GalleyCat posted a brief article about the books that scared us as children a little while ago. (You can read it here) and I thought, hey, why not? It could be an interesting topic to talk about.
Unfortunately, my memory of my childhood reading is incredibly spotty and I avoided horror books as much as I possibly could. I was a scaredy-cat. Still am, comes to that. So you’d think that I wouldn’t have a whole lot of interesting answers to give to the question of what books scared me as a child.
I actually have an anecdote that I think of whenever I think of the creepy books of my childhood. I don’t recall the story or the author, but I recall the effect. I must have been about ten or eleven when I read the book and I’m fairly sure it’d be the maturer side of YA nowadays because I was always reading well above my age’s reading level. There was this one scene which… I really don’t remember all that well, but I remember that it involved monsters climbing into a magically protected house through the toilet bowls because the protagonists had forgotten to magically protect from entry-through-sewer.
I spent the next couple of years utterly terrified of using upstairs toilets. No, I don’t know why it was restricted to upstairs toilets specifically. Possibly the house in the book had one and that was where the creepy gained entry. But it lasted pretty much until the day my dad decided to rearrange the upstairs rooms a little and moved the toilet to a different location. It still lingered, especially on dark nights, but it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as before and it gradually grew less and less.
There you are. That’s the biggest brush I’ve had with a scary book that I remember. And then I picked up a copy of Tanith Lee’s Vivia at the library. I was sixteen at the most and probably a bit younger since the librarians were still checking my books to make sure I didn’t take home any unsuitable books (i.e. erotica and/or graphically violent books). What I learnt from that book is that the librarians weren’t readers of fantasy because there is no way they would have let me borrow that book if they were. Vivia was… one of those proverbial trainwrecks where you just can’t look away. It does, as I remember, a lot of fascinating things but, as I remember, George R.R. Martin could take lessons from Tanith Lee and we’ve all at least heard of the Red Wedding, right?
A lot of that is probably the way books morph and change in one’s memory, mind. Then again, reviews and comments seem to support my memories, so… I don’t know. I’m scared of rereading it and finding out it’s every bit as scarring as it was the first time around. It took me years to dare give Tanith Lee another chance (and when I first finally did it was through short stories). And look. I remember reading it and what the title was and who wrote it. Hopefully knowing how bad my memory is that means you have some idea of how much of an impact it had at the time. (Maybe I should have been making an entry out of Books I Still Remember Having Read… I could add Paula Volsky’s Illusion to the list. I never did finish that. I returned it about 100-150 pages in. My memory is weird.)
Anyway! There you have two books that scared me as a child. Bonus non-book things that scare a Lynn: spiders, Watership Down, Alfred J. Quack, The Dark Crystal. (My poor parents. It must’ve been a birthday party where I was watching that movie with a couple of other children, but my parents got a lot of angry phone calls about how that movie had given their children nightmares. I was fine, though, so how were they supposed to know other children would be scared?)
And since I’m now drifting away from books rather a bit further than I’d like, I think I’d best wrap this up. I hope it was interesting to some of you despite my complete and utter lack of creepy examples! Actually, no, there was one more book I remember scaring me as a child. It was about Rasputin and dolls, but I’m afraid that’s all I remember about the book.
How about you? What kind of creepy books (if any) did you read when you were a child? Do you still read them? What are some of your favourite creepy books?