Who needs horror movies when a book can send chills down your spine just as well if not better? That's what almost every Stephen King novel does, unfailingly. It's like the endless nights of insomnia call out to every spooky King novel there is to come and wrap itself around you like a scary blanket - only one made of claws, ghosts, voices and your worst nightmares. Then, you can lock yourself in any room you want and you won't be able to shake off the presence of another entity.
Here's a list of our favourite scary novels by Stephen King, the author of our livid nightmares, in the hopes that these will keep you up at night long after every soul is dead to the world.
Side note: Most of the happenings in King's novels centre around Maine; God knows why.
1. It (1986)
A scary clown, Pennywise who terrorises the town of Derry, every 27 years, when he resurfaces to feast on little kids isn't even the beginning of where the chills begin to rise with this magnum opus by King. The way the clown plays on the fears of the club of Losers - a group of childhood friends - who make a pact to come back to end Pennywise; even as grown up, is as real as any scare ever gets. You feel yourself cowering under the blanket of your room; secretly hoping a red balloon doesn't rise up from the dark abyss that is the underside of your bed. While the movie that released in 2017 was critically acclaimed, it doesn't come anywhere close to the story line of the book; but gives movie goers a fair idea of what they've missed out on in the book.
2. The Shining (1977)
Never has a book been scarier than a movie; but then never has a director been in the mind of Stephen King; the evil genius with plots so twisted, it could make The Conjuring seem like a bedtime story. The Overlook hotel has been overshadowed by ill fate and tragedy long before the Torrence family decides to set foot into it. And right from the start, young little Danny can sense the evil entities that reside in the hotel; the dead lady in Room 237 and the twins are not even the beginning of his visions as Danny sees the invisible monster take over his father's soul. Stanley Kubrick's recreation of the book, with Jack Nicholson playing Jack Torrence is not even half as scary as the original plot of the book.
3. Pet Sematary (1983)
The pretext of this story is simple: What would you do to bring back someone you love and care about but is now, dead? And so the book follows the lives of Louis and Rachel Creed, along with their two kids, Ellie and Gage. They move to the town of Ludlow where their lies a 'sematary' where kids bury their dead animals in the hopes of bringing them back to life. But, they soon lose their two-year-old sun to a road accident and, in a desperate bid to bring their son back to life, Louis buries Gage in the 'sematary'. What comes back though is a shadow of the boy, along with something murky and it eats into the family. The book ends with a rather morbid twist after Louis tries to bring his wife back the same way and the closing lines will leave you feeling as if it's your shoulder a cold hand just rest itself upon. You may not want to see your own furry pet after reading this one; let alone visit a cemetary.
4. Cujo (1981)
This is the tale of a family dog gone so horribly wrong, next time you'll think twice before adopting an animal, letting them out in the open, letting them get bit even by a mosquito and you'll shudder when they bare all their teeth, without a doubt. Cujo was just a friendly neighbourhood St. Bernard dog - and the Camber family's pet - before he chased a wild rabbit down a hole where he got his nose stuck and then, bitten by a rabid bat. The dog slowly begins to go mad with the infection from the bite and, while his humans are away, he kills their alcoholic neighbour, and Joe Camber. The dog then scares Donna Trenton and her son, who lock themselves into their Ford car while hoping for help to come. The book ends with Cujo trying repeatedly to kill the family while being beaten, impaled and finally shot dead. It's as bloody and brutal as it gets. Basically, you'll never see dogs the same way ever again.
5. Salem's Lot (1975)
While Bram Stoker holds the award for best vampire story ever, King's Salem's Lot - which is an ode to Stoker, by the way - comes pretty close. The story is about a writer, Ben Mears who returns to Jerusalem's (or Salem's) Lot in Maine - a town that has always discarded him in the past - after 25 years, to find the residences have turned into vampires. Amidst the fight against vampires, the plot follows Ben's relationship with graduate student Susan whom he fall sin love with, only to drive a stake through her heart later when she turns into a vampire. There's also a Van-Helsing like character in Father Callahan who is then threatened by the leader of the vampires, Kurt Barlow who is the evil driving force behind the town's vampirism. It ends with the protagonist fleeing the town after having finished Barlow, only to return later in hopes of wiping out the leaderless vampires. The story and incidents described will do more than give you a random jump scare here and there and you might end up sleeping with a cross, or some garlic... you know, just in case.
6. The Mist (1980)
Before the movie, there was the book and it did well to leave you scared of literally any white misty air you ever passed through thereafter. After a deadly thunderstorm, Bridgton, Maine is covered by a white mist and anyone who steps out into the mist is killed by invisible tentacled-creatures. Amidst all this, a group of people are stuck at a supermarket that include the protagonist, David Drayton and his son, Billy. The story then follows the group of individuals as they try to wait it out in a supermarket while blood-thirsty creatures lurk outside. There soon emerges a religious sentiment where a Mrs Cormandy decides that a human sacrifice will end the mist. And then it's a battle of wits and survival of the fittest while you try to gauge whether the real enemy is the creatures out beyond, or the ones within.
7. Mr Mercedes (2014)
This is the first part of King's Bill Hodges' trilogy series and deals with a psychopath 20-something killer who calls himself Mr Mercedes following the robbery of a Merc with which he goes on a killing spree in town. That's when retired officer Bill Hodges comes in after receiving a letter from Mr Mercedes who claims responsibility for the murders. However, the plot gets murkier as it is revealed that there is indeed more to Mr Mercedes than meets the eye as he begins to stalk and observe Hodges and the people he interacts with during the course of his investigation; not to mention the incestuous relationship the culprit shares with his mother. The book ends on a major cliffhanger which leads into the remaining two books in the series and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened, all the while.
8. End Of Watch (2016)
The third and final part of the Bill Hodges' trilogy comes back to the origin of the plot - Brady Hartsfield; a.k.a Mr Mercedes who is now confined to a hospital in a vegetative state; except that around the time of his impossibly speedy recovery, a slew of suicides begin to take place and once again, Bill Hodges - who is now on borrowed time fighting pancreatic cancer - is investigating the case, along with this partner, Holly. As they angle closer to the truth behind Hartsfield's inhuman powers they begin to see how the suicides are all connected back to the original case involving Mr Mercedes and how they may be fighting a supernatural force entirely.
9. The Outsider (2018)
King's latest novel is so brilliant, you won't even know when the creeps start setting in; until they do and then you're left feeling strangely uneasy even though you have no reason to be - it's just a book, right? The Outsider follows the story of a select few individuals living in or connected to Flint City - a fictitious town in Oklahoma - and how they've been roped into a murder investigation that might as well have not happened; except that it did, even if the murderer is not who they think it is. As they begin to connect the dots, they realise similar incidents have occurred in neighbouring towns as well and they are, in fact, dealing with a supernatural entity. The story connects with the Bill Hodges' trilogy by involving Holly as one of the detectives. The spook factor stems from how a seemingly crime novel turns itself into a horror novel, quite effortlessly and leaves you feeling extremely unnerved as you progress.
10. Misery (1987)
Fans can be freaky. This theory is proven in King's book, Misery which is the story of a best selling author whose encounter with his biggest fan turns out to be a plea for what could be his life on the line. After completing the manuscript on his latest book, Paul Sheldon is on his way back to Los Angeles when a snow storm causes him to drive of a cliff and crash. However he's saved from the wreckage - albeit with broken legs - by Annie Wilkes, a former nurse who also happens to be his biggest fan. But, there's more to Annie as Paul unearths a scrapbook while being captive in her house where he learns that she's indeed a murderer and has killed babies and patients, alike. In a bid to survive through the ordeal while he's trapped in Annie's house, and finally making it after a harrowing battle for his life - losing his leg and a thumb along the way, for good - Paul returns to normalcy, following Annie's eventful death, and now battles nightmares about her while turning to painkillers and alcoholism while suffering from writer's block. This is one of King's more complex stories told brilliantly and will grip you till the very end.
11. Needful Things (1991)
A clever spin to a modern day story where people willingly sell their souls to a supernatural being who might as well be Satan himself. In the town of Castle Rock, Maine, a new shop opens, called 'Needful Things' run by a man named Leland Gaunt who Sheriff Alan Pangborn suspects to have ulterior and dark motives. As everyone in town enters his shop always ends up finding exactly whatever it is they are searching for at a low price, all they have to do is play a prank on someone else in the town. This soon turns the town against its own residence as pranks become violent to a point where Gaunt has his red herrings ready to blow up town if it weren't for Sheriff Alan who recognises and fights Gaunt in what is now his supernatural form, right before he escapes on a horse-drawn carriage, leaving behind the valise that contains the souls of the residents.
12. Bag of Bones (1998)
This is the horror thriller every reader wants out of a Stephen King novel and it never fails to disappoint. It is the story of Mike Noonan who, after losing his pregnant wife and child to death, suffers writer's block while being tormented by nightmares from his vacation home, Sara Laughs, in TR-90, Maine. When he decides to go back and confront his nightmares, he realises that the cabin is haunted by the ghost of Sara Tidwell, while his wife Jo's ghost begins to haunt his own memory, helping him to piece his life together. During his stay, Mike meets 3-year-old Kyra and her widowed mother Mattie and forms a bond with them. But, there are darker secrets lurking in the cursed town and in Mike's own psyche and it might just take him his own life to unearth the truth of the curse.
13. Room 1408 (1999)
A shorter story by Stephen King, Room 1408 is one of his most chilling stories ever, hands down. Yes, you may have seen the movie which stars John Cusack and Samuel L Jackson. But, the short audiobook, which is part of King's Blood and Smoke collection, leaves you feeling just a little chilly on the warmest night in your room. The story follows Mike Enslin, a bestselling author of horror stories who is also a non-believer. On his latest writing stint, he decides to spend a night at Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel - a room that is know to have caused 42 deaths in the past - 12 suicides and 30 'natural'. On arrival, he is warned by Mr Olin, the hotel's manager about the macabre history of the room and its connection with the number 13. Nevertheless, Enslin books the room and his tryst with a supernatural force becomes the determining factor of the story. The story ends with Enslin choosing never to write again, having been scarred for life by Room 1408.
14. Revival (2014)
Frankenstein meets Insidious in King's Revival which is the story of Charles Jacobs, a new minister that the town comes to love. However, after the death of his wife and son, he denounces God in a sermon in front of the town and is thereafter banished. Years later, a heroin addict Jamie Morton, comes across Jacobs who now works as a faith healer; healing people through electricity. When Jacobs cures Jamie of his addiction, he realises something different about him, along with the others who Jacobs healed - some of whom have committed suicide. For one of his last experiments, when Jamie asks Jacobs to help heal his girlfriend, Astrid of her terminal illness, Jacobs reveals an experiement of 'secret electricity' that brings someone back to life as they bring back information from the afterlife. However, the experiment goes wrong with the body becoming a vessel for entities from the other world. The story ends with Jamie realising that his fate is already sealed to something called 'The Null' and it's only a matter of time.
15. Dreamcatcher (2001)
While it's very similar to King's bestseller, It, Dreamcatcher involves around a complex plot of alien invasion gone wrong, with the US government trying to cover it up, failing countless times. A groupd of four friends who befriend a boy suffering from Downs' Syndrome now are privy to his supernatural powers that include shared dreaming and telepathy. Stuck in the middle of the woods, the four battle for their lives as an alien invasion has infected strangers lurking around the forest trying to infect the humans. And it comes down to one of the four boys - now quarantined - to reach out to their gifted friend who seems to be the key to saving them and the world from repeated alien invasions. While the plot seems straightforward, it is the unfolding of events in the book that leave you sitting up with all the lights on around the house just in case there's someone lurking right outside the door.