The Good, the Scary, and the Scarring: 10 Creepy and/or Terrifying Classics

From Wikimedia Commons
From Wikimedia Commons

Today we are delighted and thrilled to have fellow book blogger, presenter at multiple conferences, and author of several publications with us: Elizabeth Preston (ekpreston). Elizabeth’s blog contains a mixture of books, writing tips, reading commentaries, and how to get a great 4.0 GPA-it’s absolutely brilliant, please take a look. Personally I loved (see what I did there?) her post on how to write a kissing scene: pucker up…

Warning: Contains spoilers.

I’m a big believer in reading “classic” texts in order to become a well-rounded and educated individual.  Also, I’m an English and literature nerd.  However, some “classics” have utterly terrified me and have left scars on my literary soul.  Here’s a list of ten creepy “classics.”

  1. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe – The text is a combination of gruesome murder, a seemingly logical insane person, an evil eye, and auditory hallucinations. All of this translates to me never sleeping without the light on ever again.
  2. Dracula by Bram Stoker – Full disclosure: I only got about 60 pages into the book. Why?  Because Stoker creeped me completely out.  It was bad enough to read about the three vampires sucking the life out of a kid while wolves devoured the mother, but then Dracula walks sideways on the outside walls of his castle.  He literally defies gravity!  How can you not be freaked out by that?  The mental image haunts me to this day, and I cannot finish the book.
  3. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding – I have no idea why this was assigned reading back in school. The disintegration into cruelty, insanity, and chaos by itself is disturbing.  Then add in the fact that this was all with kids, not adults.  That’s downright terrifying.
  4. 1984 by George Orwell – This is one of my favorite books, but it has also made me continually wary about our government turning into “Big Brother.” Thus far, I’m not liking what I see, and Orwell’s prophetic work of fiction makes me terrified for the future of our reality.
  5. The Pearl by John Steinbeck – My goodness, what a lesson in futility. Goodbye happy ending.  Goodbye all’s well that ends well.  Goodbye innocence.
  6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck – Yes, Mr. Steinbeck, you’ve made it onto this list twice. Congratulations!  Your lessons of the American dream’s impossibility and inability to obtain happiness and peace has scarred me for life.  Also, I’m one of those people who can’t stand it when dogs die in books or movies, so that dead puppy didn’t exactly help.  Thanks, Steinbeck.
  7. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – The book is expertly written with images vivid to the point that I thought that the Morlocks were going to jump out of my closet. Cave-dwelling cannibals . . . I’ll just turn on an extra light in my house now.
  8. The Stranger by Albert Camus – This book was terrifying in that the protagonist truly cares about nothing because nothing matters. The universe is indifferent towards us, and life will march on with barely a nod to our demise.  This concept mixed with a character who has little empathy or compassion towards anything or anyone (including himself) is utterly terrifying because nothing is more dangerous than someone who has nothing to lose.
  9. The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Andersen – This is so not Disney’s Little Mermaid. I think that Andersen might have hated kids.
  10. A Separate Peace by John Knowles – Why did Finny have to die? He had recovered from his leg injury once, and then to have it again and die from it?  Why couldn’t you have killed off Gene instead, John Knowles?  I would have been okay with that.  But, no, you had to kill of my favorite character and now I’m terrified of bone marrow killing me or a family member every time we think that someone has broken even the tiniest of bones.  I needed that additional neurosis.  Many thanks, Knowles.

What are some “classic” texts that have left you feeling creeped out?

17 thoughts on “The Good, the Scary, and the Scarring: 10 Creepy and/or Terrifying Classics

  1. How interesting. I just read, for the first time, The Strange Case of Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde on RoseReadsBooks recommendation for this past Friday the 13th. But its not on your list. I wonder why (insert sarcastic tone here). My question is for the guest poster, I guess, ekpreston, though you can answer since its been some time.

    Rose and I had a quick comment discussion about reading classics when you already know the story because they are everywhere in pop culture nowadays. How does that figure in to your list here? Did either of you read these books before “knowing” them or after (with the exception of The Little Mermaid which is different)? If any were after, do you think that made them less terrifying?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ll let ekpreston field this one…
      Joking aside, I feel that that is a valid point. Jekyll and Hyde is a great view on human nature, but personally, amongst books such as these I don’t find it competes as much.
      With regards to your second point, I feel that the majority of these I had no idea with regards to the ending (or had read them). Obviously it’s practically impossible to not know something about, say, 1984 or LotF, but at the same time, the nuances of each individual book can still impress-or terrify. I think Jekyll and Hyde is probably the book people know most about, and that is most spoilt, people know a few vague aspects on most of these but they don’w ruin the whole book.
      That’s my take on it, sorry if it wasn’t understandable in places…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Hi, The Magickal Librarian! I have never read the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is why it did not make my list. Perhaps my list will change after reading the book . . . .

      Quite honestly, whether or not I knew the ending to the book did not affect what did, and did not, make the list. For instance, I read about Dracula on Wikipedia before I ever bought a copy of the book in the attempt to make the text less scary and essentially desensitize me to it. Needless to say, that did not work for me—the book still terrifies me and I can’t get past page 60 because I get so freaked out. I also knew the ending to Of Mice and Men before I read the book, but the elements of inescapable failure, pain, disappointment, and ruin in that book still terrify me. In theory, reading about a book should mitigate some of the fear that I feel when reading it, but that has not been the case for me. Perhaps it would be a different case with a different genre. For instance, when I read the ending of the last Harry Potter book before I read the rest of the text, I was not nearly as into the story as I was before I read the ending. This may also change according to each person. Some people may not see the point of reading a book if they know the summary, and some people may enjoy knowing the ending so that they feel less anxious while reading the text. Thank you for reading the post and for the question! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. @thebookblogger2014, You were perfectly understandable, so no worries. That’s a good point. Jekyll and Hyde is definitely more widely known than the books on this list. I can’t see any children’s cartoons referencing LotF for instance. Dracula (to take ekpreston’s example) on the other hand is. I honestly can’t see myself being feeling even a little thrill from reading it but its on my to read list anyway.

      @ekpreston, Though I do think that Dracula is probably a bit ruined for me, you also make a good point. I think its not so much knowing the ending as it is knowing the whole story. The more complex the plot the harder it is to spoil the feelings maybe. And in the case of The Tell-Tale Heart, maybe the more complex the writing style. These things probably make it harder for things to be boiled down to the basics.

      Anyway, I’ve got more books to read so I’m happy. Thanks for the recommendations and thanks for responding so quickly. I also need to correct a boo-boo. The blogger that started this conversation with is RoseReadsNovels, not RoseReadsBooks.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Honestly, the first 60 pages of Dracula are both brilliant and terrifying. Everything after the book shifts to England, not so much. There are moments, particularly near the end, but once it shifts into multiple viewpoint territory, a lot of the sheer terror of Jonathan’s experiences gets watered down by the shifts.

    Liked by 1 person

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