The Favorite Scary Stories of Horror Creators Like R.L. Stine and Scott Snyder
ComicsAlliance’s Halloween-themed coverage continues with our most auspiciously spooky feature yet: our favorite scary-storytelling creators telling us about their favorite scary stories and macabre childhood memories.
Get your Halloween weekend started a little early after the jump, where we’ve got some terrifying tales from R.L. Stine (Goosebumps), Scott Snyder (American Vampire), Jill Thompson (Beasts of Burden), Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash), and an especially scary story by Benito Cereno (Hector Plasm).
R.L. STINE (author, Goosebumps):
My favorite scary story is “The Black Cat” by Edgar Alan Poe. I think there’s a reason why this has become a classic story– it has all of the most horrifying elements a horror story can have. It has murder, extreme violence, blood, an evil animal, someone buried alive, and a man who becomes more and more obsessed by the horror right inside his house. What more could you want?SCOTT SNYDER (creator and co-author, American Vampire)
2010 has been a good year for the undead. Zombies, vampires, chatty ghosts… For a horror fan like me, that meant a full and healthy nightstand. And while I’ve read a ton of good scary stories this year, my favorite has to be The Passage by Justin Cronin.
Without giving too much away, the book is an epic, post-apocalyptic vampire tale – a story that offers up some of the spookiest scenes I’ve come across in a long time. Human test subjects transformed into glowing chattering bat-creatures. A devastated, depopulated America. The writing itself is elegant and vivid, psychologically probing, bringing every character to life on the page. But most impressive about The Passage is the way Cronin completely re-imagines vampirism and vampires. He ties their presence to ancient history, to folklore and modern science – forcing you to believe in them for new, exciting reasons, all the while still staying true to what vampires are about.
For me, the book is a testament to how certain creatures, like vampires, are truly timeless, literally and figuratively. Because yes, vampires creep in and out of popularity, but what makes them – and creatures like them – so timeless, at least in my opinion, is their primal frightening nature. They are your friends and neighbors come back from the dead – the people you know, come back from the grave to kill you or turn you into one of them. Sometimes they’re charming, sometimes they’re pretty (too pretty). But at the end of the day, it’s what makes them scary that makes them enduring, too. And books like The Passage understand this frighteningly well.
Well, oddly enough I was a big scardey cat crybaby when I was a kid and very, very sheltered so MOST spooky stuff scared me! I mean, when my fifth grade class went to a Haunted House put on at the Park District, my fifth grade teacher had to CARRY my crying costumed-self out the emergency exit, which was pointed out to him by a bevy of the monsters inside the attraction. I was only used to the old black-and-white movie monsters (Creature from the Black Lagoon was my favorite to watch from under the safety of a blanket) so I wad very unprepared for the chainsaw-toting, Hockey mask-wearing and Night of the Living Dead types that wandered up and down the line scaring you BEFORE you went in!
What’s scary to me now? Well, unexplained knocking or sounds when you are alone in the house… paranormal stuff, of course. And while I love going to a Haunted House, I prefer the ghosty, zombie graveyards and the foggy werewolf forests or the vampire crypts with their awesome set design and special effects to the shrill screaming and blaring death metal aural assault that you find in the gore laden, body part strewn haunted attractions that you plunk down your 15 bucks to go through nowadays. I like the mood and suspense that let’s your brain start scaring you before the actual assault. I heartily recommend everyone go visit The Beast in Kansas City! It is rather awesome- fun and scary and several floors of fright! I wish I was there right now! Booo!
I read a lot of ghost stories and unexplained phenomena books as a kid. One tale I ran across more than once was about a ghostly huntsman and his spectral black dogs. Most of those stories took place off the moors of far off England, but they spooked me. I lived in a heavily wooded area of Wisconsin, at a cul-de-sac, and, unbeknownst to me at the time, people would drive out and drop off unwanted dogs there. Those dogs would meet up with runaways and other wild dogs and we ended up having a sizable wild pooch pack running around near my house. But to a 10-year-old kid reading those spectral dog stories, those baying hounds off in the distance at night sounded an awful lot like hell hounds led by an undead hunter.
I told my little brothers the story — to help spread the terror around, of course. We spent an entire summer perched at the window each night, hoping we’d catch a glimpse of the Huntsman and his black dogs, equally hoping we’d never see them. Occasionally we’d see a shadowy canine cross our yard, or hear the screaming of a deer or rabbit they’d chased down and miss out on a night of sleep. We never did see the Huntsman.
The Time the Church Ghosts Tried to Kill Me
When I was a child, I was convinced that the church was haunted. Even then, I could see the logical inconsistency: how could a church be filled with ghosts? A Dracula couldn’t step foot on consecrated ground, how could something so much lower on the Hierarchical Ladder of Monsters (Draculasï Frankensteinsï Wolf-Mansï Freddy Kruegersï Teen Wolvesï Ghosts) not be automatically incinerated by the Holy Ghost Power (the Holy Ghost obviously having been granted special dispensation by the church)?
Regardless, I imagine any sufficiently large building absent of warm bodies, in a child’s imagination, becomes full of dead ones. An empty Toys ‘R Us might as well be the Amityville Horror house if it’s quiet and all the lights are off. And so, once apart from the protective presence of my family, I became convinced nameless, faceless revenants lurked not only the church’s interiors, but its whole grounds.
I was frequently able to ward off fears of these spirits by being frequently armed with the officially licensed Ghostbusters 2 noisemaking keychain I got from Hardee’s. A fully functional spectral dematerializer and much more compact than a proton pack, this little beauty offered me protection from the dead in a variety of wavelengths, including triggers for rays sounding like a car alarm or a bomb whistling through the sky and then detonating. It was all very technical.
I never felt confronted enough by a ghost to ever have to fire this weapon outside of target practice, but I was prepared to flash my grips at any noise or shadow that seemed out of sorts. If I felt threatened by an encroachment of preternatural dread and was not packing my keychain, I found singing popular praise music song, “Our God is an Awesome God” while doing the accompanying interpretive dance motions would frighten off any ghosts unsure about how awesome God (or I) was.
Perhaps the scariest place was the area termed “the old sanctuary.” It was a smaller room off to the side of the main sanctuary that was seldom used. I couldn’t shake the feeling that when the new sanctuary was opened, whoever was left in the old one-who, in my mind, were all just ridiculously old people–was just locked in and left to fend for themselves. That’s where was the ghosts in it came from, obviously.
Outside the church was no better. The parking lot was encircled with trees, and just past the tree line was a sinkhole or something that I was led to believe was full of hobos. The roar of the fans from the air conditioning units I was convinced had nothing to do with internal temperatures in the building, but rather exploded to life if I was ever misbehaving.
The worst, however, was a small building out behind the church that sat just past the chain-link fence that surrounded the playground. To this day, I have no idea what this building was for, but it was probably storage of some kind. It seemed like the kind of place where you would hide something you were ashamed off, like a malformed child, or an ape-related Frankenstein experiment gone horribly wrong. It had a single, large window that was oddly textured so that light could pass through, but you couldn’t see what was on the other side-obviously a sign of hiding something sinister. It just felt like the kind of place that would be a lightning rod for the macabre. Looking at it gave me the same uneasy feeling as the slow motion footage of the sun setting through the trees in the closing credits from Tales from the Darkside.
And so it almost wasn’t surprising the day I was out on the monkey bars by myself when I, reluctantly, looked over at that building and saw in the swirling miasma of that oddly-textured glass the raging face of some shambling simian monster, frothing at the mouth, his head covered in blinking diodes. My suspicions of scientific foul play confirmed, I jumped down from the playground equipment and ran as fast as my legs would carry me, each and every air conditioning unit firing to life as I ran past.
I made my way through the parking lot to the stairwell by the children’s Sunday school classes and began to run up the stairs. I stopped in my tracks when I heard disembodied voices cackling on the floor just above me. Turning on a dime, I ran back down the stairs only to find moving, humanoid shadows walking around the floor of the stairwell, through a closed door, and devoid of any actual human presence. Deciding to take the risk, I jumped down the stairs and bolted past the shadows and back into the parking lot, where I found my mom waiting by the car.
I jumped in the car, slammed the door and locked the door. No matter how passionately I explained the situation, my mom refused to believe I was being trailed by ghosts or a giant cyborg orangutan. As if to offer some kind of concrete proof to my skeptical mother, the completely locked door of our station wagon swung wide open as my mother made the turn out of the parking lot.
Foiling this assassination attempt by angry spirits, I was able to retain control of the car door and close it for good as my mother continued down the road. I don’t know if there was some kind of mystical totemic protection in the wax from all the crayons that had melted down in the door handle, or if ghosts simply can’t compete with the sturdy American manufacturing of Oldsmobile, but I can only imagine the malevolent forces throwing their hands in the air in frustration like Leatherface at the end of Texas Chainsaw Massacre as we sped down the road for some yeast rolls at Quincy’s.