I’m one of those wimpy Halloween spoilsports who doesn’t like any of the scary stuff. When I was younger, I forced myself to play along a little more—I went to haunted houses with my friends occasionally and I saw all the (now) classic Halloween movies like Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween. But, I don’t think I’ve seen a scary movie since college and I never go to haunted houses, much to my husband’s chagrin. I just don’t like to be scared.
It might all stem from the fact that I saw a bunch of really scary movies when I was way too young. I think I was 8 or so when I went to a friend’s sleepover and she played horror movies all night. I don’t remember everything we watched, but I distinctly remember seeing Poltergeist and The Exorcist—images of Linda Blair’s head spinning have been forever carved into my brain. (Can you imagine someone showing those sorts of movies at a kids’ sleepover nowadays?! I think the mom would be run out of town!) Ever since then, I’ve been kind of terrified of everything.
But, strangely, books don’t seem to spook me all that much. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t read straight horror—the last actual horror novel I can remember reading was Stephen King’s It, which I read as a teen.* But I sometimes read reviews of books that I’ve read where people say, “Read this one with the lights on,” or something similar, and I’m always a little surprised. I just don’t ever really feel scared when I read. But I’ve seriously always thought of myself as a scaredy cat, so why don’t I get freaked out by the scary parts of books? Maybe my imagination just isn’t vivid enough? Does anyone else find this to be true? That scary movies freak you out to no end (I seriously just looked at some images of Linda Blair in The Exorcist and felt a sense of absolute horror), but books just don’t seem to do all that much. Or is it really just that I haven’t ventured out into truly scary books.
I’m not sure, but I’m kind of tempted to try a book that everyone else says is scary to see if I’m truly immune or not. This makes no sense, since I already told you that I don’t like to be scared. As I’ve told you before, I don’t claim to make sense!
So, I’m curious: Do scary books freak you out? Any good scary books I should try for Halloween to see if I can scare myself after all? Do you love Halloween, or are you a spoilsport like me? I want to know!
*I do think I remember being scared when I read It, but it’s just a vague memory. Nothing like the memories I have of horror movies past.
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I can remember watching a movie Anaconda when I was really young, and it scared the shit out of me. Honestly, I remember biting down on my wristband of my watch because I was so terrified. I wasn’t even supposed to watch.
Usually, Halloween and such don’t really scare me. I might get jump scared at haunted houses and stuff, but that’s it. I think it’s because the paranormal things people are usually afraid of don’t scare me whatsoever -like ghosts, etc. What I find truly terrifying is well… I guess, human evil? Like the TV show Stalker -or sometimes Criminal Minds. Because that feels so real to me! Books don’t scare me often either… I actually can’t think of a single book I find terrifying. Maybe I don’t have enough imagination, or visualization skills :p
That’s what I wondered. If my subpar visualization skills were making me not scared at those types of books. Or maybe it’s just a self-protection type thing. I know those images will freak me out, so I just don’t go there, even in my own brain!
I read lots of horror, but books don’t scare me. They never have. I mostly read horror because I like the tension and pacing. I remember being scared by the movie What Lies Beneath when I was a kid. Now that I’m an adult, only the jump scares in horror movies scare me. Maybe that’s because I’m naturally jumpy? The other stuff doesn’t bother me, though.
Jump scares definitely freak me out. I guess it makes sense that you can’t have those in books, so they can’t affect me there.
I wish I could recommend a good scary book! I don’t read them often either. My problem is that I’m typically only scared by certain kinds of things (ghosts can scare me but vampires can’t because…reasons?). But from what I’ve heard, Stephen King is a good place to start. I read one of his less scary books (Salem’s Lot), and it was reeeeally good. I might even like it more than Dracula, and the classics are pretty much always my favorites!
I agree that vampires aren’t scary–but ghosts can be. I remember watching The Sixth Sense when I was younger and definitely being freaked out by the ghosts.
I hate scary things, too! But I love creepy books, and I think that’s because my definition of creepy isn’t really that scary at all. The ones that come to mind are The Cure for Dreaming and The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly – definitely dark, slightly creepy, and entirely within my comfort zone.
I haven’t read either of those books, but I do enjoy a creepy read now and again. Minnow Bly is definitely on my must-read list.
I loathe jump-scares and always cover my eyes if the music indicates on is coming. Buffy is one of my all time favorite shows, but I almost quit watching because the first three episodes were full of those BOO! moments. The only horror movies I’ve seen are Psycho and, mm, Nightmare on Elm Street? One of those late 80s ones. Teenagers being killed at a camp. I hated it. I also don’t read horror, although yes, I can stomach a lot more in books than on screen. For example, I love the Millennium series, but have no intention of watching it. I remember a college friend reading It, and how FREAKED OUT she was the whole time. But like Clara just said, I do like creepy books. I’m reading Minnow Bly right now, actually, and another one I thought of is Let The Right One In. I like really dark and twisty mysteries as well, although serial killer stuff isn’t my cup of tea. It’s interesting to realize how very specific my scary preferences are!
YAY FOR BUFFY!! Oh, sorry–I just got excited to see the name of my favorite show of ever and forgot to read the rest of your comment. One moment please …
Oh, I think the camp movie was Halloween, but I could be wrong about that. They do tend to all blend together. I agree that the more I think about it, the more I can come up with specific scary things I like—for instance, I actually LOVE zombie books (and The Walking Dead), but the books don’t really scare me.
I can get scared by a book or movie, but it’s really dependent on if it hits a specific trigger of mine. For instance, movies like Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. don’t bother me. But the episode Detour in X-Files gave me the wiggins. I think it’s because I get freaked out by the thought of something lurking nearby that you can’t see. It’s why I get scared easier with ghost stories in books than I do with stories featuring tangible creatures.
That’s a good point. I think it’s way creepier to imagine that something could be lurking unseen!
OOOOOMG! I am the same way! I can’t watch scary movies because I am too terrified. I think its because I saw some these scarier movies like one of the Freddy Krugger ones when I was around 7 or 8. I didn’t want to watch it necessarily, but it’s what the adult had on because they wanted to watch it. So yeah, horror movies and me don’t get along. I tried to conquer my fear some years ago and see the remake of The Grudge, mostly because Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Behr was in it! Scared the ever loving crap out of me!! And then the reviews were saying how cheesy it was and some kids at school said it was stupid. Here I am, scared to open my closet because we have a crawlspace entrance in there and let’s just say something scary happened with a similar set up. I have to seriously not think of that movie now when I open my closet! LOL!
But for some reason, I feel like I don’t get as easily terrified with books. Occasionally they might freak me out, mostly with the little things like someone hearing creaks in the hallway when they’re home alone–situations that I find myself in a LOT! Of course with a recent read it got me totally freaked out I literally hopped out of my chair when I was reading it. And yeah, kinda scared of toilets now. But only if they’re near rural or forest-y areas! And I think the reason why I am not as easily scared with most scary books is that I am somehow subconsciously dulling down the “scary” so that I am “seeing” something not nearly as bad. I think because I was somewhat traumatized by horror movies at a young age and I don’t want to be too scared again, I kind of dull down the “creepy” on my own.
That being said, I do still enjoy a scary novel and I think it’s because even if it is super scary, I will subconsciously tone down the creepy to a level I can handle! Lol.
Actually, I just put forth this theory in a reply to another comment because it occurred to me that that’s what I might be doing too. It makes sense that if your brain knows it can’t handle scary, it just adjusts what you see in your mind to make it more palatable. Glad to know I’m not the only one traumatized by childhood horror movies! (Well, actually, I guess I’m not glad to know that—why should I want others to suffer with me!?)
It’s funny, I like this time of year and I like scary stuff to a point, but I generally don’t like horror and I don’t like having the you know what scared out of me. So to me it’s a matter of degree. 🙂 I like suspense and a little creepiness but I have a definite limit!I saw a lot of those movies as a kid but I wouldn’t spend time on them now, even as an adult.
I do think it’s a visual thing too, to some extent. Movies are so , I don’t know, seeing the horror or carnage is worse than reading it, I think, because in our mind while we may have an image it’s somehow not as horrifying as if we SEE it? At least for me, I think that’s true…
Ha that is so true about sleepovers and scary movies! I think you’re right, if a mom did that now- watch out, I think the other mothers would have her head on a spike lol. Times have changed. 🙂
I definitely agree that it’s a matter of degree. Some scary things don’t bother me, but I’m not a fan of the truly horror-filled movies that do. And, yeah, I definitely think that a sleepover like that wouldn’t go over well in today’s world.
I absolutely stay away from horror films (I’ve only watched a few campy ones when I was in college with my friends but that’s it!) and while I do tend to stay away from true horror books too, I agree that I can handle creepier topics in a novel than in a film. I think there’s more of a security when reading because you can control how scary/disturbing the mental images are, and if you’re someone like me who usually avoids horror, then you don’t have much material to project onto the book and then scare yourself with, if that makes any sense?
That’s a good point, though I think I stored up enough horror-ful images from my younger years that I should have plenty to work with! I do think that you’re onto something, though … in books, the scary images are only as scary as you allow them to be.
Definitely the same! I hate gory and scary movies, and haunted houses, and all that jazz. But, I have yet to be truly terrified by a book! Now, I DID watch a Stephen King mini-series (Storm of the Century) with my mom back in high school and neither of us could sleep for weeks. But it was like, written for TV, so there wasn’t a book to compare it to. Honestly, the only things that scare me though are things that COULD happen- like murder or something. Weird stuff doesn’t really scare me as much because I can convince myself of logic- maybe that is why I have a hard time getting scared by books 😉 Love this post, Nicole!
True life stuff doesn’t bother me that much, for some reason. I’m more scared of ghosts and horror movies and such. You’d think more realistic things would bother me more—your logic comment sounds very … logical. But my brain often doesn’t work on logic, so …
Oh, scary books definitely scare me!! Like, a lot, even. I don’t watch many horror movies, either (I just don’t watch a lot of movies at all…) but I do enjoy a good horror story every now and then. And then, it needs to get my heart beat faster because of fear, and maybe double check that the doors are locked, and the alarm is on before I go to bed 😀
I have no idea if it has to do with imagination or not, though. Do you cry when you read books? Or laugh out loud? If you do, then maybe it’s just the scary stuff that doesn’t work for you, no?
Can you think of any that have scared you? I want to try one!
I definitely cry and laugh out loud at books. It’s been suggested in some of the comments that maybe my brain just chooses not to imagine the scary stuff very vividly as a sort of protection mechanism, which makes sense to me.
Two books I recently read that scared me a little were “The Woman in Cabin 10” and “One Was Lost”. Not so scared I couldn’t sleep, but definitely trying to check if I heard a weird sound somewhere in the house 😉
So, it’s not because you don’t have a good imagination, your brain is just protecting you from the scary stuff 😉
I’m also a whimpy Halloween spoilsport!! I insisted someone told me a ghost story because I thought all ghosts were cute like Casper. Boy I was so wrong. XD I absolutely don’t dare to read any horror books. There’s a part of me that would like to try, but given watching Supernatural during daytime is enough to freak me out, I really don’t think I should!
Awww … Caspar. I loved him. How come all ghosts can’t be friendly like him?
I think it’s true that movies are scarier, because of the images they plant in your head — but I can still get scared by a book. There, I think the more subtle psychological horror can be more effective. That is hard to do on screen, but can be very effectively rendered in narrative.
That’s a good point. Subtlety doesn’t always come across well on the screen, but it can be conveyed in a book much more easily.
I don’t do scary either. I’ve never watched a horror film nor read a straight up horror book. However, it’s not really so much “scary” that bothers me when reading as much as parts where people deliberately harm others. I’m really wussy about any type of assault or torture, not because I am scared but because I am deeply disturbed.
Sometimes those types of scenes can be way more disturbing than “horror.” That reminds me of those Saw movies (which I could never possibly watch).
BC (before kids) I could watch, read, see it all…after kids, I find I can read and listen. I still like to watch demonic type moves but none of the slasher horror movies..nope cannot do.
I guess maybe the older we are, the less inclined we are to want to be scared, huh? When you’re a teen that sort of thing is fun. Now it’s just … not.
You watched The Exorcist when you were 8! I went to see it at the theatre when I was a teen and it was the only movie I ever walked out on. I think I scared myself before I even watched it. It doesn’t do that to me now. I’m not into slashers so much as scary atmosphere. And I love creature features. LOL
It was HORRIBLE! I was traumatized for years!
It’s not just you! I honestly have never read a book that successfully freaked me out with the creep-factor. Like Unwind really reduced me to a traumatised mess…but it was creepy. And any YA horror I’ve tried just ended up being a bit adorable instead of terrifying.? Plus I find it kind of frustratingly cliche?!? Like oooh there’s a haunted house, OBVIOUSLY IF YOU GO IN YOU’LL DIE. And it takes away any of the horror-punches, I think. And plus I think my imagination isn’t really wild enough to totally scare me hahah.
Horror movies on the other hand? AVOID AVOID. I’m not sure they scare me, per se, but I can’t stop thinking about them and then I never sleep. Ever. again.??
Adorable horror. I’m sure that’s totally what the author was going for. LOL!
I’m not sure I’ve read a scary book in the last ten to twenty years. I’ve read suspense novels, sure, and they put me on the edge of my seat. But horror? No. It’s just not my thing. I also don’t like any of the Halloween scary stuff. I don’t like Halloween in general! Lol. My kids think I’m weird.
Yeah, my kids think I’m boring. I remember thinking that about the adults in my life when I was a kid, and I was sure I’d never turn out that way … oops!
Watching and reading are totally different. I can read about more scary things than I can stomach watching. But I seriously can’t read disturbing or gruesome descriptions.
I think my brain just chooses not to really register those gruesome descriptions. It sort of skips past them (I might even skim them).
My mother is a Stephen King fan. When she was a teenager, she read IT and had to turn on all the lights on. I finally decided to read (listen to) IT last year. I had to turn on the lights too. I am not watching any scary movies on Halloween because my mother made me watch a scary movie a few weeks ago.
I haven’t read any scary books lately. I will be reading some vampire porn books soon, though.
Ha! How funny that for you it’s actually your MOM making you do the scary stuff. It’s the opposite around here. I doubt vampire porn will be particularly scary … well, at least not in the way we’re talking about here. 🙂
I don’t do horror movies either. With a few small exceptions. I love the Poltergeist movies. They scare the you-know-what out of me, and I have a phobia of mirrors in the dark because of the movies, but I still like them for some reason. Not that I’ve seen them in years and years… I also liked The Haunting with Catherine Zeta-Jones in it. I still want to read the book.
But otherwise? Refuse to see any of the Nightmare on Elm Street movies, or Jason, or Halloween, or any of the other ‘classic’ scare ones. I don’t like being scared, and I had a lot of nightmares when I was a kid up into my middle 20’s. So anything that even -might- give me more? No thanks.
As far as books go… I have a way over active imagination. So I DO get scared reading some books. Wait Til Helen Comes scared the pants off me even as a teenager. It doesn’t anymore, but yeah… *laughs* If I think it might be a scary book, it doesn’t get read after dark. Or when I’m home alone.
But for some reason I’m more likely to read scary books than watch scary movies! Maybe because I can put the book down and do something else if it starts getting to me? I don’t know, I just know I read a lot of scary things especially in October. And I’d never watch a movie based on half the books I read like that.
I actually still think slightly fondly of the Poltergeist movies for some reason, even though it terrified me when I was that young. (I don’t think fondly on The Exorcist AT ALL—that is just a plain terrifying movie!) I was scared witless about TVs at night for years after watching Poltergeist, though, and any TV that made that static sound when it gets no signal—terrifying!
Scary books don’t freak me out as much as movies (or TV shows like American Horror Story). The one type of horror I can’t read on a regular basis are zombie books. I can’t do zombie very often because I have TERRIBLE nightmares when I do. I don’t know what it is about zombies, but they FREAK ME OUT. So The Walking Dead is a hard NO for me. I’ve caught bits and pieces of it, but I can’t watch too much or I’ll pay for it later. I also got SUPER freaked out when I was reading Helter Skelter– the story of the Manson Family murders– as a college student. I was home alone and was CONVINCED that every noise the house made was someone breaking in.
Now, I actually love zombie books, but they don’t scare me at all. I just love the psychological aspects of the story—surviving in desperate circumstances and all that. 🙂
I used to be really bad with scary things, but I’ve gotten way better in the past few years so they don’t bother me TOO much. Granted, I don’t really want to watch or read scary things in a house at night by myself. Then my imagination can run a bit wild. By truly scary though, I tend to mean the realistic ones – murders and the like, the things that COULD happen.
I’m fine with reading scary things alone, but not watching them. No way!
I’m terrible with scary movies too, partly because I’m just easily creeped, and partly because I absolutely HATE things jumping out at me! I don’t like the anticipation when you know something is going to jump out but you don’t know when, and so i generally end up watching the entire film with my eyes covered (so not actually watching the film!).
I can’t really remember ever being truly scared of a book, but that might be because I tend to avoid horror books. I’ll maybe have to test myself too and read a book that is supposed to be scary just to see whether it’s just that I haven’t read the right books to be scared, or if it’s just that I don’t find books scary. Great post! 🙂
Yes, the “jump out at you” factor is gone in books, and I wonder if that’s what I find most scary about those types of movies. It’s definitely the part I hate most about haunted houses.
Oh, I totally get you with this post! I’m a scaredy cat too, I don’t like scary movies, would never go to Halloween Horror Nights, etc. But I feel like, is it possible for a book to actually be scary? I don’t really read horror either though, mostly because I’m just not interested, but I’m also tempted to try one of these books everyone talks about and see if it actually does scare me.
I feel like it’s really hard for things to jump out at you in books though (with the exception of that one scene in the Scorch Trials that legitimately startled me lol), so that’s one way they’re less scary. You can also just imagine things less bad in your mind. And you can take things at your own pace, stop if you have to, etc. There’s also no scary music lol. But I guess the books that are actually scary are probably the creepy or psychological ones, the kind that don’t require things jumping at you but will just make you freak out about every noise you hear for the rest of the night thinking there’s a murderer or a ghost about to kill you, stuff like that.
Now I’m trying to figure out what the one scene in Scorch Trials was—did it have to do with someone’s head?
The same thing happened to my husband! He was 7 or 8, went to a slumber party and the Mom had rented IT. He said he was scared shitless and had to sleep in front of the tv for months. He said he was too scared to not only sleep in his room but even his parent’s room because they wouldn’t be able to see IT or save him. ? If that ever happens to my boys, heaven help that mom or dad from my wrath.
Anywho ? I use to love scary movies and books in my teens. I loved the feeling of utter fear. Then when I moved to college and didn’t have my dad there to protect me anymore I refused to watch or read anything scary. And I’m still that way.. Heck, I freaked out during Night At The Museum because I thought the T-Rex would eat him haha! And the end of book 1 of Angelfall gave me nightmares! So yay you for not letting books scare you! You’re definitely WAY braver than me!
I can’t even imagine a mom nowadays doing something so crazy. I can’t imagine how those moms thought that this was okay—even back then when people were a lot more lax about what they let their kids watch. That’s just plain cruelty to children!!
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Great post! I don’t do scary either, but I definitely deal better with books than movies. I think that no matter how vivid it gets described my imagination will never be as bad as a picture on a screen. I also think that what some others mentioned might be true as well, that your brain just doesn’t imagine it as vivid as a protection mechanism. A movie scene is always very vivid with lots of details.
I usually don’t read straight up horror or thrillers though, although I did read a thriller this year and it was one of my favorites books of the year, but I think that’s because of the author as well.
I never saw the appeal in being scared, I am scared of enough things in real life, I don’t need to add that sense of fear as well when watching a movie or reading a book.
You’re not alone. Horror movies scare the pants off me, but books just don’t do that to me. I can’t save that I’ve ever been terrified from a book. I’ve been a little spooked maybe, or creeped out… but it’s just not the same. There was one book that I didn’t think affected me that strongly, but then I had nightmares about it… Sooooooo I guess that one scared me a bit. LOL I’d definitely like to pick up a book that others think is truly scary and give it a go.
Like you, I don’t ‘like’ being scared. I can do spooky or surprising but I don’t handle being outright scared very well. I seem to have the opposite problem you have though: my imagination is too vivid so books will creep me out immensely, even if it isn’t really a scary book. My imaginations runs away from me and I end up spooked beyond anything. So, I don’t read horror books. I can do dark, creepy or spooky but no gore or outright horror for me!