With a career spanning four decades, Master of Horror Stephen King has crafted some of the most terrifying pieces of nightmare fuel that pop culture has ever seen. So obviously, we
have to talk about the 13 greatest Stephen King villains he has ever put on the page. Grab yourself a security blanket and a warm cup of tea, because it's about to get scary.
I think you can get a pretty good grasp on who someone is as a person by finding out
which of Stephen King's books scared them the most. For me, that book is 'Salem's Lot, which will probably surprise anyone who knows how much the 1990 IT miniseries frightened me as a kid. In my opinion, the scariest thing about 'Salem's Lot isn't the vampires — although I can say that it's the only vampire book to ever scare me — but the lasting effect the Marsten House had on Ben Mears.
Maybe it is the vampires, or the rabid dog, or any other seemingly innocuous aspect of King's books that has scared you the most; that's OK! You aren't a better or worse book nerd for getting creeped out by
King's villains, his settings, or even the situations he throws his characters into. The horror genre is an equal-opportunity frightener: there's something in it for everyone.
Check out my picks for
Stephen King's all-time greatest villains below, and share your favorites with me on Twitter! Annie Wilkes from 'Misery'
If there was ever a character who could scare the bejeezus out of a minor celebrity, it's
Annie Wilkes from . As Paul Sheldon's self-professed "Number One Fan," she orchestrates his car accident and locks him away in her home, intent on forcing him to write his next novel in her presence. And when she catches him trying to escape? That's the most terrifying moment of all. Misery Henry Bowers from 'IT'
Like Annie Wilkes,
Henry Bowers from appears to be a pretty normal person. Only the kids in the Losers' Club, and Ben in particular, knows just how awful he is. Henry's abusive father bears a lot of the blame for how his son turned out, but that doesn't make the teenage antagonist in IT IT any less terrifying. Blaine the Mono from 'The Waste Lands' and 'Wizard and Glass'
Leave it to Stephen King to make a train scary. In
Blaine's A.I. has gone a little berserk, and now the old passenger train is determined to kill himself, taking the gunslinger and his ka-tet down with him. Leland Gaunt from "Needful Things"
When Leland Gaunt rolls into Castle Rock, Maine and sets up a curio shop called
Needful Things, no one sees anything out of the ordinary. But Leland's preternatural ability to identify a person's greatest weaknesses and desires will soon turn everyone in town against each other, at catastrophic costs. Big Jim Rennie from 'Under the Dome'
used car dealer Big Jim Rennie has always been a big turd in a little bowl, but when the town of Chester's Mill, Maine is cut off from the rest of the world by an invisible dome, he quickly turns into a full-blown tyrant. Under the Dome, George Stark from 'The Dark Half'
Written and published shortly after King "killed off" his pseudonym, Richard Bachman,
centers on Thad Beaumont, an author whose similarly dead alter-ego, George Stark, inexplicably comes to life. Stark looks exactly like Beaumont, right down to his fingerprints, and he intends to destroy his creator/killer's life, one way or another. The Dark Half Mr. Grey from 'Dreamcatcher' is a super-resilient alien species, one of which manifests as the body-snatching entity known as Mr. Grey. When Mr. Grey takes over Jonesy's body, it's up to the man's friends to save him and stop the aliens from occupying the earth at large. Dreamcatcher's main antagonist Tak from 'Desperation' and 'The Regulators'
and Desperation share the same villain, an incorporeal spirit called Tak, who occupies his human and animal hosts in order to wreak bloody havoc on the peaceful communities it infects. The Regulators Kurt Barlow from ''Salem's Lot'
One of the biggest, baddest vampires in Stephen King canon — yes, there are others — Kurt Barlow from
' moves into Jerusalem's Lot under cover of darkness, and immediately begins to feed on the unsuspecting residents by charming them with their greatest wishes. Salem's Lot The Overlook Hotel from 'The Shining'
Don't listen to anyone who tells you that Jack Torrance is the villain of
, because that person is wrong. Yes, Jack was a pretty terrible guy, but it's actually the Overlook Hotel that is the real villain in King's 1977 novel. Haunted by the ghosts of decades past, the hotel infects Jack's mind and uses him to carry out its misdeeds. The Shining The Shop from 'Firestarter,' "The Mist," 'The Tommyknockers,' and 'The Stand'
If there's one thing Stephen King novels will teach you, it's that you shouldn't trust the U.S. government, especially its secret agencies. In King's novels, The Shop is the top-secret group to watch out for, simply because it is behind so many of his books' worst atrocities, from the experiments that created little Charlie McGee, to the Arrowhead Project that brought on The Mist.
IT from 'IT'
Best known by its clownish guise, Pennywise, IT is an interdimensional entity that has been nestled for millennia beneath what is now Derry, Maine. Every 27 years or so, IT appears above ground to feed on the town's residents, particularly its children, for a short period of time before IT quiets down again, and Derry forgets the horrors IT unleashed.
Randall Flagg from Pretty Much Every Stephen King Book Ever
If there's one Stephen King villain every Constant Reader should be familiar with, it's Randall Flagg. Also known as Walter o'Dim, Walter Padick, Marten Broadcloak, The Man in Black, Nyarlahotep, He Who Walks Behind the Rows, and The Walkin' Dude, along with any number of names with the initials "R.F.," Flagg is King's biggest baddie, appearing in so many corners of the author's multiverse that he has become the quintessential Stephen King villain. Be sure to look for him in the next Stephen King book you read.