I don’t read a lot of horror or suspense. I’ve only read one horror story thus far for my quest, Frankenstein, but the creature is more pitiable than scary. Doc Frankenstein isn’t scary; he just needs to be slapped.
But I digress. I only remember two stories that really frightened me. They will likely not be on anyone else’s list.
101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. I was twelve and Cruella de Vil scared me to death. It's actually a pretty good book by the way, not just a Disney film.
But that’s just honorable mention. The real terror was Gollum from The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, specifically The Hobbit. Gollum was not nearly so terrifying in The Lord of the Rings.
So why? Well for starters, I was 10. By this point in the tale, I was very fond of Bilbo and already pretty scared for him. He was lost, alone, in the dark, in a goblin cave. And then – this thing – with pale glowing eyes, creepy hissy voice, and the gollum sound – so yeah – I was terrified. I think part of the terror was the unknown. The only baddies I’d encountered thus far in Middle Earth were trolls, rock giants, and goblins. I knew there was a dragon lurking near the end of the tale, but all of these were sort of half-expected, and well defined.
And, I happened to be reading this portion, late at night, in the basement.
Imagine yourself – 10 years old, alone, in a quiet, dark, basement, projecting yourself into Bilbo’s adventure also alone in a quiet, dark, underground – and reading…
Deep down here by the dark water lived old Gollum, a small slimy creature. I don’t know where he came from, nor who or what he was. He was Gollum – as dark as darkness, except for two big round pale eyes in his thin face.
There’s more of course, about how Gollum liked to throttle goblins and eat them, and how he spotted Bilbo before Bilbo spotted him, and snuck up on him. All quite terrifying.
I didn't get much sleep.