Doll Bones by Holly Black is one that has stuck with me. You wouldn't expect a middle grade book to be scary, but Black manages to weave a story of friendship and growing up with some seriously creepy elements. Zach, Poppy and Alice are three friends who love to make up stories together, but one day Poppy claims she is being haunted by a murdered girl whose ashes have been hidden inside a china doll. They set off to lay her ghost to rest, but they continue to encounter strange and unexplained events as they journey to her grave.
So let’s be real for a second, the past is a pretty scary place. We humans have done a lot of crazy and messed up things, and we often times discover that truth is stranger than fiction.
With that in mind, I’d recommend checking out The United States of Absurdity. Comedians Dave Anthony and Gareth Reynolds compiled a book featuring some of the weirdest stories from their American history podcast, the Dollop. And while there are plenty of true and outrageous stories in the book the one that still haunts me is the story of Dr. Walter Freeman, the guy who came up with the ice pick lobotomy. While I won’t go into too much detail (for those of you who are faint of heart) I will note that Dr. Freeman even took his show on the road, performing ten minute lobotomies out of his van which would later be referred to as the “Lobotomobile.”
Like I said, the past is terrifying.
I’m not a horror enthusiast, probably thanks to the last scary book I read: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Practically everyone my age was exposed to this collection of stories based in American folklore when we were young, and I know I’m not the only person to be traumatized by it. The funny thing is, the stories themselves aren’t even scary—they’re cheesy and actually kind of funny. (The only one I can remember with some clarity involves a phantom looking for his big toe.) The illustrations, on the other hand…. Nope. Scarred for life.
Under a Graveyard Sky by John Ringo. Zombies! Somebody released a virus that causes the infected to go crazy and try to kill anyone near them. They are not quite zombies (because they are still alive), but they have no higher cognitive functions. The question: Do you kill your infected daughter/son/mother/father/friend/wife just because they are trying to kill you? Is it ethically acceptable to harvest semi-living beings to make a vaccine? As the infected start to take over the world, where and how do you survive? Where do you go? And, once you've gone, how do you go about recovering from the Zombie apocalypse? Do you risk what is left of your family to take back the USA? This book/series is a romping good read. Great characters, kick-butt women, tons of adventure, survival at its best, and loyalty abounds. But, the psychological and ethical questions keep me up at night.
I first read Edward Gorey’s Amphigorey when I was about five years old (I found it by accident on my parents’ bookshelf). Seriously the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen, even now. “The Gashlycrumb Tinies” still gives me nightmares.~John F.
The big thing when I was a kid were Goosebumps, both the books and the show. All us little kids wanted a big scare. So I read many of those books, but the one that I still think about is The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight by R.L. Stine. I cannot drive by a field without being reminded of this story where the scarecrows come to life. Scarecrows are creepy, guys.
Those are our creepy reads. What still haunts you?