Publisher’s Weekly has an article making the case that Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein — a story written 200 years ago by a 19-year-old — takes the title.
For me, The Amityville Horror remains one of the scariest books I’ve ever read, perhaps because I read it when I was 11-years-old the images of red eyes staring through a window in the middle of the night have stayed burned in my mind.
I’d suggest Peter Straub’s Ghost Story to be another contender. Others would be Bram Stoker’s Dracula, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist and a slew of books by Stephen King, including Carrie, Salem’s Lot and The Shining.
Most of these stories have to do with death (or the non-death of things that should be dead), and in a way play with or pervert what is often considered the greatest story ever told, that is the resurrection of Jesus.
What’s the scariest book you ever read?
I would add The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Like Amityville, I read it when I was a kid and just hearing the title sends shivers down my spine. The novella I Am Legend by Richard Matheson is a more recent read that freaked me out.
I also thought of the Shirley Jackson story. The original movie from ’63 was scary too.