Spring has sprung! The flowers are blooming! People are walking around in the sunshine eating ice cream! It's the perfect time to barricade yourself in your room and catch up on your horror reading. If you thought that scary stories were only for October, think again. Any time is the right time to pick up a truly terrifying novel that'll make you sleep with the lights on. Here are a few of the most chilling books of all time, for a year-round sense of all-consuming dread.
I have to be honest here: I get scared very easily. I get scared in the "hide under the covers," "walk from room to room carrying a frying pan" kind of way. Especially if I am left alone at home for any length of time with a Stephen King novel (I don't even have to be reading it, it just has to be sitting on my shelf, radiating fear). But that doesn't stop me from reading utterly frightening, absolutely chilling books from time to time. Because these books aren't just scary, they're brilliantly crafted by some of the creepiest minds in the business. Writing something genuinely freaky is no mean feat, and all of these authors have written books that will chill you to the bone.
So, if you're looking for a springtime scare, check out some of the most chilling novels ever written:
1'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson is the uncontested queen of horror. Her books don't usually go for blood and guts right away: she's adept at turning up the creep factor ever so slightly with every page. The Haunting of Hill House starts out as your classic, spooky story about a bunch of saps staying overnight in a haunted house... but in Jackson's hands, the haunted house is only the beginning.
2'House of Leaves' by Mark Z. Danielewski
Speaking of haunted houses that veer sharply from "scary story" into "unending terror from which you will never be free," there's House of Leaves. It starts out as a story within a story, about a normal family who realize that their house is just a little bigger on the inside than on the outside. But as the house continues to grow, the boundaries between reality and fiction begin to blur, and the reader is sucked into an ever-changing labyrinth with an awful darkness at its center.
3'The Shining' by Stephen King
You know that feeling you get walking around empty hotel hallways late at night? Like something unseen in following you, just out of sight? King has bottled that feeling, amplified it tenfold, and turned it into a book called The Shining. Every Stephen King book has its own chills to offer, but it's hard to beat The Shining when it comes to a masterpiece of suspense and true horror.
4'The Amityville Horror' by Jay Anson
Yes, it's based on a true story and no, you'll never sleep again. A young family moves into their new house (can you guess where this is going?), and it seems like the perfect place to raise their three kids... until their five-year-old daughter starts talking about her imaginary friend, "Jodie." Because it turns out that "Jodie" might not be all that imaginary...
5'People Who Eat Darkness: The Fate of Lucie Blackman' by Richard Lloyd Parry
This one isn't just "based on a true story," it's a full on nonfiction book about an unspeakably grisly murder. Lucie Blackman disappeared in Tokyo one summer, and her dismembered remains were found in a cave that winter. One horrific crime is woven into a full length, hypnotic story that delves into the lives of both murderer and victim. It's nauseating, fascinating, and beyond chilling.
6'Coraline' by Neil Gaiman
I will stand by the fact that this children's book is one of the most chilling things I've ever read in my life. Young Coraline feels bored and neglected, and so she decides to venture through a strange door in her apartment... into another apartment, just like her own, with an Other Mother, almost like hers, who wants her to stay there. Forever.
7'Psycho' by Robert Bloch
I'm calling it: don't go to a hotel unless you want to get murdered. Also don't take a shower. Or continue to interact with a man who claims that his mother is his best friend. Psycho is a horror classic, but if you only know this one from the screen, you owe it to yourself to pick up the novel and experience unnerving terror from beginning to end.
8'The Exorcist' by William Peter Blatty
If demon possession is a concern of yours (or even if it's not), The Exorcist is one of the all time horror greats. A young girl starts to exhibit odd behavior, and wouldn't you know it, it turns out there's a horrifying demon living inside her. Even if you think you know the story, check out the original novel for a gruesome, deeply disturbing creep-show.
9'White is for Witching' by Helen Oyeyemi
White is for Witching is not nearly as viscerally gross or scary as some of these other books. But Oyeyemi excels at writing a chilling atmosphere. She understands that sometimes waiting for the thing to jump out at you from the dark is far, far more frightening than the thing actually jumping out at you. White is for Witching is a beautiful, quiet, somewhat surreal haunted house story, about one girl consumed by loss and her own thoughts and, quite possibly, the spirits that live in the walls.
10'The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe' by Edgar Allan Poe
Hearts beating under floor boards. Black cats that won't seem to die. Friends trapping other friends in wine cellars. Edgar Allan Poe is famous for his eerie short stories and his melancholic poems, and you just can't do better if you're looking for a chilling book to keep you up at night.