My Octobers are always filled with scary books: suspenseful, invoking terror, haunting, and often filled with ghosts, goblins, headless horsemen, and other unexplained phenomenons. Reading scary books is not something that I really enjoy doing, but I make myself do it. It keeps me on my toes, allows me to experience new authors and writing styles, and exposes me to new sub-genres of horror that I might not have otherwise read. There are a lot of great things about reading new types of stories, but, on the flip side, scary stories are scary.
For the past two weeks I’ve been trying to force my way through Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This book is only about 200 pages long (depending on what edition you have) and could easily be read in a few sittings. Except for one thing: it’s terrifying!
The story follows four main characters who decide to spend a summer at Hill House: an old mansion situated in the hilly countryside just outside of a small town, far away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Sounds lovey, right? It is, until messages written in blood appear on the walls and strange voices and laughter can be heard at night.
Shirley Jackson is an amazing author who writes wonderful prose, which only makes her jaunt through a haunted house even more terrifying. It also doesn’t help that I tend to do most of my reading right before bed. Even though I only have 30 or so more pages of this story left, I’m not sure if I can finish it. I want to know how it ends, but I also want to sleep at night.
Making the decision to put down a book is not easy, and I do hope that I am able to finish this haunting tale. There are only two other books that I’ve never finished (because they gave me nightmares!), but I still have them on my shelves in case I gather the courage to finish them one day. So, in lieu of my thoughts on The Haunting of Hill House, here are my thoughts on two other scary books that I have yet to finish.
Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
You know how in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales all of the characters decide to have a fun story-telling competition, all in good taste, to pass the time while they go on a pilgrimage together? That’s the same basis for Palahniuk’s Haunted, except instead of telling stories about someone farting in someone else’s face they tell stories about people getting half of their intestines ripped out because they sat on a pool filter to get off. And that’s not even the most disturbing tale that’s told in this collection of stories. Only Palahniuk could come up with this shit.
Everything else that I have read by Palahniuk has been pure gold. I love how he discusses taboo topics, sexuality, casually throws in surreal plot twists, and isn’t afraid to write about the harsh reality of dead babies. But Haunted was just too much for me.
To be fair, I did start reading this book during a tough point in my life which may have been one of the reasons I had to put it down, or it could have been because the main characters are all locked up/trapped in a house together, run out of food, and start to cannibalize the first person that dies. That’s a totally normal thing to happen during a writer’s retreat, right? I don’t think so. I’m never signing up for one now, ever.
I’ll probably try to finish this book, but only if I already have an empty stomach.
Pet Sematary, by Stephen King
I still don’t know why I thought I could read something by the King of Horror Stories. (That’s Stephen King’s official title, right?). I don’t even think I made it half way through this story before I put it down. It’s chilling, creepy, and just morally wrong. Nothing should be brought back from the dead on purpose.
You might be thinking, “But Lizz, zombies are all the rage, how is this different?”
It’s different. Zombies come back to life because of unfortunate biological outbreaks. No one is creating them on purpose. No one actually wants a zombie to wander down their street and enter their home.
The characters in Pet Sematary know what will happen if something is buried in that graveyard and they do it anyway! WHY? Let the dead be dead. That’s just the way it is.
I honestly don’t think I will ever finish reading this book. I have goosebumps right now just thinking about it, and still avoid anything/anyone named Winston Churchill.