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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:35   #1
amner
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Default "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

...because he knows a frightful fiend doth close behind him tread."

I've read my fair share of horror novels and ghost stories, thrillers and wotnot in the past (less now), but I've always found genuine chills hard to come by. I've always associated proper fear more with TV and Film, but books?

Can the written word really terrify? The most successful shiver I've had is the end of M.R. James's Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come to You, My Lad and also Dickens's The Signal-Man, plus the denouement of The Girl in a Swing.

But that's pretty much it. Anybody else been given the collywobbles by the printed word?
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:48   #2
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

Yes, the same MR James story, and the Incident of Cathedral History story by him too.

I remember vividly reading Ian McEwan's Black Dogs and getting to the page where the narrator is in the pitch-black cottage and sure he can sense someone in the room with him, and he is heading/fumbling for the light-switch...and the moment of discovery/clarity etc was obviously on the next page, in the very next sentence, and I was too frightened to turn the page and find out what happened. It was a feat of printing ingenuity that you needed to turn the page exactly at that point (or coincidence?)
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:51   #3
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

The appearance of Karin's daughter (on the beach, if you recall, Col), in The Girl in a Swing, is a similarly coincidental page-turning moment of horrific realisation.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:53   #4
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

Yes, it is, but I found the tortoise incident in the bedroom worse somehow.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:54   #5
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

I read Dracula when I was as cynical a 14 year old as you can get - and one with four elder brothers who thought it was the greatest sport to try and give their little sister nightmares. They used to tell me bedtime stories involving severed limbs, ghosts and small girls going to stay with their grannies and arriving to find a coffin in the front hall which a bloodstained Granny invited the little girl to share. So you could say I reckoned myself pretty immune to fear about stories of things that go bump in the night.

I was flipping terrified. I was at my grandmother's house (the coffin lady) and there was a climbing rose over my bedromm window. When ever the wind gusted the roses would scrape down the glass with a faint screech and the streetlight at the end of the garden would make steange patterns on the wall above my bed.

So I put on the light and finished the book.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:57   #6
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

Here's O Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad, for those curious enough...
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 12:57   #7
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

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Originally Posted by amner View Post
Anybody else been given the collywobbles by the printed word?
Your question reminds me of when my son started to read Black Swan Green and was frightened by the boy finding someone dead early on in the book. When asked why he stopped reading it he said "I don't like horror books". He did eventually read it after I reassured him that it wasn't.

I think reading real horror books as a teen did scare me, but I did read them (not a genre I would choose now).

It's an interesting question because I find the printed word more potent for other emotions, but a film is more likely to frighten. Horror frightens me less than things that are more realistic. I could probably watch Halloween again without flinching much but I can't even stand to hear the music at the end of Braveheart. My kids can watch that with no emotional impact whatsoever, yet I made the mistake of taking them to Secret Window and the elder of the two had nightmares.

Back to books, I am drawn to psychological imbalance in characters such as the boy in The Wasp Factory but I'm not sure I would want to see a film version.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 13:03   #8
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

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Horror frightens me less than things that are more realistic.
Hell is Other People, admittedly.

I suppose I shouldn't try and genre-ify the question: any book, then.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 13:08   #9
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

Some HP Lovecraft stories were very scary. Two spring to mind: Dreams in the Witch House with the grotesque witch's familiar Brown Jenkin. It was particularly scary when the Narrator wakes up in a different bed.
The Music of Erich Zann is another that terrified me.
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Old 14th Feb 2007, 13:16   #10
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Default Re: "Like one that on a lonesome road doth walk in fear and dread...

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I suppose I shouldn't try and genre-ify the question: any book, then.
That is what I thought you meant, it's my response that brought it down to a particular genre.

I find the supernatural more frightening in a book and the more realistic things more frightening in films.
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