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  • Sarah Skilton 7:30 pm on 2016/10/26 Permalink
    Tags: , , happy halloween!, , , , scary stuff   

    The Best Books That Scarred Us For Life 

    What’s scarier: seeing something jump out at you, or knowing that it could, and imagining how and when? My bet’s on the latter. Anticipatory fear is the worst. As such, I always find the book version of a spooky tale more frightening than a film or TV show, because my mind will conjure up horrors no special effects team—no matter how good—could touch. With that in mind, here are some of the best books that scarred us for life, from junior high onward, just in time for Halloween.

    The Dollhouse Murders, by Betty Ren Wright
    “Dolls can’t move by themselves, she told herself, and felt goose bumps pop up on her arms.” You’re not alone with those goosebumps, Amy. This blast from the Scholastic Book Club past is a freak-tastic middle grade novel in which almost-13-year-old Amy agrees to spend a week with her aunt in the long-abandoned, secluded country house where her (murdered) grandparents once lived. Angsting over family troubles, Amy is grateful for the change of scenery. She’s also delighted to discover an intricate, beautiful old dollhouse in the attic. Did I mention the dolls inside look like Amy’s family members, and spend their evenings reenacting their own horrible, unsolved demise?

    Audrey Rose, by Frank De Felitta
    The Templetons, Bill, Janice, and their 10-year-old daughter, Ivy, live an idyllic, carefree existence in 1970s Manhattan, playing board games in their lavish apartment, listening to opera, and drinking gallons of scotch. Their dream life turns into a nightmare when Elliot Hoover enters their lives. He’s been stalking the Templetons because he believes Ivy is the reincarnation of his 5-year-old, Audrey Rose, who died in a fiery car crash the exact moment Ivy was born. What makes the book so terrifying is that sooner or later you’ll believe it, too, no matter how much you want to fight against the idea.

    It, by Stephen King
    An unputdownable story that deserves its spot in pop culture history. Creepy Clown? Check. (Let’s face it, Pennywise is the reason so many of us fear them.) Abusive bullies? Check. Small town imbued with ravenous evil, affecting generation after generation? Check. Ingeniously, the “It” in It assumes different forms based on what each adolescent member of the “Losers Club” fears most. For Ben, the creature is a mummy. For Richie, it’s a werewolf. For Mike, it’s a flesh-eating bird. And for Beverly, it’s her father. Yeah, that’ll stick with you. The upcoming two-part film (with Bill Skarsgaard as Pennywise) ensures fresh frights for years to come.

    American Psycho, by Bret Easton Ellis
    My husband knew this book would disturb me to my core, so he marked the most shocking sections I could skip over without losing plot threads. Did I heed his warning? No. It has been more than 10 years since I read the book and I still regret this. The film version (starring Christian Bale and Reese Witherspoon) is whimsically adorable in comparison to the book and did not prepare me one iota for the experience of reading it. Depending on your point of view, it’s a brilliantly dark satire about 1980s consumerism and pop culture, or a sadistic murder spree in which the victims are almost entirely young women and children.

    The Ruins, by Scott Smith
    Four fresh-faced, semi-Ugly Americans and one German are vacationing in Mexico when they decide to ditch the beach and check out an off-map archaeological site. Once there, they are surrounded and trapped by frantic locals who draw weapons as soon as one of them fatefully steps into the vines at the edge of the ancient ruins. Unable to leave the site, and at the mercy of sinister forces, our heroes turn into a bickering, hysteria-fueled mess. Written with a sense of terrifyingly plausible, slow-motion, “this can’t be happening” dread that paralyzes the reader, the horror stems from what the main characters do to each other to stay alive amid a psychologically torturous situation.

    Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn
    Damaged kleptomaniac Libby Day (portrayed by Cherlize Theron in the film adaptation) survived her family’s massacre as a child, and even identified her older brother, Ben, as the murderer. But then an underground club of true crime aficionados convinces her Ben wasn’t the culprit. Chilling, ghastly, desperate figures abound in this book—particularly in flashbacks—as the truth is revealed about what really went down the night of the killings, and why.

    The Other, by Thomas Tryon
    Thirteen-year-old twin boys Holland (the shy one) and Niles (the hellraiser) Perry have been left to their own devices ever since the shocking death of their father. Mom is bedroom-bound, unable to deal with widowhood, so the boys’ grandmother, Ada, sweeps in with a supernatural, inherited “game” (which Game of Thrones fans may recognize as one of Bran’s talents). The rural Connecticut farm where they live in the 1930s turns into a psychological horrorscape, and the book requires a second reading after the complex web of lies and distortions is untangled.

    The post The Best Books That Scarred Us For Life appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Diana Biller 3:00 pm on 2016/03/25 Permalink
    Tags: animals, , , , , , scary stuff   

    The 5 Creepiest Rabbits in Fiction 

    Easter is upon us, bringing its usual associates: egg hunts, little girls in frilly white dresses, Peeps, and, of course, the Easter Bunny, hop-hop-hopping along. A Google image search for this confusing figure produces an array of unsettling illustrations and photos, including a manic-eyed bipedal rabbit with teeth that extend over the lower half of its face. Anyone who has ever felt rabbit teeth sinking into the soft flesh of a finger knows this is not the way a rabbit smiles. It’s a threat.

    Not convinced? Then join me for a frightening tour of fiction’s creepiest rabbits, ranked from only-slightly-unsettling to hide-under-the-bed-sobbing-terrifying, and be warned.

    Fiver, from Watership Down, by Richard Adams
    This one really isn’t the poor little fellow’s fault: he’s a clairvoyant, and clairvoyants are inherently creepy. No one wants to be told their warren is about to be destroyed, particularly not when that prophecy comes in rhyme, and then there’s the whole thin line between seers and insanity that seems to permeate mythology. A clairvoyant bunny that may or may not go insane? I’ll skip it, thanks.

    Nail Bunny, from Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez
    Poor Nail Bunny is really only creepy because of his outward appearance and the company he keeps, but I’m afraid any bunny who has been nailed to a wall for three years, has x’s for eyes, eventually becomes a floating head, and is one hallucinatory voice of a bonafide homicidal maniac has to be included. Sorry, Nail Bunny, but on the upside you were featured on seemingly thousands of disturbingly adorable backpack patches at high schools around the country in the late 1990s and early aughts, so here’s to you.

    Bunnicula, from Bunnicula, by Deborah and James Howe
    Appearing on a dark and stormy night, Bunnicula the vampire rabbit has fangs instead of normal bunny teeth, which in all honesty seems like a less unsettling option, because at least then it won’t be a surprise to find them sinking into your neck while you sleep. Bunnicula confines his vampire tendencies to vegetables, which he sucks dry, possibly turning them into vampires themselves…or at least he has stuck to vegetables so far.

    The March Hare, from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
    What’s scarier than a normal rabbit with a normal rabbit’s teeth? A crazy rabbit, with a crazy rabbit’s teeth. Appearing at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and sporting a blue bow tie and straw hat on his head in the original illustrations (although it must be said that in those illustrations the real creepy one is Alice herself, who looks like she’s about to pull a Lizzie Borden), the March Hare is, unsurprisingly, rendered most terrifying in Tim Burton’s 2010 adaptation. Invite to tea at your own risk.

    The Seeing Hare, from The Magician King, by Lev Grossman
    I’m pretty sure pencils could be rendered creepy in Grossman’s Magicians series, which casts a heavy layer of unsettling darkness over everything it touches, but the Seeing Hare is a particularly upsetting entry on this list. We’ve already discussed the inherent terror of the clairvoyant rabbit; well, here we have a clairvoyant rabbit who sets traps for those who seek it and responds to questions about the future with answers like “death” and “despair.” Sometimes followed immediately by someone dying. So…Happy Easter?

  • Ella Cosmo 5:13 pm on 2015/10/07 Permalink
    Tags: american horror story, , scary stuff,   

    5 Scary Reads for American Horror Story Fans 

    American Horror Story: Hotel premieres tonight, and I. cannot. even. deal. Sure, I may watch the show from behind my fingers, my heart racing a mile a minute, and maybe there’s been a time or two when I’ve actually screamed aloud because I’am so spooked. But two seconds later I’m laughing, and that’s what I love about American Horror Story: its amazing blend of macabre humor, great storytelling, and legitimately terrifying spookiness. It makes you shudder, but it’s a delicious shudder. And if you, like me, are addicted to AHS, check out these books in time for the new season. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Soul Mates, by John R. Little
    Savannah and Alannah are identical twins who’ve lived a rough life. So rough, in fact, that they move all the way across the country in an effort to start over—but they just can’t shake the persistent presence of a dead boy. Meanwhile, Jeremiah, a magician with a tragic past, is struggling to deal with the guilt and anguish he still suffers. A meeting between the twins and Jeremiah is inevitable, and it won’t be a happy one.

    The Fifth House of the Heart, by Ben Tripp
    Be warned, Tripp DOES NOT shy away from gore. But his use of it is realistic to the places and times he writes about, and the carnage is tempered by his masterful exploration of human dramas. Plot-wise, The Fifth House of the Heart is a radical departure from his previous novels, taking readers on a journey into the heart of vampire horror. Asmodeus “Sax” Saxon-Tang is an antiques dealer, wildly successful and known for his ability to procure priceless objects. But Sax’s accomplishments are based on a dark secret: he steals his treasures from vampires. Unfortantely for Sax, his past is about to catch up with him and those he loves the most. A creature unlike any he’s ever faced is hunting him, and it won’t stop until he’s paid for his sins.

    The Bazaar of Bad Dreamsby Stephen King 
    This anthology collects some of King’s greatest short stories and several newly penned tales.  Trust me, these short stories are good, like, AHS good.  Stephen King is literally the master of horror, able to infuse his macabre stories with the insidious darkness that can lurk in the human psyche.  My personal favorite is “Obits,”  a tale of what happens when a newspaper columnist learns he has the ability to kill any person by writing their obituary. As a special bonus, each story is accompanied by King’s in-depth commentary on the inspiration behind it.

    Rolling in the Deep, by Mira Grant, Julie Dillon
    This tightly written tale of horror is about what happens when a science fiction channel sends a crew out to film a documentary (I use that word very loosely) about a possibly fake, definitely haunted ship, the Atargatis. The crew discovers mermaids are real, but not necessarily the beautiful, ethereal—these mermaids have teeth, and they aren’t particularly friendly.

    The Other Child by Joanne Fluke
    Crumbling Victorian mansion? Check. Whispers of hauntings and things that go bump in the night? Check. Naïve family convinced it’s all superstitious hogwash? Check. The Other Child has many elements of your typical story about poor schmucks who move into a creepy new home and accidentally unleash a terrifying evil. Lucky for you, that’s where the comparisons stop. Karen and Mike buy an old Victorian mansion despite the rumors, and their daughter is the first to realize they’re sharing their new home with something that goes bump in the night. But this spirit isn’t just malignant, its seductive—by turns terrifying and compelling, adding a psychological edge to the story. Fluke has a good eye for detail, building suspense slowly, keeping you on the edge of your seat the entire book.

  • Tori Telfer 7:00 pm on 2014/10/31 Permalink
    Tags: bad seeds, , , , , scary stuff   

    Halloween Quiz: Is Your Child a Bad Seed? 

    The Omen by David SeltzerThere’s nothing like the innocent sweetness of a child’s smile—until you wake in the middle of the night and find the little tyke leaning over you with a menacing grin on his face, whispering something like, “Mommy must go next” in a deep, inhuman voice. Then it’s not so much “look how adorable my kid looks in his footie pajamas!” and more “how do I get out of this house without that telepath setting me on fire with his eyes?!?”

    Most children are just fine, but every now and then, a Bad Seed comes along and gives the whole bunch a bad name. If you’re concerned that your precious little one might actually be related to a guy called Beelzebub, take this simple quiz to put your mind at ease—or not. (Oh, and make sure you take the quiz late at night when your child is “sleeping.” They wouldn’t like it if they knew you had your suspicions about them. They wouldn’t like it at all.)

    1. What does your kid look like?
    a. Conventionally attractive, blonde pigtails, unnerving eyes
    b. Glowing eyes and pale, golden skin
    c. Angelically beautiful
    d. Well, he has a 666 birthmark on his scalp—why do you ask?
    e. Chubby cheeks, curly hair, and the cutest little dimples!

    2. Do mysterious deaths tend to happen when your child is around?
    a. Oh yeah: a classmate, a neighbor, a maintenance man…
    b. People do tend to drive into walls and drown in ponds, but it’s all accidental
    c. Now that you mention it, their last caretakers did die mysteriously…
    d. How much time do you have?
    e. Whoa, whoa, whoa, what kind of a question is this? My child doesn’t even eat solid foods yet.

    3. Has your child recently tried to convince you of something peculiar?
    a. Yes—that they totally didn’t kill Clyde from class
    b. Yes—that you shouldn’t bomb their village
    c. Yes—that they can’t see any ghosts, honest
    d. Yes—that they REALLY don’t want to go to church
    e. Yes—that they like the ham and cheese Lunchables better than the pizza ones

    4. What’s the first adjective that springs to mind when you look at their adorable, slumbering face?
    a. Sociopathic
    b. Telepathic
    c. Mysterious
    d. “The Antichrist.” Sorry, that’s not an adjective
    e. Darlin

    5. Is there anything weird about their birth story?
    a. Her biological grandmother was, um, a notorious serial killer
    b. His mothers were mysteriously impregnated by a silvery substance while unconscious
    c. Her parents are dead
    d. The hospital burned down and most of the staff died after he was born, but coincidences happen, right?
    e. What an odd question! Our home birth was perfectly safe, loving, and paraben-free

    6. Does your kid have any pets?
    a. Yes, a puppy that died from an “accidental” fall out the apartment window.
    b. Who needs pets when you have 60 brothers and sisters?
    c. Who needs pets when your governess is obsessed with you?
    d. The skeleton of a jackal was discovered in his birth mother’s tomb—does that count?
    e. Our family owns one sweet little cockatoo that just learned how to chirp, “Mommy is the best!”

    7. And finally, does your kid know that you’re taking this quiz?
    a. No, she’s at school—hopefully not beating another kid to death with a pair of cleats
    b. They’re telepathic, remember?
    c. Who knows? It’s impossible to get a read on those two
    d. I hope not. He’s with his nanny right now—OH NO, THE NANNY JUST HUNG HERSELF, I HAVE TO GO
    e. Of course not. My husband and I don’t allow our kids to interact with any sort of technology. My child has never even seen a computer screen.

    If you answered mostly A’s, your child is…Rhoda from The Bad Seed!
    Yikes. That little blonde girl with the sweet pigtails is a heartless sociopath who kills anyone who irritates her—and you might be next! Don’t worry, she’s descended from a serial killer, it’s in her blood. She’s also an expert at victim-blaming and manipulation. You might want to consider boarding school.

    If you answered mostly B’s, your children are…the Children from Midwich Cuckoos!
    Remember that night you totally don’t remember? That night when a weird silvery substance descended on the town and everybody got pregnant at the same time? That silvery substance turned your kids into telepathic, preternaturally mature non-humans. Hey, everybody’s different! Just FYI, they use mind control to protect themselves as a group, so don’t even think of forbidding them to go to each other’s sleepovers.

    If you answered mostly C’s, your children are…Miles and Flora from The Turn of the Screw!
    These hauntingly beautiful little whippersnappers are hard to figure out. Are they lying to you? Are you lying to them? Are the ghosts in the mansion real? You’ll never truly know what they did at boarding school, or why they died in your arms, or anything at all. Think about taking a crash course in astrology, or buying a new house.

    If you answered mostly D’s, your child is…Damien from The Omen!
    Your kid died during birth, so you adopted an orphan and told your wife it was hers. Not the brightest idea, was it? This chubby-cheeked boy is pure evil through and through—unless you think all the gruesome deaths that happen when your kid is around are just weird coincidences. You’re probably going to need to stab this tot with a couple of sacrificial daggers on some consecrated ground, but don’t let him find out that you’re trying to get rid of him. Heads will roll.

    If you answered mostly E’s, your child is…perfectly normal! 
    Congratulations! Now go swaddle that kid in organic cotton diapers, puree some avocado in your Vitamix, and enjoy a few blissful years with your bourgie tyke before he or she becomes a teenager and rejects your yupster lifestyle for good.

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