15 Creepy Books That Scared the Hell out of People


A scary book is hard to find. A lot of the ones that are marketed as being “truly terrifying” turn out to be anything but that…and that’s always a big disappointment.

But I think these books might surprise you.

People shared the creepiest books they’ve ever read – the ones that truly scared them – and I think I need to add these to my list.

Let’s take a look…and don’t forget to share the books that traumatized you most in the comments, please!

1. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

Photo Credit: Amazon

“A girl is taking a trip with her boyfriend to meet his parents and is thinking about ending their relationship. You’re terrified the whole time you’re reading it. You’re not even sure why you are so uneasy. Everything is NOT as it seems, and the end hits you HARD. I always recommend this book with a strong warning — you have to like thrillers/horror — but I can never say much more about it because it’s so easy to spoil.”

2. The Trial by Franz Kafka

“It’s upsetting in the sense that it could very much happen to you, or so it made me think. The despair of one individual against a senseless administrative crushing machine is overwhelming.”

3. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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“The movie is good, but doesn’t capture the experience of reading the book. It’s far more impactful as a novel. It’s about a kid who commits a mass school shooting, told after the fact as a series of letters from the kid’s mom to his dad, recounting raising the kid. The narrator is unreliable and you take a journey alongside her trying to examine if her memories are the full story or not. It’s brutal, shocking, terrifying, and heart wrenching. It was sob out loud painful for me to read and I don’t even have children.”

4. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

“It’s loosely based on a real story. Two teenage girls are left in the care of their aunt, who is an alc*holic single mother with three sons of her own. She gets her sons and all the neighborhood kids to torture one of them to death over several months, and none of them told their parents or the police — including the girl — because the woman threatened to kill her little sister if she did.”

5. Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

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“It’s about a WWI solider who goes off to war, only to be caught in a canon blast. He wakes up in a hospital unable to speak OR hear. His mouth was completely blown off as well as his ears, eyes, arms, and legs…but his mind functions perfectly. He has no way to tell the nurse that he is awake and no way to communicate that he wants to die. He can only hit his head on his bed in Morse code. It’s truly horrifying, especially since it’s told from his perspective. I only read it once when I was 15…I’m 27 now, and it still sticks with me.”

6. The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers

“It’s a series of short stories that refer to a fictional play called The King in Yellow that makes its readers go insane. It’s extremely creepy and frightening in an usual way. You learn almost nothing about the play, but what you do learn is extremely scary. I think it’s also so scary because it was written in 1895.”

7. The Road by Cormac McCarthy

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“It’s pretty fucked up. You think it’s going to be like a normal book with a climax and eventual happy-ish ending. NOPE. It just gets more and more depressing as it continues, and ends on an incredibly depressing note. I felt like shit for a week after finishing it.”

8. The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan

“To tell you what’s disturbing would give away the entire book. Suffice to say, it wrecked me, and I’ve never read anything so messed up in my life.”

9. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

“It’s not a book, but a short story within a larger collection. It’s excellent, yet disturbing. I can’t really explain it, but you can find a decent summary on the Wikipedia page. I cannot recommend it highly enough.”

10. Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov

“This one for sure made me feel pretty messed up, less because of the content (which, for the most part, isn’t terribly explicit), but because of the way Nabokov uses Humbert Humbert as an unreliable narrator. It seems like he’s is recusing himself throughout the book, to the point that you find yourself feeling subconsciously sorry for him at points before realizing, “Wait, hold up, I need to stop sympathizing with a child rapist…”

11. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

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“It’s about a psychotic, depressed, misogynistic teenager who lives with his alc*holic father in a relatively unpopulated island. He spends his time with his makeshift weapons, killing local animals, while awaiting his even-more-disturbed brother’s return home. The title alludes to a machine built by the main character. It’s a large clock contraption that kills the wasps he places inside with different traps depending on which direction they crawl. He believes that it can predict the future. The entire book is disturbing from start to finish.”

12. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

“It is truly horrifying. If you’ve seen the movie…you literally don’t know the half of it. The gore and brutality is so minutely and exquisitely detailed, I actually had to put the book down at times to fathom what I had just read.”

13. Out by Natsuo Kirino

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“The gist of it is that it’s a story about four women who work the graveyard shift at a boxed lunch factory. They all have incredibly hard lives, and one of them snaps and murders her husband. She then, somehow, convinces the others to be complicit in helping her cover it up, which leads to a lot of law enforcement involvement, infighting, and blackmail.”

14. Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates

“It’s fiction, but it’s based on Jeffrey Dahmer. I didn’t realize that when I chose it off a list for a high school psychology project. I just chose it based on the title because I was big into the zombie craze at the time. it ended up getting a bit more than I bargained for, and it took me a while to shake it.”

15. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

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“I had never heard of the author before, and I had never heard anything about this book. I am ashamed to admit I got it because the book cover glowed in the dark, and 16-year-old me thought that was amazing! It’s a nightmare of a book. The main story still leaves me uncomfortable, as did the free verse poems tying then all together. It’s just…a very uncomfortable read.”