1) The Tell Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe – scared me half to death the first-time I read it as a teenager, with that amazing first line:
TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad?
2) This is the one I mentioned to Christine: Don’t Look Behind You by Fredric Brown, which I read in a Hitchcock collection many years ago. It is TERRIFYING because it manages to convince you, the reader, that you are going to die. It is incredibly creepy, and leaves you looking over your shoulder. I really wouldn’t have wanted to read it if I’d been alone in the house. Brown was more famous for his sci-fi, but was obviously a talented writer in all directions…
3) Darkness over Pemberley by TH White featured on the blog this week, and certainly had a pretty good concept involving a villain locked in the house with the good guys, and apparently able to make murderous and very creepy ventures into locked rooms. (I found it completely preposterous, but you have to give it some credit.)
4) Susan Hill, The Woman in Black. I’m not a huge fan of Hill, but this book (and the play based on it) really work.
5) Charles Dickens The Mystery of Edwin Drood – left unfinished on his death, and not that mysterious, but still the spooky atmosphere of a Cathedral town is very well done, and the two men going out for a walk, from which only one will return, is wonderfully tense.
6) The Aspern Papers by Henry James The climax of this novella has the grasping literature student creeping around a palazzo in Venice in the middle of the night, searching for elusive documents. He gets a surprise, and so does the reader…
7) … and similarly The Queen of Spades by Alexander Pushkin is another tale of an unscrupulous young man trying to make his fortune, and getting himself and the reader a bad fright in the process.
8) Dracula by Bram Stoker – quite the chiller, and dealt with nicely by a Guest Blogger here.
9) MR James short stories, particularly Whistle and I’ll Come to you My Lad & The Mezzotint. They give you that uneasy feeling.
10) The Girl in a Swing by Richard Adams. The book is close to forgotten now – the author known mainly for Watership Down. It’s a strange book, always going off on tangents, and it’s not at all clear what is going on. But the ending is genuinely terrifying, and the sight of a green toy turtle would give any reader palpitations…
11) Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier – story and film both traumatizing, and (like green turtles above) some of us can’t ever see a red raincoat and feel calm. The story of a bereaved couple trying to mend their relationship on a trip to Venice is perfect in its way. And as the blog post was titled: Red Coat. Don't Go There. And Don't Look Now.
My list ran to 11, and I'm sure I'll think of more in the next few years. I'd love to know which books and stories readers would add to the list.