Saturday, June 27, 2009

Saturday Soliloquy-- Reading Can Scare You Silly

When I started reading Stephen King's books, I was in college and living in a basement apartment in an eight-plex off campus. If you take a look at the vintage photo below, you'll see my apartment windows. The bottom one at the front was my living room window. The one around the corner past the pine trees to the right was my bedroom window.

While I lived there, I got used to looking out the window and seeing people's ankles. It gave me a slightly different perspective on the world, but I digress.

I'd read Stephen King's first book, Carrie, and although I didn't rave about it, I liked it. When 'Salem's Lot came out the following year, I bought a copy. I read the first few chapters during a lunch break and was hooked. I didn't want to put the thing down, but I had a heavy course load that semester and tons of work. I forced myself to leave the book alone until I'd finished studying for the evening. This usually meant I didn't get to read for pleasure until the wee hours of the morning, so it's a good thing that I've always been a night owl.

My twin bed was in the corner of my bedroom. The head of the bed was against one wall; the side of the bed was against the window wall, which meant that my head was practically underneath the window. I crawled into bed at midnight with 'Salem's Lot and began to read.

There's something about reading very late at night when everyone else is asleep and the world around you is hushed-- especially when it's a scary book. It wasn't long until I'd scooched up to a sitting position with my back against the wall. Actually I was wedged into the corner so nothing could sneak up behind me.

My eyes were flying across the pages, and all the hairs on my body had stiffened into tiny antennae that were a-quiver with the effort of sensing danger. I had just reached the part where a boy's best friend has shown up in the dead of night and is scratching on the screen of his window, wanting to be let in. The friend is a vampire and should definitely not be let inside. The student lamp's narrow cone of light was perfect for reading, but it certainly left the rest of the room dark. I shivered and tried to back further into the corner.

Scratch, scratch, scratch. "Please let me in."

I tried to wedge myself tighter into the corner. Before I could finish turning the page, something started scratching at the window screen above my head.

All I can say is:
  1. It's a good thing I have excellent bladder control.
  2. It's a miracle that my hair didn't turn snow white on the spot.
I immediately turned that lamp off. Sitting in the dark, I put my bookmark in place and carefully laid the book on the floor. Just as my heart had calmed down a bit, there was more scratching. It wasn't light scratching either. It was basso profundo scratching-- the kind that's serious about getting to where you are.

An eternity went by with me sitting there wedged in a corner with my heart in my mouth and something scratching at my window screen. Then I began to get angry. I did not appreciate having a top notch reading experience interrupted, and I certainly didn't like being scared and feeling helpless. It was time for me to Do Something! slowly that a glacier could beat me...I reached out to the hem of the curtains and even more slowly pulled them back.

Staring down at me were the glowing eyes and gleaming fangs of the neighbors' Rottweiler.

Six years later, the latest Stephen King book guessed it...Cujo. For some odd reason, it didn't frighten me.

What about you folks? Has anyone else read a book that scared them silly? I definitely want to hear about it!


  1. YIKES!!! I'm such a weeny that I can't read King in bright lights in the middle of the day with all kinds of people and protection around. I'd have come close to an early heart attack!

  2. Oh my gosh! I'm sure I would have peed my pants and screamed! What a great story.

  3. It was a King book for me...Pet Sematary. I read it when I was 12 and before I went to bed at night I had to take it out of my room and put it somewhere else in the house. I couldn't sleep with the book in the same room. I completely agree with you about reading late at is the best. Great post:)

  4. Cathy...I have something for you.

  5. How can I even think scary when your post has me laughing out loud!

    I'm a chicken, as you know, and the horror books are just too much for me. But I love Stephen King's not quite so scary books. Insomnia is such a favourite, with The Green Mile close behind. I admire his writing style very much - also picking up tips in On Writing.

  6. I found you via Elizabeth at As Usual, I need More Bookshelves. I had to laugh out loud at your story of reading Stephen King alone at night! I have three books that have really scared me: 1)Stephen King's The Shining - I still can't read this book when I'm alone! Uh- uh, no way, not with that shrubbery moving when no one's looking and the dead girls! Or the blood on the walls! (you can tell this book left a vivid impression on me) I could only read it at work, during the day, when I first read it 20 + years ago.
    2) The Haunting - Shirley Jackson. When Eleanor wakes up, and realizes she was never holding the hand of her friend, but the hand of the house, it scares me just thinking about it! and the booming down the hall, and going into the nursery....frankly the whole book scares me! one of my favorites, too! lol
    3) The Woman in Black - Susan Hill - the ending scared me so much. It was so evil and creepy. And the sound of the bells in the air over the swamp were chilling. and the cries he heard over and over again. A very chilling nightmare of a ghost story.

    Thanks for your post! It was fun.

  7. Mine would be Stephen King's Tommyknockers - I could even finish the book - it bothered me that much!!

  8. I love Stephen King, and appreciate a good horror novel. The last one I read the scared me was AFRAID by Jack Kilborn. I've recommended this book to everyone I know. It's scary because the storyline is could really happen!

  9. Beth--I'm not a weeny, and I almost did!

    Kathy--I'm so glad you enjoyed it.

    Psmith--Thanks. I'm glad you enjoyed my post. Thank you for sharing your experience with Pet Sematary. It made me laugh that you couldn't sleep with the book in the same room with you! (But I understand!)

    Wisteria--Bless your heart. Thank you!

    Susan (Chook)--I love King's writing style. Half the time he writes my interior monologues!

    Susan--I'm so glad you found me! That topiary garden scared the stuffing out of me, too...and we're on the same wavelength with The Haunting of Hill House as well. I'm happy that you enjoyed this post. I had fun reliving the whole thing!

  10. I love Stephen King and have read nearly all of his book but I also love Graham Masterton - he can also scare the pants off me.


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