Man sat on the floor hiding his face in a book as a shadow-like ghost creeps across the wall behind him.

Image courtesy of Getty Images.

The book that haunts me – seven experts on the scariest thing they’ve ever read

A truly scary story never really leaves you. It lurks in long evening shadows, calls out through mysterious bumps in the night and blows down your neck whenever you feel a sudden shiver.

This article was published by The Conversation.

With Halloween approaching, The Conversation asked six academic experts to talk about the scariest book they’ve ever read. From haunted houses to murderous beasts and villainous vampires, these are the spooky reads that have stayed with them long after they turned the final page...

A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts, by Carey Miller (1974)

Lady Macbeth says it’s “The eye of childhood / That fears a painted devil.” She’s right. I bought A Dictionary of Monsters and Mysterious Beasts at a school book fair when I was seven. I was intrigued by the glowering goblin on the cover (who looked like my science teacher) and the jacket’s promise of creatures “fair and foul, fascinating and frightening” (another Macbeth allusion, not that I knew it).

I relished the weirdness of amphisbaenas (two-headed ant-eating reptiles), basilisks (which hatched from cockerels’ eggs and had petrifying breath) and manticores (which somehow combined a man’s face, a lion’s body and a scorpion’s tail). But nothing prepared me for page 172. Mary French’s drawing of a werewolf gave me nightmares.

But I kept looking at it until I moved gradually to stronger fare: anthologies of classic gothic tales edited by Peter Haining and, as adolescence arrived, the thrillingly visceral horrors of James Herbert and Guy N. Smith. Miller’s book was undeniably a landmark in the development of my literary interests. I never go anywhere without silver bullets.

Review by Dr Nick Freeman, a Reader in late-Victorian literature at Loughborough University.

Article continues on The Conversation website. 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/161

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2023 QS World University Rankings – the seventh year running – and University of the Year for Sport by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2022.

Loughborough is ranked 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2023, 10th in the Guardian University League Table 2023 and 11th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’, and in the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 over 90% of its research was rated as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally-excellent’. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.