Nothing scarier than horror based on non-fiction.
8. "Maybe ghosts always haunted minds, not places.”
Joe Hill's Heart-Shaped Box toys with your imagination until you've worked yourself into a panic about all the creepy and macabre details within the story.
9. "Things trapped for years fly free, ready to explode in pain and drive us to dangerous behaviour..."
In whatever incarnation you encounter Hannibal Lecter, whether in books, TV, or film, he is guaranteed to leave you with goosebumps. It is perhaps the eloquence with which Thomas Harris depicts Lecter's evil that terrifies readers most.
10. "I have no mouth and I must scream."
This line from Harlan Ellison's sci-fi story of the same name lodges in the recesses of the brain, waiting for the perfect nightmare to make an appearance.
11. "I'm into, oh murders and executions mostly."
This line from Bret Easton Ellis' American Psycho is terrifying for its unrepentant directness, with Patrick Bateman bringing a whole new level to the idea of hiding in plain sight.
Unless you have someone willing to check under your bed for monsters every night, make sure you keep horror novels for when it's bright outside and not for when you want to read a few pages of a good book before you go to sleep.