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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.

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About The Overseer (1646 Articles)
Author of Say No to Drugs, writer for Blumhouse, Dread Central, Horror Novel Reviews and Addicted to Horror Movies.

63 Comments on The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time

  1. Excellent list, but note Salem’s Lot is very much vampires, not zombies! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cool list, Matt. However, you listed Salem’s Lot as a zombie novel..lol

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    • lmao – that should give you an idea at how fried I was after battling with this beast! That’s funny – easily one of my two favorite King books and I screw it up. Great stuff lol

      Like

  3. Reblogged this on jwheel6789 and commented:
    Interesting list.

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  4. There are some new authors here for me. Thank you. Tis’ the season!

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  5. Matt Barbour // October 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm // Reply

    Lots of Ketchum and King. However, overall real variety in subgenres. I am a little surprised Ketchum did so well, Laymon did okay and Lee got only 1? Arent three of them like the unholy trinity? Keene I would have also thought would have been represented by more than just Ghoul. The biggest surprise though is some of the new authors that didn’t make it on the list. I am not the biggest Mellick or Curran fan, but I would have thought they would have gotten at least one nod.

    All this said. It is an amazing list. Compiling a list like this is almost an impossible task. Kudos for doing so!

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  6. Jim Matthew // October 2, 2014 at 4:46 pm // Reply

    Some interesting stuff and some new names for me to investigate, thank you for taking the time (and wearing out the grey cells) to produce the list. Just 1 comment and a question. Firstly, this does seem a very US-centric list. While Barker and Gaiman (amongst others) are there, there are no James Herbert, Simon Clark, Steve Harris, Stephen Laws, John Connolly, Phil Rickman, Koji Suzuki, Sergei Lukyanenko etc. all of whom I would have put in my own personal top 100. That also leads me on to my question … would it be possible to identify which of these are childrens’ (e.g. Coraline) or young adult books?

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    • Coraline is actually the only book I’d classify as YA/Childrens’ books. But then again, I’m still a little drained from assembling this monster, so I might be missing a book or two. As for those not included, they’re works I can’t personally comment on, and they’re works that weren’t rated by our contributors (votes were a part of how I assembled this list). I can say this though, thank you for a few recommendations I’m unfamiliar with!

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      • Jim Matthew // October 2, 2014 at 5:06 pm //

        Matt, thanks for that, I’ll keep an eye out for some of the new (to me) names on offer at Amazon (or see what I can find in the 2nd hand bookstores on my next trip to the US). Given your comments and selection, I think you would really like John Connolly (Thomas Harris meets Jonathan Aycliffe), but I can heartily recommend all of the authors I mentioned.

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  7. The Ruins at #4 ?!?!??!

    That book was a big steaming pile of pants.

    What, exactly, was scary about it?

    And John Dies At The End is the 29th SCARIEST book you’ve read?

    [facepalm]

    Ah, hell, each to their own. As long as you enjoyed them

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  8. Christopher R. Clarke // October 2, 2014 at 5:04 pm // Reply

    I enjoyed your listing of the top 100 and understand how it can be impossible to please everyone, but I was surprised not to see at least one of the many horror or science fiction titles of British Author, Graham Masterton. In my personal library of horror novels, his name rings fourth behind King, Koontz and McCammon in numbers of great novels. Titles such as `The Djinn,` `Tengu,` `Plague,` and `Famine,` were an utter pleasure to devour.

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  9. I’ve only read about half of these so I will be checking this list often for new books to read 🙂

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  10. Vitina Molgaard // October 2, 2014 at 6:31 pm // Reply

    Okay…so you were pretty close here with I would list….missed a number but then hey I get it…this had to be exhausting and no one is going to agree with everything…especially lately with so many fantastic new reads. I agree with you on John Dies At The End…the book deserves notice…just so many books and so many more opinions. Kudos for the list itself and the work but into getting it done….just me..Vitina

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  11. Wow, thanks for the great reference list. I’ve read quite a few of these, actually. But now I now what else to look for. The only outstanding change I would have made, is that Swan Song by Robert McCammon would have been my all time Number 1 best and favorite book.

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  12. Good list. Anyone know just where in the hell I can get a copy of Let’s Go Play At The Adams without having to sell a kidney? That one has been on my “to read” list for years but I cant get a hold of it.

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    • I’m reading that now, actually. Luckily I work for a public university, and was able to use the interlibrary loan system to get it. Maybe see if your public library has such a thing, or if there is a university close by, maybe you know someone there who could request it for you? Or some public U’s like mine let members of the public have checkout privileges for a fee.

      Long shots I suppose, but the book is worth some effort.

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  13. I agree with you about the Ruins; very creepy. Dracula was very boring for me to read and I can’t believe I actually read the whole thing.

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    • Matthew J. Barbour // October 3, 2014 at 12:45 pm // Reply

      I think Dracula deserves on the list. I get what you are saying, but it is the model of Gothic Horror. If anything the list is light on classics. No Moby Dick. No Heart of Darkness. No Frankenstein… etc. Hell even Jaws failed to grace the list. I am not saying this is a bad thing, but there is a modern focus towards new literature including The Ruins.

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  14. Patricia Von Fricken // October 2, 2014 at 10:59 pm // Reply

    two words.. Shirley Jackson..

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  15. The Handmaid’s Tale should really be on this list. Dystopia at its scariest.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Only read 42. I have my work cut out for me 😉

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  17. I agree King is one of the all time Masters, and The Stand is one of my all time favorites, but It? That one was so completely awful, I stopped reading King altogether.

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  18. I know it’s a comic book, but Scott Snyder’s Severed should really be on this list.

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  19. Great list! I added numerous to my TBR list. Gotta add Cradle Lake by Ronald Malfi and Drood by Dan Simmons to this list. Drood was just an intelligent creepy, creepy read and loved the twist ending to Cradle Lake. Ya nailed it with Floating Staircase and A Winter Haunting though. Those were some great reads!!

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  20. good list…but I have to point out that ‘Books Of Blood’ is not a novel.

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    • There re a few lengthy shorts/novellas included on this one. BOB (all of them) are collections, technically, I suppose, but they HAD to be listed. Jut too amazing to skim over.

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  21. Overall a pretty intriguing list! I’ve read 63 of the 100, with some of those you listed in my TBR pile.
    Personally I found Twilight Eyes by Koontz to be far scarier than Lightning, but that’s just me.
    The Road by Cormac McCarthy should also have an honorable mention.
    Bentley Little’s stuff is more shock value/squirm-inducing than scary….
    John Dies at the End is amazing.

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  22. It was good to see By Reason of Insanity by Shane Stevens included on the list. I read it years ago and remember it well. The best serial killer novel I’ve ever read. .

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  23. Bookmarked! I would love to see this list get refined over time. Anyway I would have liked to see Summer of Night by Dan Simmons and The Mist (a novella) by Stephen King.

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  24. Reblogged this on Written in Blood and commented:
    I just had to reblog this amazing post. So many books here that I have read and so many that I have not. My personal reading list just got a little longer.

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  25. Reblogged this one at Written in Blood. Great list.

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  26. Amazing list and damn I have some reading to do, a lot of books I’ve never heard about but will get cracking on it now 🙂

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  27. Thanks so much for compiling these! When I see a list such as this, I put them in my phone for later purchase. In fact, I already bought and read Mouth Sewn Shut. An excellent, unnerving book. I’m anxious to plow through more of your list. I always enjoy finding new weird books to read!

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  28. Not a bad crack at a list that will never satisfy everybody due its subjectivity; but how Devil’s Seed by Fatman Butter can not be in any top 25 can only be because the compiler hasn’t read it. Best horror I have read in years; try it: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1484928334

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  29. Excellent List. I think it could have stood a few more authors from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it is a d***ed good list anyway. I will definitely have to start reading Ketchum. He sounds quite fascinating.

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  30. I’m honored to be ranked among this list of greats … so very honored, but what I bothers me is that I now have so many great horror novels yet to read … but, perhaps that is a wonderful thing! My god! So many great novels! So little time! There are certainly worse things in life than having a daunting mountain of great horror novels to read. Actually that sounds pretty damn FUCKING AWESOME to me! Screw it! Pile that great horror fiction up to the friggin’ ceiling! Maybe I’ll die trying to get through it! And maybe that’s just how I would love to spend my free time! How many of these greats have I read? I lost count … what matters are the novels that I have yet to dive into. Damn, what a sweet list.

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  31. Were is Howard Phillips Lovecraft?

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  32. Agree with you about The Ruins – most of my friends made fun of it but I found it so disturbing and it gave me a serious case of the willies.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. The movie has one of the greatest horror moments ever when a remaining vine suddenly crawls across Laura Ramey’s face and the rest of the group ignores it.

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    • So many awesome moments. The leg severing still turns my stomach. When the foreign vacationer gets his head blown apart. When Eric gets the blade in the chest (it’s kind of merciful, I suppose). Just a lot of good moments in that. And Joe Anderson’s character was awesome.

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  34. Pretty good list. I have read quite a few of the titles listed but not all. “Haunting of Hill House” had me bored out of my mind, but it seems like I am the only one who did not like it. I am on the quest for the absolute scariest book I have ever read and keep coming up short. King doesn’t do it for me anymore because of his long, dramatic buildup but he is still the best. I will have to visit your blog again. Thanks for the read ideas!

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  35. Michael Eisenberg // January 23, 2015 at 2:08 am // Reply

    Agree that this a great list that bears revisiting, though Frankenstein needs a spot somewhere. And I’d like to recommend Song of Kali by Dan Simmons,

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  36. Glad to see someone else agrees with me that The Girl Next Door is the most horrifying, disturbing novel ever. I shudder even thinking about it. Love Ketchum. Agree on the Ruins as well. Fantastic book. Great list.

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    • It COMPLETELY messed with my mind. COMPLETELY. Ketchum is something COMPLETELY different… and I love the man for it!

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      • Yeah. I will never read it again and it has probably been 8 years or so but parts of it still bother me. When people ask me what is the most horrific horror book ever I name this one but also with a warning. Stranglehold is pretty intense and nasty too.

        The funny thing about the Girl Next Door is the more extreme parts aren’t what bothers the most, it is the subtle stuff that just really messes with me.

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  37. Maybe I want to give a shout out for Portrait of the Psychopath as a Young Woman, at least for the “manburger” chapter…….. I’ve read a lot of these but just seeing By Reason of Insanity listed makes me want to find that and read again. I always straight up recommend it to people.

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  38. I’m very happy to come across this list! I’ve read a few …a little less than i’d like, but there’s the fun in finding out about a lot of these! I will say i am always surprised when King’s Pet Semetary does’t make a list.. It took me a year to get through it & it even induced a panic attack! Which hasn’t happened before or since..i guess it touches all my willie-boundaries (Spoiler!) -when he digs up his own son’s little body! And TBH animals turning on me is a huge wigger – probably cuz i’ve never lived with less than ten various furries & scalies..lol-it’s so much scarier than “It” i have to say -though i did love that one too (as a side note: i am making my way thru Horns and i can’t put it down! Highly recommended so far!:)

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  39. Dang! Semetary is on the list how on earth did i miss that one! Oh well, it’s late lol

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  40. I take it that noone on here has ever heard of Graham Masterton? SHAME!!!!

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    • I’ve read a few of Masterson’s works. Very good writer. Trust me when I say that because he didn’t make the list, that I don’t respect the hell out of him and acknowledge his talents. The man can DEFINITELY write.

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  41. Reblogged this on Unspeakable Gibberer and commented:
    Some of these are absolutely on mark. Others not so much, and a few surprised me that they are even considered, yet they are all valid. Either way, this is a great reference list if you are looking for the next piece of fiction to be afraid of.

    Like

  42. Always looking for a scare, this list provides great options for keeping you awake at night. Totally agree that ‘Salem’s Lot’ is THE vampire novel to read, second only to ‘Dracula’ itself. If you really want the full experience, download the audio book with the preface read by King. His voice alone will scare you to death.

    Like

6 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. The 100 Scariest Horror Novels of All Time | jwheel6789
  2. The Nightmares of my Books | Wonderland Press
  3. Sunday Links, October 5, 2014 | Like Fire
  4. The Best Pumpkin Beer For #Horrortober And Everything In Between | Hunter Shea
  5. Sunday Links, December 21, 2014 | Like Fire
  6. 13 cărți pentru vineri 13

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