Campfire Tales: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?


With the enhanced functionality of the new blog and all that, I thought I’d introduce a recurring “open thread” feature that asks us Campers to gather ’round the bonfire (marshmallows and wieners optional … no, that’s not a euphemism) and share your thoughts on a given topic.

Today’s Campfire Tales topic: What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?

Sure, this site’s mostly about cinematic (or tele … visionist?) horror, but I think it’s safe to say that most of the folks visiting this site can read, right? OSOFDSUFIB28#&%&#? I thought so.

Getting scared pants-crappy by a book is a totally different experience than spitting out one’s popcorn, and one most of us have likely enjoyed. After the jump I’ll share a few tomes that have sent my nerves a-twittering and ask you to share yours as well!

51FMEXVD2JL._SL160_1. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (1994)

Girl, this book tore my shit UP! A nonfiction book that brilliantly parallels the work of what may have been the first American serial killer (H.H. Holmes) with that of celebrated architect Daniel Burnham as he constructed the site of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Gruesome, fascinating (especially if you’re interested in both psychopaths AND architecture, which intersect brilliantly here) and read-into-the-wee hours gripping, it’s totally boss true crime. I actually recommended this book to a playwright friend who was so distressed while reading it on the subway that he had a fainting spell and had to be escorted off the train. (He left the book on the seat.)

For more on this book or to buy: The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America

thesluts2. The Sluts by Dennis Cooper (2005)

This is some dark – and yet somehow oddly hilarious – shit. A collection of web forum postings from a group of gay men who rate their experiences with various hustlers, what starts out as the musings of some size queens with disposable incomes becomes a toboggan ride straight to hell when the group (the titular “Sluts”) becomes involved in the apparent murder of a young (or young-looking) prostitute and porn star named Brad … who may not actually be named Brad, may not be young, may not be dead and may not even exist.

I’m not a huge fan of Cooper’s work in general, but with this nasty little gem he really knocks it out of the park. This book will make you feel incredibly dirty (immediately upon finishing it I mailed it halfway across the country with instructions NOT to return it because I didn’t want it in my house) but by the end you’ll find yourself admiring the author’s sleights-of-hand and clever skewering of anonymous online life more than worrying that your younger relatives are going to fall prey to a gaggle of predatory chickenhawks like these guys. Not for the faint of heart, but a must-read for anyone who appreciates no-holds-barred literature with a brain and a wicked sense of humor.

For more on this book or to buy: The Sluts

houseofleaves3. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)

The thing that’s so creepy about House of Leaves is that it’s impossible to put your finger on just what it is that’s so fucking creepy about it. A documentary-within-a-manuscript-within-a-story, Leaves essentially is a haunted house story … but not like any you’ve encountered before. A young LA tattoo artist finds a dusty academic analysis of a film about a house with doorways to another dimension that may or may not exist (both the film and the house itself – it’s never clear) and is pulled into what might be madness, I’m not quite sure. Half of the fun of this one is trying to piece together the narrative to begin with (it’s told wildly out-of-order, with more footnotes and endnotes than actual story) but the dark pull of the house is as irresistible to the reader as it was to its unfortunate inhabitants. One to read forward, then backward, then upside-down.

For more info or to buy: House of Leaves

Also-rans: The Terror, Carrie, Cycle of the Werewolf (hey, I was a kid!), all available in the CampBlood Shop!

So that’s it for me: What has scared you … REALLY scared you?

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About Buzz

Buzz created in 2003 to meet a need for a safe place for weirdos of all stripes to discuss horror movies from a queer perspective. Now that the campers have overtaken the Camp staff and locked them in the Arts & Crafts cabin he is questioning that decision.