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Has a book ever freaked you out? (1 Viewer)

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Have you ever had to put a book down because it freaked you out/upset you/unsettled you in some way? What book, what was it that caused you to put it down, and did you go back to it?

I'm reading - well, I paused - House of Leaves by Mark Danielewsi. It's pretty interesting and I enjoyed it in it's weirdness but after reading it late at night the text suddenly started to seem a little too on the nose. Like I would have a worry or thought and the next sentence would encapsulate that exact thought. To be fair it probably says more about my sleep-deprived, oversuggestible 2AM mindset than the book, and I will go back and finish it, but I didn't need that just then. I guess there must have been horror novels that did it too, but not for a long time.

Another was a non-fiction book - The History of Torture. It was just too horrible. Couldn't justify continuing.
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A friend and former WFer (who is into some pretty graphic stuff) sent me a book about six or seven years ago. I don't remember the name or the author, and I only read the first chapter. However, the amount of it I read was so disturbing, I don't think I'll ever forget it. The book opens up with a woman, whose hands are nailed to the floor, being raped. After the rape ends, her assailant then slices chunks of flesh off of her hips and thighs to go cook and eat. So ends chapter one, and while I'm not a big fan of literally throwing books in the garbage, guess where that one went?


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There was one...

I don't know why I bought it; some perverse sense of nostalgia, I guess. It was all the rage in those days. Lousy story, bad drama...horrible editing. A detailed record of bad times, missteps, and mistakes. The worst were the profiles in the back - the smiling faces of one's tormentors that promised even if you got out, they'd still be there. Still loose in the world. Still warping others who wouldn't have any more recourse than you did.

But... then I graduated. Haven't had cause to buy another yearbook since.


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Yes, it was ages ago... a Stephen King book (wouldn't you know), it think it was 'It'. There was a scene where kids had gotten into a water tank intending to take a swim. My memory is poor, so I'm telling it badly. A couple kids had died there years ago when they couldn't get out of the water tank, their ghosts appeared in rags with their waterlogged skin hanging/falling off their bones.

It freaked me out, but I never set the book aside.

Ralph Rotten

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I read a book once where the opening scene involved a serial killer murdering a father and young son who are tied to a chair.
It wasn't the murder that upset me...it was that I felt it was a cheap shot.
The writer was using pure shock value rather than just writing better.
Twas only my dedication as a reader that got me through the whole book. It was one of those unbelievably smart serial killer stories where the killer was smarter than a NASA engineer, and killed simply because he liked it.
Yes, often. Probably the scariest experience was reading A Voyage to Arcturus. This had a lot to do with the context--it was a book recommended by C. S. Lewis; I presumed it was Christian or at least pagan. I was also reading it quite late at night, and read it almost all at once.

I was utterly absorbed into it, with almost zero detachment, completely surrendered to the will of the author. I watched as he dismantled the worlds of innocence, Nietzschian will-to-power, etc., wondering eagerly where he would take me in the end. Wondering, who was Surtur? Who was Crystalman? Who, in the world of Tormance, was God?

There was a certain point, I can't remember exactly when, where an unconscious uneasiness appeared in the back of my mind. Then, in a deep, cold cave, I was introduced to three statues representing God ("ah, the Trinity," I thought). The sun rose. The faces of the Trinity turned to cold, grinning mouths. It was like a wave, cresting, had fallen; I was beginning to see the author's vision.

I read on, in unease and a little desperation; I walked up the stairs of a high tower and the author showed me his god. It was Crystalman, that evil, grinning thing, who had made the world in idleness, and caused all to suffer. What then? I cried. What else? And he took me into the Outer Darkness and said, Nothing. There is nothing else.

I looked up from the book. It was four in the morning. I read reviews and learned it was a Gnostic allegory, and that C. S. Lewis, though he liked it very much, thought the conclusions were, "almost diabolical." Darn right, I thought, and tried to go to sleep. All night I dreamed I was fighting black shadows, explaining to them that Crystalman was good, really, he only smiled like that as a joke. I repeatedly woke up into new dreams, with machine-gun rapidity, countless times. I had mostly recovered by morning, but resolved that A Voyage to Arcturus was a very (artistically) good book with very (spiritually) bad underpinnings. Of course, there are many things the book expresses truthfully -- even devil-worshippers understand that worshipping the devil leads to Nothing. But to be dragged (bodily, it felt like) into that Nothing, was one of the creepiest experiences of my life.
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WF Veterans
Anything featuring child abuse, pretty much. Yet on the contrary to finding it too much, I find it the very purest and most cathartic form of writing. Ultimately, this is about getting a response, isn't it? If it's well written, I will stay.

- A Child Called It
- The Girl Next Door
- Certain Stephen King scenes, I can't necessarily pick one right now -- It comes to mind, but there are definitely others.
- The Cement Garden
- The Lovely Bones


Staff member
I can't say anything ever freaked me out, but I'm not interested in horror or serial killer type thrillers, so that cuts down on the prospect. A friend who was in love with Dean Koontz's books raved about Watchers and I read it. I enjoyed the enhanced golden retriever, but I regarded the predations of the "monster sibling" and the "disturbed serial killer hitman" as gratuitous.

Probably the "scariest" books I've read were a series in the early 80s by Barbara Hambly. I think it was later labeled Darwath.


Senior Member
[Resists great urge to defend the great Nabokov]

Old now, entering an era where I repeat anecdotal experience. 'Freaked out' nomination remains as 'I Was Mengele's Assistant.' Sense of shame, a voyeuristic kind of shame about reading the terrible memoir like a naughty boy seeking out decapitation videos.

In the genre of fictional horror I nominate The Haunting of Hill House only because the book jumped from the shelf to the floor and remains unexplained. I was on night shift duty inside the haunted house and the incident means I completed the novel in daylight only.
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WF Veterans
[Resists great urge to defend the great Nabokov]

Oh yes...

Most people who criticize Nabokov have either never read his book or have read it in such total bad faith, with such a strong preformed opinion, that there was no point in them reading it.

It's outrage culture, pure and simple. Those who act like it's some kind of 'evil' book are either absurdly puritanical or, far more likely, are simply wanting to moralize because it's low hanging fruit. Either way, it's a symptom of gross stupidity.

No, you don't have to agree it's a great book. No, you don't have to be privately comfortable with the premise. You don't have to read it. However, to treat it as being some kind of apologia for pedophilia is absolute bullshit. If anything, the book is a parable against child abuse: The protagonist's unhealthy obsession leads to his ruin. It doesn't get more anti-pedophilia than that.

Again, people who claim otherwise have either not read the book or are too stupid/arrogant to give it a fair trial and, thus, forfeit their right to being listened to on the subject of literature. Good books often make one uncomfortable, in the case of Lolita that intent is obvious.
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Phil Istine

WF Veterans
When I was 16 or 17, I started reading a compilation of short horror stories. I was okay with the stories until I reached one with a detailed description of someone being tortured by having their eyes poked out while tied up. I never finished the story.

Pamelyn Casto

WF Veterans
Truman Capote's (true story) In Cold Blood. I didn't stop reading it but it was so scary I was uneasy for weeks. People do terrible things to each other. They always have and I guess they always will.

Terry D

Retired Supervisor
Freaked out? No. But some books have had unsettling effects which lingered beyond 'the end'. After reading Fail Safe I dreamed of nuclear mushroom clouds appearing on the horizon. After finishing King's, 'Salem's Lot at about 2:30 AM I started up to bed and had a start when our basset hound was sitting in perfect silhouette against the hall nightlight at the top of the stairs. But probably the most disturbing was, When Rabbit Howls, a non-fiction book about a woman's struggle with dissociative personality disorder and the abuse which caused it.


Senior Member
Have you ever had to put a book down because it freaked you out/upset you/unsettled you in some way?
What book, what was it that caused you to put it down, and did you go back to it?

Without going into too much detail (mainly because some of the subject matter still bothers me to this day), I read 'Rainbow Six' by Tom
Clancy many years ago (it was a huge novel). I was so disturbed by some of the plot elements (as well as the way some fringe characters
were perishing), that I put the book down and had to wait several weeks to finish it.

As good as read it was, I swore to never read it a second time. This has been the only book to do that to me, and I've read a great deal
of his work, and none have every disturbed me the way that one did.

I just shuddered right now thinking about it.

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