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The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time


Compiling a Top 100 list isn’t easy. I’m bound to offend some and win over others. That’s the nature of the beast, I suppose. Whether you agree with this list or not, you should be able to track down a few new treasures you’ve been missing out on, and you’ve got time to line up some reading material for Halloween. Anticipate loads of familiar names to fill this one up (a few are featured multiple times), but don’t be shocked if you stumble upon some fresh names as well. Check it out, from vintage classic to modern masterpiece, novella to full-length novel, these are the greatest 100 horror books on the market!

100. A Cold Season by Alison Littlewood

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Alison’s Littlewood’s A Cold Season didn’t win over hearts unanimously, but I found it extremely creepy, fully engaging and chilling to the marrow. There’s a slick Wicker Man vibe to this slow burn creeper, which comes highly recommended!

99. The Light at the End by John Skipp and Craig Spector

98. The Elementals by Michael McDowell

97. NightWhere by John Everson

96. Swamp Monster Massacre by Hunter Shea

95. Edge of Dark Water by Joe R. Lansdale

94. The Totem by David Morrell

93. Let’s Go Play at the Adams by Mendel Johnson

92. By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens

91. Evangeline by E.A. Gottschalk

90. Lightning by Dean Koontz

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A compelling tale of time travelling intervention and troubled souls, Lightning ranks amongst the absolute best from Dean Koontz. Given the man’s unbelievable résumé, that’s a major compliment.

About Matt Molgaard (1607 Articles)
Author of the novella Say No to Drugs, writer for Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

17 Comments on The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time

  1. Great list, thanks. Working my way through those I haven’t read – love my library!
    I really enjoyed ‘Naomi’s Room’ and ‘Heart Shaped-Box’, then recently ‘American Psycho’ blew me away. ‘Bubba Ho-Tep’ left me feeling underwhelmed after seeing it ranked so highly though… I’ll still try some of JRL’s other stories.

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    • You should get High Cotton (if you don’t have that collection) it is the best of JRL short story collections. Bumper Crop is pretty good too.

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  2. Say what you will about John Saul, but I think his debut novel, Suffer The Children, is an effectively disturbing horror tale. My only real problem with it is it’s anticlimactic ending.

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  3. Great list thanks! Have read quite a few and enjoyed them.
    Hard to pick a favourite and what might give you a scare this week, may not the next.. guess it depends on lots of things.
    I found Salem’s Lot pretty creepy and Simmons’ Carrion Comfort and The Terror engrossing, massive tales. I liked Lindqvist’s Let The Right One In as well.
    Other recent reads that have impressed me are by Crouch, Kilborn/Konrath, Gunhus and Strand. They’re not necessarily high-literature, but great fun to read.

    Really appreciate the list and all the reader suggestions.

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  4. A seriously good list, but some serious omissions, too, that ought to be within the Top 50 (imho).

    The Rats JAMES HERBERT

    The Fog JAMES HERBERT

    Baxter KEN GREENHALL

    Elizabeth KEN GREENHALL

    A Manhattan Ghost Story TM WRIGHT

    Nursery Tale TM WRIGHT

    Survivor JF GONZALEZ

    The Happy Man ERIC HIGGS

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  5. none of koontzs books in this list are scary or horrific,lets go,play at the adams’ should be number 10 at least- no james herbert,or graham masterton the only slightly scary books by king in this list is it and salems lot.bubba ho tep is a comedy,not a horror book,joes God of the razor stories are his most horriffic.over 80% of this list are either crap or not horror,or both.the Keep is one of the greatest novels of all time and should be way higher,top 5 at least

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  6. WTH? No Amityvilel Horror? That book revolutionized literature in the 70s. Maybe you don’t agree that it doesn’t hold up today, but I think it deserves a spot here.

    Also- Bad Ronald is one of the most heinous books ever written. American Psycho too.

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    • Chip Huggins // June 3, 2016 at 3:35 am // Reply

      I can agree with this statement, at least regarding Amityville Horror (sure, there is vastly too many exclamation points in the novel, but I think we can ignore those for a truly captivating horror story). Also, Hellbound Heart by Clive barker MUST be added to this list for it to be a credible top-100 horror books list… Not only that, but believe it should be # 1 (as a hardcore horror fan, it is by far the scariest book I’ve read to date).

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      • That’s the beauty of lists like this. I could write one to please you, but it’s not going to please everyone. You can NEVER please everyone. And IMO, while the hellbound heart was an excellent and creepy read, I wouldn’t begin to pretend it’s more frightening than the other 100 books on this list. Not in this universe does the book rank as #1. I’m guessing there are a sizable number of novels you haven’t read on this list, if you’re reaching for that conclusion. Again, great read – IMO, not top 100. Hell, it’s not even Barker’s finest, nor scariest work… not by a relatively long shot.

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  7. Simmons “Summer of Night” maybe should have been on the list. Scott Sigler’s “Infected” and Jeff Long’s “The Descent” also. I absolutely hated “House of Leaves”. It gave me a weird, disjointed feeling just to try to read it (which was maybe the point?).

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    • I think that was exactly the point. It was like the entire design of the book was to turn the brain upside down. It worked lol

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      • It was probably the point but it was a cheesy way to do it. I hate that book to and it irritates me to no end that people praise that steaming pile. There are parts of it that are good that they could pull out and make a good novella out of but as a whole, just a waste.

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  8. Matt, I loved your list! I was pleasantly surprised to the The Ruins, by Scott Smith on it, and so high on the list too. Every time I’ve brought it up to fellow horror writers/readers I get blank stares. I’m definitely going to go hunting some of the others you’ve listed here. Thanks!

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  9. Reblogged this on Gwendalyn Cope and commented:
    A list of the Best Horror Books ever? Awesome. Let the arguing begin!

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  10. That’s a TERRIBLE cover for Ketchum’s harrowing novel The Girl Next Door (I agree that it should be in the top 5, btw). Wonder what he thought of it.

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    • A lot of Horror paperbacks back then had awful covers like that. Look at the 1st edition cover for Carrie. Ha. The Leisure reprint was much better.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Chip Huggins // June 3, 2016 at 3:49 am // Reply

    Wow. I can’t believe The Haunting of Hill House was included in the top 10 of this list when NONE of the following were included: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson, Slade House by David Mitchell, and Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker (which is the scariest book I’ve read). Midnight Picnic by Nick Antosca was also pretty creepy, and in my opinion trumps at least fifteen of the books mentioned in this list. All I can say about this list is, at least The Woman in Black by Susan Hill was included.

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