When people talk about scary pop culture, it’s usually cinematic gore fests or televised bloodbaths which have a prominent place in the conversation. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of frights to be found on a screen near you (I mean, did you see any of the presidential debates?). But it’s always possible to turn away during particularly brutal scenes, making the most horrifying elements feel like they never even happened at all. Don’t like blood? Can’t stand to see an arm being removed from its body? Close your eyes. It’ll be over soon enough.
All of which is to say, books are the cultural medium really designed to make your hair stand on end, give you actual goosebumps, and make you never want to be alone in a dark house ever again. Here’s the thing about scary books: Once you’ve reached the truly terrifying parts, it’s too late to turn away. The twisted horrors found on the page worm their way into your mind, where they’ll stay forever. Sometimes those pscychologically horrifying thoughts will stay dormant for a while, but they’re always there, embdedded deep within your subconscious, ready to reappear whenever you most need a good night’s sleep. A scary movie might torment you for a little while, but it’s a discreet thing, and its power to frighten will inevitably fade over time. The kind of terror books deal in, though, is forever.
Don’t believe me? Try reading one of these 13 truly terrifying books and see for yourself if you’re not permanently haunted.