Monday, October 14, 2013

'Tis the Season: Halloween Thoughts

I've started getting invitations to Halloween parties, so I'm of a mind to think about spooky things. The scariest book I ever read? There are two answers for this. One is genuinely a great horror novel (and I'll talk about it in an upcoming post on vampire books) and the other, well...

Sometime during my young teen years, I was at sleep-away camp deep in the woods of West Virginia. Being the kid I was, I had of course packed a bag full of books, and being the strange kid I was, they were all horror books. I think I even lugged Stephen King's The Strand up there with me. In hardcover.

My version did not have this cover.
I'm not sure why I thought this was a good idea. I was a pretty anxiety-ridden child and sleeping in the dark in the woods already terrified me. Sleeping in the dark at home terrified me too. I'd like to say that my love of literature was stronger than my fears, but I'm pretty sure I was just plain stupid. I found myself reading Watchers by flashlight, an old '80s Dean Koontz horror novel (back when he could still write a good yarn) about a Frankenstein-esque murdering monster called "The Outsider" and a super-intelligent friendly dog. We're not exactly talking Man Booker Prize here, but it's a gripping enough tale (~of terror~).

One night, I wake up and have to go to the bathroom. We're supposed to use the buddy system, and given that it's the woods at 2 am, I would have peed on the floor of our cabin before going out there alone. So I woke up my best friend and dragged her off to the bathrooms. Nothing untoward happened, though we did have a minor freak-out about a moth the size of our heads. It wasn't until we were walking back that something went CRASHING through the woods off to our right. We clutched at each other and rabbited back to our cabin like the hounds of hell were upon us. Certain of our impending deaths, I practically leapt all the way up to my top bunk without touching the ladder (everyone knows the people on the lower bunks get murdered first). Eventually, when The Outsider failed to come crashing through our flimsy screen door, my heart rate descended from "tachycardia" to "brisk jog" levels, though I'm not sure I slept at all.

I do, however, remember that I didn't stop reading my horror novels. I just switched to The Stand, because a plague couldn't sneak up and dismember me in my sleep.

And that's how Watchers ended up being one of the scariest books I've ever read.

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