35 Horror Readers Recommend The Most Disturbing Story They’ve Ever Read

Forget horror movies. Nothing will creep you out more than these famous novels recommended by Reddit users. Read them at your own risk.
Audrey Reid
Audrey Reid

1. Pet Sematary by Stephen King

“In the foreword of a re-release of the book, King wrote that he initially wanted to leave the manuscript of Pet Sematary in the drawer of his desk because it was the first time that he felt he may have gone too far. I’m inclined to agree.” — Avatar_Yung-Thug

2. Sphere by Michael Chrichton

“I remember Sphere by Michael Chrichton being pretty scary when I read it. You have these characters essentially trapped at the bottom of the ocean, completely isolated and helpless when shit goes down, and the entity attacking them is mysterious and unpredictable. It all adds up to being thoroughly creeped out.” — SyanKotor

3. Whisperer In Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft

“I remember as a teen I stayed up late one night reading a Lovecraft anthology book, and started reading the Whisperer in Darkness.

Now at first, the story is boring, it is just a guy talking about rural Vermont.

Then the story is stupid, bug people from outer space? puh-leeze.

Then the story is fucking terrifying.

The transition came out of nowhere, all of a sudden I was sure I could hear the Mi-Go buzzing their imitation of human speech at me through the open window of my bedroom. Were my friends and neighbors secretly their human servants? I could never have known.

I would be lying prone on my bed, when I started to think something was behind me. So I’d roll over, but then later become afraid something was below me and roll prone again.

I stayed up all night rolling around like a madman.”  — Justedd_233

4. House Of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

“House of Leaves was, by a large margin, the most unsettling reading experience I’ve ever had.

Most scary books frighten you by giving you a window into another, separate frightening place. House of Leaves went the other direction. It wormed its way into my brain and made my world become strange and otherwordly. Hallways became geometrically impossible, and—like the main character—I found myself obsessed with the word “house”, which jumped out of any text where I saw it.

I read it non-stop for several hours alone in the middle of the night. Eventually, I had to call my roommate to find out where he was. I tracked him down just because I was so spooked being alone.

A+++ would read again.” —munificent

5. Blindness by Saramago

“Blindness by Saramago. It’s not your typical horror novel, but it made me sick to my stomach, and come to think of it, I never finished it either.” — TheProf

6. I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream by Harlan Ellison

“It’s not outwardly scary, just incredibly disturbing. I sat up thinking about it for much longer than it took me to read it.” — brochill111

7. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

“This book didn’t make me want to hide under the covers, but China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station had such a sense of wrongness and a growing tension for me that I was actually disturbed. By the last 50-100 pages or so, I was sure nothing was going to be okay, at all, ever.” — Fargoguy92

8. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

“I don’t know about scared, but Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted disturbed me immensely.

It’s a short story anthology, but those short stories are some of the most psychologically disturbing shit you will ever read, particularly Guts.

Allegedly, most of the stories in the book are based on real events.” — Intempestivity

9. The Road Virus Heads North by Stephen King.

“So it wasn’t a book, but a short story. The Road Virus Heads North by Stephen King.

I was listening to it on tape during a solo road trip. I started the story just as the sun was going down so it was dark when I was getting deep in it. Scared the hell out of me, I was pissing my pants as I was speeding home to get away from this painting that I was certain was chasing me.” — smpl-jax

10. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

“The Night Shift, by SK. A book of short stories that are amazing. Also, anything by Peter Straub is freaky, but not my cup. Hubert Selby Jr. and Clive Barker can be pretty freaky. For good scary fun Ray Bradbury is the best. Something Wicked This Way Comes and October Country.” — Marcel_Ayme

11. The Hot Zone by Richard Preston

“I, too, am generally more freaked out by non-fiction – The Hot Zone by Richard Preston was one of the most deeply disturbing things I’ve ever read.” — AnnaLemma

12. Red Dragon by Thomas Harris

“Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. First I was scared seeing the killer’s actions, then I was scared of myself as I started to sympathize with him.” — top_koala

13. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

“We Need To Talk About Kevin. Every parents nightmare, and the pacing and slow unveiling are masterful.” — Spongile

14. Misery by Stephen King

“Misery scared me more than IT, because it’s plausible. Psychosis is real, obsession is real, Paul was put in a situation that I imagined might actually happen, trapped like a rat in a cage.” — Dim_Innuendo

15. The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

“Shirley Jackson has written stuff that still haunts me to this day. “The Lottery” anyone? Here’s the beginning of one of her novels. I read this years ago, and it still haunts me decades later:

“My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.” – Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle.” — th55

16. The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft

“A short story rather than a book, really, but The Hound by H.P. Lovecraft always really gave me the creeps.” — savois-faire

17. The Beach by Alex Garland

“I’m not exactly sure why but, The Beach by Alex Garland. I often dreamed of a “paradise beach” in a remote island in southeast Asia, that’s not the case anymore.” — anything_bro

18. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

A quote:

“Karras watched her. What was she hiding? He wondered. Something. Then noticing the sudden silence within, he moved to the bedroom door, opened it. entered, closed the door behind him quietly, and turned front. And stared at the horror; at the emaciated, skeletal thing on the bed that was watching intently with mocking eyes that were filled with cunning and with hate and, most unsettling of all, with a posture of towering authority.” — Christ_on_a_Crakker

19. Full Moon Soup by Alastair Graham

“When I was a kid, the library had this incredibly detailed large page picture album.

It was the cross section of a hotel or a mansion, every time you turn the page you would go ahead about 30sec to a minute in time.

Everything started out normal, but by the end of the book, the horrors taking place would make HP Lovecraft wince.

Every time I opened this book, I’d have nightmares for days, even if in my waking state it did not seem scary.

The name? Full Moon Soup.” — Timoris

20. World War Z by Max Brooks

“For me it was World War Z. The zombies were not that terrifying but the world building was so realistic and accurate that when I started it I was headed to DC for 4th of July fireworks and I was so scared that an outbreak was going to happen.” — KingintheNorth212

21. Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark by Alvin Schwartz

IDGAF how old you are, the old school version of that book will creep you right the f out with just the pictures alone.— deedoedee

22. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

“I can’t believe no one has mentioned Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons. As a grown woman it freaked me out so much it took me hours to get to sleep after I finished. It’s sort of about vampires and Nazis, but the vampires are so different from your stereotypical vampire that they almost aren’t even recognizable.” — Medeaa

23. Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

“Amityville Horror – so scary I used to have to stop reading it and have my wife talk to me about anything to pull my mind away from it. I couldn’t read it alone at night. The Road by Cormack McCarthy also had some parts that scared the living shit out of me.” — peeshofwork

24. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

“Brave New World. Super depressing with no real hope for humanity with 1984 being the second most terrifying.” — raspberrykraken

25. Infected by Scott Sigler

“Infected by Scott Sigler is deliriously creepy. It’s a blend of horror, SF, and the worst parts of “The Hot Zone.” What if those microbes invading your body were actually sentient aliens?” — winestooge

26. Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

“It’s a collection of short stories, but Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti definitely creeped me the fuck out way more times than most horror novels.” — DadsnGrads

27. The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe

“The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allen Poe. Read it when I was 9 and haven’t been able to read scary books since. It really traumatised me, I kind of trusted books to be my fantasy escape and it broke that trust I had, left me angry.” — luckshott

28. 1984 by George Orwell

Honestly? The ending of 1984 was absolutely terrifying. He just accepted it after so much resilience. He accepted it like nothing happened, the previous years were a blip. — ApocolipseJ

29. The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer

“For existentialist horror, try the Southern Reach trilogy. They disturbed me enough to give me nightmares.” — Brokerib

30. Night by Eli Wiesel

“A bit elementary but Night by Eli Wiesel. Terrifying because it really happened.” — mstrdsastr

31. The Boogeyman by Stephen King

“Think it’s just called The Boogeyman, the short story by King. It creeped me out as it was, but I was living in my first apartment at the time, alone. I guess I had put something up awkwardly on the shelve in my closet. Well, just before I fell asleep whatever it was fell down and knocked the closet door open slowly. Almost pooped myself.”  — gcourbet

32. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

“I just finished reading this and it was one of the best horror books that I have read.” — teviston

33. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

Though not really a horror story, the sense of wrongness and the imagery used has stuck with me.

The hospital scene was almost too much. — Live_Tangent

34. The Shining by Stephen King

The Shining. I don’t read scary books often, but this one really stuck with me. It like I was there, running in the hallways, isolated and scared. Good read! — boopbebeep

35. Blood Meridien by Cormac McCarthy

“Blood Meridien, Cormac McCarthy. The purest evil is in a man’s heart.” — thoreauly77 Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Holly is the author of Severe(d): A Creepy Poetry Collection.

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