I want to thank Nina for allowing to take part in The Month Before Halloween, but I have a confession to admit: I don’t actually like Halloween. I’m not a lover of scary movies. I don’t like horror films/books/TV shows. I don’t like trick-or-treaters as i’m scared I’m going to get mugged or have a serial killer actually burst in and kill me there and then. I don’t like Halloween. I like the idea of being scared, but it makes me INCREDIBLY uncomfortable.
So when I offered to take part in The Month Before Halloween, no one was more surprised than me. What the HELL do I know about scary/terrifying scenes in books? Nothing, I first thought. Until I actually thought about it and tackled my bookshelves. Then I realised I like reading creepy scenes. I have ghost and vampire stories in my To Read pile (eyes Department 19 & its sequel. As well as The Hunting Ground). I read crime books which tackles scary moments (in Tess Gerritsen’s Body Double, the main character comes home from a trip to find a doppelganger of herself dead in front of her house. And let’s not mention the sequel, Vanish, where a corpse wakes up in a morgue!). And then, we have moments in YA books that just plain creepy and would make some readers squirm in their chairs (Sabriel by Garth Nix, 172 Hours on the Moon, James Dawson’s Hollow Pike, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush and Edward Hogan’s Daylight Saving to name a few).
But I wanted to talk about a few scenes in particular. Main reason, they scared me and, at times, made me never want to leave my bed again! (I am talking about some books in series so SPOILER KLAXON going off now!)
First of all, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill. Don’t go by the recent Daniel Radcliffe film (that was one jumpy movie!), the book is incredibly creepy. It’s an old fashioned ghost story where the gothicness of the story and the atmosphere of the book being to scare you. It’s more a psychological ghost story. I listened to the audiobook version over two summer days and I felt chilled to the bone when I finished.
From one ghost to another, The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson. I adore this book, but this book scared me to stay in bed. The two moments with this book that freaked me out are the following: the prologue where the first body was discovered, because I was scared that we were going to watch the first murder and the fact when the character tried to find a pulse but felt nothing but air as “... the head was barely attached at all, and the puddle she [the nurse] was kneeling in was almost certainly not rainwater.” The second thing about this book that creeped me out was Ripper Fever. The fact that people knew where the copycat killer was going to strike, being all scared for your life, and yet the whole excitement around it. That what I found quite disturbing. There seemed to be a thrilled about someone coping Jack the Ripper’s murders and, when your reading this well past midnight and then you need to go to the bathroom, it’s not good as you imagine the ghost of Jack the Ripper under your bed and is going to kill you if you leave the safety of your bed.
Yes, this did happen to me. And yes, I am going to read the sequel. I must be an idiot!
Northern Lights (or The Golden Compass, depending on where you live in the world) has a scene that is a little unnerving. For those of you who don’t know about His Dark Materials, in the first book, we enter a world where everyone has a daemon. When you’re a child, your daemon can change form. But when you become an adult, your daemon settles in one form. A daemon, you could say, is that person’s soul, but the soul lives outside of the body. In the scene I’ve picked, our hero and her daemon, Lyra and Pantalaimon, have been captured and are put into a device – the Silver Guillotine – that would cut the bonds between Lyra and her daemon. To cut the bonds with her soul. That is a frightening moment as you panic for her and wonder what would happen to her if she loses her soul/daemon. She’s saved within a few moments by Mrs Coulter, head of the organisation and, we discover within this book (though I’m not 100% certain so correct me if I’m wrong), is Lyra’s mother is one horrifying moment. What kind of person would do something so monstrous as what Mrs Coulter was doing?
Speaking of evil woman (Mrs Coulter redeemed herself in The Amber Spyglass, unlike this woman...), let’s talk Dolores Umbridge. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, she does something that I found deeply disturbing. Several people in my family agree. In chapter 13, Umbridge gives Harry detention. In his detention, Harry must write I must not tell lies for “... as long as it takes for the message to sink in...”. As Harry write the line on parchment with a special quill, the words are magically cut on the back on his hand, over and over again. This is one scene that I was upset and furious over (and the film did this scene perfectly as, when I first watched it, all those emotions came back). This, to me, is child abuse and an abuse of power. So the fact that Umbridge did this and was allowed the get away with it sickened me. And I’m sure there were parent readers who read this scene and were disturbed by it.
Sticking with Harry Potter, let’s talk chapter seventeen of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Yes, the Bathilda Bagshot scene where Lord Voldermort’s snake, Nagini, comes out of Bathilda’s neck, meaning the real Bathilda is dead and the snake was wearing a dead woman’s skin! I felt I had to italic that as just writing it and then reading back to myself sent a shiver down my skin. Do we really need to talk about why this scene is creepy? Do we?
Now, this is my final creepy moment. Well, it’s not a moment, but a creation from the mind of JK Rowling. TheDementors. To me, these is the most sinister creation in modern day children literature. I know that, when first written, JK Rowling thought of these as a form of depression, but I always found them more terrifying than that. They do the Dementor’s Kiss that suck the soul out of you. This is terrifying. A quote, spoken by Lupin in chapter ten of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has always stuck with me when I think of Dementors and the emotion I feel for them, and it’s this: “Dementors are among the foulest creatures that walk this earth. They infest the darkest, filthiest places, they glory in decay and despair they drain peace, hope and happiness out of the air around them. Even Muggles feel their presence, though they can’t see them. Get too near a Dementor and every good feeling, every happy memory, will be sucked out of you. If it can, the Dementor will feed on you long enough to reduce you to something like itself – soulless and evil. You’ll be left with nothing but the worst experiences of your life.”
To me, this is the most terrifying thing I have ever read. And it wouldn’t surprise me if a Dementor scares goodness knows how many other people. Now, I’m going to go listen to some happy music and eat some chocolate. A good way to keep a Dementor away. Chocolate, and in my case, mugs of teas. Lots of tea.
Quote from The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson was taken from page 3. HarperCollins. Paperback.
Quote from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling was taken from page 240. Bloomsbury. Paperback.
Quote from Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by JK Rowling was taken from page 140. Bloomsbury. Paperback.