What Books Scared You?


When I’m done with my current project I’m going to try my hand at a horror novel. The problem is, I’m having a hard time thinking of what is actually scary.

What scares me?

When I was a kid, I would see all kinds of shadows in my closet at night. That was scary. I had to have a nightlight.

When I lived by myself in West Palm Beach, I had an apartment, but I was in an apartment complex – so there were lots and lots of other people around. And while I never really felt like I was isolated or alone, because I was certain if I  called out, others would hear and come to my aid, I also felt like if somebody actually broke in that front door I was gonna have to jump off the balcony to save my own life. So it wasn’t as scary as much as it was more of a feeling of responsibility. What I was probably most terrified of at that time was my credit rating.

Me and the Mrs.
Me and the Mrs.

When I got married, we got a dog and then a cat, and all of a sudden things that would bump in the night didn’t even wake me up. Because everything in a house with a dog and a cat and a wife goes bump in the night. Everything. The air-conditioner kicks on, the dog hears… whatever dogs hear, or the cat comes in and decide to – at three in the morning – sing a serenade. You just get over it. What scared me most was my evil asshole of a boss at work. (I’m tempted to reveal Satan’s name to you, but I won’t – not because I’m polite, but because you don’t know her and it won’t matter to you. One day, though…)

When our daughter came along, oh, a WHOLE NEW wave of terror came upon me: Things That Could Happen To Her.

Not drowning, honest.
Not drowning, honest.

Crib death. Being abducted by a crazy person who put the ladder up to her two-story window. Drowning in our pool (of course we put a giant fence around it so that couldn’t happen) Falling down the stairs and cracking her head open on the tile floor below. Car wrecks. Poisoned Trick Or Treat candy. Who knows? The list was practically endless, and although some of those concerns go away (she’s five, so crib death came off the table but psycho terrorist gunman shooting up the school came on). My friends took the liberty to assure me until I my take my last breath on this Earth, there will be things that I worry about regarding my child. That’s comforting.

So the question comes down to… maybe not what scares me, because a snake that jumps out when I’m mowing the lawn that might scare me, or the spider that comes down from the ceiling in the morning when I am trying to work on my computer scares me…


There were lots of movies that scared me over the years because a movie can jump out and say “Boo!” That’s very hard to do in a book. And since I don’t write movies, it makes sense that maybe I would look at what books scared me.

Or more specifically, what books scared you?

I will tell you straight up The Amityville Horror scared me when I read it. The Shining, I thought was intense and eerie but not so much scary. The movie The Shining scared the hell out of me. The book The Other, by Thomas Tryon, I found to be very scary and eerie, and the movie also scared me.

In fact, most books that would have scared me turned into movies that really scared me – and after seeing and watching both, it’s hard to figure out which one it was that truly scared me.

So I’m not gonna try.

Instead, YOU DO IT. Tell me what books, and specifically books, scared you. (Not movies.)

Mm hmm...
Mm hmm…

My plan is to read those books, find the scary parts, and then try to figure out how to write a really scary as hell book.

When you name your book below in the comments, if you think about it, also think about what it was about that scared you. Was at the fact that it was a little kid you got to know who suddenly became in peril, like The Shining, or was it just somehow the author jumped out and said “Boo”?

You can list as many as you want.

Tell me: what books scared you?

Published by Dan Alatorre AUTHOR

International bestselling author Dan Alatorre has 17 titles published in over a dozen languages. From Romance in Poggibonsi to action and adventure in the sci-fi thriller The Navigators, to comedies like Night Of The Colonoscopy: A Horror Story (Sort Of) and the heartwarming and humorous anecdotes about parenting in the popular Savvy Stories series, his knack for surprising audiences and making you laugh or cry - or hang onto the edge of your seat - has been enjoyed by audiences around the world. And you are guaranteed to get a page turner every time. “That’s my style,” Dan says. “Grab you on page one and then send you on a roller coaster ride, regardless of the story or genre.” Readers agree, making his string of #1 bestsellers popular across the globe. He will make you chuckle or shed tears, sometimes on the same page. His novels always contain twists and turns, and his nonfiction will stay in your heart forever. Dan resides in the Tampa area with his wife and daughter. You can find him blogging away almost every day on www.DanAlatorre or watch his hilarious YouTube show every week Writers Off Task With Friends. Dan’s marketing book 25 eBook Marketing Tips You Wish You Knew has been a valuable tool for new authors (it’s free if you subscribe to his newsletter) and his dedication to helping other authors is evident in his helpful blog.

40 thoughts on “What Books Scared You?

  1. The Rats-James Herbert. Probably because I know there are swarms of rats in certain places and they’re less scared of me than I am of them.Oddly enough since then, we kept pet rats and that only emphasised their intelligence.

  2. Buried Dreams by Tim Cahill. It was a book about John Wayne Gacy, and towards the end was about a 16 page segment that I had a hard time getting through. It was told from the perspective of one of his victims who managed to get away. It was very disturbing and left such a deep impression on me that I can clearly remember reading it, though it has been at least 20 years since I read that book.

    1. Wow, that IS intense. One story I read in a critique group was told 1st person by a guy who abducted women. Reading it was creepy. A few female critiquers sent me messages asking if the guy was nuts. He was dark n that story, that’s for sure, but he was just being a writer. (As far as I know.)

      For something to leave a mark that lasts 20 years is impressive!

  3. Can I try to talk you out of writing horror? ‘Cause that means I’m gonna wind up reading it…
    I think the only horror book I ever read was Amityville Horror way back in the day, and it TERRIFIED me. Ghosts, demons, the graveyard opening up. (I think I feel a nightmare coming on…good thing I still sleep with a night light to soothe my inner five year old.)
    As a mom, my greatest fears involve things that could happen to my (adult) sons. Your friend is right… that never goes away, it only changes. Take one of your fears–and I agree with every one you listed–and totally exploit it. See what you come up with.

  4. Jaws scared me but in a different way – swimming in the ocean.

    I wonder why Amityville Horror was so scary back then? I don’t think I have a copy to go read, but I did read it. And saw the movie…

    1. Yeah. I saw the movie too. I think I got dragged there, under protest, on a date. Not fun…
      Jaws didn’t really scare me. Probably because I don’t spend much time in the ocean… but not because I’m afraid of drowning. 😕

      1. The old Scary Movie move, huh? Where the girl gets scared and jumps into your arms?

        True story, I was going on a first date with a girl when I was maybe 16, probably just turned 16, and she wanted to go see some scary movie. She was jumping at every thing, screaming, grabbing me – and I was clueless. I was like, hey, you’re really into this movie. You really get scared easily. Later I told my friends how she was jumping into my lap every five minutes in terror. They were like dude, she was totally making a move on you! I had no idea.

  5. I’m not a big fan of horror stories or movies. But, if I had to name a few books that scared me, I’d say Audrey Rose by Frank De Felitta, Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, and Jaws by Peter Benchley. I recently saw the movie, “Prisoners” with Hugh Jackman and that had me on the edge of my seat.
    Shine On

    1. I think Hugh Jackman has quite a few of my readers on the edge of their seats, and it may have nothing to do with the quality of the movie as much as him taking his shirt off…

      I read Helter Skelter. Riveting, no doubt.

      I’ll have to check out Audrey Rose.

      Thanks or the tips!

      1. I don’t believe he took his shirt off once in this movie. Although I wouldn’t complain if he did.
        Actually, the character that Jake Gyllenhaal played added a great deal of suspense to this riveting movie. Jake Gs character had some ticks and at first introduction, you actually thought he was the bad guy in the movie.

    1. No doubt, a review of suspense techniques will help!

      I was actually thinking that if Alfred Hitchcock was the master of suspense and Stephen King is the master of horror, that maybe it was a misnomer.

      Hitchcock was said to scare people but he corrected the assertion and said an unexpected loud noise scares people. Putting a bomb under a table and letting it blow up scares people. SEEING somebody put a ticking time bomb under a table and watching customers come and go using the table, a young couple, a babysitter with a small child – and not knowing when the bomb would blow up, that is suspense. And Hitchcock was a master of suspense.

      Similarly, I wonder if King isn’t a master of horror as much as he’s a master of DREAD. Knowing something bad is going to happen and having to wait, wait, wait…

      1. The anticipation of horror, impending doom, the reader knowing what is behind the corner and yet the protagonist has no idea and keeps walking….those feelings of apprehension and dread are the best for a reader. The “master of dread” is a great description. Have you read King’s Duma Key – masterful!. Read Into The Darkest Corner – Elizabeth Haynes, not horror but horrific, read Forsaken – J D Barker – scary!

  6. I’ll check them out, Carol. The things you described are exactly the kinds of things that get me nervous when I’m reading a book or watching a movie, to the point where I’ll skip ahead in the book to see what happens, or check the time remaining in the movie (because if there’s less than 15 minute left, it’s the real killer; if there’s an hour left it’s a red herring. I know! I’m terrible!)

    I’ll have to check out those submissions.

    I was wondering why I’m so big in Australia/NZ, and I think it’s cos I’m just waking up when you guys are just winding down. And you drink a lot. I’m big with tired people who’ve had a few.

    1. “…check the time remaining in THE MOVIE (because if there’s less than 15 minuteS left, it’s the real killer; if there’s an hour left it’S A red Herring.” [TYPOS alert, tsk tsk] – But Dan! Me too, I do that, it’s a *compulsion* I tell u! (As I also am compelled to proofread and edit people’s writing! Argh, it’s a curse.)

      “I’m big with tired people who’ve had a few.” – as maybe u have in your reply above, which would account for your typing deterioration…? 😀 Okay, I’ll stop being annoying now.

  7. Jonathon, I never read Pet Sematary. Interesting. Any thoughts on why it connected with you? Did you lose a pet or something?

    (Some times that makes a difference. I had a beta reader bail on one of my books after chapter 1 because she’d lost her child and chapter 2 dealt with that. She apologized and said she just couldn’t handle it.)

  8. The heh was for the pet bit. The tragic parenthetical is actually the motor for the dread/horror. It is a meditation on death, and the greatest horrors for any parent.

  9. “The Exorcist” absolutely terrified me — I remember reading it way back when, and I had to sleep with my light on for a LONG time afterwards! Something about demons possessing one’s soul — and body — that is completely frightening. Sources we can’t control, you know. Then the scenes with the priest performing the exorcism…brrr!

  10. Scariest book? IT. By far. It didn’t help much that I read it one summer when both my kids were at sleep-away camp, so I was all alone. (Our wuss of a dog didn’t count!) You know what’s interesting though? The book scared me way more before King showed us what IT looked like. Before then, my imagination was running way overtime. It’s just as he says in his book about writing horror – the unknown is far scarier than the known, every time. Once I saw IT was just a– oops, heheh, I’d better not say, in case there’s actually one person out of a zillion reading this who hasn’t read IT yet! 🙂
    OH, and just for the heckuvit, the movie that scared me the most was Alien – for its total unpredictability. Again, until I saw the thing. Then it was: wow, what great special F/X!!

  11. Here’s another totally oddball one that legitimately terrified me, at least when I was a child. There was, of all things A Dr. Seuss book entitled “There’s a Wocket in my Pocket.” It was about a boy and all these bizarre creatures living in his house with him. Most were friendly or at least ambiguous, but there were a few who were downright scary. There was one gatefold illustration I remember very well, featuring the “Wug under the Rug.” I laid awake at night sometimes staring at it, both fascinated and terrified at the same time. Dr. Seuss…Master of Horror.

    1. You made me laugh! I also was afraid of a book as a little kid, no more than four. It was this pic of a black spindly skinny dog, it seemed all legs, it looked really spider-ish… I was afraid even to open the book and look at this picture! Hmm. Which came first, the picture, or my arachnophobia? I dunno, but I’ve always wanted to use that word in a sentence. And now I have. thank you…domingosaurus!

  12. I actually think books which have babies or kids witness bad things as the scariest but not (I suppose) horror genre, necessarily.
    I read a lot of current “popular” books by Faye and Jonathan Kellerman, along with Janet Evanovich (so humorous, never scary) and James Patterson, but not real horror books.
    I was never scared of Agatha Christie but I liked using “clues” to figure “who dunnit.” My Dad was fond of reading aloud at bedtime to my two brothers and I: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (!) who had me scared of red heads, snakes and strange situational deaths., among other things!
    “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe was suspenseful reading. The mystery and total unpredictability of his writing caught my attention, Dan.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: