In the spirit of Halloween (which I can't believe is less than two weeks away...I've already had nightmares about all those germy children ringing my doorbell), let's discuss the scariest books we've ever read!
I read a lot of scary books. I've read at least half of Stephen King's oeuvre, and most of them don't really scare me in the traditional sense. Most of the "scariness" comes more from King's adept portrayal of the human condition, showing how, under the right conditions, anyone can do evil. King isn't afraid to use a good jump scare, of course, but his preference is for those insidious scares that get under your skin and keep you up at night.
With that in mind, one of the scariest books I've ever read—and the book that King says scares him the most—is Pet Sematary. (I've never seen the movie, but I've heard that's pretty terrifying too.) Believe it or not, he never intended for Pet Sematary to be published; after writing it, both he and his wife agreed he had "gone too far," and he put it in a drawer, intending for it to stay there. But when he needed a quick exit from a contract with a publisher, he dug it out and sent it to them, figuring no one would want to read it.
He was wrong, clearly; decades later, he's still surprised about this, but I'm not. Pet Sematary, at least for me, wasn't super scary the first time around; it took me a few reads for it to really sink in, and it's one of those books that really sticks with you. Without giving anything away, the basic idea is this: a doctor moves to rural Maine with his young family. Their road isn't busy, but it's one of those country roads that large tractor trailers occasionally zoom down, and inevitably, their daughter's cat gets run over. An elderly neighbor lets the father in on a secret: beyond an abandoned "Pet Sematary" in the woods behind their house lies the ancient Micmac burial grounds, where the two of them bury the daughter's cat.
The next day, the cat comes back. And this cat is not nearly as cuddly as the one that wears a hat.
It gets steadily more horrifying from there. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is one of the more famous lines from the book: Sometimes dead is better.
Pet Sematary has its share of jump scares, but the scariest part is the way King delves into the deepest reaches of the human heart in the face of tragedy. It's a masterpiece for sure, despite being tough to get through in a lot of ways. But if you want something scary to read this Halloween, give it a try!
What's the scariest book you've ever read?