Scared Out of My Wits

As Halloween approaches, scary movies for the season abound. But what about frightening books that left an indelible impression on you, that even as the story is recounted, shivers race up your spine?

I have two to share, one old and the other new. The first has haunted me since reading it in grade school.

The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson.

Summary: Every summer a small rural observes a ritual referred to as the lottery, with all of the town’s people being given a folded piece of paper. In the beginning young boys start gathering stones in piles. The horrifying twist is this: the person who receives the piece of paper with a black circle on it is stoned to death by the townsfolk.

We read both Jackson’s short story and saw a movie version, forever burned into my memory. When I found the video on YouTube, it was exactly as I remember it.

I was in the third or fourth grade. What was so incredibly terrifying (especially after seeing the film) is that no explanation regarding the dangers of conformity or adhering to outdated traditions from teachers was ever given.

The second much more recent story that chilled me to my bones is Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. Full disclosure: I did not read the book but watched the HBO limited series.

Summary: A reporter is assigned by her editor cover a violent murder in hometown, while confronting her past psychological demons, and dysfunctional family. She has a precocious teenage step-sister, whom she believes may be in danger living with her mother. The mother is eventually found guilty of poisoning her daughters (suffering from Munchausen-by-proxy) the fabrication of illness by a primary caregiver seeking attention.

But there still remains the unsolved murders of the two girls, and without giving too much away, when the true killer was finally revealed, I was up for HOURS.

What books have you read that kept you up at night or you’ve never forgotten the fear it brought? Enter them in the Comment section and I’ll post the best responses on Halloween.

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