7 Scenes From The 'It' Book That Will Give You Seriously Messed Up Nightmares

by Shaun Fitzpatrick
Warner Bros. Pictures

Please raise your hand if you've ever been personally victimized by Stephen King's It. My first exposure to Pennywise the Dancing Clown (and the beginning of my subsequent coulrophobia) was when I was an ACTUAL INFANT. That's right, my father decided to watch the miniseries version of It with me when I was a baby, apparently not realizing that it would scar me for life. To make absolutely sure that I would remain traumatized by clowns and giant spider-creatures for the rest of my days, he proceeded to sit me down to watch it AGAIN when I was seven. Somehow my mom resisted strangling him (an actual miracle considering I slept with the lights on for like a week), and now watching It is one of my favorite bonding activities with my dad.

Obviously, my dad and I are extremely excited about the new movie version of It, starring Bill Skarsgard as Pennywise. Like, so excited that my dad just keeps texting me clown emojis, which is kind of sweet and kind of weird. With just a few weeks to go before the film's released, I decided that now would be a good time to reread the book. Yup, all 1,100+ pages of it.

Reading Stephen King's It is definitely a bit of an undertaking. More importantly, it's also a completely terrifying experience. This is, hands down, the scariest book I've ever read. I had two nightmares before I was even 300 pages in. King is known for being the master of creepy, but, having read a number of his novels, I think It goes beyond any horror novel I've ever read. If the new film is even half as scary as the book, I'll still be sleeping with the lights on for a couple of days.

It by Stephen King, $13, Amazon

If you don't think you'll be able to tackle It before the movie comes out, I'll save you some time. I've compiled what I think are the seven scariest scenes in Stephen King's It. Read at your own risk; I'm not taking the blame for your nightmares.

"Hi, Georgie."

"And a balloon? I've got red and green and yellow and blue..." "Do they float?" "Float?" The clown's grin widened. "Oh yes, indeed they do. They float! And there's cotton candy..." George reached. The clown seized his arm. And George saw the clown's face change. What he saw was terrible enough to make his worst imaginings of the thing in the cellar look like sweet dreams; what he saw destroyed his sanity in one clawing stroke. (Chapter 1, Part 3)

Poor Georgie; he just wanted his paper boat. In this iconic scene, little George Denbrough encounters Pennywise peeking up from a sewer after a rainstorm. Lured in by his promise to return the paper sailboat that had fallen into the gutter, Georgie comes closer to the clown, reaching his hand into the gutter...only to have his arm pulled off by Pennywise, leaving him to bleed out on the street. Yeah, the book starts delivering the gore in the very first chapter. I still don't like to look into gutters.

"Like it wanted to eat his heart."

Chris Unwin went to the railing and looked over. He saw Hagarty first, sliding and clawing his way down the reedy, trash-littered embankment to the water. Then he saw the clown. The clown was dragging Adrian out on the far side with one arm; its balloons were in its other hand. Adrian was dripping wet, choking, moaning. The clown twisted its head and grinned at Chris. Chris said he saw its shining silver eyes and its bared teeth - great big teeth, he said. (Chapter 2, Part 14)

This scene is terrifying on both a human and a supernatural level. Adrian, a member of Derry's small gay population, is beaten to a pulp by a gang of homophobes and then thrown over a ledge into the canal. Terrible, right? It gets worse: Pennywise is waiting for him below. One witness says the clown took a giant bite out of Adrian's side, while his boyfriend swears he watched Pennywise break Adrian's ribs and pull him into the sewers. Either way, his mutilated body is found the next day, with some chunks taken out of him. Did I mention this book isn't for the squeamish?

"Want a balloon, Ben?"

It wasn't makeup the clown was wearing. Nor was the clown simply swaddled in a bunch of bandages. There were bandages, most of them around its neck and wrists, blowing back in the wind, but Ben could see the clown's face clearly. It was deeply lined, the skin a parchment map of wrinkles, tattered cheeks, arid flesh..."We all float down here," the mummy-clown croaked, and Ben realized with fresh horror that somehow it had reached the bridge, it was now just below him, reaching up with a dry and twisted hand from which flaps of skin rustled like pennons, a hand through which bone like yellow ivory showed. (Chapter 4, Part 11)

I'm not sure why this scene scares me so badly, but I had a nightmare immediately after reading it. (I wouldn't recommend reading It and then trying to sleep, btw.) As Ben walks home on a cold winter's day, he spots someone standing in the middle of the frozen canal. The figure is wearing a clown suit and carrying a bunch of balloons. If that's not weird enough, the balloons are blowing against the wind. I don't know why this detail is so terrifying, but it tips Ben off that something isn't right. This suspicion is confirmed when he sees that the thing in the clown suit is actually a mummy, and that it's coming close to him...

"Come on down Eddie."

It was Dorsey as he had been buried, Dorsey in his blue blazer and gray pants, only now the blazer was in muddy tatters, Dorsey's shirt was yellow rags, Dorsey's pants clung wetly to legs as thin as broomsticks. And Dorsey's head was horribly slumped, as if it had been caved in at the back and consequently pushed up in the front. Dorsey was grinning. "Eddieeeee," his dead brother croaked, just like one of the dead people who were always coming back from the grave in the horror comics. (Chapter 6, Part 3)

Pro tip for reading It: If you're introduced to a kid who isn't part of the Loser's Club, don't get too attached to them. We learn this the hard way with Eddie, who's on the run from his abusive stepdad. Pennywise initially appears to him as his murdered little brother before turning into the Creature from the Black Lagoon and ripping his head off. That clown really has a thing about tearing off body parts.

"We all float down here."

"You'll float down here with your friends, Beverly, we all float down here, tell Bill that Georgie says hello, tell Bill that Georgie misses him but he'll see him soon, tell him Georgie will be in the closet some night with a piece of piano wire to stick in his eye, tell him -" The voice broke up in a series of choking hiccups and suddenly a bright red bubble backed up the drain and popped, spraying beads of blood on the distained porcelain. (Chapter 9, Part 2)

I read this chapter several days ago, and I keep casting suspicious looks at my drain every time I use the bathroom. That's the power of It. In this scene, Beverly starts hearing the voices of dead children coming from her drain. The voices culminate into blood bubbling up and spraying her bathroom, but her parents can't see it. Bev and the Losers are left cleaning up a bloodbath only they can see. See, now you won't trust your plumbing either.

"I worry about you, Bevvie"

"My father," she said, pronouncing it fadder, and Beverly saw that her dress had also changed. It had become scabrous, peeling black. The cameo was a skull, its jaw hung in a diseased gape. "His name was Robert Gray, better known as Bob Gray, better known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown. Although that was not his name, either. But he did love his joke, my fadder." (Chapter 11, Part 3)

Sometimes a subtle creepiness is scarier than blood and guts. When Beverly returns to her old house, she finds a beautiful older woman living there. The more the two talk, however, the more Bev notices that the woman is changing right before her eyes. Suddenly the beautiful old woman is gone, and in her place is a terrifying witch right out of Hansel and Gretel. As if things couldn't get worse, that witch becomes Bev's abusive father, before ultimately turning into Pennywise himself. Can this book just CALM DOWN for a minute, please?

"Drive you crazy and then kill you all!"

But the clown did not disappear along that curve that seemed to define the edge of that old existence. Instead, it leaped with a scary, nimble grace onto a lamppost that stood in the extreme left foreground of the picture. It shinnied up like a monkey on a stick - and suddenly its face was pressed against the tough plastic sheet Will Hanlon had put over each of the pages in his book. (Chapter 14, part 6)

For me, this is hands-down the scariest scene in the original miniseries, and the novel's version of it is no less horrifying. The Losers are looking at pictures of Derry going back to the 1700's, and a certain homocidal clown is in every one of them. Suddenly the photos comes alive, and Pennywise comes this close to breaking free of a picture. (There's an equally terrifying scene like this earlier in the book, except that one stars poor dead George and a lot more blood.)

It by Stephen King, $13, Amazon