Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The depths of fear

The yellow, fall moon is out, not quite full. Fallen leaves cover the ground and scrape and grind beneath your feet. The air is chill, the night is dark and branches of the newly naked trees scrape the sides of the house when the wind blows. Get a fire going, turn the lights down low (but not too low) and pull out that book- you know the one. The book that sends chills down your spine, that makes you jump at every creak of the house, the one that makes you pull the covers up over your head when you crawl into bed after reading.

I believe that reading a scary book is much worse than watching a scary movie. Reading is such a solitary endeavor. You, and you alone, are in there with monsters, ghosts, and all the other horrors that crawl from the pages of books. Your imagination is better than any movie screen at creating what scares you the most. The branch scraping the window late at night now becomes the fingernail on the hand of the living dead looking for a way in. The reflection in that same window may be yours or is it a deranged murderer staring in at you?

I love books that give me the chills. An author who can do that has done their job well. Some of my favorites are Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” Poe was a master of the Gothic horror story. Of course, Stephen King has scared me once or twice over the last 25 or 30 years, but the book I read once and will never go back and read is “It.” I still hate clowns. King is also the master of the scary short story. “Graveyard Shift” made me avoid basements and other dark underground places for years afterwards, and “The Man in the Black Suit” was an amazing story that scares any of us who believe we are approaching our ultimate end. Those are a few of the stories that have scared me, but are by no means all the books that have made me cringe, hide, shake, and break into cold sweats.

Is there a book that plumbs the depths of your fear?

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