Not the bloodspattering, gore-filled prose is what makes me the most afraid. It isn’t even the kind that keeps me up at night, wondering if a killer is lurking in the dark, but it is still scary. In my opinion, the scariest writing is the kind that makes me think about things I don’t want to think about, like when I’m waiting in line at the grocery store and see something that reminds me of the story. That kind of writing shocks me mentally. Psychological horror books are what I like.
There’s a very fine line between psychological thrillers and psychological horror books, though, so you have to be careful. Psychological horror books are not mysteries. They’re not whodunnits, and they don’t have whodunnits in them. They don’t scare people with violence, chases, or even gore. They scare people with suggestions, paranoia, and implication, not with violence, chases, or gore. This is a list of the 25 scariest psychological horror books that I could think of.
Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk
In this book, you’ll find a lot of short stories that are linked together by a bigger story. Those who write are allowed to go to a retreat where their connections to the rest of the world are cut off. When they get there, each of them tries to make their own survival experience, not realizing that everyone else is doing the same thing. People find psychological books like Haunted very scary because each character brings a new hellscape to the story.
Woman at Point Zero by Nawal al-Sadawi.
In this short story, the author talks about a woman who is on death row in Cairo. Before she became a killer, she had to deal with things that were bad, misogynistic, and violent. She also lost hope, or never had it in the first place.
Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
The film adaptation of Rosemary’s Baby by Roman Polanski was exactly how Ira Levin thought it would be, so if you think that when you see tabloids about celebrity births in the checkout line, “He has his father’s eyes,” you might want to read this scary psychological horror novel.
Let Me In by JOHN AJVIDE LINDQUIST
Some people might say that because Let Me Inis a vampire book, it doesn’t belong in the category of psychological horror novels. I disagree. The vampires in this book are the least scary thing about it. Instead, think of Oskar, the child who dreams about killing his tormentors. The fact that Eli is a vampire as a child is what makes this story interesting. The idea that the person she has hired to look for her is a pedophile who is very in love with her. This is just the beginning of a long list of things that are bad.
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
When it comes to psychological horror books, Silence of the Lambs isn’t on your list of the scariest. I don’t know what to say to you about that. In order to get Hannibal Lecter’s help in catching another serial killer, Clarice Starling has to think of a way for him to manipulate his patients so that they become his real meal. A top FBI criminal profiler, Robert Ressler, helped write this book. It is based on real events about Ed Gein and his victims, and he helped write it.
Whoever Fights Monsters by Robert Ressler
“Whoever fights monsters should make sure that in the process, he doesn’t become a monster.” This quote by Friedrich Nietschze is the title of this book. And if you stare into an abyss long enough, the abyss will look back at you. So, it makes sense that this nonfiction book–yes, that’s right–is about one of the best criminal profiling detectives in the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In the title, the abyss looks back at Ressler, and as a result, it looks back at you. This makes it different from other true crime books.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Never Let Me Go is a science fiction book, but it makes the reader feel paranoid and afraid. This makes it one of the scariest psychological horror books. It’s like being told that you’re a fake and that your organs are meant to be used by people who have souls. Then, imagine how hard it would be to get yourself out of that involuntary giving. Yeah. I think it’s important.
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Keep in mind that this book is from the 1800s, so it might not make you feel as scared as a modern book. They couldn’t just say anything! There is a lot of sexual violence in this story, but if you don’t pay attention, you might not even know about it at all. What’s more, the way it’s written lets that paranoia grow because we only see parts of the story at a time.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Again, you might think that this book doesn’t belong on the list of psychological horror books, but it does. Yes, there is. There is also the guilt of blasphemy in Dr. Frankenstein, and how he can’t figure out how to deal with it even though he’s going to die. That’s not all. There’s also the Creature, who doesn’t want to be there but is. Everyone hates him because of how he looks.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
The cast of characters inGeek Love is a family of freaks. A couple wants to have a family of freaks, and then they start a freak show. The psychological manipulation of the characters, as well as the physical manipulation of each other, will leave you wondering how it all happened at all.
Perfume by Patrick Suskind
Our main character in Perfume has a very good sense of smell, and he doesn’t have any body odor. For the rest of his time, he tries to learn how to make people smell good, but he also tries to kill different women so that he can get the body odor of a beautiful girl who he accidentally killed. The writing in this book is very good, but the scariest thing about it is that it has been so well-received. What is its moral? That men should spend their time and money on art instead of everyone else? Gross. Everyone, it seems, is okay with that idea.
The Ones that Got Away by Stephen Graham Jones
“These stories cut into the body of the mind, into our most basic fears and certainties, and there is no anesthetic.” Turn on the light if you want, but it will just make more shadows, not less.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
When you read this, it’s supposed to say, “The True Story of a Multiple Murder and the People Who Lived After.” We’re supposed to think that “multiple murder” refers to the victims and their innocence, not to the murder itself. Capote, by the end, convinces you that one of the murderers is not guilty. That’s the real tragedy. It’s horrible that the family is wiped out, but the psychological manipulation that a writer like Capote can do is even scarier.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
This book talks about how people were forced to work. And the psychological terror that comes with it. As a result, Sethe’s new home is haunted by the ghost of her dead child, who was never named and had only one word on his tombstone: “Beloved.” This book should be on your list of things to read. If you haven’t already, you should.
Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
Because The Road won a Pulitzer Prize and is in Oprah’s book club, most people know it. It’s a harrowing psychological horror story about civilization after the world ends. It’s great. And so is the Outer Dark, as well as. Appalachia is where the story takes place, and it’s about a sister who is having her brother’s child. It dies in the woods. She looks for it. They say that death, incest, and cannibalism are the three main things that scare people. A lot of people are hit by Cormac McCarthy, but not all of them.