Nothing makes a scary book even scarier than when it is accompanied by frightening images. Here is a selection of some of the most terrifying illustrated story books that are guaranteed to creep you out:
Scary Stories To Tell in the Dark, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell
This has to be one of the most terrifying books ever, even for adults. In fact, this book is part of a series of three children’s books. Based on urban legends and popular folklore, the stories are depicted through vivid images in black and white ink, each more grotesque than the first.
It is Stephen Gammell’s disturbing illustrations which have given the books their notorious reputation, to the point where they are classed among the most frequently challenged books between 1990 and 2009. A 30th anniversary edition was published with illustrations by Brett Helquist, attracting a great deal of criticism due to the fact that the pictures were not as terrifying as those by Stephen Gammell.
Where the Wild Things Are, Maurice Sendak
This book, first published in 1963, is not an obvious one to be included in the list. It is a much-loved classic that has been adapted several times over the years.
There is no denying that Maurice Sendak’s illustrations are downright troubling. Read it to any child and you can almost guarantee to detect fear in his eyes as he takes in the detailed images of Max’s adventures with the ‘Wild Things’.
This book is about more than inspiring terror though and in fact it teaches both children and adults about emotions such as anger, fear, danger, boredom and frustration. Overall, it is Sendak’s depiction of the themes as frightening creatures that makes the book all the more memorable.
Death and Burial of Poor Cock Robin, Henry Louis Stephens
After reading this 1863 portrayal of the English nursery rhyme, Who Killed Cock Robin?, you will never think of your favourite animals in the same way again. Spiders and bulls dressed in 18th-Century clothing tower over other members of the animal society, each proclaiming its role in the death of ‘poor Cock Robin’.
Later versions of the book include a rhyme in which the sparrow who murdered Cock Robin is hanged, adding to the scariness of the story. This book deserves a place among the most terrifying illustrations as it is almost guaranteed to give you nightmares of anthropomorphic murdering animals. Very much recommended.
The Wolves in the Walls, Neil Gaiman
Inspired by a nightmare the author’s 4-year-old daughter once had, this book tells the story of Lucy, who hears wolves in the walls of her house. The idea of wolves invading your house is scary enough, but the pictures in this book reach a whole new level of creepiness.
The characters’ sinister faces will haunt you for a long time to come, as they jump out from the pages of this magnificent book with a mixture of terror and overwhelming sadness. Look out next time you hear a noise coming from the cracks in your bedroom and beware it could be an animal trying to take over your home.
Half-Minute Horrors: A Collection of Instant Frights, Susan Rich
Edited by Susan Rich Packed with some of the world’s best-known authors, this book features stories guaranteed to give you a fright in less than 30 seconds. Each one is beautifully illustrated as if to put the point across even more strongly: this story will scare you.
In fact, the cover alone is enough to give you the heebie-jeebies: a dark cinema full of facess with even darker faces pouring out of their open, gormless mouths. Scared yet? This is the ideal book for Halloween, either for reading to a small group of kids at a party, or by torchlight under the covers.
The Island of the Skog, Steven Kellogg
Published in 1973, Steven Kellogg’s book begins as a classic tale of mice persecuted by cats and dogs. They escape to a tropical island called ‘Island of the Skog’ and it is here that the terror really begins.
It is the image of the Skog that makes the book an enormous creature full of claws that jumps out from the shadows and into your imagination. Expect to gasp and scream with fright as the Skog brings you into its terrifying world.
Zombies (Xtreme Monsters), S. L. Hamilton
Gore alert: this book is arguably more suitable for adults and teenagers than children. Part of a series, this ‘Zombies’ edition aims to prepare you for defending yourself against a zombie attack.
It covers the history of the monster and includes images from popular films such as Zombieland, Night of the Living Dead and Shaun of the Dead.
Possibly one for parental supervision. In any case, it is guaranteed to satisfy the minds of those who thrive on gruesomeness, young and old.
This post was contributed by Love Reading; an online book suppliers based in the UK.
Photo License: Creative Commons image source