50 Horror Books That Are So Scary They Should Be Banned

By Aaron Love 10 months ago

IT, Stephen King

Image Source: Reddit
'IT' is probably one of the scariest books of all time and one really plays on the themes of childhood trauma and how it continues into adulthood. If that isn't scary enough for some it also introduces one of the scariest in characters in literature history, Pennywise is the most common image of the entity within the book and he only becomes even more terrifying on the screen!

House Of Leaves, Mark Z. Danielewski

Image Source: Reddit
Reading this book can be just as confusing as it is terrifying, with people discovering little things each and every time they read the novel. Essentially, the book follows a family and their discovery of a labyrinth within their home through convoluted footnotes and other text techniques. It's quite an uncomfortable read if I'm totally honest with you.

The Haunting Of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

Image Source: Reddit
Some of you might not have been aware that the popular horror Netflix series was actually based on a book of the same name. It's more of a traditional horror book in comparison to the previous entry on this list with a heavy influence of the supernatural including which are all brought on by human life. It's known to be the father of supernatural stories!

The Shining, Stephen King

Image Source: Reddit
You were probably expecting to see the name Stephen King in this list a few times, after all he is the master of horror literature! In fact, The Shining introduces one of his most terrifying environments in the Overlook Hotel which is completely overran and manifested by demonic possession. And trust me, the book is infinitely more terrifying than the Kubrick film!

Dracula, Bram Stoker

Image Source: Reddit
Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the most popular and well-known pieces of literature to have ever been released in to the bookstores around the world and has maintained its popularity YEARS after its release. Behind its obvious vampire story, the charming nature of Stoker's Dracula is meant to show how someone seemingly so charming can be just as terrifying.

Salem's Lot, Stephen King

Image Source: Reddit
Salem's Lot is another of Stephen King's most popular horror novels and is one of his best when it comes to building the erie and terrifying tension that shows why he's known as the master of modern horror literature. Although much of his work is based around the psychological horrors that people can go through this one centres on vampires and their control over a small town.

Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Image Source: Reddit
Frankenstein, like Dracula, is one of the most famous pieces of horror literature in existence, still remaining in children's education round the world to this day. Although some people believe it to be more science-fiction than horror, and that Frankenstein is the monster in the story, much of the horror comes from what someone neglected by someone who's supposed to look after them can cause.

The Exorcist, William Peter Blatty

Image Source: Reddit
Exorcisms have long been used in horror literature as a way to help strike fear in to its readers and The Exorcist is one of the most popular examples of this. You're probably more aware of this story as a result of the movie which thrust it into the limelight and follows the story of two priests who try to save a young girl who has been possessed by Pazuzu, a demon! The film is bad enough.

The Little Stranger, Sarah Waters

Image Source: Tinted Edges
The Little stranger offers a pretty unique and terrifying first person perspective of the ongoings around an 18th century estate following WW2. Although it doesn't follow the generic ideas of a horror book, although plays on all of our psychological fears that someone, or something might always be watching us and playing on our minds. What could it be?

Ghost Story, Peter Straub

Image Source: Fanfare
If there is ever a compliment someone could pay a piece of horror literature to make you want to read it, its Stephen King claiming this was one of the best supernatural novels of all time! It shoots backwards and forward between the past and the present investigating the deepest fears of an elite group known as the chowder society and their own haunted past!

Beloved, Toni Morrison

Image Source: Twitter
Slavery in its own sense is one of the most terrifying things that anyone can ever go through, so couple it with the fact that the main character of this story, Sethe, kills her baby to avoid it should probably explain the pain this book explores. The psychological trauma she goes through is terrifying and testament to how these problems can follow you around for the rest of your life.

The Terror, Dan Simmons

Image Source: Thomas H. Brand
If you're familiar of the story of the Franklin expedition and you haven't read this book before, then you might want to give it a go! Very little is known about what happened to those on board the ships back in the 1800's but Simmons made use of what we did know about including cannibalism and murder with an added twist of unbeknownst horror to frighten the socks off of us.

Kindred, Octavia E.Butler

Image Source: Reddit
Kindred, like Frankenstein, is a book that is often deemed to be more of a science-fiction novel than that of a horror one, but I'll leave that to you to decide. Time travel forces Dana, the main character, back in to the deep south during the slavery era and she experiences what life really was for each and every one of her ancestors that went through the same thing.

Geek Love, Katherine Dunn

Image Source: The Book Nook Stirling
Although Geek Love sounds a little more rom-com than terrifying horror, I wouldn't get the two confused if I were you! It follows a the Binewskis who own a travelling freak show that offers some of the most terrifying lines in all of horror literature history. And I'm not talking ghost scary, I'm talking amputating, incesting, drug-taking, real life horrifying.

Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk

Image Source: Reddit
Haunted is one of the most popular modern history novels in circulation today. The crazy thing about this novel is that there are numerous stories that all add together to make this an absolutely terrifying read. Each individual one comes from the narration of a random writing group member trapped in a theatre. You'll get a good mix of murder and moral scares as part of this one.

Those Across The River, Christopher Buehlman

Image Source: Biblio
This novel gained some acclaim for Buehlman's ability to mix between the horror genre and historical facts. That makes for a spine-tingling read though as he creates some incredibly gruesome scenes that'll make you want to close the front cover and consider never opening it again. It's always the little towns that have the problems isn't it!

The House Across The Lake, Riley Sager

Image Source: Reddit
It's become all too common to find that cabins and houses in the woods are the main setting within the horror genre, but that doesn't mean it won't leave you completely terrified. It all follows a rehabilitating actress who moves to the countryside that develops a desire to watch her neighbours, only to find that she discovers things she wished she never would.

We Need To Talk About Kevin, Lionel Shriver

Image Source: Ghouls Magazine
If there's one thing that's guaranteed to get people out of their seats and hiding behind the sofa, its one of the all-time favourite horror tropes. A woman, Eva, is made to have a child against her will by her father; the child she then has however, is one of the most sadistic that's ever been introduced in to horror literature and stays that way to this day.

Carrion Comfort, Dan Simmons

Image Source: Reddit
Stephen King was evidently a fan of keeping an eye on his competition within the horror genre, claiming that this was one of the three best horror novels in the 20th century. It introduced a new kind of villain to the genre too, with 'mind vampires' who forced unsuspecting souls to commit sadistic crimes that cause you sweat from front page to back.

Pet Sematary, Stephen King

Image Source: Reddit
I could probably create this list solely using Stephen King novels if I really put my mind to it I'm sure! It's by far one of his more bleak and sadistic novels (that's saying something when he wrote The Exorcist and Carrie) but it just seems never-ending in its horrifying torture. It just constantly shuts you down and makes you take a step back in your mind as you turn page by page.

The Other, Thomas Tryon

Image Source: Richard Dalby's Library
If you're terrified by the generic horror trope of the child twins, one of which that acts as normal as the every day child whereas the other turns into a terrifying and crime-committing little rascal. Okay, that sounds a little more light-hearted than it really is as it follows a telepathic link between the two twins whilst one turns to the dark side.

The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson

Image Source: Reddit
Although this novel has become infamous through its separate retellings in modern pop culture, the original book still has a place in the history of horror literature. The original story, this one by Stevenson, fears nothing as it explores extreme, unprovoked violence against people all as a result of people suffering from what he called 'a divided mind'.

The Amityville Horror, Jay Anson

Image Source: Reddit
The Amityville horror is one of numerous books to feature within this list that have also managed to grace our screens, they really do just know what those adrenaline junkies really want to see. The worst part about this one? It's all based on a true story regarding a family and how they were terrorised by 'something' in their new home on Long Island.

Ring, Koji Suzuki

Image Source: Bookshop Apocalypse
This is the book behind the horrifying movie that left many (including full grown adults) unable to leave the house with ease for weeks after watching. Out of nowhere a video appears suggesting people will die if they don't follow some instructions. And after teenagers do lose their lives it becomes a race to find out what it is that actually went on.

The Chestnut Man, Soren Sveistrup

Image Source: Reddit
Those Nordic writers and TV shows always seem to have a way to force to make us sweat as we read or as we watch and The Chestnut Man is another recent example of that. Although it might originally seem as though its just a simple and basic murder case, as you flick from page to page you'll see the suspense builds through spooky scenes and twists that'll leave you squirming.

Bird Box, Josh Malerman

Image Source: Insider
Bird Box is probably most well known for the netflix adaptation that gained critical acclaim a few years ago, but I'm sure you'll probably understand it gets even more terrifying in written form. Put yourself in the shoes of the main character and you'll see (or not see I suppose) that what isn't in front of you can be even more horrific than if it was.

The Woman In Black, Susan Hill

Image Source: Reddit
You're probably more familiar with the film featuring Harry Potter alumni Daniel Radcliffe, or the theatre show which I must say is absolutely terrifying. It follows Arthur, a lawyer, as he enters a small English village. Although it's expected to be an in and out job he begins seeing a tall woman in black as she haunts the house he's investigating. I'm not doing it justice!

The Bad Seed, William March

Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter
There seems to be nothing that terrifies many people more than children who become possessed or taken made to do something we only associate with horrific adults. The Bad Seed, although overtaken by the many child killing stories that have preceded it, was completely groundbreaking for its portrayal of children upon its release back in the 50's.

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

Image Source: Reddit
You might have heard of the 2000 movie American Psycho, but did you know that was based on this novel? If you're a Dexter fan you'll probably love this one! It follows the narration of Patrick Bateman, a seemingly normal investment banker but as we go, we hear each and every detail of all of his torturous and sadistic serial killings around New York City.

The Outsider, Stephen King

Image Source: Reddit
Although The Outsider is probably one of Stephen King's lesser known novels, that doesn't make it any less terrifying than many of his most popular pieces of work. It follows the story of a coach who was convicted of killing a young child as a result of being the only person with any evidence of being in the location. The truth however only continues to get weirder and more horrifying as the story continue deeper in to the mystery.