The Scariest Horror Novels of All Time

My first addiction was reading scary stories…


Like the kid in the picture, I stayed up late reading and ruining my eyesight. I have to say, it was worth it. Cops and pilots might need 20/20 vision, but writers can get through life with bifocals, thank you very much.

The scary story addiction stuck around long after I’d said goodbye to the detrimental ones. (I can still remember crushing that final Winston in a glass ashtray. Incidentally I still smoke in my dreams. Guess I’m still a nicotine addict at heart.) Like all addictions left unchecked, it led to others – like writing.

Creating fiction, especially horror fiction, is infinitely harder than reading. I’m certain that any writer worth salt would agree and that those who don’t aren’t worth much of your reading time. On many nights I’d rather surrender to another’s writer’s story than enter my own. It’s a bit of laziness, sure. But some addictions become a part of us and never leave. It’s the way it is.

So.. This has given me a quest to find and share the scariest horror novels of all time here at The Scary Story. It’s my hope to learn more about the novel itself, its author and the story behind the story. A quick search on Google lead me to Horror Novel Reviews and this list. I believe it’s as good a place to start as any:

  • A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood
  • The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector
  • The Elementals by Michael McDowell
  • Night Where by John Everson
  • Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea
  • Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Totem by David Morrell
  • Let’s Go Play at the Adams by Mendel Johnson
  • By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens
  • Evangeline by E.A. Gottschalk
  • Lightning by Dean Koontz
  • Haunted By Chuck Palahniuk
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe
  • The Least of My Scars by Stephen Graham Jones
  • Dawn by Octavia Butler
  • The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde
  • The Cipher by Kathe Koja
  • Incarnate by Ramsey Campbell
  • The Resort by Bentley Little
  • They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon
  • We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
  • The Collector by John Fowles
  • Invasion by Robin Cook
  • Dweller by Jeff Strand
  • Bethany’s Sin by Robert R. McCammon
  • The Montauk Monster by Hunter Shea
  • The Association by Bentley Little
  • Mouth Sewn Shut by Greg Slap
  • Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker
  • Needful Things by Stephen King
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • The Keep by F. Paul Wilson
  • Grimm’s Fairy Tales (unedited tales by Wilhelm and Jacob)
  • The Bighead by Edward Lee
  • Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
  • Night in the Lonesome October by Richard Laymon
  • The Face that Must Die by Ramsey Campbell
  • Floating Dragon by Peter Straub
  • The Bottoms by Joe R. Lansdale
  • War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
  • Velocity by Dean Koontz
  • Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
  • A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson
  • Penpal by Dathan Auerbach
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
  • At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft
  • The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
  • A Winter Haunting by Dan Simmons
  • Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
  • Off Season by Jack Ketchum
  • Joyland by Stephen King
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
  • The Drive-In by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Stake by Richard Laymon
  • The Ritual by Adam Nevill
  • The Shining by Stephen King
  • Floating Staircase by Ronald Malfi
  • Hell House by Richard Matheson
  • Ghost Story by Peter Straub
  • Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
  • The Woman By Jack Ketchum
  • Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  • The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker
  • Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
  • The House That Dripped Gore by Dan West
  • John Dies at the End by David Wong
  • It by Stephen King
  • Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Watchers by Dean Koontz
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • The Complete Tales and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite
  • Horns by Joe Hill
  • Ghoul by Brian Keene
  • Boy’s Life by Robert R. McCammon
  • Bubba-Ho-Tep by Joe R. Lansdale
  • The Store by Bentley Little
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • Books of Blood by Clive Barker
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons
  • Psycho by Robert Bloch
  • ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
  • The Ruins by Scott Smith
  • The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
  • Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  • The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I’ve read many of the books on this list. No worries – they’re worth a second look. A couple I’ve peeked into and skipped. Perhaps I’ll hit them again. A few have already been featured here. In any case, it’s going to be a dark ride of reading, sharing and searching.

A Few Notes:

If you’ve got a favorite horror novel that’s not on this list, let me know on Lake Lopez on Twitter.

If you’ve written one that deserves to be here, contact Lake Lopez Immediately because I want to know you and share your work with the scary story subscribers. Be sure you bring the goods, fellow scribe, because my readers do not waste their reading time.

Love scary stories? Join the mailing list for very special content and free chills.

Here’s to good reads and unpleasant dreams.

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