With Halloween just around the corner, I thought it would be apt to creat a blog entry on my top three most frightening books of all time.

I’ve always been partial to horror, and though I have a taste for slasher flicks, its always been reading scary stuff before bedtime that has really made me lose sleep and leave the bathroom door slightly open just so a sliver of light cuts through the gloom. (Who knows what lurks in those dark corners).

Horror need not be all blood and gore. Sometimes, the human psyche is a terrifying thing to behold.

Reading horror scares me more than watching it. A film leaves nothing to the imagination because it depends on those who created it. Unless of course the finale is one of those vague, open-ended ones that inspire moviegoers to rack their brains for possible scenarios. With reading, your imagination pretty much calls the shots. And if you’ve got an an overactive one, the possibilities are infinitely more terrifying.

In no particular order, here are some titles that have instilled fear in me (and still do):

1. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

Though not strictly classifiable as horror, this strange story really “freaked” (for lack of a better term) me out.

The Blackwood family is shunned by the rest of the villagers, who steer clear from the Blackwood ancestral family home due to a series of disturbing events that happened years ago. Four of seven family members were murdered; dead from arsenic sprinkled on their food. Constance Blackwood, beautiful and “innocent,” was charged with the murders, but was eventually acquitted due to lack of evidence. Now, the only Blackwoods left are Constance, her younger sister Katherine, affectionately referred to as “Merricat,”  and their eccentric uncle, Julian.

Despite being treated like pariahs by the rest of the village, the three live a relatively happy existence. That is until a distant cousin, Charles comes into the picture in order to get his hands on the Blackwood fortune. He charms Constance, much to the dismay of Merricat who is jealous of the attention her beloved sister bestows on her “undeserving” cousin. An act of rebellion by Merricat, causes a fire to engulf a portion of the Blackwood home. The villagers come to their aid, but what is initially an attempt to help, turns into an ugly mob hellbent on expressing their revulsion for the Blackwoods. The house is looted, left in ruins. Uncle Julian dies soon after, leaving the two sisters alone together to fend for themselves, and Charles gone (since there is pretty much nothing left for him to inherit).

What really disturbed me about this book is how far humanity can deteriorate; how people can act so horrifically towards their fellowman regardless of whether they are indeed guilty. And perhaps what disturbed me most of all about this book is its portrayal of how a love so pure can also be so very twisted.

2. Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Stephen King, Master of the Macabre, didn’t earn this title for nothing. With books like It, Pet Sematary, Salem’s Lot, and the list goes on, et. al., this man is singularly responsible for scaring the daylights out of generations of readers.

For me, the most terrifying book he ever churned out is Dolores Claiborne. No Pennywise, no Barlow, no freakish creature ready to pounce and eat your entrails. Dolores  Claiborne is a very real character, one that a few readers may be able to relate to.

Dolores Claiborne is accused of the murder of her employer. She claims her innocence but confesses to murdering her husband, a man at whose hands she suffered abuse for years.

It is a fairly simple plot, but what really frightened me was the way she did him in. I will refrain from describing it here as it will spoil the book for those who haven’t read it yet, but if you take a look at the first edition book cover, it will give you a bit of an idea.

She planned (and what a plan) everything down to the last detail, in such a way that only a cold-blooded professional could. This threw me off because King makes Dolores out to be the most ordinary of women woman albeit one who was pushed to her extreme limit. However, readers (maybe some, but not all) will somehow feel a sense of pity for Dolores. Sympathy not empathy, perhaps.

This book is brilliant; a departure from King’s usual supernatural thrillers that are rife with blood, gore, and fangs (Go away, Pennywise.). This book is what convinced me that Stephen King is indeed a master of his genre. This and his other book Misery. Who could ever forget Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes?

3. Tomie a.k.a. Museum of Terror by Junji Ito

If there was anything that turned me on to horror-themed manga, it is Junji Ito, the genius behind Uzumaki and Gyo.

The Tomie series was compiled by Dark Horse Comics and renamed Museum of Terror.

Tomie is a beautiful girl with milky white skin, raven black hair, and a teardrop mole (under her left eye). Tomie is also not human. What she is nobody knows, but one thing is for certain: Tomie is monstrous. Her beauty drives men (even old women) completely mad, inspiring them to commit unspeakable deeds sparked by jealousy and possessiveness.

Tomie is evil incarnate. She basks in the attention and uses all her feminine wiles to turn brother against brother, child against mother, and the list goes on. Tomie is always murdered in the end, but she can never die. She regenerates in the most frightening ways. Tomie is the personification of how vanity, lust, and greed can destroy the human spirit.

Tomie was actually adapted into eight films in Japan, and is pretty much a cult figure in otaku circles. Fascinating, grisly, and a work of unprecedented genius.

*This title is currently sold out in all Fully Booked branches.

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