Let's face it: Halloween hasn't been scary for you since, well, ever. Maybe it made your pulse race when you stepped out into the darkness on your very first trick-or-treating outing—but then you realized that your parents were right behind you, and that it was only dark because your mask had slipped over your eyes (everyone in your neighborhood did trick-or-treated at 3 in the afternoon when the sun was at it's highest point).
What I'm saying is, to get a good scare, don't look to Halloween. Instead, go to a movie— or better yet, read a book. There's nothing that sends chills up and down the spine quite like a well-placed synecdoche. (Or a poorly-placed one).
Here are the scariest YA books ever (and before all you Potterheads ask, nothing by J.K. Rowling is on the list. Let the comments fly...)
I refused to read R.L Stine when I was younger because his book covers alone were terrifying enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. But by the third grade, the jacket art didn't seem quite as creepy, and I managed to get through Be Careful What You Wish For when I was ten. It gave me nightmares for a week, and I refused to read anything else by him. To this day, I avoid his books like the plague when I walk through a bookstore.
Try to spell the name "Cthulhu" correctly on the first try (without Google's help) and you'll still only be scraping the surface of the horror of this tale.
If you ever believed in things that went bump in the night, that evil really did exist, or that monsters were real and they were after your little kid brother, then you'll definitely relate to this tale. If you can't relate, you can still enjoy a suspenseful, well-written ride.
This is the only novella in existence that made me afraid to turn off the light. Henry James's tale of two children who are possessed by ghosts is all the more chilling due to its matter of fact narration and slowly building eeriness.
The recent film version of this story doesn't even begin to do it justice. It takes Gaiman's masterly touch to truly shock and terrify; his story of young Coraline, whose "Other" parents and friends slowly and horrifically start taking over her life, is every lonely child's dream-turned-nightmare.
A remote island in Wales. An abandoned house. A mystery of disappearing "peculiar" children. A dark past that may be very, very present. Mix them together and you get one true trogglehumper of a tale (props to The BFG for that adjective).
If his poem The Raven gives you the shudders, try his collection of horror stories. Goodies include "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Fall of the House of Usher." Poe is the last word in Gothic literature; reading one paragraph of any of his tales is like walking through a dilapidated house on a dark hill, surrounded by barren trees. And there's a raven in the window, natch.
Anyone else think antique dolls are creepy? Their waxen faces just stare and stare and stare at you. I swear to God, whenever I see one, it winks at me. If you have the same aversion to them that I do, then don't read Bad Girls Don't Die, because it's one of the ultimates in the evil doll genre.
Actually, the content of this isn't so bad—it's the structure. My God. The man wrote an epic verse allegorical poem about hell, and the entire thing is in terza rima. Trying to figure out who is being punished for what, and by whom, and by what, and WHY, in order to write an essay is every student's nightmare. The flashbacks of the footnotes alone make me dive under the covers.
What's the scariest book or story you've ever read? Anything by Stephen King is pretty much guaranteed to give us goosebumps.