My favorite horror books when I was a kid
When I was a kid, I devoured horror books. I still do, but now the books on my reading list are mostly geared toward an adult audience. ”Horror is horror,” I hear you say, but not quite so. It’s different for kids. You can’t show them the real horror of the world: the horror of people dying, of countries at war, of insanity turning someone from a good person into a bad person. You have to give them horror they can handle, be it vampires, werewolves, ghosts, or something more sinister. Adult horror novels tend to have this sort of no-way-out mentality. There is no way out, no way to win. Everything is dark and bleak, everything is lost. But in kids books, there’s always room for a hero to save the day.
The Secret Bedroom by R.L. Stine
I loved The Secret Bedroom by R.L. Stine. I’m pretty sure everyone’s heard about R.L. Stine before, the genius behind the Goosebumps series and Fear Street. By the time the books got really popular, I’d outgrown Goosebumps, but I absolutely loved Fear Street. The ony problem though was that most of these books tended to be psychological horror. Things like stalkers, murderous step sisters, etc. I’ve always been a bigger fan of supernatural horror. When I read the plot for “The Secret Bedroom”, I had to read it.
I remember the first time I read the book, crawled under the blankets in my bedroom. It was the middle of the day, but it might as well have been the dead of night. I didn’t dare move while I sat there reading, afraid that at any given moment, the ghost from the book could appear. It was one of the scariest experiences ever – and I loved it.
A few years later, I read the book again, and it still managed to scare me. This one crawled under my skin, not just because of the ghost (ghosts scare me more than any other supernatural being) but also because of the underlying history of what happened to the ghost while she was still alive.
The House with a Clock in Its Walls
I picked up The House with a Clock in Its Walls from our local library. From the moment I started reading, I was totally in the zone. The time element really kicked this book up a notch for me. With the clock ticking louder and louder with every passing page, the sense of urgency was enormous.
The main character really spoke to me, because he was unique. He wasn’t an ordinary hero, and he stood out from the rest. Add in the great writing style, the unpredictable plot, and you had all the ingredients for an awesome scary story.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Then I found Alvin Schwartz’ unforgettable classic, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. If you’re looking for scary, then these books are as scary as they can get. The version I found had the original illustrations, and boy, those were scary enough to keep me up for many nights in a row. The illustrations are beautiful and dreadful at the same time, haunting, terrifying. They’re abstract, grotesque, sometimes even gory. Not the kind of stuff you’d find in a kids book. Sometimes I was so afraid to turn the page that I’d squeeze my eyes shut and only open them slightly.
The stories were cool too, and pretty scary, but without the illustrations, they wouldn’t have had such a massive impact. Some of the stories sounded familiar already, but that didn’t make them any less scary.
So, what were your favorite scary books when you were a child?