What is the scariest novel/story/poem you’ve ever read?

This week at the Cafe, we all wrote stories in an attempt to make you hesitate before turning off the light before bed, question that shadow on the wall, and think twice about that strange bump in the night. If our tales didn’t manage to scare you, or if you enjoyed being scared and want more, try these stories that managed to scare the Confabulators.

Paul Swearingen

I don’t recall reading anything that really scared me, but Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Camilla”, published in 1872, is about the creepiest story I ever read. It’s a Gothic vampire tale that predates “Dracula” by 25 years.

Ted Boone

Scariest story was “The Telltale Heart,” by Edgar Allen Poe. I actually listened to the story on a record player as a third grader at school. That night while I was trying to get to sleep, I could hear my pulse beating against my pillow. I twisted and turned, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t NOT hear my own heartbeat. And every time it beat, I grew more and more convinced something was buried under by bedroom floorboards. I don’t think I slept well for a month after first hearing that story. I still get freaked out sometimes when my heartbeat echoes in my ears late at night. Yikes.

Jason Arnett

Whitley Strieber’s Communion terrified me when I read it because I wanted to believe. I mean really BELIEVE. The fact that these beings could come and go at will not just in his house but throughout his life, as well. I reserve judgment on whether or not Strieber’s accounts are true (he still affirms they are). In all honesty, I’d like to believe that he’s telling the truth even though it is terrifying in the extreme if he is. It would explain so much.

Kevin Wohler

I have read a lot of horror over the years, but nothing scared me like the end of Stephen King’s novella “The Mist.” I was up late reading it one night, trying to finish before I went to bed. Now, in fairness, the story is darn creepy. But it wasn’t the story that scared me. With only a few pages left to go, I was startled when the lamp beside me blew its lightbulb and left me in total darkness. I freaked out. I may have screamed. I’m not sure. No story before or since had me wound that tight while I was reading it.

Sara Lundberg

Believe it or not, no author has managed to scare me with his creatures as much as Terry Brooks. There is a demon assassin in one of his Magic Kingdom of Landover novels that kept me from being able to sleep without a nightlight for days. For a fantasy writer, his novels are pretty horrifying.

Christie Holland

The scariest book I’ve ever read was World War Z by Max Brooks.  I had to stop reading it after dinner so that I wouldn’t have nightmares.  The zombie apocalypse isn’t something to joke about, people.

Jack Campbell, Jr.

I mostly read and write dark fiction, so this is tough for me. There are a lot of different types of fear, and despite being a relatively small genre, horror has a lot of subcategories because of it. Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” is a classic piece of psychological horror. Clive Barker’s The Hellbound Heart was gruesome and spectacular. Stephen King’s The Shining might be King’s scariest novel. The Road by Cormac McCarthy is beautiful and gritty. Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby deserves a mention, as does  H.P. Lovecraft, but I don’t think I could narrow it down to a single Lovecraftian story. Robert Lewis Stevenson, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, Algernon Blackwood, Ambrose Bierce, M.R. James, Henry James, Shirley Jackson, Richard Matheson, Joyce Carol Oates, Chuck Palahniuk, Jack Ketchum,  Ramsey Campbell, Peter Straub, Whitley Strieber, Bentley Little, John Saul… Don’t make me choose.

Ashley M. Poland

My answer is supremely uncool, but I don’t actually like to be scared when I read. I had a Stephen King phase in middle school, a horror film craze for a couple years after that, and then concluded I was done being scared by my fiction. (Or more accurately, reading fiction where the only goal was to scare me.) “Cujo” made me cry, though, and always sticks with me as really terrifying. It’s because it wasn’t something big and supernatural: it was a sick dog. Man, sick dogs can happen to anyone.

Cafe Management is run by the administration of The Confabulator Cafe. We keep things running smoothly, post stories by guest authors, and manage other boring back-end tasks.


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