19 Of The Most Chilling Lines In Literature

Literature has created some of the most evil characters we’ve ever known, showing us just how dark and twisted the mind can go. In celebration of great literature, cunning villains, and writers with the incredible talent to create the stories that make our hearts beat faster, here are 19 of the most chilling lines in literature. Are there any missing from the list?


1. The Killer Inside Me, Jim Thompson

“I kissed her, a long hard kiss. Because baby didn’t know it, but baby was dead, and in a way I couldn’t have loved her more.”

2. American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis

“My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape.”

3. The Road, Carmac McCarthy

“He started down the rough wooden steps. He ducked his head and then flicked the lighter and swung the flame out over the darkness like an offering. Coldness and damp. An ungodly stench. He could see part of a stone wall. Clay floor. An old mattress darkly stained. He crouched and stepped down again and held out the light.

Huddled against the back wall were naked people, male and female, all trying to hide, shielding their faces with their hands. On the mattress lay a man with his legs gone to the hip and the stumps of them blackened and burnt. The smell was hideous.

Jesus, he whispered.

Then one by one they turned and blinked in the pitiful light. Help us, they whispered. Please help us.”

4. The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allan Poe

“For a moment she remained trembling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, then, with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the person of her brother, and in her violent and now final death-agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a victim to the terrors he had anticipated.”

5. The Shining, Stephen King

“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in.”

6. Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris

“A census taker tried to quantify me once. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.”

7. Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo

“Inside me I’m screaming, nobody pays any attention. If I had arms, I could kill myself. If I had legs, I could run away. If I had a voice, I could talk and be some kind of company for myself. I could yell for help, but nobody would help me.”

8. Children of the Corn, Stephen King

“Burt jumped from the pulpit and ran down the centre aisle. He threw open the outer vestibule door, letting in hot sunshine, dazzling. Vicky was bolt upright behind the steering wheel, both hands plastered on the horn ring, her head swivelling wildly. From all around the children were coming. Some of them were laughing gaily. They held knives, hatchets, pipes, rocks, hammers. One girl, maybe eight, with beautiful long blonde hair, held a jackhandle. Rural weapons. Not a gun among them.”

9. Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

“At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.”

10. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky

“Blood gushed out as from an overturned tumbler, and she fell straight on her back. He drew away to let her fall, and then at once bent over her face: she was dead. Her eyes were popping out of her head as though ready to jump out of there sockets, and her fore-head and whole face were terribly drawn and contorted.”

11. I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, Harlan Ellison

“I am a great soft jelly thing. Smoothly rounded, with no mouth, with pulsing white holes filled by fog where my eyes used to be. Rubbery appendages that were once my arms; bulks rounding down into legless humps of soft slippery matter. I leave a moist trail when I move. Blotches of diseased, evil gray come and go on my surface, as though light is being beamed from within. Outwardly: dumbly, I shamble about, a thing that could never have been known as human, a thing whose shape is so alien a travesty that humanity becomes more obscene for the vague resemblance. Inwardly: alone. Here. Living under the land, under the sea, in the belly of AM, whom we created because our time was badly spent and we must have known unconsciously that he could do it better. At least the four of them are safe at last. AM will be all the madder for that. It makes me a little happier. And yet … AM has won, simply … he has taken his revenge …

I have no mouth. And I must scream.”

12. The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman

“Afterwards, he was never able to describe what he had seen: something huge, yes; something with the body of an enormous snake, but with the head of what…? There were three of them: three heads, three necks. The faces were dead, as if someone had constructed dolls from the parts of the corpses of humans and of animals. The faces were covered in purple patterns, tattooed in swirling indigo, turning the dead faces into strange, expressive, monstrous things.”

13. The Call of Cthulhu, H.P. Lovecraft

“The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the deadly light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.”

14. The Bible, Psalm 23:4

“…I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…”

15. The Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson

“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”

16. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

“I started from my sleep with horror; a cold dew covered my forehead, my teeth chattered, and every limb became convulsed: when, by the dim and yellow light of the moon, as it forced its way through the window shutters, I beheld the wretch — the miserable monster whom I had created. He held up the curtain of the bed and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me.”

17. Night, Elie Wiesel

“Without passion or haste, they shot their prisoners, who were forced to approach the trench one by one and offer their necks. Infants were tossed into the air and used as targets for the machine guns.”

18. Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?, Joyce Carol Oates

“Just for a ride, Connie sweetheart.”

“I never said my name was Connie,” she said.

“But I know what it is. I know your name and all about you, lots of things,” Arnold Friend said. He had not moved yet but stood still leaning back against the side of his jalopy. “I took a special interest in you, such a pretty girl, and found out all about you—like I know your parents and sister are gone somewheres and I know where and how long they’re going to be gone, and I know who you were with last night, and your best girl friend’s name is Betty. Right?”

19. Lost Souls, Clive Barker

“Everything the blind woman had told Harry she’d seen was undeniably real. Whatever inner eye Norma Paine possessed-that extraordinary skill that allowed her to scan the island of Manhattan from the Broadway Bridge to Battery Park and yet not move an inch from her tiny room on Seventy-fifth-that eye was as sharp as any knife juggler’s. Here was the derelict house on Ridge Street, with the smoke stains besmirching the brick. Here was the dead dog that she’d described, lying on the sidewalk as though asleep, but that it lacked half its head. Here too, if Norma was to be believed, was the demon that Harry had come in search of: the shy and sublimely malignant Cha’Chat.” Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Koty Neelis

Former senior staff writer and producer at Thought Catalog.

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