This is a guest post from C. J. Tudor. She lives in Nottingham, England, with her partner and three-year-old daughter. Over the years she has worked as a copywriter, television presenter, voice-over artist, and dog walker. She is now thrilled to be able to write full-time, and doesn’t miss chasing wet dogs through muddy fields all that much. The Chalk Man is her first novel.
We always associate childhood with innocence. And yet, children can be very dark. I once had a friend who liked to pull the legs off insects! I think it’s that juxtaposition of innocence and evil that makes them more terrifying than adults. Give me Jason or Freddy over Regan or Eli any day! These are my pick of scary children/teenagers in books.
The Shining by Stephen King
Jack Torrance becomes winter caretaker at the isolated Overlook Hotel, hoping to cure his writer’s block. He settles in with his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny. But Danny soon becomes plagued by premonitions and ghostly visions.
While there are many chilling moments in King’s novel, it’s the enduring image of the ghosts of the deliciously creepy O’Grady twin sisters — killed with an axe by their father, the previous caretaker — that has become iconic.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
The book charts Eva’s attempts to come to terms with what happened in a series of correspondences with her estranged husband, Franklin.
Nature or nurture? Was Kevin ‘born bad’ or formed through lack of love? The book has no easy answers.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks
Frank observes many strange rituals involving the killing of animals and a sadistic invention called ‘the wasp factory.’ We soon find out that Frank murdered three children before he reached the age of 10.
With graphic descriptions of violence and mutilation, not to mention dark themes about male and female identity, this book is not for the faint-hearted.
Children of the Corn by Stephen King
In trying to contact the authorities, Burt and Vicky wander into a small town populated by a religious cult of children who believe that everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.
Yes, the children — especially their miniature cult leader — are scary. But who knew rows of corn could be so creepy?
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
A group of British boys are stranded by a plane crash on an uninhabited island and try — disastrously — to govern themselves. Far from civilization, the well-educated children soon regress to a primitive state.
The idea that all of us — maybe children in particular — are never far from a ‘survival of the fittest’ form of savagery has been explored in many YA books since. But this book remains the first and most persuasive.
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
At the same time, a new girl — Eli — has moved in next door. Oskar and Eli soon form a bond. But why does she only come out at night?
Although Eli is ultimately terrifying, the tender relationship between her and Oskar is at the heart of the book. Creepy, yet touching, too. It’s a hard one to pull off, but this book manages it.
The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty
The novel was apparently inspired by a real case of possession that Blatty heard about while he was a student.
Regan’s transformation from an ordinary little girl into something barely human is skin-crawlingly terrifying.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Eighteen-year-old Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her older sister, Constance, and disabled uncle, Julian. The rest of their family are dead, poisoned by a fatal dose of arsenic in the sugar bowl one night.
Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the hostile villagers.
Are the girls innocent victims of the villagers’ suspicion and mistrust — or are they something far more chilling?
Have you read any of these books? Tell us in the comments!