What makes a scary story? Well, that’s up to you. What’s scary to one reader may be benign for another. What scares me? Ancient evils—demons, vampires, the undead, and the unknown—will keep me up at night. If these evils scare you, then here are 10 of the scariest horror novels you’ll ever read.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The Exorcist is one of the most controversial horror novels ever written. Regan MacNeil, a young teenage girl, is possessed by an ancient demon. After an assessment by numerous doctors, her mother appeals to the Catholic Church in desperation. Two priests attempt to cast out the demon, but both sacrifice their lives while trying to save her.
Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Salem’s Lot is one of the best horror novels ever written. Ben Mears grew up in the small New England town of Salem’s Lot. He leaves his childhood town but returns years later to face his demons. He discovers an ancient unspeakable evil has gripped the small town, and the residents are slowly turning into vampires. Ben and his friends battle an evil stranger and the nightmare that has become Salem’s Lot.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
I Am Legend is an early precursor to modern zombie stories. Robert Neville believes he’s the sole survivor of a global pandemic and spends his time researching the disease that turned humans into vampire-like zombies. After years of hunting and killing the infected, Neville finds he’s the last human—a legend in his own right—in a new society. It is he who doesn’t belong.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
In Rosemary’s Baby, happily married Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy settle in an old New York City apartment building where the occupants are mostly eccentric. When Rosemary discovers she’s pregnant, the residents take an unusual interest in her well-being. Her husband tries to ease her concerns, but she soon learns what’s really going on.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker introduces the famous Count Dracula in his 1897 novel Dracula. Stoker tells the story of the Count’s move from his home in Transylvania to England to spread the curse. A battle between good and evil ensues between Count Dracula and a small group of folks led by Van Helsing. While the novel is not without its flaws, it is a must-read for vampire fans.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
A young Mary Shelley tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, who creates the creature, Frankenstein, as a scientific experiment. The scientist steals body parts from the dead to create life, then quickly becomes horrified at his creation. The novel, considered both a horror and science fiction work, addresses the relationship between science and humanity.
The Ruins by Scott Smith
In the novel The Ruins, a group of young folks partying in Mexico venture into the country when one of their brothers, who was in search of hidden ancient ruins, goes missing. The five meet unspeakable horrors as they discover the truth behind the ruins and the villagers who protect it.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
In the novel Let the Right One In, an unusual child moves to the town of Blackeberg. Soon after, a teenager is the victim of a heinous act, dead and drained of blood. Oskar, a twelve-year-old local boy, bullied constantly, hopes it’s revenge for his torment. He soon meets the young vampire, who moves near him, and strange and horrific events escalate.
World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
In this superb global pandemic novel, World War Z records through first-hand testimonies and interviews with the survivors of the horrific events that occurred throughout the world during the zombie apocalypse. One of the best global pandemic-zombie stories ever published.
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
A highly creative and unique novel, Danielewski’s House of Leaves circulated for years in literary circles as a manuscript. It tells the story of a family who moves into a small house larger on the inside than out. Soon after, the family meets with unspeakable horrors.
If you’re looking for super scary novels, this is just the beginning. What are the most frightening books you’ve read? Let me know in the comments.
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