*Friday’s Five Books is a bi-weekly post on Between the Covers that highlights book recommendations from the reading community.
In lieu of having a member of the reading community recommend five books for your reading pleasure this week, I am taking over Friday’s Five Books and giving you a Halloween edition. I have never been a fan of horror, at least not the ultra-violent, blood-and-gore, people-getting-ripped-apart kind. In fact, excessive violence of any kind makes me feel physically ill. Unfortunately, human beings in general are gluttons for punishment it seems, and tend to have this morbid human curiosity that gets the best of them every now and then. I am no exception. At least, I haven’t been an exception to that rule in the past. As I’ve gotten older I’ve made a conscious decision not to torture myself with things that freak me out or make me feel sick, both books and movies, but there are books I’ve read in the past that have scarred me for life. When I was a kid, my mom was a pretty big fan of Stephen King’s work, so our household library included probably every book he’d ever written. I definitely shouldn’t have read some of them. I kind of wish my mom had told me they were off-limits. But I read them. And I freaked out. Oddly enough, I read most of the books after I had already been freaked out by the movies. Go figure. Below are the five horror books (or stories) that I read as a teenager that scared me the most, and that will most likely stay with me until the day I die…
It — Stephen King
Pennywise. Is. Terrifying. I don’t know why I continued to watch the movie even after it started to scare me, and I really don’t know why I read the book a couple of months later. I’m pretty sure reading the book had to do with the whole books-are-always-better-than-movies thought. I don’t remember why I thought it was necessary to terrify myself further. I do remember that I couldn’t go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, take a shower, nor go near any sort of drain for months after watching the movie and reading the book without being scared out of my wits. Those were some of the fastest showers I ever took. To this day, every once in a while, I get a nasty case of the shivers when I’m going to the bathroom or brushing my teeth at night if everyone else has already gone to bed. Oddly enough, though, Pennywise didn’t give me a lifelong fear of clowns. I’m fine with normal clowns, just not Pennywise the [OH-MY-GOD-HE-HAS-POINTY-TEETH] Freak.
Cycle of the Werewolf (Silver Bullet) — Stephen King
Cycle of the Werewolf is the novella, and Silver Bullet is the movie. Again, I saw the movie first and then read the novella a year or two later. I think I was in my early teens (maybe younger) when I saw the movie. I’m not going to go into the whole story here, but I was at a friend’s house, her older brother and his friend rented the movie, and we all sat down to watch it (a.k.a. he didn’t give us much choice). My friend and I were freaked out for the rest of the night (I’m pretty sure it was a full moon) and we didn’t get much sleep. Her older brother didn’t help matters when he came in through her bedroom window in the middle of the night and scared the crap out of us. I read the book a year or two later to see if the book would terrify me as much as the movie did. Uh huh. I am 35 years old and I am still scared silly by the idea of werewolves. I don’t like full moons and a sizable portion of my nightmares are about that scary, hairy beast. And why oh why did it have to be the reverend?
Pet Sematary — Stephen King
This time, I actually read the book first and then I freaked myself out more by watching the movie. The book was bad enough because we always buried our pets in the woods behind our house (we lived out in the country where you can still do that kind of thing). After reading the book, I started to freak myself out at night wondering if one of our cats or dogs would come wandering back to the house, looking for a little more attention…or maybe to rip us apart because they were zombies and that’s what zombies do. The part about the little boy was pretty gross, too, but it just made me sad more than anything. Then I watched the movie. I was not prepared for how scary and evil that little boy was going to be on a television screen. I cannot watch kids in roles like that–kids are supposed to be innocent and pure and cute. And sometimes I still wonder if my long, lost pets are going to come back to visit me. Scarred. For. Life.
“Children of the Corn” — Stephen King
“Children of the Corn” is one of the stories included in King’s first short story collection, Night Shift. I can’t remember if I read Night Shift first, or if I saw the movie first. It was the movie that freaked me out, though. Again, it was because the children were the evil ones. EVIL CHILDREN ARE NEVER OK. Also, I’ve already mentioned that I grew up in the country. Did I also mention that it was farm country? Our house was practically surrounded by cornfields, and there were roads we drove on every day that were nothing but cornfields on either side. And when you’re a teenager, in farm country, most of the parties are in the middle of nowhere. That meant going to parties and wondering if some wacky bunch of evil kids was going to start marching out of the surrounding cornfields just to hack us all apart with scythes. Not cool. It didn’t matter that in the story it was the adults who bit the dust. I was sure that in real life those freaky kids would kill anything in their path. I still don’t like driving down those roads in the dark when I go home to visit. *shudders*
The Exorcist — William Peter Blatty
Movie first, book years later. This was another case of “I’ve seen the movie, so I really should read the book.” This was also another case of being completely freaked out by a child bearing the brunt of the evilness. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in the devil, or demons, or any of that jazz. That didn’t matter. I almost couldn’t watch the whole movie, and I’m pretty sure I had my hand over my eyes for most of it, peaking through my fingers to see what was happening. I had to keep putting the book down because it was making me nauseous. Sigh. I hadn’t thought about the movie or the book in years, and then I found out that Ashley (our daughter) is a sleepwalker. The first time she went walking in her sleep after I moved in here, The Exorcist let me know that it hadn’t left my head…it was just waiting for the opportune moment to come rushing back to me. When Eric started talking to her about going back to bed, I immediately had this awful vision of her answering us with this deep, evil voice and spewing pea soup all over us. Ugh. I’ve gotten used to her sleepwalking, but that movie/book will always be in the back of my mind.
So there you have it. Those are the five books/movies that will always be terrifying to me. Have you been permanently traumatized by anything you’ve read? Are there certain times when you are reminded of those books and you feel like a scared little kid all over again? Do share. I’d love to know that I’m not the only 35-year-old who has this issue. Hahaha!
Happy Halloween, everyone! If you go out, have a good time and please be safe. Oh, and watch your back in those corn mazes, because you never know…
**If you choose to purchase any of these titles using the links below, I will receive a small percentage of the sale (to be used toward site maintenance and buying more books).