Stephen King fans know he is a versatile author who has written everything from epic fantasy to coming-of-age stories to thought-provoking political essays. Of course, he is best known for his ability to scare the living daylights out of us! What better way to celebrate Halloween than a little scare from the King of Horror himself? We’ve rounded up his creepiest books, along with publishers’ descriptions. Whether you’re a lifelong fan or new to his work, you’re certain to find something to make you shiver.
They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them back to Derry to face the nightmare without an end, and the evil without a name.
Why it’s so creepy: Was anyone afraid of clowns before Stephen King’s It? Pennywise is one of the most terrifying characters in horror literature — a shape-shifting embodiment of pure evil.
Jack Torrance’s new job at the Overlook Hotel is the perfect chance for a fresh start. As the off-season caretaker at the atmospheric old hotel, he’ll have plenty of time to spend reconnecting with his family and working on his writing. But as the harsh winter weather sets in, the idyllic location feels ever more remote… and more sinister. And the only one to notice the strange and terrible forces gathering around the Overlook is Danny Torrance, a uniquely gifted five year old.
Why it’s so creepy: Cooped up in an empty hotel in the middle of winter, the Torrance family has nowhere to go when the ghosts come out. King taps into the universal fear of being trapped and threatened.
When the Creeds move into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, it all seems too good to be true: physician father, beautiful wife, charming little daughter, adorable infant son — and now an idyllic home. As a family, they’ve got it all… right down to the friendly cat. But the nearby woods hide a blood-chilling truth — more terrifying than death itself… and hideously more powerful. The Creeds are going to learn that sometimes dead is better.
Why it’s so creepy: The premise is pure camp, but in King’s deft hands it becomes a horrific descent into a parent’s worst nightmare.
Paul Sheldon. He’s a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader — she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.
Now Annie wants Paul to write his greatest work — just for her. She has a lot of ways to spur him on. One is a needle. Another is an ax. And if they don’t work, she can get really nasty.
Why it’s so creepy: There are no supernatural boogeymen in Misery. That’s precisely why this psychological horror is so terrifying — it actually could happen.
Stephen King’s legendary debut novel about a teenage outcast and the revenge she enacts on her classmates.
Carrie White may have been unfashionable and unpopular, but she had a gift. Carrie could make things move by concentrating on them. A candle would fall. A door would lock. This was her power and her sin. Then, an act of kindness, as spontaneous as the vicious taunts of her classmates, offered Carrie a chance to be normal and go to her senior prom. But another act — of ferocious cruelty — turned her gift into a weapon of horror and destruction that her classmates would never forget.
Why it’s so creepy: King’s first novel remains one of his scariest because he knows how to tap into our worst fears. Feeling like an outcast, being bullied, feeling helpless — King combines those very real teenage issues with supernatural horror to stunning effect.
Stephen King’s apocalyptic vision of a world blasted by plague and tangled in an elemental struggle between good and evil remains as riveting and eerily plausible as when it was first published.
A patient escapes from a biological testing facility, unknowingly carrying a deadly weapon: a mutated strain of super-flu that will wipe out 99 percent of the world’s population within a few weeks. Those who remain are scared, bewildered, and in need of a leader. Two emerge — Mother Abagail, the benevolent 108-year-old woman who urges them to build a peaceful community in Boulder, Colorado; and Randall Flagg, the nefarious “Dark Man,” who delights in chaos and violence. As the dark man and the peaceful woman gather power, the survivors will have to choose between them — and ultimately decide the fate of all humanity.
Why it’s so creepy: Before The Walking Dead introduced us to a violent, post-apocalyptic world, there was The Stand. It’s a timeless, relevant classic about the struggle between good and evil and man’s place in the destruction of the world.
Ben Mears has returned to Jerusalem’s Lot in hopes that exploring the history of the Marsten House, an old mansion long the subject of rumor and speculation, will help him cast out his personal devils and provide inspiration for his new book. But when two young boys venture into the woods, and only one returns alive, Mears begins to realize that something sinister is at work — in fact, his hometown is under siege from forces of darkness far beyond his imagination. And only he, with a small group of allies, can hope to contain the evil that is growing within the borders of this small New England town.
Why it’s so creepy: King plays homage to Bram Stoker’s classic in this terrifying tale of a small town in the grip of vampiric evil.
It happens innocently enough, but doesn’t it always. A big, friendly dog chases a rabbit into a hidden underground cave — and stirs a sleeping evil crueler than death itself.
A terrified four-year-old boy sees his bedroom closet door swing open untouched by human hands, and screams at the unholy red eyes gleaming in the darkness.
The little Maine town of Castle Rock is about to be invaded by the most hideous menace ever to savage the flesh and devour the mind.
Why it’s so creepy: Cujo is another one of King’s novels that is grounded in reality. Like The Shining, it pits an average family against a terrifying force, leaving the reader to ask, “What would I do in the same situation?”
Thad Beaumont is a writer, and for a dozen years he has secretly published violent bestsellers under the name of George Stark. But Thad is a healthier and happier man now, the father of infant twins, and starting to write as himself again. He no longer needs George Stark and so, with nationwide publicity, the pseudonym is retired. But George Stark won’t go willingly.
And now Thad would like to say he is innocent. He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the twisted imagination that produced his bestselling novels. He’d like to say he has nothing to do with the series of monstrous murders that keep coming closer to his home. But how can Thad deny the ultimate embodiment of evil that goes by the name he gave it — and signs its crimes with Thad’s bloody fingerprints?
Why it’s so creepy: What if the joke about having an evil twin wasn’t a joke? The fear of losing one’s self is a loose thread that King unravels and spins into his own terrifying tale.
It was love at first sight. From the moment 17-year-old Arnie Cunningham saw Christine, he knew he would do anything to possess her.
Arnie’s best friend, Dennis, distrusts her — immediately.
Arnie’s teen-queen girlfriend, Leigh, fears her the moment she senses her power.
Arnie’s parents, teachers, and enemies soon learn what happens when you cross her.
Because Christine is no lady. She is Stephen King’s ultimate, blackly evil vehicle of terror…
Why it’s so creepy: Have you ever driven a car that sometimes seemed like it had a mind of its own? Stephen King gave this particular vehicle an evil nature and a thirst for killing anyone who stands in her way.
Since his first collection, Nightshift, Stephen King has dazzled readers with his genius as a writer of short fiction. In this new collection he assembles, for the first time, recent stories that have never been published in a book. He introduces each with a passage about its origins or his motivations for writing it.
There are thrilling connections between stories; themes of morality, the afterlife, guilt, what we would do differently if we could see into the future or correct the mistakes of the past. “Afterlife” is about a man who died of colon cancer and keeps reliving the same life, repeating his mistakes over and over again. Several stories feature characters at the end of life, revisiting their crimes and misdemeanors. Other stories address what happens when someone discovers that he has supernatural powers — the columnist who kills people by writing their obituaries in “Obits;” the old judge in “The Dune” who, as a boy, canoed to a deserted island and saw names written in the sand, the names of people who then died in freak accidents. In “Morality,” King looks at how a marriage and two lives fall apart after the wife and husband enter into what seems, at first, a devil’s pact they can win.
Why it’s so creepy: Some fans think Stephen King is at his most terrifying when he writes short. While his novels unfold at a slower pace, giving the reader time to contemplate the nuances of the horror he is exploring, his short fiction is visceral and breathtaking — a one-two punch to the gut by an invisible hand.
What’s your favorite Stephen King book? Share in the comments!
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