Hair raising books were my secret thrill when I was younger – even when I read something so scary and nightmarish that it made me sneak into my parents' room in the middle of the night. I still love to be scared, which is why I'm such a huge fan of horror movies and novels by authors such as Stephen King. Now, however, I don't lie awake nights thinking that the little girl from The Ring is going to crawl through my TV or that Pennywise the Clown might start whispering to me through the drain. When I was a youngster reading the following hair raising books, however, I was never quite sure...
1. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is still one of my favorite hair raising books. I was obsessed with the legend as a child. I had a chilling audio book, a terrifyingly well done, illustrated picture book, the actual book, and an obsession with the Disney version that came on every year around or on Halloween – but it still scared the crap out of me. Ichabod Crane was such a shy, unassuming man, and I was a rather shy child, and I lived right on the edge of the woods, and dear god what if I was walking around at night and the Headless Horseman decided he needed my head?
2. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Brett Helquist
These books still terrify me, because there are several volumes, and they're all just diabolical. I think the illustrations – which I appreciate for their artistry as an adult – help with that. They're so frightful! I've largely blocked out what I experienced upon reading each volume as a child. All I can remember is some boy getting eaten alive by ants, and fearing them horribly for at least a year myself. Ants!
3. The Witches by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is awesomely creepy. Look at Willy Wonka! The Witches was in many ways a delightful little book, it's just … all those mice? All those mice were kids once. I remember being terribly afraid that could happen to me if I wasn't a very good little girl. (Spoiler: it didn't work as an incentive for very long.)
4. Bunnicula: a Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe
The Bunnicula books are quite cute themselves, and not exactly designed to be hair raising, but … that rabbit. The mysteries were sometimes verging on dark, but they inspired a delicious kind of fear. Bunnicula looks evil, however, and is one of the reasons I will never allow a white rabbit into this house. Our little pitch black, dark eyed bunny is fine and not-evil, thank you.
5. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Don't get it twisted, I adored this book as a child, and I still do. Still, it left me both thrilled and terrified by the idea that I might wind up in the woods with a bunch of wild things myself. In fact, I once went on a very ill-advised expedition to find a mountain lion stalking our property, thinking it might be a wild thing instead. Don't worry, though – I went in daylight and didn't make it more than ten feet from the house before completely losing my nerve.
6. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
So Ray Bradbury is possibly not the most logical choice for a seven year old, which is when I experienced it, but here's the thing: my dad is an enormous Ray Bradbury fan. One rainy Saturday, he took my to the library and we ended up picking this out so we could read it together, as part of my parents' plan to support and aid my desire to move onto chapter books. Let's just say that while I still love carnivals, I also still get slightly creeped out by carnies. My dad's voice over talents helped to play a part in that.
7. Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Jumanji is exciting and adventurous and supremely interesting. It is also terrifying. It was actually afraid of Chutes 'n Ladders for a while after reading this, because I was afraid that somehow even benign games would capture me and make me disappear for decades. Still, I always secretly wanted a version of the crazy jungle game myself. Didn't you?
Obviously these books didn't quell my urge to be scared, because I moved on to Stephen King's IT by the age of 11. They definitely helped paved the way for my love of horror, however, whether they were meant to be scary or just had a little something morbid and macabre lurking in the pages. What are some childhood reads you remember scaring you to death?