Here are two words that I feel strongly should never go together: “horror” and “nonfiction.” Look, I have enough trouble getting through creepy novels that are based on true events, but straight up nonfiction horror? No, nope, no thank you, I will be here under the covers if anyone needs me. And yet… once you start down that creepy path it’s impossible to pull yourself away from these horrifying, grotesque, all too real stories. Once you start reading, you just can’t stop. Here are a few books that seem way, way TOO creepy to be true.
Even if you (like me) are a scaredy cat, you just might find yourself pulled in by these true, creepy stories. Because reading about monsters and whatnot, you always have a vague sense of safety, knowing that nothing will jump out of the book to harm you (I mean, I assume other people have that feeling, I am always convinced that It from It is about to pull me down a storm drain).
But reading horror nonfiction? Forget it. There’s nothing stand between you and a vortex of sheer terror. But hey, we could all use a good scare every once in a while, so here are some deeply, unnervingly creepy stories that you won’t want to believe actually happened:
1'People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman' by Richard Lloyd Parry
Twenty-one-year-old Lucie Blackman went out in Tokyo one summer night in 2000... and her remains were found in a seaside cave that winter. People Who Eat Darkness is the captivating tale of a most disturbing murder. If you find gruesome death and chopped up bodies even remotely creepy, you'll be thoroughly freaked out by this true crime page turner.
2'Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders' by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry
Vincent Bugliosi was the prosecuting attorney in the Manson trial, so it's safe to say he knows what he's talking about. This is the true story of Charles Manson and the series of grisly murders he and his "family" committed in an attempt to bring about an apocalyptic racial war called "Helter Skelter." It... doesn't get much creepier than this.
3'My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Novel' by Derf Backderf
Speaking of infamous, real life murderers, here's a graphic novel written by someone who went to high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. Rather than the story of a true crime investigation, this is a nuanced character sketch of one of the most brutal serial killers who ever lived, before he was a serial killer. Back then, he was just a disturbed teenager trying to control the morbid urges within him. Good luck sleeping tonight.
4'The Lady and her Monsters: a Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece' by Roseanne Montillo
Did you know that Frankenstein was based on a true story? Well now you do know that, please enjoy that very unsettling knowledge. The Lady and Her Monster is the story behind Frankenstein, from the fascinating life of young Mary Shelley to the very real grave robbers, dissections, and experiments in bringing the dead back to life.
5'Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & other Diabolical Insects' by Amy Stewart, illustrated by Briony Morrow-Cribbs
Look, you're either creeped out by bugs, or you're going to be creeped out by bugs after you read Wicked Bugs. Because did you know that lice took down Napoleon's army? Wicked Bugs is a witty, fun, morbidly fascinating look at creepy crawlies of all kinds, and reading it might make you feel vaguely itchy all over.
6'The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride' by Daniel Brown
All creepy nonfiction roads lead to the Donner Party. In 1846, twenty-one-year old Sarah Graves was heading west in a party led by George Donner, when the group was trapped by heavy snows in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Sarah and fourteen others decided to try their luck on foot. This gripping book follows Sarah and her fellow travelers on their journey, which quickly becomes a harrowing descent into madness and cannibalism. Not a read for the faint of heart or stomach.
7'Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Disease' by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
Who needs bodysnatchers and zombie stories when you have actual rabies? When you think about it, rabies is one of the most terrifying diseases in existence. It can spread with a bite and it causes 100% fatality in its victims once infection takes root. And it's been around for a long, long time. Read this fascinating, highly entertaining story of rabies throughout history, and then try to convince yourself that zombies aren't real.