Literature/Nightmare Fuel

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  • In The Wise Man's Fear, The Cthaeh is one of the more subtle examples of this. It seems like just a smooth and evil talker, even after it is explained what it is and does (see the "Omniscient" example below). The nightmare comes when Bast explains in greater depth and you truly acknowledge the depths of what it can accomplish. Everything happening right now in the story is happening because of what it said to Kvothe, and the more people he interacts with, the greater it's influence and potential for harm becomes (Chronicler does point out in-story that YMMV on this somewhat, but still).
  • Infinite Jest: in the first scene, the main character hears himself communicating completely calmly and rationally with those around him. Those around him hear him screaming in horrific pain, convulsing like he's absolutely lost his mind, to the point where they call an ambulance. And, Orin and the cockroaches.
  • Hells Children, by Andrew Boland, The cast of characters include a mutilated little girl who has had her arms and legs, and eyes amputated. Though not to worry, with her powerful telekinesis, she still quickly manages to get around. Unfortunately, that does not exactly help the creepy factor.
  • Les Chants de Maldoror, a French existentialist/surrealist work of prose poetry about a single madman and his hatred for everything but his own evil, can be rather disturbing [dead link] at times...
  • The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński is one of the most disturbing examples. A tragical story about a child's ordeal in the East European countryside, it's set during the Holocaust. During his dark journey from village to village, the boy is repeatedly shunned and brutalized by the Polish peasants. Several of his adoptive families beat him bloody, and one forces the eight-year-old boy to have sex with her. Among the most shocking scenes is when the peasants of one village brutally gang-rape the "village slut", who is later attacked by the wives of the rapists - they fill a glass bottle with feces, and kick it all the way up her vagina until it breaks.
    • Not to mention the ending, where the boy has been so broken by his ordeal that he is unable to adjust to normal city life. Being Tortured Makes You Evil is a part of it, and he becomes almost psychopathic. His idea of fun is to tamper with train tracks so the train falls off a cliffside, killing everyone on board.
  • Connie Willis has a short story called "All my Darling Daughters". The least horrifying thing, out of the many horrifying things about it, is probably the helpless small, ferret-y creatures, genetically engineered to let people simulate the experience of raping a small child (with an emphasis on the screaming). The male characters all have one, and call them things like "Daughter Ann".
    • That's far from the most disturbing thing Willis wrote. "A Letter from the Clearys" slowly builds up to the reveal that the characters are among the few survivors of an apocalyptic nuclear war. The protagonist in "The Sidon in the Mirror" either is compelled by unconscious urges to kill another character who has been blinded, or at the very least vividly feels her pain.. In fact, pretty much every story in "Fire Watch" is disturbing.
  • The Braille Encyclopedia by Grant Morrison. A blind woman is on vacation and meets a man who seduces her into a number of deviant practices that are implied to be too horrific for words. When she's finally corrupted to the point where she's taking in pleasure in only the most repugnant acts, the man tells her that she's finally ready to become a part of the Braille Encyclopedia. She agrees. Enthusiastically. The man takes her to a secret location for the initiation... which involves tattooing every inch of her skin in Braille dots that describe gruesome sexual acts. By the time this is over, she has been driven mad by the pain, to the point where she no longer remembers anything about herself, not even her own name. Then she is placed in a chair which manacles and shackles, and is systematically deprived of her ability to hear, smell or speak ever again. Then she is taken to a room filled with other blind-deaf-mute people who have undergone this procedure, and is left among them. The only way these people can communicate in any way is through touching the Braille dots on another person, so the room resembles a giant orgy. Oh, and we find out at the end that the man who seduced the woman was a demon--and he ENVIES the residents of "the kingdom of the senseless," because the horror of his existence is worse.
  • The Yellow House by Amberlynne O'Shea. Just remember folks: leave your body at the door.
  • One horrifying example is from Nick Reding's Methland, which is about (you guessed it) meth. He tell the story of Roland Jarvis, who had a methamphetamine lab inside his mother's house. One night, he hallucinates that he's seeing black helicopters hovering overhead and, in a panic, dumps chemicals down the drain. This results in a fiery explosion that destroys the house. The description of his skin not just burning, but MELTING off of his face and muscles, is awful. Worse, he was so tweaked out that he didn't notice until he saw clumps of his flesh falling off, and in a panic screamed and started clawing at himself. He couldn't though, because his vocal cords and nose was burned away and he had no fingers to claw himself with. He was in so much pain that he begged the police that arrived to shoot him. The book ends with Jarvis still alive and still addicted to meth, with Reding going into great detail about how he manages to shoot up meth with no fingers or nose. While an extreme example, pretty much everything about meth users described in the book is Nightmare Fuel. What makes this even more nightmarish is that it's all true.
  • Pat Barker's Regeneration, set in a mental hospital during World War I, is a nightmare to read. Aside from the grotesque physical symptoms displayed by the patients, the horrific experiences some patients relate to their Freudian psychoanalyst, and the torture other patients go through at the hands of their doctors, you get to sit back at the end and realize that even though the book is fictional, all of the worst parts are completely true.
  • Every single book by Irvine Welsh has this.
    • Trainspotting: Renton's heroin withdrawal. He hallucinates that his friend's bloated and dead baby daughter crawls on the ceiling.
      • The movie doesn't do the scene justice. Besides just crawling on the ceiling, the baby starts to take on demonic traits and insults Renton about how he's responsible for her death.
    • Filth: The scene when Costas is found: fingers and tongue cut off. Crucified with a nail gun. Eyes lying on piles of books before him, still connected by the optical nerves.
    • Marabou Stork Nightmares: Especially nightmarish are Roy's prolonged campaign of torture against the family dog (nine inch nails pounded through the jaw), and the gang rape scene.
    • Crime: Ray Lennox remembering being raped as a child.
  • The "Malus Darkblade" series of novels, set in the Warhammer Fantasy mythos, has the titular Dark Elf telling a human slave that the slave's fiance, the most beautiful slave girl on the ship, agreed to do whatever Malus asked if her man was set free instead of her (The dark elves have a custom of freeing one slave a trip). The slave is held in place, weeping, as Malus says how he had his fun with her, and then handed her over to his officers. Then they handed her to the crew, who was... "Rougher." Malus describes the blood, and the pain she went through... And then pulls out a small object. To this point, you're thinking 'rape', of course. Then you remember that these are Dark Elves, and what their favorite hobby is... and you realize this at just about the point where Malus unfolds the item, which is the girl's skinned and tanned face, and hands it to the slave. "Here, I saved her pretty face for you! Give her a kiss!"
  • The Beyond in Peter F. Hamilton's The Night's Dawn Trilogy. If you don't want to give up your mortal life, you spend an eternity in the Beyond, where 5 minutes feels like an eternity, all the other souls are screaming to get out, and when you do get out, the souls in the Beyond compel you to open up bodies for possession by souls from the Beyond.
  • Basically every story in the Bizarro genre; although it's intended to be weird and freaky, some of this stuff really messes you up. Highlights include a man biting his friend's nose off in the middle of a conversation, an actor who plays dead bodies having his lungs removed in order to be more convincing, a teenager tranquilizing himself and cutting open his belly to pull out his intestines, a neo-nazi selling drugs at a rave THAT CAUSE THE MAIN CHARACTER TO MELT(!), good old fashioned parasitic worms that eat the main character from the inside out, and perhaps most unsettling of all, a deaf kid who wakes up to find that his family, and likely the rest of the world, has been killed in a nuclear war, and doesn't realise it, ending up actually going to sleep outside in the 'snow'. All of this from one of the less freaky books in the genre, "Angel Dust Apocalypse".
  • One of the "A Walk on the Darkside" anthology novels had a story called "Parting Jane" by Mehitobel Wilson. In it, a little girl is slowly demolished and dissassembled so her sick sister can get replacement parts, because her parents only love the sick girl. Describing how it goes won't have a possibility of disclosure. * shudder* They took her EYE, man!
  • The Distant Finale of Dougal Dixon's Man After Man ends with the descendants of Humanity returning to Earth, which is populated by the various descendents of genetically modified humans. So what do they do? They annihilate the vast majority of Earth's ecosystem, with the remaining creatures engineered to fit their needs, including a gargantuan"meat creature" with no recognizable head or limbs. In the end, they destroy all surface life on Earth except for the descendents of the humans engineered to live in the ocean, which colonize the deepest parts of the ocean. It is implied that those deep-sea dwelling "humans" will eventually recolonize Earth's surface.
    • The author has a whole series of illustrated sci-fi. Man After Man is essentially an alternate history of the earlier After Man, which tracks the evolution of species after humanity basically wipes itself out. The New Dinosaurs is an alternate history in which humanity never existed in the first place. Very unsettling—if you don't agree with the author that Humans Are the Real Monsters...
      • Also there's Future Man. This contributor does not recall the author, but it did have Isaac Asimov as the guy responsible for the introduction. This predicted such delights as futuristic battery chickens with no heads or beaks, being little more than lumps of flesh hooked up to nutrient and waste-disposal lines; humans modified for life in space (microgravity and vacuum) without spacesuits (they looked much cooler than the ones in Man After Man, however...) as well as underwater human beings.
  • In this same "future humans" vein, All Tomorrows. The artist's unsettling (but very good) art doesn't help any...
  • There is a scene in Philip K. Dick's Eye in the Sky where a woman enters her kitchen but discovers that her cat has been turned inside out, making him into little more than a mass of pink flesh blindly creeping around the kitchen... which is still alive and conscious.
    • Sure, the cat scene is grotesque, but the fate of Floyd Jones in The World Jones Made is much, much worse. After he dies, he gets to spend one year in agony locked inside his decaying body. Which he ALREADY EXPERIENCED and is now getting a rerun of thanks to his strange, free-will-crushing version of precognition.
    • And the scene in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep where Isidore attempts to repair the artificial cat which isn't artificial!
    • The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch actually scared PK Dick himself. In the early 60s, Dick had a hallucination of a supreme evil God with a metal face (a vision inspired at least partly by childhood memories of his father's stories about World War One and his gas mask). The Three Stigmata was Dick's attempt to exorcise that vision. As he wrote in 1979:

Some reviewers found it a profound novel. I only find it frightening. I was unable to proofread the galleys because the novel frightened me so.

AM: HATE. LET ME TELL YOU HOW MUCH I'VE COME TO HATE YOU SINCE I BEGAN TO LIVE. THERE ARE 387.44 MILLION MILES OF PRINTED CIRCUITS IN WAFER THIN LAYERS THAT FILL MY COMPLEX. IF THE WORD HATE WAS ENGRAVED ON EACH NANOANGSTROM OF THOSE HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF MILES IT WOULD NOT EQUAL ONE ONE-BILLIONTH OF THE HATE I FEEL FOR HUMANS AT THIS MICRO-INSTANT FOR YOU. HATE. HATE.

    • In fact, just about everything Harlan Ellison has written. The Man Who Was Heavily Into Revenge, for starters. There's a special level of human fear to the concept that the entire universe hates you, and no one will help.
    • "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman takes place in a world where you could be killed for wasting your time. Yes, that's right, being late is eventually punishable by death. The really weird part is this comes from one of his optimistic stories.
    • "Pulling Hard Time" has them all beat. A normal guy sees his wife get raped and murdered (which is bad enough) and goes all I Spit on Your Grave on them. He's then convicted of murder and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in a Matrix style tank, reliving the worst memory of his life over and over. In this guy's case, it means being an 8 year old, pinned in a car crash, watching his mother's body rot.It may be the most truly horrific thing I've ever read.
  • Orson Scott Card used to be real good at this. His collection Maps in a Mirror opens with "Eumenides in the Fourth Floor Lavatory"" and doesn't stop there..
    • Ender's Game is full of this. His sessions in the mind game are horrific. First he kills the giant by clawing it's eye out and digging into its brain. Then there are the werewolf children that brutally murder Ender's avatar until he kills them. And then the end of the the world.... *shudder*.
  • Any psychology textbook discussion of lobotomies.
    • Or just about any article on Walter Freeman and his demonstrations thereof.
  • The entirety of 1984, vicious propaganda, endless war and all, culminating in Winston's hideous Mind Rape at the hands of the Ministry of Love, with the last few lines deserving to be in its own category of terror.
  • "The Mysterious Stranger" by Mark Twain. Some morbid figure (Death?) talking cheerful with kids is extremely terrifying, not to mantion the horrible things he shows.
  • Several Stories by Clive Barker. For example:
    • Mister B. Gone felt like a pretty tame rush-job to some. However, the early scene where the protagonist thrusts a girl's face down into a boiling cauldron - full of the harvested bones of his people, no less - and holds her there until her face meat is boiled and falls away from the skull - in front of her father - was horrific.
    • The Abarat series. From the first book, we have...
    • The John brothers. One man... and six tiny heads growing out of the horns on his head. The book is illustrated, so even if you don't want to picture it, you see it. Hello, Body Horror!
    • On that note, Shape -- The Dragon. A one-legged man who walks just fine on the stump of his missing foot... and has swords embedded in the flesh of his back, which he can pull out and put back in as well. Yeesh!
    • The Stitchlings, zombie-like minions filled with mud—and occasionally random internal organs—stitched together from random bits of old rotting flesh, by an insane old woman who never sleeps, and who once sewed her grandson's lips together for daring to say the word "love."
    • The brothers on the Time Out of Time, who have no faces—just random facial features on crablike legs, that crawl around their otherwise blank faces.
    • And of course, there's the Big Bad himself, whose face is surrounded by a vat of liquid in which electrical, pulsing nightmares swim. They come from tubes embedded in his skull.
    • Then you get to the second book, and you add to this...
      • Leeman Vol, one of the Big Bad's henchmen that lost his nose to a spider and wears a crude leather nose in place, and is able to speak to insects because of his three pointy-teethed mouths. Again, it features a picture of his insect infested head.
        • The fact that Vol has an insect-infected head. He has so many lice and ants and things living on him that when Shape hits him, some bugs actually fall off.
      • The Sacbrood, a voracious, highly adaptable and eternally reproducing kind of insect that inhabits the pyramids of Xuxux. The picture may not be very definite, but then again, depending on the strenght your imagination, the scene where they kill Mendelson Shape may be scarier...
      • Carrion's nightmares are pictured even more terrifying, including a scene right in the first chapter when they suck the fear out of a rather innocent man.
      • Then there's the picture of Christopher right before he dies. A freakin' skull, screaming out of a dark abyss! This troper always skips that page.
  • Blood Music by Greg Bear.
  • Hyperion and its sequel, by Dan Simmons.
    • One word. The Shrike
    • Hyperion isn't all bad, though the little Bikura people (who'd been stunted by the prototype cruciforms) were quite frightening, especially before you knew what was going on.
    • What they did to Father Dur é was pretty bad, though.
      • Duré sharpened his arrestor rods and crucified himself, somehow missing the important blood vessels on his left arm. Normally, that should kill him, but he impaled himself on a Tesla Tree on the planet Hyperion. These trees release electricity, and since he impaled his arms and feet using metal rods with the Cruciform, they kept bringing him back to life.
      • His clothing, skin, flesh were long-destroyed after 7 years on the tree, but the electricity and the parasitic Cruciform kept him alive, constantly in excruciating pain. When his friend saw him and picked up his bestos bag and dropped the cruciform accidentally, it killed Father Duré. Just before dying, Duré smiled. This caused Hoyt to become so mentally and emotionally scarred that normal painkillers stopped working. He had to use Ultramorphine. He got better, becoming the pope for 200+ years.
    • Aenea's death scene. Go read The Rise of Endymion. Among other things, her fingernails are plucked out and one of her finger is bitten off by a clone of Nemes. She's half-blind, broken and nearly dead. She almost has her eyelids and nose chewed off by Nemes, and almost had her eyelids and lips sewn shut. Her feet are burned by a flame through a grate on the floor. She dies in the end, consumed literally by the fire.
    • And the best thing is, anybody on a planet with someone who got communion from Aenea witnessed and felt what she went through. The same thing that almost drove our narrator insane.
  • Many works by Neil Gaiman
    • The short story "The Problem of Susan" is an interesting read, discussing the importance of children's stories and the rather cruel treatment of Susan in the Narnia books. Then, at the end of the story, we are treated to a Squickily allegorical dream sequence involving someone getting eaten by a lion, but still living, thus having to watch their siblings get eaten before their very eyes. And then there's bestiality. Seriously.
    • Coraline, a longer Neil Gaiman's story, also features much scary things, including the Other Mother trying to sew buttons upon the heroine's eyes. And she already did this to three other children in the backstory.
      • The there is the fact that the other children were trapped there until their death - and even beyond it!. The only thing Coraline can do for them is release them into proper afterlife...
    • Messrs Croup & Vandemar. That is all.
    • "Babycakes", by Neil Gaiman; a little piece written for PETA that's about exactly what the title says.
    • How about American Gods. Let's see, there's the bit at the end of the first chapter where a prostitute literally devours a john with her vagina; the dream sequence detailing the life of a boy raised specifically to be sacrificed; the perverse descriptions of the new gods (who are all based on seemingly innocent aspects of modern life); a description of the utterly horrible and terrifying life of a slave in the Caribbean; oh, and there's Laura's first hand account of what it's like to be one of the walking dead.
    • Interworld contains another bit of disturbing imagery. One evil empire wants to boil down the protagonist's body until only his soul's left to power their spaceships; the other wants to drain out his energy over the same period while keeping him in cold storage. In my opinion, each method is a worse way to die than the other.
    • "Feeders and Eaters" from his short story collection "Fragile Things." It's based on a nightmare he had when he was twenty, he says in the introduction, an that ought to give you a hint that nothing good will come of it. Involves a half-eaten live cat and an air of overwhelming ickiness.
    • For anyone living in Portsmouth, where Gaiman grew up, "Queen of Knives" is fairly nightmare-inducing in its familiarity.
    • Just a word to the wise: do not read The Hidden Chamber late at night. Trust me on this one.
  • If House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski doesn't at least make you shiver at some point, you are not human. Particularly in the sections where Johnny starts analyzing The Navidson Record a bit too deeply and begins to believe he's being stalked by a monster "so quiet...you can only hear it as silence" and whose presence is completely undetectable until it rips your throat out. He then implies that anyone else who reads the book will encounter it as well. It manages to turn the image of a simple house into something truly terrifying. And then there's the infinite physically-impossible labyrinth inhabited by nothing but a disembodied growl.
    • I got the shivers just from that brief description.
      • Trust me, reading it is so much worse [and I mean that in a good(-ish?) way].
    • For some reason the the black square was one of the scariest things about the book. That and " Picture that. In your dreams.", because it seemed like Zampano was speaking directly to the reader. Chilling stuff.
  • Most of Heart of Darkness. Especially the scenes of the labour camps, when Marlow starts comparing the Belgian overseers to demons. And the severed heads on pikes outside of Kurtz' station.
    • No, the most horrifying part is when you then read the history of the Congo Free State and realize that it was actually even worse than Conrad described.
  • Richard Preston, best known for his non-fictional accounts of diseases like ebola, wrote a novel about a fictional bioterrorism threat called The Cobra Event. The disease in the story is spread like smallpox, but results in a rare neurological condition where the victims are compelled to eat their own flesh. One of the worst cases involves a pathologist who becomes infected while performing an autopsy on one of the victims, and later ends up slicing open his forehead, peeling his face down, and gnawing on it while it's still partly attached to his skull.
    • The virus starts out identical to a common cold. Besides that, the virus is genetically engineered from many other viruses, including Ebola and smallpox. People in real life can do the same kind of thing. Sweet dreams.
  • There's a short story called "A Birthday" by Esther M. Friesner in which everyone is specially nice to the sweet, peppy protagonist, and lets her leave work early, because it's her little girl's fifth birthday. It becomes clear that her child is an AI simulation, whom she can only see through computer terminals she's logged into, ATM machines and the like. Why? Because the protagonist never gave birth, but had an abortion as an accidentally-pregnant teenager. This is government policy: all women who have abortions have to see their simulated baby through every networked computer, and watch it growing up, and become attached to it. And then, on the child's fifth birthday, the simulation is terminated forever. The government wanted to make sure the women "went on being sorry for a long time". The protagonist says a last goodbye and commits suicide.
  • The short sci-fi story Diamond Dogs by Alastair Reynolds features a mysterious 'Only Smart People May Pass' tower on an otherwise-deserted alien planet. The maths puzzles inside get progressively harder as the investigators move further and further up... and the penalties for wrong answers get progressively more horrible. In the end, it turns out that the strange rocks the protaganist found on the plain around the tower were actually the shredded remains of his friend, who was diced by the tower and ejected like confetti. Repeatedly. And that's one of the lesser punishments. It takes on a whole other level near the end, as it is strongly implied that there is nothing at the top of the tower anyway, making the protaganist's light-years voyage, irreversible cybernetic modification, and death of the rest of his party utterly pointless.
    • Not to mention the fact that it is heavily implied that the tower is really an activation mechanism for the Inhibitors, who do exactly what it says on the tin: try to inhibit intelligent life, usually by annihilating it.
    • Multiple short stories from Reynolds' Galactic North anthology fit the 'Nightmare Fuel bill. In the Nightingale story, the protagonists set out on an exploration mission of a supposedly abandoned medical spacecraft that ends up being a Living Ship. In the end the team is surgically fused by the ship into a single Body Horror being to send message about the horrors of war.
    • Grafenwalder's Bestiary deserves a special mention too.
  • Large chunks of The King in Yellow, including Mr. Wilde and his homicidal cat, the ambiguous fate of Hawberk and his daughter, the hideous night watchman and what he does to Jack and Tessie, and, of course, the unanswered question of just what the titular Fictional Document is about.
  • Stanislaw Lem's "The Futurological Congress" has many such moments, but the second half or so takes the cake, growing scarier and scarier as it gets to the ending. Basically, the utopian future in which most of the story was set is shown to be a hallucinogen-powered Lotus Eater Machine designed to hide the bleak, dystopian reality from the masses, so as to avoid a panic and desperate fighting over the scarce resources. The members of the scientist council behind this have access to a counter-drug of sorts, that allows them to see beyond this veil. Then it gets worse - they develop a stronger version of this counter-drug, and the protagonist sees to his horror that there is another layer and things are even worse than they seemed at first. He runs out into the streets in a panic and inhales more of the counter-drug, only to see the world around him devolve into more and more horrible dystopian scenarios. By the end of it, the human race has devolved into malnourished, mutated, hairy, tailed freaks, while all civilisation has practically ceased to exist and an ice age is coming to finish it all off. An obvious implication is that this might not be the last layer either... The ending is sort of optimistic, as it all turned out to be a hallucination induced by the early versions of those advanced hallucinogens and the protagonist wakes up back in the present, but that scarcely dulls the sheer horror.
    • Also his novel The Investigation, with its almost believable version of walking corpses, and first four stories from Memoirs of a Space Traveller (especially when one considers what each of them imply) also qualify here.
  • Angela Carter.
    • Nights at the Circus: the main character is led through a hallway filled with jeweled eggs, each of which contain the life of a woman murdered by the person leading her, while an ice sculpture of her melts into a spread of caviar and an animatronic orchestra plays really creepy music. Three chapters later, a group of tigers are fused with mirrors to form sentient shards of glass with orange stripes that are hot to the touch. .
      • Earlier in the book, there is a long scene involving being raped inside a Megalithic tomb, a woman with eyes on her chest, a girl whose face is permanently covered in cobwebs, a seemingly normal (but not particularly nice) character who turns out to be a gigantic, demon-possessed doll, a man who delivers a three-page rant about obscure rites and cults before trying to sacrifice the main character to the Earth Goddess while children play in his front yard, and a comatose woman over whom another character (who is winged) hunches holding a sword for a very long time. Remember, this is in a single chapter. (And this is probably her least creepy book.
      • Have all of you people blocked out the CLOWNS? Next to Buffo's Last Supper, all the rest is just scenery.
  • There is an illustrated book called "The Watertower" by Gary Crew. Two boys go up to a watertower for a swim, but Boy A forgets a towel and goes back to get it. While he is gone, Boy B is, is stalked and attacked by... SOMETHING. Well, that doesn't seem very scary: but looking through the book at all the subtle details in the pictures - the strange shadows in the corners of the pages, the creepy grins on the townspeoples' faces, the symbols seemingly burnt onto their hands - builds up a wonderfully nightmarish paranoia, and in the last page, we see that Boy B's pupils have turned into the symbol painted onto the watertower. The fact that you never see the "monster" and the book abruptly ends is not good for people with, well, imaginations.
    • Strange Objects, also by Gary Crew. Especially scary is the final chapter of Wouter Loos' journal, in which the delirious Wouter not only gives a particularly ghoulish account of Jan Pelgrom's supernatural crimes, but also describes the deterioration of his own body:

I rest my head on the earth and place a mirror between my face and the sea. This is not myself. This is another's face. Flies hover at the gaping mouth. Open sores thicken the lips. Vile matter seeps from the hollow eyes. This is a stranger's face. Should I touch it, flesh falls.

    • Another Gary Crew book, illustrated by a beginning Shaun Tan: The Viewer. A curious young boy finds, in a garbage dump, an old-fashioned viewfinder with discs of images; you hold it up to the light and look through the eye-slot, and spin the disc to the next image by pulling a lever. He tries out each of the three discs one by one and finds them beautiful and realistic representations of human history, complete with sounds! The next day he tries it again and find the discs have changed to represent further periods of history. He tries a third time and the very last disc, the one after the present day, contains nothing but images of hazard suits, fire, radiation symbols, burnt ruins, and is utterly, dead silent. Desperate to see more, the boy finds himself pulled into the viewfinder (the text of the book at this point begins spiralling into the centre of the page) but not struggling against it...as long as he can see a little more...a little more...his mother finds the viewfinder on the floor of his bedroom the next morning, but no sign of the boy. Like The Watertower, the illustrations are full of subtle details that get creepier and creepier with every reread.
  • "The Screwfly Solution" - Men find it scarier than women apparently.
    • To expand it's a story about how men are being driven by an unknown rage to kill women. Eventually this goes global. Then boys and the old and so on. There's a scene where a woman's breast was used as a hunting trophy...
      • The most ghastly part was when a researcher realized he'd caught whatever it is, so he quarantined himself from his wife and just-entered-her-teens daughter. But he'd been out of the country for a year, and the girl noted in her diary that she didn't understand why he was staying away, and she was going to go see her daddy...
        • The really disturbing aspect of that bit for me was that the violence was supposed to be a result of men's sexual urges being twisted -- i.e. whoever the men would normally want to have sex with, they now wanted to kill instead. Think for a minute about what that implies about the guy killing his daughter. Ick.
  • Koji Suzuki's Spiral, sequel to his more famous Ring (where watching a cursed videotape will kill the viewer in a week.) Beginning with Ando's autopsy of Ryuji (one of the two protagonists in Ring) we're shown how Sadako really kills her victims, including impregnating poor, innocent bystander Mai and discarding her torn corpse after a days-long gestation. If that wasn't bad enough, by the end it's revealed that Asakawa's Ring report has actually helped Sadako spread her curse through all forms of media, and, eventually, all of mankind will be replaced with clones of Sadako, capable of infinitely reproducing themselves.
  • William Faulkner's A Rose For Emily. Seems alright until you get to the ending, and then think about it for a moment and see if you don't shudder.
    • If you don't want to be bothered to read the story, it revolves around an elderly recluse, Emily, and the story opens at her funeral. In the non-linear storytelling, it's revealed that after the death of her controlling father Emily has shut herself out from the rest of the town and eventually begins a romance with a Northern foreman named Homer, who later disappears after it seems like he and Emily have broken up. After her funeral some of the townspeople go into Emily's house and open up a room. It turns out that Emily had poisoned Homer with arsenic and sealed his body in an upstairs room. She slept with his decomposing body every night. How do the townspeople know this? Inside, they found the corpse of Homer Barron, rotting in the bed. On the dust of the pillow next to Homer they found an indentation of a head, and there, in the indentation, a long, gray hair- Emily's.

This was the actual picture.

  • Several of Larry Niven's Known Space series involves organ banks... where criminals are taken apart and put in storage to be used as transplants. As a result, since everyone wants to live forever, more and more trivial things end up being voted the death penalty... like speeding. For people who want things like a young heart, instead of a good-enough-but-older one, or a new liver after destroying yours through drinking, people go to organleggers... criminals that kidnap people and hack them up to order.
    • And if that wasn't bad enough, in comes Body Horror; in one story, two kids with rich parents are kidnapped for ransom... one of them is returned insane, as they hooked her brain into a induction device and stimulated her pleasure center long enough to make her all-but catatonic; the other one is just acting a little oddly... forgetful, missing some skills. It turns out that the diseased and dying organlegger had hulled out the boy and replaced his brain and spinal cord with his own.
    • In "The Patchwork Girl", a woman described as attractive is wrongly arrested and put in jail...and since the case looks open and shut, and new parts are always needed... they take her apart. Oops, it turns out she's innocent, so they put her back together with other parts. She's described as looking 'blurred' later, instead of as attractive as she once was....
  • This gem from Kara no Kyoukai: (also Dissonant Serenity):

She bends down and touches the blood flowing on the ground; streaks it across her lips. The blood drips down and her body trembles in ecstasy. The first lipstick Shiki has ever worn.

  • Girlfriend in a Coma, by Douglas Coupland. The title character falls into a coma in her teens. 17 years later, she comes out of it, just in time for everyone in the world, with seven exceptions, to simply fall asleep and never wake up.
  • Blade of Tyshalle by Matthew Woodring Stover has a number of creepy images for a science fiction fantasy adventure, including a nasty disease that resembles rabies on steroids, the God of Dust and Ashes, and the scene where the avatars of said god Mind Rape the protagonist's daughter. The winner, however, would be the scene where the bad guys summon a demon who takes out a mortally wounded and expendable underling. The demon feeds off of terror and despair, and to keep that disemboweled sap alive, reaches into his rib cage and manually pumps the heart to keep his blood flowing. That's frigging Nightmare Rocket Fuel, and we have liftoff Houston.
  • Joel Shepherd's first Cassandra Kresnov novel, "Crossover", has a main character who is essentially a More Human Than Human android in a world where most androids are a little less sentient, a little more programmed. Before being rescued by the good guys, she is captured by bootleggers, has her skin peeled off, her limbs removed, and they've just started (electronically) hacking her mind apart when the police arrive.
  • To Build a Fire by Jack London. It's subtle, but the idea of dying alone from the cold and having your dog abandon you is pretty freaky.
  • The Jungle. President Roosevelt actually read the book and sent two guys to check up on meatpacking factories to see how much of the book was accurate. Save for the "human lard" scene, he was told that pretty much the entire thing was accurate. You can resume vomiting now.
  • A Living Soul by P. C. Jersild. "Ypsilon", the story's protagonist, is the disembodied brain of a former athlete (obtained as per his "informed consent", which is heavily implied to be falsified while he was completely paralyzed and thus unable to protest) in a tank of cerebral fluid. He also retains one of his eyes and, for some unimaginable reason, his ears. The researchers in posession of the brain visit all manners of horrors on the helpless protagonist, including "accidentally" releasing some laboratory rats that get into his tank, flooding the tank with pheromones (that cause the brain an insatiable urge to "copulate" with any nearby object using its brain stem) and showing the brain a video of itself quivering from electroshock treatment administered to remove unwanted memories. Towards the end of the book, a second similiarly treated brain is introduced. It is revealed that all of the horrors visited upon Ypsilon were to polarize his brain into an emotional half and a logical half. The researchers then bisect both Ypsilon and the other brain (that was similiarly polarized but had the logical and emotional parts on different sides) and join the logical halves to create an organic computer. (It is then used to "imprint" itself on the brains of vat-grown fetuses to produce more of these computers.) In a further revelation, the scientists tell the logical brain that the "useless" emotional sides were stitched together as well and sent to a university to be used in research on trauma and neuroses. To add further insult to injury, the "brain computer" is quickly rendered obsolete as a cheap means of mass producing neurons on cellulose "cakes" is discovered, leading to the entire project being abandoned and the logical brain sent off to be preserved as a (mercifully dead) museum exhibit. Oh, and did I mention Jersild is a doctor?
  • Though it began as an internet novel, John Dies at the End has been published since, and so probably counts here. It's all fairly trivial horror monster stuff until the end of the first plot arc, when you learn that some of the unreliable narrator's unreliability is (in his mind anyway) due to the fact that one of the main characters was actually erased from existence at the climax. The only evidence that he ever did exist are memories dredged up during the narrator's Soy Sauce flashback hallucinations.
    • The demonic version of Ronald McDonald that Dave sees is being forced to eat his own guts. And it's described in quite a bit of detail.
  • The Other Side of Tomorrow: Original Science Fiction Stories About Young People of the Future, 1973. Dystopia for kids. Ethnic cleansing, totalitarian brainwashing, and the paranoid gem, "A Bowl of Biskies Makes a Growing Boy," about a boy who discovers a chemical that's in all the food.
  • The science-fiction story "That Only a Mother," by Judith Merrill: primarily written in the form of letters from a new mother to her husband, whose job requires him to be away at the time of the birth. It also occasionally results in exposure to radiation...
    • The results of the radiation were scary-- a baby described as having "a limbless, wormlike body" is extremely bad—but the truly appalling part was the fact that the titular mother saw her daughter as perfectly normal. Faced with her child's radiation-spawned disfigurement, she went insane.
  • James Blish wrote a short novel called "Black Easter", where a black magician releases all the demons of hell onto the Earth for a day mostly to see what would happen. The demons rampage all night, then the white magician present starts to banish them back to hell. It doesn't work. A greater devil explains that God is dead, and Hell has won the war. All remaining humans are now slaves of the demons, or worse...
  • There is a short story (Title needed) published in a college literary magazine which starts out normally enough. It's told from the point of a teenage girl living in a small coastal town. It's unseasonably cold, her elderly neighbor is going a bit dotty, she resists making a sarcastic comment in class that reveals a certain amount of angst about the world situation. Normal so far. But there are hints of oddness: there is lots of dust everywhere, for reasons that aren't explained. The teen protagonist enigmatically wonders how long it will be before everyone is acting like her dotty neighbor. At the very end, it's revealed that A nuclear war has already happened-- begun and ended. No bombs went off anywhere near the town, and everyone is making an effort to go about life pretending that everything is normal-- despite knowing that nuclear winter is setting in, and the radiation clouds are migrating. The weather is already getting colder, dust is falling from the sky, and particularly susceptible people (like the elderly neighbor) are starting to get radiation sickness. But people keep going about life as normal because really, at this point, there's nothing else they can do... shiver.
    • That sounds sort of like Connie Willis's short story "A Letter from the Clearys." It starts off with a young girl picking up the mail at the post office and the titular letter. She brings it back to her family and reads it to them - the Clearlys were their next door neighbors and talk about their vacation in Aspen and how great it is. The family freaks out and forbids the young girl from going to the post office again because the Clearys are all dead, everyone is dead except for them, since they were sheltered from a nuclear war. They've saved up all the mail, so they can still act like it's normal, but the young girl specifically searched around for the Cleary letter so she could force her family to acknowledge that everything wasn't alright.
  • The cover of Agatha Christie's The Hound of Death. It's a skull with one eyeball swollen so big as to be naueating
    • This cover? (There's plenty of other editions.)
      • To me, an artistic troper, the eyelid somewhat ruins the realism of the effect; it looks more like a glass sphere's been put in front of it. Had the eyelid not been there, it would be so much better...
        • I notice that that's entirely the point: it's merely a lens effect showing a "living" eye over the skull's eyesocket.
    • Christie can scare fine enough without a freaky cover; "And Then There Were None," though the Radcliffian ending kind of spoils it. Incredibly effective use of seaweed!
      • There's a reason Agatha Christie is known as the grandmother of the slasher film and that reason is "And Then There Were None/Ten Little Indians/Ten Little Niggers". Say hi to Grandma, kids!
      • "Don't you see? We're the zoo!" Shiver.
      • Emily Brent's hallucination of the dead Beatrice Taylor walking towards her fits here too. Especially if you know what she has done to the girl.
  • Rosalie Ham's "The Dressmaker" has a couple of instances of this trope: there is a gruesome description of one character cutting another's hamstrings and another character drowns in a silo full of black grain (which I currently can't remember the name of) which sucks him under like quicksand when he jumps into it, thinking it was wheat, and the townsfolk can't get the body out, so it just moulders down at the bottom.
  • In Gary Jennings' historical novel Raptor, the main character Thorn and several others are hired by a Roman to rescue his pregnant wife and son from the Huns. They come up with a plan to sneak into the Hunnish camp... and it all goes bad. Thorn grabs the boy and runs, but looks back to see that the Roman's wife has had her throat cut, and in her death throes birthed a fetus and that the Roman himself has been captured by a Hun who attempts to rape him, but finding the Roman a bit too lively, the Hun cuts a HOLE IN HIS BELLY and proceeds to rape the Roman THROUGH THE HOLE.
  • Michael Marshall Smith (and his more mainstream thriller alter-ego Michael Marshall) has done some wondrous turns in this regard. Take Spares, for example. This concept has been pilfered unsuccessfully since by the movie The Island, but he introduced the concept of a genetic twin being cloned at birth, kept in a dimly-lit tunnel in the middle of nowhere, and being used for harvesting spare parts * without anaesthetic* , should the real-world twin become horrifically injured.
    • Also, his later Michael Marshall novel The Intruders.
  • China Mieville has a short story called "Details" which is absolutely terrifying.
    • Perdido Street Station has so many freaky parts in it it's almost a horror story. For example, the giant moths that suck your entire consciousness out through your throat. Not even getting into their appearance, though apparently their wings hypnotize you....and they're being kept so that people can take their milk and use it as a halluciogenic drug. And the said drug is the combined consciousness of all the people that have been 'drunk' by the moths.
    • A lot of China Mieville's short stories are terrifying, in my opinion. It'd be easier to list the ones that aren't nightmare fuel.
  • One of Terry Goodkind's earlier Sword of Truth books has this thing toward the end with rats eating someone alive.
    • To be more specific, the villain of the book has tied down one of the hero's allies, put a rat under a bucket on her stomach, and starts heating the bucket. He deliberately chose this torture because the victim had an earlier established fear of rats.
      • Which only proves Terry Goodkind should be crowned ruler of all hack-writers since almost this exact scenario happened in 1984.
        • Or he pilfered it from George Fielding Eliot's The Copper Bowl, NF in itself, which dates from 1928.
    • In Terry Goodkind's "Blood of the Fold" we get introduced to Emperor Jagang, a Dream Walker whose magic abilities allow him to slip into the cracks of a wizard's thoughts and control them completely. He then proceeds to kill one of the Sisters of the Dark in front of the others, and then uses his power to show them the extent of what their punishment in the Underworld will be if they displease him and die. He lets them watch their comrade's thrashing, SCREAMING CORPSE, all the while while rendering them immobile and while chowing down on some turkey. When they ask how long she will scream, he answers, "Until she rots." And then, he orders her corpse to be thrown into the privy pit..
      • I feel I need to add one piece of information to the above to explain how terrifying the scene is. At first the dark sisters think Jagang is torturing the victim. When asked how long he will keep this up before letting her die, he calmly explains that she was dead before she hit the floor. It still gives this one chills and it's been years since I read it.
    • The chimes...the fricking chimes. I, just for fun one day, called the names out just to see what would happen. That day, a toilet explodes, three bathrooms flood, and a female student complains she was molested by the wind. This is too creepy to not be included. I know this guy is a hack, but really, what's the chance that he based the chimes on real life Eldritch Abominations that are summoned when you call their name?
    • The two young graduates of the Wizarding School who have been lifelong friends and nominally in service to the Light, only to be told by the Big Bad that one of them has to be flayed alive, whereas the other has to join the Dark Side and perform the flaying as part of his initiation.
  • Shirley Jackson's short story The Lottery is such Nightmare Fuel. It's that bad. In fact, don't click the link if you want to sleep soundly tonight. a boy is killed because traditions say so.
  • Similarly, just thinking about The Cold Equations leads to Nightmare Fuel. The Sadistic Choice presented is terrifying. Kill the girl via Explosive Decompression or leave a colony without a vaccine!
    • I'll raise you The Gulf Between A MACHINE DOES NOT CARE
    • Neither is as bad as The Nothing Equation by the same author. This guy had issues. Kudos for the perfect final line, though.
  • Richard Morgan, major proponent of modern Humans Are the Real Monsters sf, can reach nightmare fuel levels through sheer cynicism. In the Altered Carbon series, people's minds are backed up on in-brain memory and easily transferred to another body (or 'sleeve'). Major societal change from this? "A fate worse than death" is now standard procedure. Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique LotusEaterMachines, pretty much.
  • Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs is a non-stop surrealist train wreck of a book filled with disturbing imagery related to sex, drugs, violence, and human cruelty.
    • Perhaps the scariest thing is the notion that anyone might end up this way if they were made desperate enough... Wouldn't you?
  • Scott Smith's The Ruins particulary the point where Eric goes down the pit)
    • That's it? Hell, the entire book is Nightmare Fuel from the moment they set foot inside the village. What got me was when a character is convinced that the vines are underneath his skin and he starts cutting himself open to get rid of it. The worst part? He's right. Then there's the very end where it's all but explicitly stated that the whole ordeal is going to start again with the would-be-rescuers. Goddamn that's one sadistic plant.
  • Lionel Shriver's We Need to Talk about Kevin is about a Creepy Child who, among other things, blinds his sister in one eye with bleach and encourages a little girl with a skin disorder to scratch herself bloody, then tops it all off by shooting several people to death with a bow and arrows, including both his father and his sister. At the end, as an act of reconciliation, he gives his mother his sister's glass eye.
    • Not to mention his father's absolute refusal to believe anything bad about his son in the hopes of maintaining his "perfect family" ideal. Choosing to be Kevin's pal rather than his father, he dismisses any concerns his wife brings up to him and handwaves any actual misdeeds by Kevin under a "boys will be boys" mentality. The really scary part? There are actually parents like this.
  • There is a book by a Paula Volsky. It starts with the protagonist brought into a prison which is worse than a KZ. I am not exaggerating: At least the nazis didn't force their victims to eat the killed other prisoners.
    • I believe that you're referring to "The Wolf of Winter".
      • Speaking of Ms. Volsky, "Illusion" is an AMAZING book. Kind of the French and Russian Revolutions combined with magic, told from the point of view of royalty. Her description of torture and execution devices chills me to the bone. Particularly the one where you're basically strapped to a table and made to think that your bones are coming to life, crawling out of your body and eating you.
    • Jack Ketchum's Evil was shocking too.
  • H. G. Wells's The Invisible Man may have had some of its initial power leached out by overuse of the theme, but the central idea still has some resonance: a Complete Monster has made himself invisible. You don't know he's coming until he's got his fingers around your throat. And he is furious. The scene where a man who was forced to help him runs panicked into a town screaming, "The Invisible Man is coming!" is still disturbing.
    • Wells's short story "The Kingdom of the Blind" reverses the above example. The realization that they're better at tracking him blind than he is with both eyes; all he can do is WATCH. And, of course, why they're tracking him!
    • And how about those wacky Morlocks?
  • One of the ending scenes to Iain (M) Banks' Use of Weapons, where Elethiomel murders his adoptive sister Darckense and makes a small chair out of her bones, then sends it to her brother Cheradenine.
  • The Bone Collector. Where to begin? Being boiled to death by hot vapor, rats gnawing on your legs, being buried alive... But nothing beats being unnable to move your body while your supposed-to-be doctor sticks a knife in the only part of it that's still sensitive.
  • When the quiss in the Dragon Keeper Chronicles feed, they inject a thousand tongues into the victim and inject poisonous saliva that liquifies the tissues, leaving skin on bone.
  • Elizabeth Moon's The Deed of Paksenarrion has a few instances of that. The main character is captured by evil creatures and forced to fight for her life in an arena for their amusement, then once she's rescued is condemned for not having resisted unto death and stripped of her powers and courage. Wandering the world as an ordinary person, she's abused in various ways for a long time. Also, Another character is captured by another villain and castrated. The description is not graphic, but very matter-of-fact.
  • An unidentified story that involves a group of people that had been miming that they were building things in all the city parks of the world. More and more people began watching them, and they slowly built whatever-it-was larger and larger. One day, they stop building, and stop moving. Everyone gathers around to see what happens next, and then some of them walk into what turned out to be actual, though invisible machines. Reddish-brown pulp comes out the other side. And people keep walking into the invisible meat grinders. The Narrator is one of the people watching, and he cannot run away, or even speak, he just waits his turn, silently screaming with the horror of seeing what he'll eventually do. What's worse - The narrator is one of the 1% or so of people that survive. The beings just leave them to stand there until they die.
    • It was by Horacio Quiroga who was basically Latin America's answer to HP Lovecraft. He had another equally terrifying story about a dying woman who receives a down pillow from her husband. Sadly, after receiving the pillow the wife gets worse and worse, eventually not even leaving her bed, before finally dying one night. After her body is taken away, the husband notices the pillow is rather heavy. Upon inspection he discovers a large louse had been living inside of it and draining his wife of blood.
    • The Beheaded Chicken. It has a good dose of Adult Fear and awkwardness due to Values Dissonance. And the ending shows just what you need to create the absolutely goriest picture you can in your head.
  • Remnants. Where to start. The longest recurring set of antagonists are horrible creatures that nobody sees the face of until book seven or so, the paintings that made up the environment were brought to "life" in a fairly horrific way (the "actors" were automatons who were missing details and didn't bleed). The Bosch paintings were about what you might expect if a mad computer brought them to life as the security system from hell (and Violet stopping to explain everything about the art didn't help). The Triad were really messed up (mentally and physically) and just wanted to kill everyone weaker, prettier, or uglier than themselves. Tamara's Baby was awful on it's own, but when it started communicating outside its host... And wormfood is no longer a synonym for dead. Heck, dead doesn't even mean "lying in place and not moving" any more. And all of it is inside a giant ship that's gone mad with loneliness and only even likes one being anywhere, who's also mad from loneliness. Then they get back to Earth. Things don't get better, just less weird.
  • Alan Dean Foster's Mid-Flinx, a combination of the Pip and Flinx series and Midworld, an earlier stand alone novel. Flinx and Pip are running from a guy who wants to add Pip to his private zoo, and when Flinx orders the Teacher to land on the nearest world, they find themselves on Midworld. Midworld is a forest planet where no one sees ground or sky. They live in trees, massive trees that blot out the sun. It is a planet of Everything Trying to Kill You, especially the plants. Of the initial team who goes after Flinx and Pip, one is consumed by a plant, one is attacked by animals who continuously inject him with poison that LIQUIDATES him, one makes a wreath of flowers that spread tendrils through her body and burst out and flower, The Ruins style, and the others are shot when the next group who are after Flinx arrive: the A Ann, who want his Teacher. Of the A Ann, the sentries are killed by the Midworld equivalent of Philip Pullman's daemons, known as 'furcots', one falls off the edge when he sticks his face into a luminous flower, a couple suffocate by expanding hac spores, and the rest are blown to bits in a space fight.
  • In The Forge of the Titans, the title race of villains have followers who can perform magic—but Titan-worshipers tend to gain their magical powers by feeding off the fear and pain of others. Titan-worshipers have got torture down to a horrifying art form—one scene clearly describes parents restrained and forced to watch as their young children are tortured to death, just before suffering the same fate themselves. But that's not what makes this scene Nightmare Fuel—no, the horror comes when a Titan's minion is described as a power junkie, reveling in the energy given off by the suffering to a near-orgasmic extent. The message seems to be that power can corrupt to the point where watching people undergo the most severe physical and psychological tortures possible turns you on.
  • James Patterson's books tend to be full of these, but Alex Cross' Cat and Mouse is particularly notable, ending as it does with Pierce having flayed his skin off his body, exposing his organs. The narrator, being a doctor, literally can't believe the man's still breathing. And while we're at it, both Soneji and Smith. You could be taken down by them, anywhere, anytime, for a nearly random reason.
    • In Violets Are Blue Cross goes up against VAMPIRES. Well, not real vampires so to speak but evil murderers with fangs who drink blood. The way the vampires' lifestyle is depicted is pretty damn spooky, including various disturbing, and at times pedophilic, sexual acts.
    • I, Alex Cross is not as abundant of disturbing content as some of his other work, but when it does show up it is absolutely unnerving. The way Zeus is describes as a heartless bondage fiend, the character of Remy Wililams who lives out in the middle of the woods and puts his (usually young female) victims' corpses through a wood chipper, etc. What makes things worse is that both of the above got to one of Alex's relatives.
    • How about in Kiss The Girls, where the main villain Casanova rapes a girl. WITH A SNAKE.
      • Also in that book is when he confronts a woman who we know has been taking self defense classes. Too bad he's been watching her and learned the countermoves. Or was it just groin protection? I can't recall.
  • A bit in the otherwise comedy Red Dwarf book Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers... one character as he lives his idyllic, rich life, keeps getting pains on his arms. He happens to notice that when he applies salve to only the painful parts, it spells out U R DYING. The crew are trapped in the full immersion game Better than Life, and are slowly starving / dehydrating.
    • I found the scene where they come across the hologram stuck in a loop to be pretty unsettling
  • One line from Elie Wiesel's Night. "Babies were tossed in the air and used as targets for machine-gunners."
    • The death pits. The line of prisoners that had just arrived at Birkenau is going towards the pit, ever so slowly. Elie and his father are just about to walk into the pit, with Elie saying that he would have died for sure, but the line bends away at the last second...
    • There's also that kid who fought his dad to death for a bit of bread. Doubles as absolute Tear Jerker.
      • You want to know the true horror of this story? This is an autobiography, meaning all of this actually happened. The baby shooting, the death pits, the ripping apart of families.....all of that happened. It's a small wonder Elie lost his faith in God.
        • He got better. From a theological standpoint.
  • Can't remember the title, but there's a story in which a famous psychologist has to counsel a fellow who shot five people in a supermarket. Said fellow insists that he was defending the spaceship from Venusian space lizards, the silent cops "escorting" him are just weapons lockers . . . and the psychologist isn't really a psychologist, but a crewman on the spaceship who went insane. It only gets worse: he's right. The psychologist takes medication and snaps out of it, and he realizes he really is on a spaceship and there are five dead Venusian space lizards lying around. But he's already gotten the other guy to go insane and think he really did shoot five people in a supermarket--and he gives a little speech about needing to accept what he's done, then walks out the airlock thinking he's leaving by the front door. Cue Explosive Decompression. Well, actually, it's even worse than that—the aforementioned trope is averted, and when the fellow's eye pops as he walks out the airlock, he's still alive and aware, convinced that he needs to just work through the "hallucination."
  • Neal Shusterman's stories frequently fall into this, as when the faces of the dead kids in Full Tilt start appearing in the scenery. His worst to date is Unwind, a Dystopia in which Offing the Offspring is legal and accepted if and only if said offspring's body parts are donated to others. There's a subplot about one fellow who took severe brain damage and got a donation from a dead kleptomanic--"DO IT! BEFORE HE CHANGES MY MIND!" And let's not get into the issue of Humphrey Dunfee . . .
    • AND there's the STEP BY STEP PROCESS of Unwinding that they take you through, at the Harvest Camp - and the boy is technically alive and awake the whole time! Ugh.
    • The Works in Full Tilt still gives me the shivers.
  • Any of the stories about The Holders.
  • It's a GOOD Life by Jerome Bixby, the story of an unbelievably powerful Reality Warper who happens to be still a little kid. Sounds cute—but whatever you do, don't get him angry . . .
    • This story and its Twilight Zone counterpart are what make me slightly paranoid about driving through Indiana. I always get the feeling that I got Billy Mumy mad at me somehow. (Well, that and if I end up in Gary, I always end up with Ron Howard singing in my head.)
    • This may belong in the TV section - not sure if it's based on a short-story sequel or what - but the Twilight Zone episode had a sequel. The sociopath Reality Warper has grown up, and he has a daughter. Who's more powerful than him. And at the end of the episode, they're off to find a place with a lot of people, and they'd better be nice to her daddy or...
  • Beowulf's Children by Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle and Steven Barnes. Six words: Huge. Carnivorous. "Bees". With. Super Speed.
  • Someday by Isaac Asimov manages this with no violence, no gore, no monsters, and no clear explanation of the title. Two kids own a low-quality robot that can tell fairy tales, and listen to some of its stories while discussing how crude it is compared to most modern machinery. Very little of what they're describing is advanced far beyond the present day. Then they leave the room, and the robot tells itself a story, one about a robot taken care of by cruel "step-people," a robot that one day hears the step-people talk of how advanced robotics is getting, and who knows now that someday . . . And that's when the robot seems to break down, for it keeps repeating the same word over and over. "Someday. Someday. Someday."
    • Congratulations. My irrational fear of Teddy Ruxpin has now been wholly rationalized.
    • Speaking of Isaac Asimov. It's not his fault, but I am VERY happy I never, ever saw this book cover when I first read the Lucky Starr novels. Even now, it still sends chills up and down the spine. Book publishers should really run their covers by a few people first before mass-marketing them.
    • All the Troubles of the World. Panic ensues when a young boy manages to get past all the defences protecting Multivac, the supercomputer which basically runs the world. He doesn't have a sinister purpose though- he'd just like to ask it what it wants most of all. And what does Multivac want? "I want to die."
      • Oh, no, no, no. The boy doesn't do all of that because he wants to talk to Multivac. Turns out Multivac's capable of predicting events with a good rate of success, and has been recently even added new programs that lead it to control much of humanity's resources - and there's talk of adding even newer programs that allow it to predict disease; but Multivac one day began churning warnings of its impending destruction, and the panicked government began uncontrollably searching for the responsible man. They narrow it down to a name, and arrest the guy. But the probability kept rising and rising, and the family's youngest logged into Multivac to learn how to help his dad. Multivac then gives him the instructions he needs to enter the building where its main core is located and to do some things to ensure his father's liberation. He barely gets stopped before lowering a lever that would have fried Multivac's brain, and then it is when a politician, a government agent and the technician in charge of Multivac ask that crucial question. Sweet dreams. Humanity has led a fucking AI to suicide.
    • Escape!, of the I, Robot series, is a story that unites all the characters that appeared before(Susan Calvin, Lanning, Powell and Donovan), in which The Brain is given the problem of creating a hyperspatial drive. This problem is very special, since other supercomputer destroyed itself rather than asking the question, so Calvin finds a way to circumvent that difficulty and get The Brain to build the drive. A ship is built and Donovan and Powell are the ones chosen to test it. The ship turns out to be remotely controlled, so it didn't even need pilots. But the imprisonment(the ship has no windows and no way to be opened from inside) isn't the worst part. Turns out the reason the other computer committed suicide was because the crew of the ship has to die temporarily for it to perform the hyperspace jump. And that conclusion comes only after we are told what happens with someone who dies temporarily(Donovan, in short, has visions of his own funeral and then goes briefly to Hell).
  • Catherine Jinks writes many books that qualify, notably, Living Hell, which involves a crew on a spaceship that can never return to Earth stuck in the ship when it turns into a huge living thing and starts trying to kill them with flesh-eating acid.
  • Scott Westerfeld's Peeps: a book where every second chapter is a desscription of the most flesh-meltingly scary parasites he could find, apparently. Given that the main plot is about parasites?
  • Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series is a goldmine for this. From a particularly brutal rape scene in the first book (oh God, Jamie's fingers) to the Shown Their Work-quality medical scenes showcasing the best of 18th century supplies and techniques, it's... definitely a change of some sort from the average quasi-fluffy historical romance. especially the aftermath of someone-- Roger, I believe, and I want to say it's in The Fiery Cross-- getting basically lynched, and the graphic descriptions of the damage already done, even though the main characters manage to keep him from dying outright. In another scene, possibly in the same novel, there's another gloriously, gloriously detailed description of a man left catatonic from a stroke lying on the floor of his house, literally rotting because his wife, who he'd been beating, refused to help him. Perhaps I'm just sensitive to the thought of rotting living flesh, but... ugh.
    • Also, the entire premise can be Fridge Horror. Particularly with the thought in mind that not everyone gets through the stone circles... intact, as it were. And even if you do get through fine, you're lost, disoriented, broke, and in an entirely different time period. One you almost certainly didn't come fully prepared for. Unless you're very, very lucky.
    • In one of the Lord John side-novels, there's mention of how the main character had been raped as a teenager. And how never knowing the identity of his rapist, he had to carry on functioning with no way to be sure if it had been just bad luck that he'd been there... or if the rapist was someone he knew, someone he interacts with on a daily basis. And not being able to tell anyone. It's by no means the most overtly disturbing mention of rape in Gabaldon's books, but it made me shudder.
  • Shatterpoint: start with Heart of Darkness, above (the author outright stated it was an inspiration). Add in a planet flat-out determined to kill people, whether its through toxic, corrosive volcanic gases, about ten million different plants and animals, all extremely hostile, or such gems as wasps that sting you, implanting their larvae in your spine, which then cause dementia and death as they hatch. The people are even worse. (Did we mention the war going on?) And all of it is vividly described. Even Mace Windu couldn't stand it. (Of course, since he's Mace Windu, his response is to kill things until the situation improves. Somewhat.)
    • Traitor, by the same author, also qualifies. If for no other reason than the cavern-monster scene. Oh, god, the cavern-monster scene.
  • Frank Peretti is not often aknowledged by the mainstream, mostly because he writes Christian-oriented books, but he has some absolutely terrifying moments in some of his books. There is a fight scene in The Oath where a protagonist ends up gouging out a man's eye with her fingers and it's described as feeling like a grape under her hand. The entire conclusion to The Door In The Dragon's Throat has kept more than a few people up at night, as well.
    • Don't forget the black goo that seeps out of people's chests in The Oath. I have a friend who freaked out after noticing a harmless bruise on his chest because of that book.
  • The Hot Zone. Nonfiction book about an Ebola outbreak. Required reading in seventh grade. I nearly threw up several times.
  • There's a bit in one of The Belgariad books that now scares the hell out me, when I thought about it. Polgara is explaining to Ce'Nedra about herself. By the way, I can't remember which book it was in, so this is not the exact words.

Polgara: In the prophecy we serve, I am Polgara the Sorceress, daughter of Belgarath and great-aunt of Garion.
Ce'Nedra: And in the other one?
Polgara: In the other one, I am the Bride of Torak.
Ce'Nedra: * gasps* .
Polgara: Now you understand. I've been terrified of Torak ever since my father explained that to me, when I was around twelve.
Ce'Nedra: But surely you could resist him.
Polgara: You don't understand, Ce'Nedra. He's a God. Not even my power can withstand him, and if I fall to him, then I'll probably be deliriously happy to be his bride, but there will be a part of me that will be screaming in horror- and will keep screaming until the end of time.

    • To recap: She's the prophecied bride of an insane God who will, if he can overwhelm her, brainwash her to love him and probably force her to fight her friends. And this is the same god who ordered his priests to sacrifice a person an hour by cutting out their hearts, and whose entire left side is currently burning. Yeah.
    • It's either book four, Castle of Wizardry, or book five, Enchanter's End Game. I spent several hours wigging out over the sheer horror of that idea. It doesn't help that I have a domination phobia. Nightmare Fuel indeed.
  • Viole Falushe in The Palace Of Love. He kidnapped a girl who he was in love with and created six copies of her through virgin birth, each exactly like her, in the hope that one will eventually love him. It doesn't help that in the end of the book, Gersen finds one of the copies, who asks him, "Are you The Man? The Man who is coming for me?" and tells him that one day The Man is coming for her, and she must love him. And then, the book implies elsewhere, he will kill her.
  • The penultimate chapter of Vernon God Little, in which he comes as close as he possibly could to be executed for a crime he didn't commit (the needle is in his arm), scared me more than any other non-supernatural thing ever has. The fact that his pardon does, in fact, come through, and it all ends happily didn't help. Oh, and the prison has become part of a reality TV show, so his fate is in the hands of the voting public... which is uncomfortably plausible.
  • Bridge of Birds has this a few times, but particularly in regard to The Hand That No One Sees. The name's bad enough . . .
  • Lord Dunsany's Two Bottles of Relish. Especially effective in that it never reveals the truth; you get to figure it out for yourself.

Num-Nummo is no good on salad.

    • Lord Dunsany also gave us The King of Elfland's Daughter. It looks like a Happy Ending at first... and then the Fridge Horror sets in. Lirazel loved Erl because it was different from Elfland... and in the end it becomes part of Elfland. So now although she'll be with her family, none of them will ever be able to be content, because the entire country will be locked into changelessness. Elfland will continue its decline, and they won't even be able to communicate with the outside world thanks to the time dilation effect. No one is coming out of this happy, in the long term.
  • Most of Alyzon Whitestarr. Especially the scene where Serenity tries to burn herself to death.
  • The series Scary Stories to Tell In The Dark. Oddly enough, most of the stories are fairly lame. The illustrations however are [dead link] totally [dead link] horrifying and turn the most cliche urban legends into something terrifying. These are children's books by the way. They should have just called them Scary Illustrations to Traumatize Your Child.
    • It doesn't take a genius to figure out why the series shot to #1 on the list of the most challenged books of the '90s.
      • Here's an interesting ditty for you. I read one of those books when I was around eight or nine with my best friend. One of the stories features a little girl named Ruth who had a red spot on her cheek. It turned out a spider had laid eggs inside her mouth and one day her cheek burst open and a bunch of baby spiders crawled out. At this point, I should probably mention that my name is Ruth. When I read the story, I happened to have an innocent little red spot on my cheek (that went away a week later, to my utter jubilation.)
      • My name is not Ruth, nor did I have a red spot on my cheek at the time when I first read that story. Unfortunately for me, it didn't make the corresponding illustration any less horrifying; ten years later, somehow stumbling upon that image is still one of my worst fears.
      • Yes, I remember those books quite well. And am in fact still laying face down in her closet somewhere years later, just to avoid accidentally seeing the cover art out of the corner of my eye.
  • The short story Anna Lee, by Kathe Koja (found in the anthology "The Many Faces Of Van Helsing") is major nightmare fuel for me to this day. It's told from the point of view of a minor character from Dracula, one of Lucy's maids (and I mean, really minor—she doesn't even get named in Stoker's novel, if I recall). There's just this tone to it, this dead-calm, defiant tone filtered through Victorian propriety-- "Do you look at a lady's maid, sir?"—and by the end of it, she confesses that if she's not actually in league with the Count, she'd welcome him, because it couldn't possibly be worse than her life is now. Nothing overtly creepy happens, but it's just so horribly atmospheric... ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh. It doesn't help that I keep hearing it voiced in my head by this demure, lower-class-accented Creepy Monotone. It's found in a collection of stories that includes a brothel full of little girl vampires in modern-day L.A., demonic vampire-spawn fetuses very nearly tearing their way out of a girl's stomach, and one particular character being systematically driven insane—and yet, none of them manage to be quite as creepy...
  • Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult.
    • Just the fact that the book is about a school shooting is scary enough for me. The book is mostly a Tear Jerker, but there is one part that managed to send eerie shivers up my spine. During Peter's trial, the prosecuting attorney presents evidence in the form of the security tape from the day of the shooting. It shows the shooter, a boy named Peter Houghton, shooting a couple of people in his cafeteria. He then stops, sits down at a table, pulls a box of cereal, milk, a bowl, and a spoon from his backpack and has himself some breakfast. After he finishes, he cocks the gun and continues on his rampage. Just...* shudder*
    • Also, Det. Ducharme's description of walking through the hallways of the school, where he sees some of the victims of the shooting, some injured, some dead.
    • Peter's suicide. He shoved a sock down his throat.
  • Rewind by Terry England. Seventeen adults are turned back into nine-year-old children by alien technology, and are promptly the center of a media firestorm. The government rules that, because they look like kids, they have no rights whatsoever. Most have their own families and friends turn on them. Several meet gruesome fates, all described in loving, lucid detail.
    • Particularly horrifying is the fate of Alisa and Harold. Conservative preacher Reverend Brigman declares them faith healers, able to cure cancer with a touch and fix human genes so they will never be sick again. During a live broadcast, he works the crowd into a frenzy, and they rush the stage. Harold is buried under a mass of writhing bodies, and Alisa is dragged behind the pulpit, screaming in agony the entire time.
  • The Name of the Wind, the first in a to-be-completed trilogy of fantasy books by talented author Patrick Rothfuss, has plenty of this. Standing triumphant above all examples are the Chandrian, a group of seven immortal humans who are so universally feared that hardly anyone even mentions their names. They wipe out all traces of knowledge about them and their origins, often killing dozens of people at a time, and disappearing just as silently as they come. Like lightning from a clear blue sky. I lay awake thinking about them all night, and was pretty anxious around rotten wood and rusted metal for a while after that.
    • Better than that is in the sequel, The Wise Man's Fear, Kvothe and four other hired mercenaries assault a bandit encampment near Severen. Only the bandits outnumber Kvothe's squad by about ten times their number, so when everything goes to hell what does Kvothe do? He uses a creative use of sympathy to kill half a dozen men by linking the living bandits to a dead body and stabbing the dead one over and over and over. He then has one of his squad fire an arrow at a large tree in the centre of the camp and links it to a gigantic fire nearby. He, in essence, turns it into on huge lightning rod, which it swiftly becomes and explodes, killing over two dozen of the bandits and all but destroying the camp.
  • Some of the Doctor Who EU novels are straight-out terrifying. Faction Paradox are a group of time-travelling psychos who are fucking about with time because they can, led by someone who is the accumulation of everyone's evil future version. Their starships are built from skeletons and they wear skull masks taken from beings that don't actually exist. However, these guys aren't the worst. For pure shit-yourself-in-terror, there's Festival of Death, which gave me severe sleep difficulties. There's a skull-faced angel on the front cover. The main villain wipes out an entire species in an attempt to send his consciousness back to his own birth to save his parents from death. The worst part? He succeeds, but is just a passenger in his younger self's head, hooked into the senses but unable to control anything. So he has to watch his parents dying in a shuttle accident an infinite number of times. And most reviews consider it humorous. Funny? It's flat fucking terrifying, that's what it is. Other unpleasant experiences in the Expanded Whoniverse include the monstrous, nigh-on unkillable monsters of Storm Harvest, the Demonic Possession of The Fall of Yquatine, the alien horrors of Island of Death, the Mind Screw of Verdigris, and the entirety of The Ancestor Cell. So, basically, it's just like the TV show when it comes to making you wish you'd stocked up on sleeping pills.
    • Hmm, the Faction seems to have experienced a touch of Jumping Off the Slippery Slope, apparently. In the stand-alone Faction Paradox novels, they're more a bunch of Mind Screw-y, The Plan loving, Magnificent Bastards than outright squicky villains the above troper describes. On the other hand, Lawrence Miles, the creator of Faction Paradox, is certainly no stranger to Nightmare Fuel; in his novel Dead Romance, he manages to make a Time Lord invasion of EARTH! completely fucking terrifying.
      • Search in this site for a bit of truly horrifying Faction Paradox. See how you like the Yssgaroth. A living TARDIS eating entire dimensions. An extradimensional realm created by mutilating Earth's history. Have you ever wondered how utterly horrific the Last Great Time War was for the Time Lords in Doctor Who's core universe? The Book of the War will give you an idea. And you'll weep in horror.
      • Now let's talk The Ancestor Cell, which was scary partially because it featured the Doctor dealing with The Virus (in the form of Faction biodata from a failed attempt to take over a sentient ecosystem), partially because a Faction agent cheerfully murders a Time Lord young rebel who'd been sucked into a Faction voodoo cult as a sacrifice to bring one of the Faction's Fathers out of the Vortex, partially because that selfsame Faction agent was proud of having repeatedly murdered her own father by travelling back in time, killing him, setting the destination dial on the time machine back a few hours, and killing him again, and partially because they rape Gallifrey's history. Several times.
    • From Lungbarrow, which is mostly just creepy, there's this sleep-robbing gem:

'These candledays you can only see up the West chimney,' Jobiska said sadly. 'Cousin Luton thought he could climb up the East chimney, but he got stuck. We could hear him regenerating for eleven candledays. That was five hundred and six years ago and he's still there.'

    • How about Human Nature? During the skirmish with the Aubertides the student who's manning the Vicker's gun turns around for a second to talk to John Smith, get hit in the back of the head with a dart, mumbles "I'm sorry", and then his head explodes. Smith then clings to the body in shock, rocking back and forth while the neck stump still spurts blood.
      • Then there's the fates of the people who tried to push through the time barrier.
      • And the fate of Gallifrey should the Aubertides get the Doctor: They breed like crazy and take the Time Lord Citadel through sheer force of numbers. We see Flavia and Romana on their knees before them, whilst August asks them for a link to the Matrix. When they refuse to give it to him, he slices open Flavia's neck so she'll regenerate and they can keep on chopping. He then turns to Romana and we are left to assume she will suffer the same fate.
        • Oh yeah, and the members of the High Council are being paraded around, hanging from poles.
    • The Doctor's companion Compassion is transformed into a sentient TARDIS through a series of unfortunate events. She's more powerful then the Doctor's old TARDIS, and is armed. That's not the scary thing though, that's the fact her entire internal dimensions are mapped on her own mindscape. She doesn't have much of an imagination until she becomes a TARDIS where everything becomes metaphorical. She also doesn't have much compassion (her name is intentionally ironic). She still dreams though, and her dreams become part of her internal dimensions. One dream is behind a door called "that dream about Fitz", all we hear is Fitz's screams from behind the door. She makes the Doctor and Fitz live in the part of her that is "the dark side of her mind" because she hates the Doctor because he's a Time Lord (and innately tries to control her) and pities Fitz because he's human. At one point she dumps shoes on Fitz's head with no reason given. All of her internal dimensions are described as dark, haunted and shadowed. Then at one point she warms the breeze that haunts the console room to warm and soothe Fitz, so everything else is either intentional or just because of her apathy.
    • Winner Takes All is a story about giant porcupine-like aliens called Quevvils RECRUITING HUMANS TO FIGHT A WAR FOR THEM. Did I mention they're fighting a war AGAINST GIANT PRAYING MANTISES? You know, those insects that will rip each other's heads off at a moment's notice? A man called Darren ends up beheaded. Granted, he is a Jerkass, but it's horrible. And then there's the scene when the Quevvil's make a man's brain melt, and we get a graphic description of him screaming in pain and then the brain juice coming out of his ear. It's like the books are written because they can't be allowed on television!
  • The Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver has a chilling description of the hells of trench warfare. This includes such delights as corpses buried in the sides of the trenches sliding out, half-rotten, any time the nearby rivers flood, a hellish melee within a trench resulting in every inch of the the place being literally carpeted in the dead, and a literal wave of screeching, clawing, biting vermin boiling out of a trench's underlying tunnels and crashing into a party of Ghosts. One unfortunate Ghost is bowled over and buried beneath the living wave...understandably, he's traumatized and wailing when his friends manage to pull him up. Some got in his mouth.
    • ...that's it? Trench warfare? That's mundane. In Traitor General and The Armour of Contempt we get an extended look at the Chaos-ruled world of Gereon, where all the crops are blighted (or worse, mutated), the sky is a leprous yellow-brown, and everything is slowly dying. The only "unspoiled" place are the Marshes of Untill, and only because the lifeforms there are so poisonous (a moth can kill you just by landing on you) that even the forces of Chaos have trouble invading it. And we haven't mentioned how the Chaos overlords are actually running the planet yet, or the fate of most of the world's population. Also, two words: glyfs and wire-wolves. A daemon-possessed tank that stalks the Ghosts like a lion rounds out the list.
      • Trench warfare has the... er, "advantage" of being real.
    • Abentt's Crowning Moment of Horror (for now) has got to be Only In Death, if only for Hinzerhaus, the fortress the Ghosts are ordered to hold. First there's the subtle things: the hints that beings not-quite-human built it in centuries past, the way the lights inside pulse almost as though the building was respiring, how echoes are thrown around so you can hear footsteps coming towards you even if you're alone on a floor. Then, the soldiers start hallucinating: the best cases only have dead teammates talk to them, while the worst begin obsessing over the darkest fears, such as a lady in a black dress with a wound for a face, or a bony daemon-serpent lurking in the basement. This is, remember, taking place in an isolated citadel in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a vicious duststorm that cuts visibility and scrambles comm traffic. And on that note, there are the repeated "echo" transmissions: "Are we the last ones left alive? Are we? Someone, anyone, please? Are we? Is there anybody out there? Are we the last ones left alive?" Exquisite. And this is without mentioning the fate of Soric.
  • De Sade's The 120 Days of Sodom. At first it's just disgusting. Then you get to the gorn. Which includes rape, torture, sodomy, and killing of innocents in most brutal ways
    • What's worse, it was made into one of the most challenged films of all time, similar in notoriety to Cannibal Holocaust and Men Behind the Sun.
  • In Elfstones of Shannara, Terry Brooks surprisingly entered into the realm of horror for me with the Reaper. Any scene in which this silent, massive, cloaked shadow-demon appeared was terrifying, especially its inaugural appearance in pursuing the heroes at Drey Wood, and Wil's later discovery of what it had done to the Gypsies at Whistle Ridge. But the Crowning Moment of Scary had to be the chapter detailing the party's flight through the Pykon. Old, abandoned ruin? Check. Howling, moaning winds? Check. Terrifying discovery of dead bodies? Check. Our hero has a nightmare, only to wake up from it to find himself in a real one? Check. Headlong flight through the darkness of the fortress, knowing the Reaper is behind them, even though they can't see anything, and will eventually catch them? Major check. Even now this chapter gives me the chills, and I can't read it late at night.
  • Another Shannara series, the Voyage of the Jerle Shannara series, features Truls Rohk, a caustic and sarcastic half-shapeshifter, but a close friend of the protagonist Bek. Shapeshifters in this setting are spirits, less individuals than collective minds with multiple manifestations, changing freely as they wish. Truls is almost never seen without his full cloak, and eventually the reader learns why: his body is a malformed, ever-shifting maelstrom of flesh and blood in vague human shape, bits of it mutating, healing, decaying and tearing apart forever with exposed bones and rivulets of blood and half-formed organs. He is...understandably bitter, since he is apparently so hideous his own father wanted him dead the moment he saw him.
    • Also from Voyage: The Morgawr. A giant lizard man he gains his powers by feeding on the Life Energy of his victims. He turns people into puppets by pulling out their brains, leaving them with their skills but no free will. He's devoured his way through thousands of victims, and delights in feasting on people's minds just for fun, and broke the Ilse Witch as a child just so he could deny Walker her power. The scenes where he feeds on the airship crews are purely this, and establish him as the only Complete Monster in the whole franchise. Antrax's wronks are just as bad: Hollywood Cyborgs slaved to Antrax's drivers who can only obey its orders, even while thier still living minds scream for them not to. The fate of magic users is worse: Antrax drugs them into believing they are under attack, and when they try to defend themselves, it drains of their powers, using them as batteries for the rest of their lives.
  • The Book of the New Sun. Jolenta's eventual fate. Originally a homely woman, Dr Talos made her very, very beautiful. So beautiful that Even the Girls Want Her. It's left vague exactly how he did this, but strongly implied to be the reason why she's so weak and lethargic all the time. Then he and Baldanders leave, and the treatment starts to break down, and Severian feels metal bands under her skin holding her body in shape.
  • The slave discipline collars in Codex Alera. Once put on a person, they can only be taken off by the person who put them on in the first place; otherwise, the wearer will die. They cause the wearer extreme pleasure for following orders, particularly the orders of the one who put the collar on; they also cause extreme agony (that will kill, if it persists long enough) for disobeying said orders. If children are raised wearing one of these collars, they can be shaped into mindless machines so intent on doing the will of their master that they will happily hack off their own limbs in order to better follow his/her commands.

"Honestly. Once the collar is on, it's quite difficult to imagine living without it. You scream all the time, but it's the inside kind. You scream and scream, but you can only hear it when you're asleep. Otherwise, it's quite lovely."

Thank you, Jim Butcher, for feeding my mind-control phobia.
    • The Vord from the same series are no slouches at this either. Imagine giant insects that are collectively smarter than 99% of humans, live only to consume everything in their path, can sent parasites to take over your body that, unlike the Yeerks of Animorphs completey destroy your original personality beyond all hope of recall, and basically have the Sorting Algorithm of Evil as a superpower (kill some? Great, but the Vord Queen will just breed new warriors without the earlier models' weaknesses. Fun times). And when the Vord start learning to work the aforementioned discipline collars- well, if we had a trope called something like "Crowning Moment of Nightmare Fuel, that would be it.
    • Did we mention the Vord are smart? Come up with a defensive strategy, and they will devise a counter to it that you'll likely never anticipate. The assault on Alera Imperia itself in Princeps' Fury even has them Out Gambitting Gaius Sextus by packing thousands of crows with body-snatching takers, innocuously flying them over the city, and then, at the height of the assault, having them all drop dead into the city at once.
    • Amara's description of feral furies attacking a city:

"I saw an earth fury that looked like a gargant bull knock down a building being used to shelter orphaned children. I saw a pregnant woman burned to black bones by a fire fury. I saw an old woman dragged down into a well by a water fury, her husband holding her wrists the whole way. He went with her." She paused, musing over the placid, inflectionless calm of her own voice, and added, "The second minute was worse."

      • Is it bad that I read that as 'feral furries'?
    • The Canim ritualists get a couple good (bad?) moments of this too. One of them in First Lord's Fury makes another Cane literally vomit up his own guts. Enjoy that mental image.
    • Odiana has her own moment in Furies of Calderon during a battle with three Marat:

On the other side of the clearing, Odiana sat on her horse, humming quietly to herself. The ground in front of her had, it had seemed, quite abruptly transformed into bog. Neither Marat nor herdbane could be seen, but the silt and mud before her stirred vaguely, as though something thrashed unseen beneath its surface.
The water witch noticed him [Fidelias] looking at her and commented, her tone warm, "I love the way the ground smells after a rain."

  • Anne Bishop's Black Jewel books: Briarwood.
    • "Briarwood is the pretty poison. There is no cure for Briarwood."
  • There was a short story (title unknown) published in a science-fiction digest magazine wherein a woman's daughter drags around a grotty knitted rag doll, talking to it and sleeping with it and generally treating it like her own child. The mother grows more and more disgusted with the thing, but can't convince her daughter to get rid of it, even as the stuffing deforms and bunches in the doll's belly. Eventually the 'doll' lays a tiny knitted egg, which hatches at the end of the story. And mys mother wondered why I suddenly got rid of every rag doll I had ever owned . . .
  • As much as I love him, there is something deeply unsettling about the character Iago from Othello. The idea that someone you trust implicitly could be so sociopathic that the first minor, unintentional sleight you perpetrate against them could lead them to utterly destroy your life for kicks is very creepy, and possible. Even after Michael Cassio is stripped of his title (because Iago tempts him into a brawl) and Iago gets to take his place (which is what he wanted from the beginning) Iago STILL murders several people in order to get Othello's colleagues framed for it, sets up a Plan to get Othello to suffocate his wife and then kill himself, and on top of all that, even as Othello bleeds to death, he still refuses to tell Othello why he did all this to him.
    • Don't forget stabbing his own wife without the slightest hint of regret or reluctance. That was pretty unsettling, too.
      • He was supposed to inspire revulsion. Since this is usually lost in translation, many critics and most actors and fans are prime examples of Misaimed Fandom. But, you know... YMMV.
  • American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis. Most of the book didn't bother me, though some of it squicked me out a little. What really terrified me though, was the description of how he cuts a prostitute in half just above her vagina with a chainsaw... and she retains consciousness just long enough to watch him pull her legs away from her upper body. Uuuuurgh.
    • Ironically, I found Bateman's most chilling moment to not be an act of violence (as nightmarish as they are), but his description of himself near the end of the book and which also concluded the movie:

"There is an idea of a Patrick Bateman, some kind of abstraction, but there is no real me, only an entity, something illusory, and though I can hide my cold gaze and you can shake my hand and feel flesh gripping yours and maybe you can even sense our lifestyles are comparable: I simply am not there. It is hard for me to make sense on any given level. Myself is fabricated, an aberration. I am a noncontingnet human being. My personality is sketchy, and unformed, my heartlessness goes deep and is persistent. My consciousness, my pity, my hopes disappeared a long time ago (probably at Harvard) if they ever existed. There are no more barriers to cross. All I have in common with the uncontrollable and the insane, the vicious and the evil, all the mayhem I have caused and my utter indifference toward it, I have now surpassed. I still, though, hold on to one single bleak truth: no more is safe, nothing is redeemed. Yet I am blameless. Each model of human behavior must be assumed to have some validity. Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? My pain is constant and sharp and I do not hope for a better world for anyone. In fact, I want my pain to be inflicted on others. I want no one to escape. But even after admitting this - and I have, countless times, in just about every act I've committed - and coming face-to-face with these truths, there is no catharsis. I gain no deeper knowledge about myself, no new understanding can be extracted from my telling. There has been no reason for me to tell you any of this. This confession has meant nothing."

  • The Good Book; ever read the Book of Revelations?: locust creatures and restless dead? That's about as scary as you can get.
    • Or Sodom and Gomorrah. Theories about why they attracted God's wrath run the spectrum from "failure to show proper hospitality to strangers" to "attempted violent assault and gang-rape of strangers", but either way, it got nuked. With fire and brimstone. The only survivors were Lot and his daughters - his wife dared to look back and got turned into a pillar of salt for it. There are other times God smote his enemies, but this one wins out for sheer obliteration.
      • Not to mention that the two angels come to the city to see how good people were, and all the guys lusted after them. The angles then went to the Lot's house, where because of aforementioned lust for the angels, they asked for them so that they could have fun. Lot refuses, and instead offers them his virgin daughters. Note, YMMV but I was creeped out by a dad who would just offer his daughters up for who knows what like that.
    • The sheer torture that Jesus had to undergo before dying can make anyone shutter.
  • "Orange is for Anguish, Blue for Insanity" by David Morrell is a short story I read once (once) a couple decades ago and so only partly remembered, but it still freaks the hell out of me. A man appreciates the art of a relatively obscure painter who had gone mad and committed suicide. His technique was to paint vaguely disturbing scenes that, upon closer examination, are painted entirely by mixing together tiny little screaming faces. (Think Seurat, but with screaming faces.) The man discovers that the painter's property is for sale and buys it. As he walks around the property he finds an eerie dell in the woods, where he finds something unpleasant, a writhing mass of what looks to be tiny bodies. While examining it closer, he feels something pierce his eye and he runs like hell. Gradually he starts to see everything around him made up of tiny, screaming faces. Until he goes mad ...
  • In the "Forensic Mystery" novel by Alane Ferguson called Circle Of Blood, there's a cliffhanger ending in which the protagonist receives several e-mails reading things like "I C U" and "come out and play I know you're there because I C U". She looks out her window and sees her ex-boyfriend, who turned out to be a sociopath and a murderer in a case she investigated in the previous book, standing there with a laptop and staring at her. I RAN out of my room.
  • Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Pretty much the whole thing is And I Must Scream turned Up to Eleven. Oh and such injuries actually happened... The basis for a movie and for Metallica's song "One".
  • The short story The Monkey's Paw by W.W. Jacobs, which I read in 7th grade, and had a good deal of trouble sleeping that night, I must say. Imagine seeing your son turning into zombie because of you
  • The short science fiction story Kyrie Eleison. A spaceship goes to study a black hole, accompanied by an Energy Being who is in telepathic contact with one of the crew—and it's heavily implied they're in love. The Energy Being gets too close to the black hole and is sucked into it. He dies relatively quickly, but because of time dilation his contact can hear him dying for years after.
  • Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones is about a Dead Little Sister watching over her family while they try to figure out who killed her. The only things they ever find of her are her hat, a charm off her bracelet, and her elbow. Wanna guess how she was murdered? She was raped, then stabbed to death by her neighbour. He then chops her body up into pieces big enough to fit in a safe, and then throws it down a sinkhole. And this man was only considered slighty odd beforehand. That aspect of murder has been keeping me up at night for a while.
    • There's also the fact that the killer effectively gets away with the murder, and the murder of plenty of other girls. The best consolation is that he dies later in a way that implies that Susie is behind it.
  • The vampiric Wamphyri from Brian Lumley's Necroscope series are the embodiment of pure Nightmare Fuel! A bunch of irredeemable chaotic evil monsters whose unholy birth comes from the injection of otherwordly, vampire leeches their bodies by other Wamphyri. They are the heinous rulers of their parallel earth dimension known as Starside/Sunside, and are the origin of vampire myths resulting from Wamphyri lucky enough to survive the trip through the wormhole to Romania. Not only can they change their appearance to fit any purpose,(such as Lord Vasagi the Suck, whose mouth he formed into a long, sucker, hence the title) they use their metamorphic powers to build aeries - giant castle like structures formed from living, screaming human flesh, and using the same material to create the nightmarish, chaos warhammer style warriors, and their mindless airborne mounts, the flyers. Hell, the front covers of the books are sure a "subtle" hint as to the nature of Brian Lumley's stories - http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/l/brian-lumley/necroscope.htm and http://www.fishpond.co.nz/Books/Fiction_Literature/Ghost/product_info/347772/
    • Oh, about those shapeshifting powers and how they're used: a good indication on just how nightmarish this series can get and how unbelievably evil the Wamphyri are is in a line about Yulian Bodescu's sexual habits. And that line is "He could literally fill her to bursting point if he wished." Fucking hell. Throwaway lines, people, throwaway lines!
  • Sara Douglass' Wayfarer Redemption series is full of this. Gorgrael is a frightening looking beast that "takes Caelum" at Dragon Star's request, scarring the boy for life. All for inheritance. Oh, and Dragon Star? HE IS A BABY. Oh, and then we have the Time Keeper Demons and their mighty leader, Qeteb. They could be on their way here...right...now...and they would show no mercy. The 2012 mania makes this even worse. Then we get to images of the Qeteb baby and Star Laughter trying to make it drink her milk even when it is dead. If you make it far enough, you then get struck by images of Qeteb-man and Niah-corpse having sex and then Qeteb's body stretching to fit his demonic black armor.
    • we are all terribly sorry for hating you, Borneheld, if that was what caused you to be given such a death! And also, two words, Timozel's Dreams. Three more, Drago Flesh Sack
  • I have recently read Bentley Little's The Resort and found it rather freaky. The book treats of an exclusive 5-star hotel... founded by a hedonist/sadist on a land already tainted by unimaginable evil. It's more horrible than it sounds. Needless to say creepy stuff happens there. But the resort, which apparently has a will of its own, uses some sort of mind control magic in order to smother the guests' will and make them stay even as they're witnessing one horror after the other: you CAN leave the hotel, but you won't WANT to. This is one resort you don't want to stay in.
    • Another of Little's books, Dominion, has a bunch of creepy scenes. Starting from the first chapter, even, when babies in the basement chew their own umbilical cords off and attack and kill their father, and, later, when the main male character dreams about Penelope and sees her at the top of a staircase with her legs open, bleeding from her vagina down the stairs in a small stream, rather unconcerned. And the ending. The book is based on maenads bringing back the Greek gods and Dionysus, after all, so it's one long slow descent into Nightmare Fuel.
  • The Pilo Family Circus. Imagine for a minute that you're being stalked by a mysterious gang of lunatics: they break into your house and vandalize everything you own; they follow you to work and threaten to blow up the building; they even invade your dreams. Nothing can stop them- you suspect that they can easily scale sheer walls, and at least one of them has survived a three-story drop without sustaining injury. And then, just as you start getting really paranoid, you manage to accidentally impress them: now they want you to audition for a job in their gang and all you have to do to win is to make them laugh within 72 hours- no matter who gets hurt or killed in the process. You're not sure if you're supposed to take this seriously until the threatening notes start appearing at the foot of your bed: "Tick-tock, you snivelling cocksucker. Hope you've got something planned." No pressure. And just to make sure you haven't lost sight of your terror, this gang is composed entirely of Clowns.
  • The Gone Away World. The basic premise of it is that the governments of the world develop a bomb which strips the information from matter, theoretically erasing the matter from existence. But instead, the matter left becomes desperate for information, and becomes a physical manifestation of the thoughts of the animals and humans around it, frequently modifying the bodies of the creatures it affects, leaving hideous monstrosities, often incapable of surviving their horribly messed up bodies. Now that's all creepy enough, but think about how it would affect anyone with paranoia and appreciation for creepy-pasta. Just think about the results of that for a bit.
  • Life of Pi. Many high school freshmen have encountered this charming magical realist novel set on a lifeboat after the wreck of a ship transporting zoo animals, full of graphic descriptions of animals eating one another: the days-long evisceration of a zebra by a hyena, which later fights, beheads, and eats an orang-utan, and is in turn killed and eaten by a tiger. Followed by all the torment and madness the titular protagonist experiences adrift at sea for almost a year, accompanied only by the tiger. Then we find out that, while the events were related mostly as they happened, the animals on the lifeboat were probably people; the hyena was the ship's cook, who turned to savagery almost immediately, the zebra was a sailor who died after the cook amputated his broken leg for fish bait, the orang-utan was Pi's mother, whose blood spattered his face as her head was tossed overboard by the cook, and the tiger is Pi himself; he imagined it in order to cope with what he did to survive. Oh, the eating mentioned in the version with animals? Happened with their human analogs as well. I stayed up all night reading Carry On, Jeeves to distract myself after that chapter.
    • The previous troper seems to have forgotten (or blocked out) the carnivorous island. With a "fruit" that has human teeth in the center.
  • A short story by Brian Lumley, The Sun, the Sea and the Silent Scream, contains enough Body Horror involving crabs to cause me to put the book down and seek cuddling for reassurance.
  • Toni Morrison's Beloved.
    • The shed scene...actually, the shed scenes. Both of them. First when Denver believes Beloved has vanished into the darkness only for her to reappear, point to a wall and say "That's my face." We very soon learn what she means in the second shed scene, the flasback to when Sethe's original owners tried to retake her, prompting her to go into a shed with her children, nearly kill her two sons, slice open her daughter's throat, and then try to grab her other daughter by the ankle and kill her by striking her head against the wall.
  • Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel The Road. The protagonist and his son enter a house, and the son keeps saying he doesn't want to go in. Then he opens a door and finds the people the bad guys have been eating...alive. Later, the protagonist sees three men and a very pregnant woman—three days after, they pass through a camp that has the remains of a beheaded, roasted infant on a spit.
    • The Road is probably the closest approximation to a nightmare that you can communicate through words.
    • In his book The Crossing the protagonists come across a man who has the eyes missing from his sockets. It is later explained to them that while he had been a prisoner they had been sucked out by a guard and left to dangle. When he was free he wandered as they dangled until they eventually dried like raisins and fell off.
  • Duncton Wood by William Horwood. One of my favourite books, very well written but SWEET JESUS! I innately picked it up thinking, "oh, a book about moles, small burrowing animals. At the very worst, it can't be any worse than Watership Down DEAR GOD WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO REBECCA'S BABYS!"
    • Rune. He is evil incarnate in mole form, I warn ye! And might I just add that things get a little too tense when you finally get to Siabod...
  • The novel The Amnesia Clinic features a teenaged Unreliable Narrator. Even with the variations on a single scene presented, I honestly can't figure out which one to believe. This renders things that might otherwise be cute and quirky very squicky and disturbing. For example, the sad but still slightly whimsical history of Blithe Spirit Sally Lightfoot, with her finger bitten off by the eponymous turtle taken as a sign that she was well and truly over her ex-husband. When Anti tells it, they have a budding romance. This is much creepier after more reading when you realize that Anti is just making this shit up, and that she's really an emotionally distant victim of spousal abuse. They certainly haven't had quirky sex under a picturesque waterfall. Similarly, the Incan mummy princess, Fabian's uncle's fake shrunken head, and Fabian's nightmarish metaphors for catching his father having sex with the house maid.
  • The first book to keep my light on all night was Dracula. The description of the Count crawling out of the window and across the stone wall (with several hundred feet of sheer cliff face below it) and into another window still sends shivers down my spine a whole fifteen years after I initially read the book.
    • The parts that scared me most were the least supernatural, for instance:
      • Dracula's mortal minions laughing at Jonathan's predicament when he looks to them for help, and turning the correspondence he entrusted to them back over to his captor.
      • That village woman coming to the castle to demand her baby back. After the Brides already ate him. Shouting abuse at the helpless Jonathan, who's too broken by that point to even feel pity for her when the wolves come...
      • Renfield, in a moment of clarity, begging to be removed from the place where he can do most damage in his madness, only to be utterly dismissed by the heroes.
    • I was once in an English lit course where it was one of the assigned texts. During a discussion, one of the students mentioned that she literally screamed "Don't give him a cat!" when Renfield's "zoophagy" was described.
    • Dracula's metaphorical rape of Mina—which only gets worse when she has to re-tell it from her point of view—is so graphic and chilling, the fact that adaptations ship them together eradicates any faith I had in the sanity of the human race.
  • The White Tribunal, by Paula Volsky. I read it when I was rather young, and I still remember vividly the torture scenes ... culminating in the boiling of the brothers in a huge vat of water. So that they'd be "cleansed". While the younger brother looked on.
  • And then there was a book that involved monk-clowns. Who were corpses. Who ate people. Pretty much a huge mass of of terrifying.
  • Henders Isle in Fragment. It's a nonstop orgy of killing and eating (okay, so's the real world, but this is an Up to Eleven version that makes the real world look like a Disney movie) where you're lucky if you live for a few minutes after setting foot there unprotected (and even protection is just delaying the inevitable). Everything isn't just trying to kill you, everything is trying to kill everything!.
    • Also notable are the plants which nurture seabird chicks. Doesn't sound so bad, right? Except that the plants ate the chicks' parents, and nurture the chicks so they'll come back to breed and be eaten in turn.
    • The relatively nondangerous species (including species that can kill you, but choose not to, like Hender and the other Hendropods) in this ecosystem can be counted on one hand!
    • It's theorized (with good reason, as the most charismatic Henders creatures vaguely resemble them, and giant versions inhabit its rivers) by some of the characters that mantis shrimp evolved on Henders Isle (which might explain why they're so Badass)
  • In The Relic, the sequence where Margo Green ventures into the under-construction Superstition exhibit and is stalked (and nearly caught) by the Mbwun creature. The exhibit by itself consists of Nightmare Fuel (that's pretty much its theme), and she's there in the dark. Being hunted by a monster. Unfortunately, the security guard who goes back in to investigate isn't so lucky, and his headless corpse is discovered hidden in the exhibit during its opening (mass panic ensues and it goes downhill from there)...
  • "M Is For The Many" by J. J. Russ is a story about the mother of a 4-year-old in a futuristic society where most people spend all their time in a "bag", viewing pleasurable entertainments and being drugged. Every couple is allowed to have exactly two children, and the main character is on her second; when children turn 5 they are taken from the mother and given their own bag. The main character cannot tolerate the bag, so she is lonely and isolated, and although she's married she basically only has her child for company, because her husband lives in his bag; she hasn't been permitted to contact the older child, who was very upset at being taken away from her mother. As her son's 5th birthday approaches, she tries various substitutes for a child, pets such as cats and rabbits, but ends up rejecting (or accidentally killing) each one. Finally, the day before her son's 5th birthday, when her son says that he's looking forward to getting his bag and won't miss his mother, she drops him in the toilet, which is a disintegration receptacle, as he screams for her to stop. And then we learn she's done this to her last three children, the night before their 5th birthdays; she's allowed to "abort" up until that point. So now she can have another child, one who might miss her as much as her oldest did.
  • The Testament of Magdalen Blair. A woman forms a psychic bond with her husband, who later dies of kidney disease. So she, of all people who have ever lived, gets to learn whether there is life after death. The good news? There is. The bad news? The soul remains tied to the body, unable to act but participating in every moment of decomposition, except that after death the perception of time ceases and every second feels like an infinity. Even after the body is totally gone, the soul will participate in the overall misery of the universe. FOR EVER. The title character attempts to blow her own head off to shorten her own-post death suffering. You can read it here. But trust me, you don't want to. The author commented in his autobiography: "I read it aloud to a house party on Christmas Eve; in the morning they all looked as if they had not recovered from a long and dangerous illness. I found myself extremely disliked!" Nightmare Fuel indeed...
  • The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner, a fantasy novel set in England, has a sequence in which the protagonists must escape from an underground trap by traversing the Earldelving, a winding, narrow undergound tunnel. The tunnel is so tiny that it will barely pass a Dwarf, or an (at most) early-adolescent human. The tunnel is hot, tight, and dark, and there is a truly nightmarish moment when the characters must pass through a flooded section that may or may not be short enough to avoid drowing. It's only a few pages long and it remains one of the most nightmarish sequences I've ever encountered in a work of fiction.
  • He may be most famous for writing children's books, but C.S. Lewis had a very firm grasp on what is scary. In particular 'the Unman' and 'The Head' (which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin) in the Space Trilogy...actually, the whole N.I.C.E. (which is anything but)...
    • I also found the implications of the ending of 'The Screwtape Letters' pretty creepy The narrator eats his nephew while mocking his pleas for mercy.
  • Every book James Ellroy has ever written contains plenty of this. Examples include the extract from the killer's journal in The Black Dahlia (in which, among other things, the killer wishes that the baseball bat she is using to rape the victim had nails in it) and a scene in American Tabloid where a woman who is being tortured for information by having her head crushed in a vice bites her own tounge off so she won't be able to talk, forcing the gangsters to put her out of her misery. The fictionalised account of his own mother's rape and murder in My Dark Places is also extremely disturbing.
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. The scary part for me was the fact that it wasn't like most 'dear Lord, this person is a psycho' lit because what came FIRST was 'Hey, yeah...I get that. I totally get that, Ethel,' and THEN once you start relating to the character, she goes insane. And the more insane she got, the more I related. It's not alright. It really isn't.
    • I have a rule that if I feel like reading The Bell Jar, I really must not read The Bell Jar. Similar rule for Elliott Smith.
  • The first book of Wheel of Time made me, a troper who has watched The Shining at midnight and slept soundly afterwards, shake with horror under my blanket with the nightlamp on. There are the Ways and Machin Shin, Black Wind, which eats your soul and speaks of drinking your blood and tearing your skin and braiding the skin strips. And after the protagonists barely escape that, they enter the Blight, where all plants rot while still alive and Everything Is Trying to Kill You, and then the Worms, which eat everything and are nigh-invincible, start hunting them. And it gets worse... they enter a mountain pass, and the Worms give up the hunt. The explanation? They are afraid of the things that live in the passes. This is Nightmare Fuel cranked Up to Eleven. It gets considerably milder in the following books, though. Tells something about me that I was actually disappointed about there being no more horrors.
    • In my opinion, there is Nightmare Fuel in the later books when The Dark One's prison starts to weaken and he can "touch the world." Countless and seemingly random cases of death(usually by way of Body Horror), the dead walking the earth, and so many cases of Everything Is Trying to Kill You. A few examples: the ground/floor absorbing people, tents try to strangle the people sleeping in them, and an ENTIRE VILLAGE that goes insane at night and kills each other, only to have them wake up in the morning perfectly fine, but with fuzzy memories of the night before. If they try to leave, they'll simply wake back up in the village the next morning. No one can predict what is going to happen or when. All they can do is try to deal with it and save lives when it comes, and even that can't always stop it. While the Nightmare Fuel does tone down for awhile in the subsequent books, it returns cranked Up to Eleven.
    • If you're an Aes Sedai in The Wheel of Time, becoming a damane is definitely Nightmare Fuel. Having to assume a pet-like, subordinate identity that your handler chooses for you, right down to a new name? Check. Not being able to channel, and in some cases, not really being able to do ANYTHING without your handler letting you? Check. Strong chances of developing Stockholm Syndrome in these circumstances? Cue the screaming. Literally in Elaida's case.
  • The Missing Girl by Norma Fox Mazer is the most horrfying thing I've read. Let me repeat- I have read Haunted, Rant: An Oral Biography of Buster Casey, Naked Lunch, "There Will Come Soft Rains", and a great deal of "scary" stories- and THIS is the thing that made me want to curl up in a ball whimpering. In a nutshell, the book is from the alternating points of view of five sisters and the disgusting old man that stalks them regularly. Slowly, the man takes preference to one of them, who he lures into his house. In addition those chapters are told in second person viewpoint--so that everything that happens up to and including her captivity and its aftermath is portrayed as if it is happening to the reader.... What's the most horrible thing about the book is that, although as far as I can tell, the man never rapes her,the writer puts this.... pure relish in the man's pleasure at having the girl. It's just....it makes you want to take a shower. I came lose several times to putting it down. As another Troper put it, "All the vampires, ghosts and demons in the world have nothing on everyday evil."
  • The description of nuclear war in Cosmos. Granted, it was Sagan's informing people of this horror that helped to save the world from this fate, but...
  • The dendric striker from Fusion Fire was designed to kill by disrupting the nervous system slowly. Muscles will often rip themselves from the bone.
    • Many of Netaia's execution methods are deliberately designed to be this way, as pain in the here and now supposedly shortens the amount of time spent in the Dark That Cleanses. Two of the most notable are the D-wave guns, which slowly disintegrate the victim while leaving the nerves intact for as long as possible, and lustration: "Beginning at the fingers and toes, the condemned prisoner's extremities--and, eventually, torso--were compressed by slowly moving metal plates superheated to vaporize flesh and bone. Lustration could last for hours..."
  • Romeo Dallaire's descriptions of the Rwandan genocide in his book Shake Hands with the Devil. Made even worse by the fact that it all actually happened in Real Life.
  • In similar vein, the "docudramas" from R. J. Rummel's Never Again series, written by one of the world's leading experts on crimes against humanity. The description of Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge is particularly stomach-churning: the scene where you really shouldn't have unspoilered this.... young children are forced to execute their teacher for the crime of teaching them too much knowledge is absolutely horrifying.
  • The Lord of the Rings has more examples than you'd expect.
    • Moria. It isn't the Balrog itself; it's the suspense when they go in, knowing nothing but that no one's heard from Balin in a long time, and then the Fellowship reading from the Book of Mazarbul and realizing that they are trapped just as the dwarves were. "They are coming."
      • "We cannot get out." *shudder*
      • Connected with "drums, drums in the deep" in chronicle. and later it happenned again
      • For me, it was the simple but extremely creepy sentence, "The Watcher in the Water took Oin." Oin wasn't my favourite character in The Hobbit but it was rather traumatizing to learn that Tolkien had killed him off. Then I thought back to when the Watcher had been attacking the Fellowship and trying to get Frodo and realized that a short sentence can contain a lot of incident...
      • In addition, there's the moments in Moria where Frodo is aware that they're being followed by... something, later revealed to be Gollum. The BBC radio drama makes those moments even creepier, not least because of Ian Holm's performance as Frodo.
    • The vision of the world with Sauron as its ruler.
    • The Barrow-Wights. The dead inhabited by lost souls stealing you in the middle of the night, undressing you and trying to turn you into one of them...
    • Also, the death of Baldor. He tries to go into the paths of the dead, but they break his legs and leave him to die
    • I was fine until I reached the part about Shelob's lair. When it described "shining little eyes", I pulled my feet off the ottoman and crunched them next to me. And it also doesn't help that I'm an arachnaphobe...
  • S.M. Stirling's Draka trilogy---particularly the middle book, Under the Yoke., which includes descriptions of how Draka treat slaves. I am a Stirling fan, but found that book dreadfully difficult to get through.
  • The Peshawar Lancers, another novel from Stirling, has a Satanic cannibalistic Russian Empire in Central Asia. The Fall was so destructive to them that even sanity was devoured. No wonder people in the book are reluctant to even mention them. In addition to terrorizing the native Uzbek and Kazakh peoples, there's also the matter of the Sisters...
  • In Dave Duncan's Lord of the Fire Lands, a character gets to see how a country that has taken prisoners makes their land's obedient servants called Thralls. The prisoners of war/raiding are herded into a Magic Octagon, and spells are used to send their souls to the afterlife while they're still living bodies are left behind as Thralls. In the book, this is shown being done to a group of around forty children and adolescents. I get nauseous just thinking about it.
  • The short story Fortune's Always Hiding by Irvine Welsh. Just...all of it. But especially that the main characters kidnap a baby, cuts off its arms, and mails the baby's arms to its father and mother when they're done. Why? Because the doctor created Thalidomide, and one of the characters was missing her arms due to the birth defect it causes. Even for Irvine Welsh, that's Squick.
  • Quite a lot of Poppy Z. Brite's work, but most notably Exquisite Corpse. One word: screwdriver. I defy any Troper who has read that book not to cringe.
    • Total. Agreement. And considering I live half an hour from Milwaukee, where Dahmer (one of the protagonists' inspirations) murdered his victims, that entire book was amazingly nightmarish. Not to mention when their last victim sees them chewing on his intestines while he's just barely still alive.
  • A short story called The Assistant to Dr. Jacob starts out innocently enough. The narrator is being questioned by the police about Dr. Jacob, who used to live next door to the man when he was growing up. The narrator fondly remembers spending time in Dr. Jacob's garden and helping him prune his rosebushes, and how proud he was when Dr. Jacob let him work on one by himself. Then the policeman tells him that Dr. Jacob was a sociopath who kidnapped, tortured, and mutilated his victims in an attempt to make them "beautiful." He kept all of his "works" in his greenhouse. It is implied that the boy was there and saw everything, but he remembers the mutilated bodies as rosebushes. And one of the photos of the victims includes a picture of the narrator doing the same thing to another child. The absolute worst part? He brought home "roses" from Dr. Jacob to his mother.
  • The short story The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin, about a Utopian city called Omelas where everything is perfect. Upon coming of age, every citizen is shown the reason why Omelas is perfect: a child is kept in dark closet covered in its own filth and living in constant abject misery. After being shown the child everyone is told that they can live with this secret for the rest of their lives and stay in Omelas, or they can leave and never return. Most choose to stay. The ones that leave simply walk out of the city gates and are never heard from again.
  • Tanizaki Kenzaburo's "Children" (Shonen) has four kids playing bondage games, with a strong master-slave tint, some dog-kissing, cutting each other with a knife, beating each other up and also having two of the boys holding wax candles on their foreheads as the wax drips over their eyes and face. Did I mention it's compulsory reading for one of my classes in university?...
    • ... The hell kind of university do you go to?
  • "The Knife of Never Letting Go" by Patrick Ness is downright frightening. The book begins by taking place in a town where a virus has killed all the women, and now all the men project every single thought they have for everybody to hear, creating a horrendous "Noise" that is shown a couple times on a page as incredibly disorganized and horrifying as a good majority of the men are severely messed up by the deaths of their wives. It only gets worse when you find out it wasn't the virus that killed the women, but rather the men of the town out of jealousy and spite because the virus doesn't make the women project their thoughts.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • Nedry catches his own intestines. Before losing his head.
    • Another fun scene: Dr. Wu and the other survivors are holed up in the lodge while Ellie is making a distraction for the raptors so they won't attack Grant, who is trying to restore the park's power. However, two raptors already inside the compound which the survivors had kept in sight suddenly disappear, so Wu goes out to warn Ellie that they are on the move. As he does, one of the same raptors jumps down from the roof and tears him open and eats him while he is STILL ALIVE (the attack was so sudden that Wu tried to push the raptor's mouth away from him without noticing his intestines have spilled out of him!!!)
    • From the first few chapters: "Oh no, we swear he was run over by a backhoe!" And the "Bloody three-toes footprints..."
  • While we're on the subject of Michael Crichton, how about Congo? The building suspense as the group, having entered Zinj, are watched each night by the grey gorillas, and eventually attacked, never fails to induce shivers.
    • State Of Fear gives us the murder of Ted Bradley. Sure, he's a self-satisfied, self-righteous Jerkass, but being eaten alive is not a fate I would wish on anyone.
    • This troper would like to nominate The Andromeda Strain for being the scariest book he had read in a long time. Also Sphere.
  • The Vorkosigan Saga has a fairly lighthearted tone on the whole... as long as they stay far away from Jackson's Whole. Take Mirror Dance. The... things... Baron Ryoval does to Mark are, well... the details are left sketchy, but LMB supplies just enough for your mind to fill in the blanks. Runner-up would have to be Ker Dubauer's lovely selection of Cetaganda bioweapons from Diplomatic Immunity. Squick.
  • The ending of Kindred by Octavia Butler, in which Dana narrowly escapes Attempted Rape by her distant ancestor Rufus and teleports one last time back to the present...only this time, when she's back in the present, her arm is embedded in the wall. She tries to yank it out, with predictable (and horrifying) results. And of course, there's the matter of having to explain to the doctor just how her entire forearm got ripped off.
  • In the Otherworld 'verse, necromancers can raise and control the dead, though it takes a lot of skill, effort, and a ritual to accomplish. Unlike simply reanimating an empty cadaver, raising the dead in this 'verse requires the necromancer to shove the original soul back into its corpse. Even if it's only the skeleton that's left.
  • Robert Silverberg's "Caught in the Organ Draft" features an "organ draft", as in healthy people selected at random to be mandatory organ donors.
  • The Mothman Prophecies. Allegedly being based on true events doesn't help. After reading a rather lengthy section describing "breather" phone calls, I received a number of similar calls and answering machine hang-ups, and was seriously freaked out.
  • MR James. His most famous short story is "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad", about a professor who accidentally awakens a...something, leading to his bedsheets coming to life and trying to throw him out the window! No sleep after that.
  • Boy's Life is a Slice of Life novel about a year in the life of a boy. It switches between sweet and heartwrenching, but overall it's a peaceful story (well, apart from the horrific murder that sets off the plot but nevermind that for now) and for the most part free of Nightmare Fuel- except for "Case #3432". You will never regard Unexplained Recovery and Disney Death the same way ever again.
  • George Clooney's Moustache by Rob Shearman, collected in 'Love Songs for the Shy and Cynical'. It starts out as a Stockholm Syndrome tale of kidnap and rape, then It Gets Worse.
  • Dr. Franklin's Island by Ann Halam. The beginning is slow, but the nightmare fuel part is when you realize what Dr. Franklin is actually doing to the two girls - turning them into animal/human hybrids. A memorable part was when Miranda's breastbone actually breaks through her skin as it turns into a keel shape for her new bird body.
  • John Saul's The Homing. In the beginning chapters, the decoy protagonist running away from home is kidnapped by a deranged scientist/serial killer named Carl Henderson, who paralyzes her body and puts her in a room where she's eaten alive by his collection of insects until only bloody bones are left. Carl gets his comeuppance in the end through his own petard when one of his modified bees stings a girl named Julia and causes her to mutate into a queen bee of sorts with control over insect swarms. With her infected victims and insects, the now grotesque Julia goes on a path of destruction and (coincidently) straight towards Carl's houe. There, she and Carl's own collection of insects gnaw through his air-tight chamber and devour him alive. Also the fact that Julia's bee sting and her means of infection (which involves forcing down black swarms of insects down the person's throut), causes victims to be trapped in their own bodies as they're forces to lie to those around them to prevent any harm to the hive. Towards the end of the novel, an unlucky victim is forced to run away from the hospital and move towards the direction of the main hive that was once Julia and her former friends until her body gives out and dies, and then the black swarm inhabiting her body infects a nearby coyote.
  • The Tim Powers book "The Stress Of Her Regard." The vampire fetishists. The way the protagonist's wife is described as being crushed like she got rolled over by a millstone. The wife's twin's robot thing. The medical wards and the surgery theatres and so much more. I didn't sleep soundly for a month after reading it.
  • Carrie Ryan's "The Forest of Hands and Teeth". It's a zombie apocalypse novel set after humanity regains its footing. The survivors live in compounds surrounded by fences high enough and strong enough to keep the Unconsecrated (the zombies) out. This book has plenty of Nightmare Fuel, but the one that did me in was the Unconsecrated baby. I don't have an OUNCE of maternal instinct in my body, but was forced to put the book down and take long deep breaths in order to not cry. It should be worth noting that I read this book by flashlight and candlelight... in the middle of a blackout.
  • Margo Lanagan's "Tender Morsels". The miscarriages made me put the book down and put my head between my legs.
  • The descriptions of madness in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell alternate between terrifying and hilarious. Though some of the latter include "Good god, I turned into Drawlight!" and hallucinations of pineapples, the former has things like believing everyone's head is hollow and contains a candle and "Aren't you afraid it will go out?" The speaking corpses and some of the exploits of The Fair Folk detailed in the footnotes are even worse.
  • Tom Clancy's Without Remorse gives the reader a lovingly detailed description of what repeated sudden decompression can do to the human body, when John Kelly[1] uses an old US Navy presurization chamber to politely question a drug dealer (among other crimes) who was involved with the death of Kelly's girlfriend.
    • There's another one in The Teeth of the Tiger: the reader gets a play-by-play of the death of a playboy financing terrorist operations. While it doesn't look like anything other than a heart attack to the casual observer, everything that goes on inside his mind is enough to make you paranoid about feeling pricks on your posterior.
  • Neuropath, by Scott Bakker, manages to cover this trope in multiple ways. First of all, there are the horrible things Neil makes his mind-controlled victims do- sometimes on camera, nonetheless. Then there's The Argument itself- the idea that free will is an illusion, and that all humans are just neurological circuits deluded into believing in "morality" or the concept of a soul.
  • German author Gudrun Pausewang is the queen of NF. Most (in)famous example: Die letzten Kinder von Schewenborn (The last kids of Schewenborn), about the life of an ordinary German family during and after global thermonuclear war. Including excessive descriptions of radiation sickness, mutilated people, lots of children dying (incl. all the siblings of the narrator), a baby born eyeless and armless, the mother of the family going mad and forcing the family to return to Frankfurt which she believes wasn't destroyed (of course it was, being one of Germany's most important cities), and also the description of the helplessness of the people. She also wrote books about a nuclear power plant going Chernobyl in Germany, the poorness of people in third world, another right-wing populist taking power in Germany, and a biography of young Adolf Hitler. Some of these books even got prizes for being (supposedly) good literature.
    • In one of her autobigraphical stories, she once wrote about how she was confronted with Nightmare Fuel herself for the first time. Long story short, she had a literature teacher who was extremely good... and a believeing Nazi. So the teacher once told them a story about a jewish doctor raping and killing preteen girls, as seen by one girl that could escape. She admits that to this day, whenever she hears about child abuse, she imagines the culprit just like in that story - with exaggereted Jewish traits. "Our beloved teacher, what have you done to us?" indeed. She also later admits that it was that case that let her understand how much you can achieve with appropriately directed Nightmare Fuel... though YMMV on whether or not her own stories direct it appropriately.
  • The description of Death's true form (and Hell, almost the entire dream sequence it appears in) from Final Destination: Dead Reckoning.
  • AFTER by Francine Prose. Sweet merciful god, After. The story is about a school's new zero tolerance policies after a nearby school experiences a shooting, and the introduction of a new crisis counselor, who strictly enforces the zero tolerance policies. Any broken rule, from wearing a red AIDS memorial ribbon to smoking pot, gets the student expelled and sent to a program called "Operation Turnaround." The teachers soon mysteriously begin to blindly follow this "crisis counselor," and the principal is mysteriously let go. Hidden cameras are installed on the buses, and students who question the rules are made to look like they are under the influence and sent to Operation Turnaround, which is later revealed to be a detention camp for students and teachers, and it is implied that anyone who attempts resistance is KILLED. And the school where the shooting took place is mysteriously completely cleared out by the end. This was required reading for a class of HIGH SCHOOL SOPHOMORES, dammit!
  • ... and from the author that brought us The Book of Lost Things, there's a small collection of short stories called Nocturnes. It is absolutely terrifying:
    • The Cancer Cowboy Rides. The story of Buddy Carson, a man who can spread fast-acting cancer at a touch, with some particularly gruesome descriptions of the dying: in the first chapter, we see the aftermath of him infecting an entire family, with the one survivor left as a dying, incoherent mess of tumours. At one point later in the story, Carson murders the town doctor by pouring a living tumour into his ear, leaving him in an even worse state.
    • Mr Pettinger's Daemon. Given that it's a story about a demon imprisoned under a church, horror is pretty much par for the course. However, the truly nightmarish bit occurs early in the story, when the narrator describes an incident during his years as a chaplain in World War I: four British deserters are found in No-Man's Land, living on the bodies of dead soldiers. Just before they are shot, one of them says, "I have eaten the Word made flesh. Now God is in me, and I am God. He tasted good. He tasted of blood."
  • From Gregory Benford's Galactic Center novels there is the Mantis, a robotic being that experiments with human DNA. In probably the most horrific, Squick-heavy scene it creates an abominable human-rose hybrid and forces another human to mate with it.
  • Franz Kafka. Just pick any book by him and dive in. Special mention to The Process, from which the term "Kafkaesque" is derived, where a person is accused of a crime nobody tells him about, found guilty, and executed - all without any real defence possibility.
  • David Drake has a thing about plants killing people. Two different books feature men dying in their sleep because a plant grew up into their bodies. Redliners has a kind of computer manipulating the life-forms of a planet to use them as weapons against the people who've landed there. And the vampire honeysuckle in The Jungle ... dear Lord, the vampire honeysuckle....

Hollow, inch-long thorns sprouted from the base of every leaf.
The coxswain screamed as though he would never stop. The burgeoning vines crept over him like a blanket drawn up to cover a sleeping infant.
A seaman with a knife lurched forward to help. A tendril lifted toward him. The seaman turned and ran.
The screaming did, of course, stop.

  • The Dale Brown novel Wings of Fire has terrifying descriptions of the effects of neutron bombings. Corpses everywhere, blood from ears and eyes and radiation-aborted fetus, out through the mother's vagina...
  • Pretty much everything having to do with Hudgie in Ironman, especially his father.
  • The short story Comrade Death has plenty thanks to Sarek's chemical weapons research. Disintegrol is effectively Made of Explodium bottled and weaponized. A single drop of Krok poison turned its inventor into a hideous bloated hippo-man and would have dissolved him had the dose been larger. His lab, the Under World, has a reputation so frightening that Feuerbauch, the story's Faux-Hitler, is afraid to see where his favorite toys are made. Their specialty is nerve gas, giving us the ending: Sarek and Feuerbauch meet with chief-researcher Dr. Necros, who explains the details of a horrible new gas. "Sarek's Last Word" attacks the nervous system, causing its victims to walk around in circles before dismembering themselves. He goes on to explain that it's effectively perfect and penetrates everything. It's creator bursts into tears as he explains his masterpiece can't be contained and they've all been exposed to it. Immediately after they learn that fact, they realize that Feuerbauch is walking in circles. They spend their final moments in a giddy, half-mad celebration of their impending deaths and begin to drink the Disinegrol. Feuerbauch's final thought is the compulsion to rip off his fingers. The resulting explosion turns a city into a mile-deep pit.
  • There's a series of books called Short & Shivery. It's like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, although it doesn't have notorious pictures. Anyway, in the third volume, Even More Short & Shivery, there's a story called "The New Mother". It's a lot like "The Drum" from More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, but it ramps up the scariness by adding an And I Must Scream element at the end. At least in "The Drum" when the messed-up new mother shows up, the story ends then and there.
  • In the Ernest Hemingway short story 'Indian Camp': a boy, his doctor father and his uncle travel to the camp in question to help a pregnant Indian woman give birth safely. The woman's husband is incapcitated also, confined to the top bunk inside their shanty due to a cutting accident. The difficult procedure seems to go well and the doctor is congratulated for his achievement. When he looks up to tell the woman's quiet husband of the result, he finds that the man has cut his throat from ear to ear. It's not an extensive example compared to some of the others here, but this is where Hemingway's patented Beige Prose works along more disturbing lines.
  • Cosmic horror writer and professional pessimist Thomas Ligotti is, by nature, a living fount of Paranoia Fuel. But even disregarding the man's uncanny ability to give almost everything sinister implications, his stories are terrifying. Take his first published story, "The Chymist", which takes the form of a supremely hammy, unabashedly sarcastic monologue by a man to a prostitute he's picked up. Things are not what they seem, and by the time the end rolls around (with an exceptional Wham! Line), you really don't want to know. And just think: His writing style only got more disturbing. Come to think of it, he probably deserves his own section...
  • The Dark Court of Wicked Lovely has many terrifying characters and some of the things they do may not be that detailed, but are fairly obvious (rape, murder, cold-blooded torture, posing deaths to look like scenes from plays, etc.)
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has been doing this a lot ever since Del Rey took over.
  • The children's book Snorre Sel by Norwegian author Frithjof Sælen. It tells the tale of a vain little seal pup that ventures from his family in the arctic, on the behest of some nefarious wildlife. His father is eaten and he almost gets eaten. A lot of Nordic children were traumatised by the story. It also happens to have been written as an allegory on the evils of the Nazis that had just occupied Norway when the book was written. Nightmare Fuel isn't so strange.
  • A short story called The Throwing Jacket is one of the most disturbing I've ever read. It involves a painting, and a jacket, and a tower. And a description of a man's face that is utterly demented. It's difficut to explain, but it definitely sends shivers up the spine.
  • While it was turned into a very good movie, the original book The Prestige was more horrifying, especially in the end. Angier has been alive for more than a century, living amongst the dead bodies of his duplicates, some of which are smiling. And then the generator turns off.
  • Inheritance Cycle:
    • The men with no pain.
    • Selena, Eragon's mother, before her Heel Face Turn, when she was still known as Galbatorix's assassin "The Black Hand". To test her skill and creativity, her lover Morzan taught her the magic word for "heal" (and nothing else) and then pitted her against some of his best warriors. She healed them of their fear and anger and all the things that made them want to kill her, basically turning them into placid, mindless idiots, then slit their throats. It's pretty hard to accept her Heel Face Turn after what she did.
      • That may or may not have been a rumor, which could make it worse. But you know what isn't a rumor? The fact that both Selena and Murtagh, and others, can be bound with magic the way they were. Imagine it. You're forced to do whatever someone says, and your body will do it for you even if you try to resist.
    • On a related topic, you also have even the weakest magician being able to read anyone's mind at any time without being detected, not to mention Mind Rape. And in Book 4, Galbatorix does just that to Nasuada. He starts out pretty tame, just a few simple tricks (such as manipulating the flow of time). He follows up with an illusion where Nasuada thinks years have passed, she's happily married, and has kids. When this fails, he puts her in a dream where she's being repeatedly killed. Nasuada starts laughing.
    • Angela poisoning the enemy soldiers.
    • The Ra'zac and Lethrblaka, but even more so their worshippers in Dras-Leona. As a degenerate, bloodthirsty cult that worships ancient, horrible monsters, they're actually quite reminiscent of H.P. Lovecraft's towns with dark secrets, and Christopher Paolini may have been inspired partly by Lovecraft. And the High Priest (Priestess?) is mutilated to an inhuman extent (he/she is missing arms, legs,[2] and part of his/her tongue) and possesses incredible psychic powers.
    • Burrow grubs, a type of maggot which can divide into multiple green centipedes (presumably with a shared Hive Mind) and burrow into a person's flesh.
  • That this page has gone this long without mentioning Dean Koontz is strange. While his works usually (though not always) sit on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, that doesn't mean they can't be scary...
    • The short story "We Three" from the Strange Highways anthology. It's about three children (two boys and a girl) with immense psychic powers. The military tries to keep a watch over them, so they decide to kill everyone on the planet with a thought. Afterwards, they enjoy the empty planet for a while, with the girl deciding that they're the "new breed", superior to the older version of humanity. The boys get the girl pregnant (thankfully glossed over by Koontz), and then they sense that the child growing within the girl is already aware, and way more powerful than they are. When the boys ask if it's male or female, the girl replies that it seems to be both, and while she denies it, the boys realize that the fact that the fetus is asexual means that in spite of being the "new breed" all three of them are now expendable.
    • The bodachs from the Odd Thomas books. The idea that these shadowy creatures appear at scenes of violence and death is bad enough, but then you learn that they show up because watching people in torment is exciting. Not only is someone coming after you with a chainsaw, but there are things watching it happen and cheering it on because they feed off your fear. Yeesh.
    • On a very similar note, the goblins from Twilight Eyes: not quite reptile, not quite canine things with luminous red eyes, capable of Voluntary Shapeshifting to blend perfectly into human society, that basically feed on human misery. They're not just going to kill you, no, they're going to kill your loved ones first and force you to watch, then they're going to kill you, very very slowly, all the while drinking in your fear and anguish. Their backstory (genetically engineered super soldiers made by Precursors; they did their job well) makes it even worse.
    • The plot of False Memory in general, and its villain in particular. The premise is Paranoia Fuel on its own—how easy could it be, for you to be brainwashed and have no idea? The protagonists are regularly mind raped, and for a long time have no idea, only figuring it out when too many small things cease adding up. And the Big Bad is someone an authority figure people ought to be able to trust. Not only is he screwing with people's minds, he does it for his own entertainment. One of the characters is a happy, successful real estate agent until she sells him his house. He decides she's beautiful and that he wants to keep her, so he implants agoraphobia in her mind and slowly destroys her psyche over the course of eighteen months. He also regularly hypnotizes and rapes her, leaving her with no memory of the assault but with...evidence, leading her to believe she really is losing her mind. When she finally figures out it's him, and looks like she'll be able to get her life back, he catches on and drives her to suicide. And he was doing this to people for two decades before he paid for it, destroying dozens of lives just because he could.
  • Iain M. Banks's Culture novels. Given that at their core, they are about a utopian civilisation, this is surprising.
    • Look To Windward features terrorists from a civilisation the Culture caused a civil war in trying to get revenge. They fail, and the Culture get revenge in the form of a Nanotech construct. The first terrorist is ripped apart from the inside out be a swarm of nanotech bugs. They're only on the inside because the forced their way in through his mouth and eyeballs. The second terrorist is flayed alive by the construct, then pushed off a cliff while it still holds his intestines. The moral? Don't. Fuck. With the Culture.
    • Consider Phlebas featured the horribly obese cannibalistic eaters.
    • In Excession the Affronters genetically modify living beings into literal playthings, such as balls for a tennislike game.
    • The entertainment on Azadian TV consists of horrible, sexualised torture in The Player Of Games
    • The Chairmaker in Use of Weapons makes chairs out of skeletons.
      • It's worse than that; he has the skeleton of his former lover, his adversary's sister, turned into a small chair, which he arranges to have delivered to his adversary!
  • where to begin for The Black Company
    • First there are the Taken- near immortal wizards with godlike power. They breathe nightmare fuel and even the hardest soldiers sleep poorly around them. Cue the proganoist's Oh Crap moment when he realizes which army his mercenary company signed up with.
    • The Taken are bound to serve the lady/dominator. To do this, it takes a rather disturbing ritual that's so bad one observer can't remember most of it because his mind blocked it out. The only thing he remembers is what seem to be deamons raping the soon to be Taken.
    • One book contains living shadows that are tortured remmnants of a long extinct race who hate all that is living and given the chance will suck the soul out of your body.
    • A death cult that believes that killing releases your soul to a higher plane of existance. They use strangling scarves exclusively to kill their victims. Thier main goal is to wake up a goddess who ate other gods.
    • at one point most of the the black company is trapped in pillars of ice. Murgen manages to escape mentally, in a spirit form, from this fate but slowly begins to forget who he is.
  • The description of how the virals in The Passage devour their victims is only made worse when you discover what happens to a person when they become a viral.
  • The titular creatures in George R. R. Martin's "Sandkings" [dead link] build an image of their owner's face into their castles—but by the end of the story, that's not the only way he's, ah, represented. And dear God, when they start growing....
  • "The Hangman", an allegorical poem by Maurice Ogden, is slightly unsettling...until you realize what it's about. Then someone decided to make a short film version, which takes a creepy poem and combines it with surreal and terrifying imagery.
  • Curt Gentry's The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California starts out as a rather pessimistic but still worthwhile account of California's enormous contributions to American (and world) culture and politics, the distinctive nature of its society (particularly its eccentric religious cults and openness to Eastern faiths), as well as its contradictions and great flaws. Then in the last third of the book we find out why it's called The Last Days. A series of massive earthquakes tears through the state, told in the form of snippets of radio and TV interviews and announcements. Eventually the aftershocks come, and everything west of the San Andreas Fault literally slides into the ocean, including all of Los Angeles. Most of the San Francisco area is wiped off the map by the resulting colossal tsunami. People have joked about California sliding into the ocean for years, but reading it word for word in Apocalyptic Log form, it's not funny at all. It is f****g terrifying, not least if you live in California. Even if you know the San Andreas Fault plates run parallel to each other and would not work that way.

...Las Vegas Tower. This is United 312. Do you read me?
This is Las Vegas Tower. We read you, United 312. Go ahead.
We're cruising above San Bernardino, California. Something strange is happening down there, along the earth split. We can barely see it in the twilight, but it looks like the earth is opening all along the crack. There's tremendous turbulence-downdrafts-Yes, it looks like-Oh, oh, we're in trouble-
Come in, United. This is Las Vegas Tower. What was that roar we heard? United 312, this is Las Vegas Tower. Do you read me? United 312, come in...

    • The scene where the reporter says Los Angeles is gone is a a Tear Jerker moment.
    • This may all sound like a run-of-the-mill disaster movie plot today, but this was actually written in 1968. Try to imagine it from a pre-Cloverfield, pre-Independence Day perspective. And there's no snarky hero or dramatic rescue with a swelling orchestra, just relatively realistic as-it-happens commentary and a lot of very grim statistics. And it's even worse if you do what I did and reread it the day after the 2011 Japanese quake.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, of ALL things, has a moment in The Restaurant at The End of the Universe that just sends shivers up my spine when Zaphod, on the planet Frogstar World B, finds an old abandoned ship and goes in. Inside, he finds an android stewardess and follows her through a door.

They were now in a passenger compartment and Zaphod's heart stopped still again for a moment.
In every seat sat a passenger, strapped into his or her seat.
The passengers' hair was long and unkempt, their fingernail long, the men wore beards.
All of them were clearly alive -- but sleeping.
Zaphod had the creeping horrors.
He walked slowly down the aisle as in a dream. By the time he was halfway down the aisle, the stewardess had already reached the other end. She turned and spoke.
"Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen," she said sweetly. "Thank you for bearing with us during this slight delay. We will be taking off as soon as we possibly can. If you would like to wake up now, I will serve coffee and biscuits."
There was a slight hum.
At that moment, the passengers awoke.
They awoke screaming and clawing at the straps and life support systems that held them tightly in their seats. They sobbed and bawled and hollered till Zaphod thought his ears would shatter.
They struggled and writhed as the stewardess patiently moved up the aisle placing a small cup of coffee and a pack of biscuits in front of each one of them.
Then one of them rose from his seat.
He turned and looked at Zaphod.
Zaphod's skin was crawling all over his body as if it was trying to get off. He turned and ran from the bedlam.
He plunged through the door and back into the corridor.
The man pursed him.

    • It gets even worse when you realize that this happens once a year for roughly nine hundred years all because the ship was waiting for a shipment of lemon-soaked paper napkins.
  • Touching Spirit Bear. Basically, it's about this bully named Cole who has been fighting the law for all his life due his abusive father and his mother WHO WOULDN'T DO A FLIPPING THING TO HELP HER SON, EXCEPT SIT THERE AND WATCH! Anyways, he either chooses to go to jail or isolation for a year with this group called Circle Justice. The reason. For nearly killing this kid by smashing his HEAD INTO THE DAMN CEMENT FOR RATTING ON HIM. And, shall I quote from the book? "Cole pounded Peter's face bloody." And the worse part? EVERYONE SITS THERE AND WATCHES UNTIL THEY REALIZE WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON! Anyways, he chooses Circle Justice. Then, after burning down his shelter with all his supplies needed to survive out of anger, he gets MAULED AND NEARLY KILLED BY A BEAR. He sits there for three days before help arrives. During those three days, he eats bugs, grass, and, in very descriptive detail, a mouse. The bear returns multiple times, but only stares without blinking, like a damn statue, literally over Cole. It may not seem scary, but first imagine yourself as Peter as Cole slams your face into ground, breaking your head, and causing to YOU attempt suicde not once, but TWICE. And then imagine yourself as Cole, attempting to defend yourself with a knife made of wood against a bear intent on killing you, breaking your ribs, making it hard to breath, and leaving huge gashes in you as all you can do is lay there and hope for help to arrive.
  • The Star Trek: Voyager novel "Echoes" has a planetary mass made entirely of dead bodies, more than 300 billion corpses, with 3.5 billion more arriving every 2.5 hours. By the time the action starts this has happened 90 times already. *shudder*
  • Lord of the Flies is enough of a kid-friendly book that it is the subject of many a school English lesson. That doesn't stop the following from being one of the most disturbing things I ever read:

Jack, 12-year old schoolboy, after a successful pig hunt: YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN THE BLOOD!

  • The Joy Luck Club:
    • Voice From The Wall is quite disturbing, from the beginning when Lena is imagining all sorts of dangers that could happen to a child every day, to her watching her mother go mad from depression and pain, to the sounds of a mother abusing her daughter on the other side of her bedroom wall. And Lena witnesses these nightmares at only ten years old.
    • Huang Taitai's treatment of Lindo in The Red Candle, when she refuses to sleep with her husband.
    • The death of Rose's four-year-old brother Bing in Half And Half is this and Tear Jerker.
  • This short story had my skin itchy for days. It's descent into madness story in which the main character has strange holes in his calf only to find that they're worm/maggot things inside, writhing around in there
    • What makes it worse is that a similar thing is not unheard of in Real Life. It happens when flies lay eggs on any rash or cut on farm animals, and can happen to people too. It's not pretty.
    • Two Words: Human Bot-Fly.
      • The holes part is disturbing in and of itself, though. Look up "Pitting Eczema". Then look up "Lamictal Side-Effects". You will see what I go through every few months or so.
  • The short story Dawn Terminator takes place in a future where the sun has grown so huge, so bright and hot, one day whatever town it rises over bursts into flames instantly and everything dies. The protagonist is an eleven-year-old girl who starts the story with her family in an airport, as population of several states try to board one plane, hoping it takes them somewhere safe. She and her parents manage to board, but she then has to watch faces of those left behind as they realize they're all going to die in a few hours...and her mother tells her to remember their faces so she can draw them later. The plane touches down in Antarctica, where the group is hopeful, saying that this time of year, sun won't rise for six months... But the girl knows they're all going to die soon anyway. And this is in a book aimed at children., thanks to Neal Shunsterman.
  • The Patricia Highsmith story "The Quest for the Blank Claveringi". You wouldn't think that giant snails would be that scary but when they're the size of a Buick, carnivorous and have the tenacity of a rottweiller you get scared really fast. Especially when you realize that, despite their speed, they've been rounding up the author like cattle.
  • A lovely little story called Tailypo (originally found in a collection of children's horror/ghost stories) about an old man who lives in a cabin in the woods (naturally) with his dogs. He is out desperately hunting food and accidentally shoots off the tail of an unusual creature, who is rather fond of that tail. He then cooks and eats said tail, night falls and... cue terror! Read it here: http://www.scaryforkids.com/tailypo/
  • Although it isn't necessarily Nightmare Fuel for everyone (more interesting for me) a lot of people I have came across have lost sleep over the imaginary and description of horrific crime scenes and often taking the persona of the messed up individual as one of the perspectives. This is in essence, most books by Stuart McBride, but most notably the Logan Mc Rae series. One in particular, the titular character and police officer Logan is fed human flesh. Very unpleasant but quite interesting Stuart Mc Bride is very good at making you feel the Squick.----
  • The last few paragraphs of The Picture of Dorian Gray. hint: the age catches up with Dorian, and not only the age, but also his crimes ...
  • Hell, The Skeleton Creek series runs on this. While reading the books itself is a little disturbing when talking about things like "311 door goes SLAM! and you're dead!" and about the deaths of the Crossbones members. But it gets really crazy when 1) Henry, the Ryan Mc Cray's (the main characters) fathers best friend, was part of the crossbones, and was responsible for most of the deaths of the Crossbones. 2) the videos have disturbing things in them, and some have unexpected Jump Scares. Then, the final video of the 2nd book has Ryan and his best friend, Sarah Fincher, go up against the 'ghost' of Old Joe Bush while inside the haunted and abandoned dredge. And the third book has Sarah traveling across the country, and many instances have Old Joe Bush's Ghost (Yes. ACTUAL ghost this time) appearing or talking. One video even had Sarah, while outside a haunted school, here's him talking about how they've awaken the Raven. One video at the end has Old Joe Bush LEAPING, I repeat, not appearing, but freakin' LEAPING at the camera. The first video of the first book has Sarah going into the woods close by the dredge, and looking in a window, and seeing the ghost in a window. And Ryan one night, while in his bed, looks out his bedroom window and sees Old Joe Bush looking at him through the window. And that's only some, if not most, of the scares through out the series.
  • Cheating at Solitaire, by Jane Haddam. What the paparazzi do to Kendra Rhode.
  • Nick O'Donohoe's Crossroads trilogy has its moments. The death throes of a Wyr pup savaged by a panicked chimera in Under the Healing Sign spring to mind in particular.
  • The Phantom of the Opera: "The rousy hours of Mazendaran", In the original book by Gaston Leroux, the time while Erik (the titular Phantom) worked as a Torture Technician for the Shah-in-Shah. Imagine a Mad Artist + Mad Sciencist + Evil Genius who built a Robotic Torture Device capable of making anyone Driven to Suicide, and killed capable armed warriors strangling them.
  • Neal Shusterman's Unwind is full of this. It's about a world where kids can be harvested for parts, and the biggest nightmare fuel is the actual unwinding scene that occurs late in the book.
  • William Kotzwinkle's Doctor Rat. The whole human race pretty much went wacko all at once and started mass extermination of animals, followed by themselves. Interspersed with appalling allusions to the most inhumane animal experiments which, sadly, I suspect are not too far off from reality. Grafting the eggs of a female rat to different portions of a male rat, for example. And much of it narrated by a rat who's been experimented on so often, so cruelly and for so long that, in his twisted cynical little psyche, he genuinely believes that "death is freedom."
  • Olive and the Shadows by Jacqueline West. Evil wizard creates glasses which can bring pictures to life. Not so scary. They can also pull painted people (and objects) in the real world, but after a while they become "shadows" and are vulnerable to light (which burns and ultimately dissipates them). Scarier. But the worst part: real people can be placed into pictures as well! They cannot get out without the glasses, and after a few hours become like the painted people themselves (that is, if they are brought out now, they slowly become shadows and dissolve like those who were painted to begin with). And the wizard trapped dozens of people this way, including a child...
  • Boris The Manskinner from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is very, very good at what he does, and the reader isn't spared a single image of it.
  • Halfheads by Stuart Mac Bride has this. The title refers to a punishment for crime that involves removal of the lower jaw and a lobotomy-like procedure on the brain that leaves the person badly damaged. Halfheads are used for menial labor most of the time, but the antagonist of the book is a woman who came through the procedure with her mind still intact and naturally she wants revenge. She tortures one of the characters into helping her get jaw reconstruction, but the real NF is her flashback to the procedure itself, which she's conscious during. Sure, she's given something to block any pain, but it's still enough to make this troper shiver. "We start by splitting the lower jaw..." Eesh.
  • Conspiracy on the Planet of the Apes is the first of several planned extensions on the original Planet of the Apes film canon, and it follows astronaut Landon from his capture until Taylor finds him post-lobotomy. The lobotomy scene is definite nightmare fuel, with Zaius plunging the instrument into the frontal lobe and twisting it, and the effects on Landon as it happens.
  • The Ludovician from Stephen Hall's book The Raw Shark Texts. You wouldn't think of all the scary monsters out there, that a shark would stand out as very scary, much less a conceptual shark made of words like the Ludovician. You'd be wrong. The Ludovician stalks along the waterways of human interaction, so it can eat a person's memories, and then their sense of self, leaving them literally empty shells. It's trying to do this to to the protagonist because he let it out in the first place in an ill-conceived plot to try and keep his dead girlfriend alive. and EVERY time it shows up, things get really, really freaky.
  • How about The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls? How about the description of the girl getting hung from hooks, like an insane puppet show? How about Anne describing the network of Schools with the express purpose of providing psychopathic Nobles with girls to use as quickly as possible and then dispose of? ANYTHING from the Asylum section could go here, there's too much to list. Hell, how about Sachiko being sent away and just that picture of the two words she sent back to Emily: RUN AWAY! And that's skiping over all the real life stuff that Emilie Autumn describes...
  • Caro King's Seven Sorcerers series is choke full of Nightmare Fuel, which is understandable given that the magical creatures are all manifestations of either desire or fear. Just a few examples:
    • Boogeymen. Super-strong, super fast. Can breathe fire. Only visible by children. They take their pleasure in scaring some child for weeks, while adults, not seeing them, assume the child is simply imagining things. Then one night they use an Unperson spell, which destroys or changes any documents (including photos), so that all mentions of the child disappear, and also strip everybody else's memories of said child. Then they kidnap said child. and said child is usually brought to the House of Strood, when it is either Eaten Alive, or subjected to worse (see below). And in Shadow Spell It Got Worse when a couple of them went on rampage in our world, killing hundreds of people (who cannot see them and thus are defenseless) each night...
    • Rabusmorte. A plant that is drawn to blood and can, depending on how it is used, either heal your wounds (both physical and mental), or eat you alive. On the other hand it can also protect you from other things wanting to eat you alive...
    • Ava Vespilio's ring, which contains the spirit of Ava Vespilio. Any human in the vicinity of the ring is subconsciously goaded into putting it on. Once this happens, your body is overtaken by the spirit: you retain most of your sences, but don't have any control of your body. The spirit also has control to your memories so it can lie to other people. Oh, and removing the ring doesn't immediately break the control. The whole thing can end in two ways: Vesplio decides he'd rather inhabit another body and manages to sklip a ring on their finger (in which case he usually kills you during transfer, often by forcing your body to destroy itself) or your body is killed by other means, after which the ring seeks a new victim via magic...
    • Thunderdogs, which form a sentient thunderstorm cloud. They kidnap humans and turn them into more Thunderdogs.
    • The Dark Being, which can drain anybody of his "life energy", turning them into an Empty Shell.
    • Harsh, a substance that slowly dissolves everything it comes in contact with. It is currently slowly consuming the Drift (magical world).
    • House of Strood features several, but the most important is the Destillation Machine, which is also a literal Nightmare Fuel. Basically the victim (human or not) is injected with a potion that forces him to relive his worst nightmares in addition to unbearable pain. This, in turn, makes the victim successible to a magic draining, which slowly drains their "life essence" from them. The essence can be either transferred onto another being, creating a hybrid (say, human essence transferred to a troll creates a grimm, a creature with half of troll's strength and half of humans mind capacity, much effectiver than either a troll or a human) or turned into liquid to be used later. It is used a couple times throughout the novels and is implied to have been used hundreds of times before. Oh, and the process goes for hours...
    • Also the Fairy Poison, which slowly dissolves its victims while subjecting them to extreme pain. And this is described as merciful compared to the distillation machine.
    • Skinkin, a creature that subjects its victims to Death by Despair.
    • Ava Vespilio's ultimate fate. He was evil, but the implications of what will happen to him now...
    • and so on...
  • 0.4 by Mike Lancaster. Never mind the creepy fusing people, the really creepy bit is when we find out that everyone has just been upgraded to the next form of humanity, and those who missed out will be invisible to the 2.0 humans forever. It gets even worse when we find out that it has happened before. Neanderthals could still be around, watching us...but we can't see them...
    • Also, that bit where the girl eagerly turns herself into one of the 2.0, when it still seems like thy're pod people.
  • The fourth book in Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small series has children being kidnapped by an evil magician so he could kill them and put their souls in metal killing machines. Not to mention his treatment of them beforehand. Borderline pedophile, anyone?
    • The giant spider people. You know, the ones that eat kittens.
    • Not to mention the Stormwings, as much as they aren't evil they're certainly creepy.
    • Lady Knight was written during the year following 9/11. That book, along with many others written then, became Darker and Edgier. Not to mention grimmer.
  • The Speed of the Dark by Alex Shearer, shrunk to a mere 1/8 of your size, trapped in a snowglobe and never see civilisation again?
  • Beatrix Potter's The Tale of the Roly-Poly Pudding involves Tom Kitten getting trapped behind the walls of his own house and being caught by a pair of rats, who proceed to tie him up with string and roll him into a kitten-roly-poly. Terrifying, even though the rats were a quarter of Tom's size.
    • Another story was about a bunch of squirrels asking an owl for permission to gather nuts on his island and one particular squirrel continues to pester and pester the owl until the bird finally loses it, grabs the squirrel, and attempts to skin it. In the end, the squirrel gets away, but loses his tail.
    • For that matter, Peter Rabbit begins with the mother casually mentioning the father being put in a pie. (Of course Potter's original audience was well familiar with things like animals being put in pies - this was standard everyday stuff to them, as were absent fathers due to machinery accidents, war, etc.)
  • KAApplegate's book series were loaded with this stuff. Her later series, Remnants, featured even more mayhem than Animorphs, including the destruction of the Earth by an unstoppable asteroid, a creepy eyeless baby, homicidal alien Riders and Blue Meanies, and Kubrick, a character with transparent, plasticlike skin. His original skin was stripped off of him piece by piece by the insane ship AI, Mother. In front of his screaming father. Applegate is either a genius of children's literature or some sort of alien monster that feeds on the fears of tweens who also happens to be a great writer.
    • The main characters getting stuck in a painting of hell. And a character accidentally decapitating himself and getting saved by scary worms... And later uses those worms in an act of unintentional cannibalism.
    • The woman who is pregnant when she enters the cryogenic tubes and emerges a mindslave with a freakishly-large baby still attached by the umbilical cord who tries to make deals to save the crew in exchange for EATING survivors.
  • The picture book "Hair in Funny Places" is intended to reassure kids about to go through puberty. With pictures of a young girl's insides being taken over by grotesque furry monsters representing hormones.
  • There was a Shel Silverstein drawing for a poem about a kid wanting a pet monster of a huge lion with an ugly face and gigantic nose.
    • Also Silverstein, his poem Peanut-Butter Sandwich made some afraid that if they ate peanut butter their mouth would eventually be sealed shut and cause them to starve to death.
    • In a related note, at least one edition of The Giving Tree devotes its entire back cover to the least flattering photo of Silverstein that could ever be printed. It makes him look like a horrible dwarf that hiked out of the uncanny valley with hopes of joining the circus. This slightly blurry black-and-white photograph takes up the book's ENTIRE back cover.
    • The one about the monster standing right behind me, coupled with that horrible drawing, related to the poem mentioned above.
      • The introduction to "Uncle Shelby's A-B-Z Book" pretty much sums it up. Although it must be remembered that Mr. Silverstein will, for some time to come, be associated with the kind of grass that does NOT grow on lawns. Which goes a LONG way towards explaining some of his poetry.
    • "Hungry Mungry" scared this troper to death. Now she finds it more amusing, but at seven with an overactive imagination, thinking about some normal person eating his family, then her(and everyone else on the planet), then the world, then the freaking universe and then his body, and still being alive to gnash his teeth because there's nothing left to eat...well, she skipped that poem for ages.
    • For me, it was a poem called "Someone Ate the Baby." This Troper loved his poems, but at the age of six this was her very first introduction to the idea of cannibalism, and right when we had a new baby in the house (and, unlike many kids, This Troper loved being a big sister).
    • For me, it was "Obedient". Here's what happens: a kid gets in trouble at school. He has to stand in the corner. They forget to tell him to go home the next day, and the next. He stands there all through summer vacation. They close down the school. He stands there for forty years.
  • Alice in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, were chock full of nightmarish situations and bizarre mental imagery. The fact that the woodcut illustrations portrayed most of the human characters as hideously ugly with grotesquely large heads didn't help much, either. Examples include:
    • The train scene in "Through The Looking Glass". Every single passenger on the train talks in unison and say the creepiest things like "poor child she should know where she is even if she can't remember her own name".
    • `If that there King was to wake,' added Tweedledum, `you'd go out-- bang!--just like a candle!' Existential terror.
      • 'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe. All mimsy were the borogroves, and the mome raths outgrabe. Spine-chilling.
        • This troper was both horrified and fascinated by the Jabberwocky illustration in the original book.Enjoy
    • The scene in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where the baby turns into a pig.
    • The incredibly creepy Cheshire Cat? Way more teeth than needed, and can disappear and reappear at will.
  • Angela Carter's Nights at the Circus: the main character is led through a hallway filled with jeweled eggs, each of which contain the life of a woman murdered by the person leading her, while an ice sculpture of her melts into a spread of caviar and an animatronic orchestra plays really creepy music. Three chapters later, a bunch of tigers are fused with a bunch of mirrors to form sentient shards of glass with orange stripes that are hot to the touch. .
    • Earlier in the book, there is a long scene involving being raped inside a Megalithic tomb, a woman with eyes on her chest, a girl whose face is permanently covered in cobwebs, a seemingly normal (but not particularly nice) character who turns out to be a gigantic, demon-possessed doll, a man who delivers a three-page rant about obscure rites and cults before trying to sacrifice the main character to the Earth Goddess while children play in his front yard, and a comatose woman over whom another character (who is winged) hunches holding a sword for a very long time. Remember, this is in a single chapter. It should come as no surprise that one of Carter's main literary influences was the Marquis de Sade.
  • A couple of stories in The Oxford Book of Scary Tales. In one of them, "Dare You", on one page there's a pretty accurate picture: the girl doing the dare looks apprehensive as she enters the cemetery. On the next page, there's a very warped picture of her screaming. Another, "Supermarket", summarizes almost every little kid's worst fear: getting left behind at the grocery store.
    • Then there's the story "Exit." To summarize, it's very depressing. Even the artwork is depressing. And it's the last story in the book (not counting the reprise of the poem at the beginning).
  • There was a book that warned against becoming a "worry wart" by depicting said worrier transforming into a short, wart-covered troll-thing. And another about how worms will attack you in bed(turning you inside out so that your toes stick through your ears, and similar torments) if you harm them. And another making the same sort of allegation about rubber bands.
  • This troper made the mistake of reading the Brazilian book Sangue Fresco as a child. The title- Fresh Blood- should have been a warning, but it was a sequel to a children's book. Consider this: Children are kidnapped and kept in the Amazon Rainforest because some crazy man discovered their blood can cure fatal diseases. He feeds a child to a snake, which is described quite graphically; Some children who escape are hunted down by Cossaks; A troupe of hippies gets their skin burned off by napalm; the main female character dips her cat into the river to check for piranhas; and a priest rips out one of the bad guy's lungs with a cross, which is described with something along the lines of: "He jumped into the water and tried to swim, then noticed he didn't have lungs and died."
  • Revenge of the Lawn Weenies which sounds innocent enough, but contains creepy stories such as a girl that found out that when she touched any object and stopped looking at them, they would disappear. Her mom disappeared and then she sat down and cried and hugged herself and disappeared. There was also another story about four girls playing a new video game, and three of them lost. And they disappeared. The story concluded with the last one fighting the final boss and just about to die, so she pressed the pause button. And remained in that position forevermore (implied). It goes without saying that This Troper was afraid of disappearing and video games for a while.
    • It's In the Land of the Lawn Weenies, and yes, it is really disturbing. Highlights include the substitute teacher who is really an escaped lunatic who electrocutes the class, and the positively terrifying "Inside", in which horrible Alien-like monstrosities burst out from inside cows, and the little brother is the only one who can see them. (In the end, he points to the big brother and whispers "Inside," then runs away.)
    • "The Billion Legger", a story where Hundreds of centipedes cover the kid's ceiling, walls, and floor and then all attack him at once.
    • This troper was scared of the one where a teenage girl takes the toddler she's baby-sitting to the park. They're the only ones there, until a kid drops out of a tube slide. The girl dismisses this, thinking she just didn't see him go in, but then another kid pops out, and another, and another, and another...until an entire army of Creepy Children show up, swarm the girl, carry her to the slide, throw her in, and she lands on top of what can only be described as a giant maggot that absorbs her for food so she (the maggot) can make more children. There's a bit of Fridge Horror too...what about that four-year-old kid the girl's baby-sitting?
    • This troper was disgruntled by the entirety of The Campfire Weenies one... In which a boy, in an attempt to conquer his fear of clowns, watches one remove his makeup only to become a horrificly frightening monster in the first chapter, and in the last one, a monster is trying to escape from the Hall of Forgotten Monsters by instilling his story in the mind of a writer... and the words he's putting into the writer's mind are those that began the chapter. -shudders- And, of course, he described quite brutally how if anyone even thinks his name, he will be able to come for them, snatch them out of their beds, and doom them to eternal torment. And his name...? Wanderban. Nice, huh?
      • Even worse is the extras section, where the author put little things about where he got the ideas from. He says that the final idea just came to him, as if someone were whispering in his ear...
  • "Unwind" by Neal Shusterman definitely fits this category. It's about a society in which teenagers are routinely harvested for spare parts. And if that's not bad enough for you, they're dismembered while fully conscious (although they are given anaesthetic). It didn't help that This Troper finished the book at around 1 o'clock in the morning.
    • Worse is the scene where the character is ACTUALLY GETTING UNWOUND BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES.]You don't hear the gory details, but... oh, god.
      • Oh, it's even worse than that: this particular scene is told from the perspective of the boy who's being unwound. Seeing what he sees (until they take his eyes) and going through his thought process (until his brain is dismantled). Do NOT read before bedtime.
    • Really, a lot of his stuff is terrifying, like the tale of a kid who accidentally ended up with a suitcase full of alien clothing and knicknacks, and had to wear it until new stuff could be bought for him. Then, as I'm sure everyone here guessed, he started turning INTO the alien.
  • H. G. Wells, the well-known Science Fiction writer and social reformer, wrote a story called The Cone, which is about a steel works manager whose disgruntled employee throws him off of a catwalk onto a red hot metal cone on top of a blast furnace. The story then goes on to describe, in the most gruesomely horrific detail imaginable, how the man is roasted to death.
  • The Throne of Bone by Brian Mcnaughton. Definitely not for kids. One of the more safe for work stories involves a man whose fiancé is turned into a tree. Being a whittler himself, he attempts to liberate her; "It began to go wrong from the start. The grain of the wood was erratic. I cut too deep, and sap flowed black in the moonlight. Not fluidly, as a human expression would evolve, but as a jolting succession of static images, Dendra's look changed from elation to horror. I had no way to stop her bleeding until I had freed a human body whose wounds I could bind, so I hacked more desperately, but I only cut her more."
  • The Darren Shan books have plenty of nightmare fuel for a kid's series. Everything from creepy crawlies to out and out squicky violence. That said, the scene from The Vampire's Assistant where Reggie Veggie has just had his hands ripped off by a werewolf he'd been trying to 'liberate' and proceeds to run around the forest screaming about his 'hands, my haaaaands man, my haaaands' is right up there.
    • The main character just barely stops himself from attacking his beloved younger sister. That's bad enough, but he realises that the only thing he can do to keep his family safe is to fake his own death and leave them and all his friends, forever. He's about 12 years old. It's made worse by the fact that we have to read the reactions of the distraught family....Yeesh...
    • Darren Shan's Demonata series is much worse. What stands out particularly is the ending to the book Bec, where the titular protagonist/narrator gives a rather detailed description of the various demonic beings she is surrounded by while trapped in a tunnel underground, as the light fades into darkness. And then gives a very graphic description of the sensation of being eaten alive by the various creatures (with claws, teeth, beaks and tentacles), with the implication that the last thing she ever hears is the sound of her own screams in the dark. It did not help that this troper finished the book just before going to bed.
    • In another incident, a guard fires two bullets at a demon lady, who proceeds to stop both bullets in mid-air, transform them into demonic butterflies, and return to sender. More specifically, his eyes, and from there, his brain. Slowly. That one still haunts this troper. He is still bemused that this is apparently a kid's series, considering that if it was ever adapted into film it would instantly get an 18 rating.
  • The Laughing Man by J.D. Salinger could be considered Nightmare Fuel..."...the bandits, signally piqued, placed the little fellow's head in a carpenter's vise and gave the appropriate lever several turns to the right. The subject of this unique experience grew into manhood with a hairless, pecan-shaped head and a face that featured, instead of a mouth, an enormous oval cavity below the nose. The nose itself consisted of two flesh-sealed nostrils. In consequence, when the Laughing Man breathed, the hideous, mirthless gap below his nose dilated and contracted like (as This Troper see it) some sort of monstrous vacuole. (The Chief demonstrated, rather than explained, the Laughing Man's respiration method.) Strangers fainted dead away at the sight of the Laughing Man's horrible face." The best part of it was that the story was being told to a bunch of Cub Scout-like kids.
    • Also, after reading "Guts", in which the man's sister gets pregnant by unintentionally receiving his ejaculate by swimming in the pool he was masturbating in, this troper missed her period (presumably because of mundane causes such as stress or an unhealthy weight a few days later. This troper is both a virgin and an avid swimmer.
  • The short stories of Australian children's writer Paul Jennings are often laden with Nightmare Fuel. A particularly disturbing one is "Clear as Mud", in which the protagonist steals a rare insect from a lab, gets bitten, and finds that his skin is gradually turning transparent to reveal his bones and innards. He flees a terrified but horribly fascinated public, and lives as a hermit for ten years, keeping the beetle in a jar. Then it bites him again and his skin is restored to normal. However, there's a rather horrible twist: the protagonist's condition has spread to the rest of the world: they're all transparent, and hence he's still a hideous freak. All this in barely ten pages.
    • The book series Wicked! is even worse, detailing the spread of a virus that transforms normally harmless animals and objects into monstrous plague-spreaders: swarms of giant innard-eating maggots, sheep with steel wool and psychotic grins, cannibalistic frogs, and apple-head dolls that sprout kilometre-long strangling creepers! And that's nothing compared to what it does to humans...
    • This troper got given a Paul Jennings anthology by a friend for her birthday. This Troper refused to touch it after reading about a boy who drowned after he fixed his boat with some shoddy glue.
  • Madeline L'Engle's Time series is chock full of surreally scary beings.
    • A Wrinkle in Time: IT, a giant disgusting brain that enslaves your circadian rhythms if you get close to IT, and ITs servant the man with red eyes, who talks about the potential enslavement of the universe in the politest terms possible and doesn't open his mouth when he talks.
    • A Wind in the Door: The Echthroi, intangible beings whose goal is to "X" (completely remove from existence) everything and everybody. If need be, they can perfectly impersonate someone, the disguise only penetrable by those who can summon the deepest feelings of true love for the person.
    • A Swiftly Tilting Planet: The Echthroi again, this time with the ability to send time travellers careening off course into Projections, their own visions of the desolate, violence filled places they're trying to turn every planet into.
    • Many Waters: The Manticores, with a lion's body, a scorpion's tail, and a giant human face that continually shout "Hungry!"
      • This troper, in the case of A Wind in the Door, was more afraid of the disease killing Charles Wallace, mitochronditis. Granted, it was the Echtroi at heart, but she wasn't sure if it was based off a real disease that she herself could get—and she didn't have dragons to save her. Actually, she still doesn't know if it's a real disease...she's too afraid to look it up.
      • Mitochondrial myopathy probably qualifies. If not, there are plenty of other mitochondrial diseases to choose from. Have fun.
  • As a kid, this editor once read a children's story about a woman and baby who'd been murdered and buried under -- -- a ballroom floor. Every midnight, her ghost, carrying the baby, would rise up from the floor and walk across the room. And the ghosts, which were described rather graphically, didn't look like a woman and an infant. They looked like half-mummified corpses.
  • Lord of the Flies has lots of creepy stuff, from the Family Unfriendly Deaths of Simon (stabbed with spears after being mistaken for "the beast" supposedly living on the island) and Piggy (hit by a boulder and falls 40 feet off a cliff) to the Family-Unfriendly Aesop that Humans Are the Real Monsters, especially little kids.
    • "Kill the pig! Drink his blood! Kill the pig! Drink his blood!"
    • Don't forget the hazy descriptions of the physical Beast, in truth the dead pilot of a fighter that was shot down and killed while ejecting, his parachute dragging his body eerily about in the wind, in the dark. Worse for this troper was the titular pig's head, eaten clean by flies and described to have the voice of them in the psyche-shriveling sequences when he speaks to Simon. Mature re-reading waves it away as metaphor/dream sequence/hallucination/all of the above, but reading at the same age as the kids in the book made it totally and hellishly real. She'll also never forget the exact description of Piggy's death—it's not red blood that's described, but white brains.
  • The short story about the girl with the red ribbon around her neck. You know the one. And she grows up with a guy, and he keeps asking why she wears it, and they marry and have children and one day she says he can undo the ribbon and her HEAD FALLS OFF. No amount of being told it was supposed to be funny let This Troper sleep that night.
      • When This Troper first read that story it was in a book with lots of very badly drawn, out-of-proportion illustrations that made it far worse. In this version, the husband undid the ribbon without her permission while she was sleeping, and the illustration shows him from the back, with a mirror in front of him so you see both angles, and the woman is lying with her arms twisted up above her head at a weird, impossible angle that makes her look like she's already dead. Also, the position she is in on the mirror is slightly different to the other image. *shudders* What makes it even worse is that she TALKS after her head has rolled off, telling the husband, "I warned you!"
    • In a similar vein, the story about 'knock, knock, knock', where the girl is terrified that the murderer is outside the car. The scary part comes when the door is opened by a policeman, and she learns that the knocking sound was the foot of her boyfriend knocking against the car, after being hung by the murderer feet from where she hid.
      • In the version this troper read, the murdered was sitting on top of the car, banging the roof with the boyfriend's head he had torn off.
      • Or, alternately, the killer was on the roof, and the noise was a scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch.... Which ended up being the killer scraping through the car roof with his fingernails. When the police found them, he was almost through the roof. Shudder.
  • Watership Down. The film is notorious, but the book has the wonderful advantage of leaving it all to your imagination. Plus there are the scenes they cut from the film, such as the "Tale of El-ahrairah and the black rabbit of Inlé", which Hazel tries to avoid having told just before their impossible mission because it'll demoralize, ie. scare the crap out of, everyone concerned. Bigwig insists on hearing it, though, and so we have to listen to how El-ahrairah has to journey into the rabbit equivalent of Hades to confront Death to as a last resort to save his besieged people. El-ahrairah gradually loses his whiskers, his tail and his ears to the Black Rabbit in futile bets, then in total desperation jumps into a well of deadly plague germs in order to carry them back to the enemy - but it it won't work, as the plague is carried by fleas nesting in rabbits' ears. Finally, the Black Rabbit agrees to El-ahrairah's request simply because his persistence in remaining alive is disturbing the place of the dead. So he sends mysterious demons to terrify the enemy into submission...
    • "...And that is why no rabbit who tells the tales of El-ahrairah can say what kind of creatures they were or what they looked like. Not one of them has ever been seen, from that day to this."
  • Orson Scott Card's "Treason". The male main character starts off the book growing breasts (he's got a fairly uncommon spontaneous limb/organ regeneration problem going on). Later, after a chase-scene escape, his intestines are hanging out and he falls into a sort of delirium for a few days and becomes conscious only to see an emaciated clone of himself growing off his innards, very much attached. He has to cut it away with a rock. Not to mention the part where he's being shipped in a crate on a ship and he grotesquely keeps growing limbs...
  • When this troper was little, she got a book in a batch at a book fair that was entitled Vampires and Other Creatures Of The Night. It was actually a fairly benign retelling of an assortment of vampire legends and folktales from around the world- not that scary, except for two things: one, a description of a female Slavic vampire who was a floating head and intestines because of a horrific punishment where people were forced to hunch over in a tiny barrel, and one woman who was enduring this was startled when someone walked up behind her - so she jerked her knee into her chin with enough force to detach her head and pull out her intestines, and was resurrected as a vampire that drank the blood of babies. And people would protect themselves from her by putting thorns around their windows to tear up her delicate insides. As a teen, This Troper realize this is impossible, but as a child, This Troper was deathly afraid that This Troper would somehow lose This Troper's head and get This Troper's intestines pulled out and be like that lady vampire. The other thing about this book that was pure Nightmare Fuel was the cover; a vampire with hollow, burning solid-black eyes and blood dripping from fangs- it raises the hair on This Troper's arms just to think about it even now.
  • When this troper was about six, her two-years-older brother brought home a Christopher Pike book. Being both precocious and a voracious reader, she read it. One of the biggest mistakes of her life- it had a particularly gory scene where the main characters find a missing character's body in the woods wrapped in a sheet, with his head severed, along with a host of other people killed and buried in the same way. This Troper had nightmares for weeks afterward and have to this day (I'm 17) a stronger-than-usual aversion to decapitation and severed heads. Nobody enjoys them, but This Troper was the only person in the theater who had to run out to the bathroom to throw up when the orcs released the Gondorian heads in The Two Towers, and things like the CSI with the severed head bouncing down the highway to the Blue Danube Waltz or the Bones where a body's head fall into Tempe's hands...uggghhh. This Troper not usually in favor of censorship at all, but there is no way that book should have been in a 1-4 grade elementary school library - if it hadn't been, This Troper probably could have avoided a lifelong phobia.
  • This troper had the "good luck" to find a book up in his attic with classic horror stories. In addition to finding the original story of "It's a GOOD Life" ("Wish it into the cornfield!"), and finding this one far more disturbing, there was another one that stuck out.Richard Matheson's "Born of Man and Woman". It gradually emerges that the narrator is some sort of horrid abomination of a spider-mutant with multiple limbs, wall-climbing and a burning saliva. Disgusted, his parents keep him chained up in the basement and beat him when he occasionally gets free and almost seen by guests. He becomes angry with them as he realizes what they're holding back, proceeds to crush his normal sister's cat, and claims that the next time his parents come in, he'll be ready with the acid saliva. Just...the way it was written was just plain horrifying, a lot like Grendel but creepier. It doesn't help that this troper has always been arachnophobic.
  • Edward Gorey, particularly The Gashlycrumb Times, which is an alphabet book with creepy black & white etchings showing 26 ways for children to die, for example, "C is for Clara who wasted away".
    • Although this troper is a big fan of Gorey, the work is seriously disturbing. Especially the way he draws...things cavorting about and writes stories that really have no sense or explanation at all. It's like they hired an Eldritch Abomination to write Victorian children's fiction. However, the most disturbing one of all is called "The Curious Sofa". That we don't see what it does makes it even more terrifying.
    • Maybe this troper is just a sick bastard, but he found The Gashlycrumb Tinies to be rather amusing. Not so with Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark as mentioned above, though (those damned illustrations...), so This Troper guess I'm still human.
      • This Troper thought Gashlycrumb Tinies was pretty funny, too. She doesn't really see the Nightmare Fuel with any of Gorey's stuff, really. This is probably because it's more like nostalgia fuel for her—she read a lot of it when she was a kid, in place of more ordinary picture books.
    • This troper found The Doubtful Guest extremely unsettling, partly because of the guest itself (which hit something akin to Uncanny Valley for this troper because of how it looked almost, but not exactly like a penguin) and partly because of the fact that it somehow slips into a dark mansion with no mention of why or where it's from or what it is and won't leave. And the guests just do their best to ignore it while it lives with them for seventeen years and counting, ripping up their books, hiding their towels, and running around.
    • While the fiction of John Bellairs probably deserves its own folder, Edward Gorey's illustrations to the original editions are nightmare fuel when viewed independently from the books they were created for.
  • Kurt Vonnegut's Harrison Bergeron. Nothing has instilled sheer terror in this troper like this story. In a world where everyone is forced to be equal (via lead weights for the strong; incorrect, migraine-granting lenses for the perfect-sighted; disproportionate masks for the attractive), the strongest/brightest alpha male (after years of torture to keep him subdued) escapes and tries to inspire an uprising on national television. He's swiftly killed by a direct shotgun blast, and it's implied his attempt will be quickly forgotten by the populace at large. This troper was less scared by his defeat, and more by the idea that the "differents" or "specials" of society could be dominated so easily. Being a child constantly enrolled in the "advanced classes" (and mildly autistic), the ear-pieces that sporadically emitted high-decibel noises to distract people from having deep thoughts....were terrifying.
    • "Implied," nothing: Harrison's parents—his father with a thought-scrambling ear radio, his mother too scatterbrained to remember anything--forget their own son's death almost immediately after it happens. Horrifying, indeed.
  • A short story "Menagerie, a Child's Fable" from Charles R. Johnson's 1982 collection The Sorcerer's Apprentice where the owner of a pet shop died and no one came for the animals. It may have been some sort of political or religious allegory, but by end of it, the cat had raped the rabbit—and gotten her pregnant—and the whole place ended up being set on fire when one of the monkeys got ahold of the owner's gun. And the responsible dog who was just trying to do his best? He gets shot.
  • This troper finds Edwardian children's lit and school stories infinitely creepy for some unknown reason—maybe it's because of books like The Children Of Green Knowe where the author's intent to create a tastily spooky atmosphere without actual violence went over way too well. Sure, the family of ghost children are very nice and all, and they died natural deaths, but the atmosphere of the story is so weirdly isolated and lonely and dark that it seems like there should be some deep mind-scarring Cosmic Horror underneath. This Troper can't be the only one who the genre of boarding school stories gives the willies, though...
  • Ever casually flipped through a Ripley's - Believe It or Not! book, only to run into an incredibly grotesque/scary picture or factoid? This Troper has several times in her youth.
  • Wow, this page brought this troper way down memory lane, and with a bunch of long-forgotten books suddenly coming back to her, no mention of The Thinker? It's a collection of stories about a rather strange kid, including one where a bunch of demented dolls rip his limbs off and turn him into a broken doll, and another where he finds a lotion that makes people disappear (And can also make individual parts of them disappear, so when he pours it over his sisters head, her now-headless body runs around screaming.) Oh, and not to mention the one where he switches souls with his cat through a zipper in the cats fur and on his skin....
  • Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins. This Troper can't be the only one who remembers the nightmares caused by the shadowy, demonic King of Goblins at the end of the book, described only as "too horrible to describe", and illustrated as a tall shadow with glowing red eye and Medusa-like hair. Not to mention after he is defeated, we are given some nice little illustrations of his ghost tearing apart the synagogue. Oh, and the other goblin characters are pretty creepy as well, although none of them compare.
  • In the Use of Weapons, one of The Culture series, the protagonist is sent a small, white chair by the commander of the army he is facing, made out of his sister's bones with a seat made of her skin. As if this wasn't horrifying enough, it has a particular effect on the protagonist because it resembles the chair he once walked in on his enemy, once a childhood friend, having sex with her on.
    • Look to Windward had the EDust terrorweapon. A horrific naobot assasin that kills one Chelgrian by turning into a swarm of insects and swarming into his every orifice (psych-profile shows the Chel had a fear of bugs, or the assasin would have chosen something different.) before leaving a nano-missile in his brain. Victim number two was disembowled and dropped over a cliff, while the weapon (in Chelgrian shape.) still held his stomach. He was dangling by his intestines over a lethal fall. BY the way, this is what happens when you don't specifically tell the EDust to play nice. Don't Fuck With the Culture indeed.
  • Wayside School. It's a children's book series by Louis Sachar, about a bizarre elementary school. For the most part, the stories are just silly and cute, but a few of them are definite nightmare fuel. For instance, in the first story of the first book, we're introduced to a teacher named Mrs. Gorf, who's able to turn children into apples, and does so over the most minor offenses. She ends up turning the entire class into apples - even the kids' parents have no idea what happened to them, and the other school employees assume Mrs. Gorf must be a great teacher because of all those apples on her desk. Finally, the apples mount an attack, pin down the teacher, and demand to be changed back. At the end of the story, she accidentally turns herself into an apple via a mirror... and one of the other employees comes in and eats it. Sweet dreams, kiddies!
    • Even worse is in Wayside School Gets A Little Stranger. Mrs Gorf's son returns- Mr Gorf. He wants revenge on the kids for taking his mommy away, and his power is his third nostril- it sucks voices up it and leaves the victims voiceless. The kids all lose their voices to him, all at once, except for Allison, who tries to alert Ms Mush, but before she can, he takes her voice, but there Mr Gorf slips up- he says "Have a nice day" using Kathy's voice. Kathy is a really antisocial little bitch—She would never be so polite. Ms Mush saves them, as she did not think that Kathy could ever be so nice.
      • After Mr. Gorf stole the children's voices, he would call up their parents and tell them that he hated them while pretending to be the child. After this troper read that one, there were tears. Also, there was one story where a girl had a third ear on her head that she managed to hide under her hair until someone discovered it. The story itself wasn't that scary, but was very strange to a very young child.
    • No one else remembers the story where a strange student shows up wearing layer upon layer of clothing, the clothing gets slowly removed only to reveal more underneath, and in the end the "student" is revealed to be A HUGE SEWER RAT-- no, A huge DEAD sewer rat.
    • Then there's the part in the second book, Wayside School Is Falling Down, where Allison accidentally ends up in Miss Zarves' class on the 19th floor. (It is common knowledge among the students of Wayside that the building doesn't have a 19th floor, and that Miss Zarves doesn't exist.) None of the students in the class have ever left the classroom, and they spend their time doing meaningless assignments (like memorizing the dictionary) and getting meaningless A's. Allison seriously suggests to another student that they are in Hell.
  • Weird Tales. A very long-running magazine of pulp fiction, with almost every famous writer of horror or sci-fi at the time, from The Roaring Twenties to The Eighties, including H.P. Lovecraft, contributing stories. Needless to say, it contained a lot of Nightmare Fuel. This troper loved it, but some of the things in it have stuck with him ever since...for instance:
    • "Soft": A man angry with his wife after a breakup last night reaches out...and remolds her like Silly Putty.
    • "The Professor's Teddy Bear": A terrifying Mind Screw in which the professor's childhood teddy bear is revealed to be some sort of horrible monstrosity that whispers to him to do terrible things, and gives him the power to change people in disgusting, Body Horror ways.
    • "The Grab Bag": "Something had eaten her face!"
  • In The Passion by Jeanette Winterson set in a fictional Napoleantic war, there is a scene where Henri is describing how when a horse died from the cold sometimes soilders would slit their bellies open and stick their feet in to stop them from freezing. This is mearly squick for this troper until one night the frost is so thick that the dead horse freeze over and when the soilder wakes up his feet are trapped inside. Henri and the other soilders are unable to free him so the just leave him behind, screaming.
  • Timothy Findley's rewriting of the Noah's Ark story, Not Wanted on the Voyage, has many nightmare-inducing moments, but the worst is the bit where the prepubescent wife of one of Noah's sons is raped with a unicorn's horn... while it is still attached to the unicorn.
  • The Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch begins as a fairly amusing story about a fictional city's first group of con men. Then the tortures begin: a gang member has a bag of broken glass forced over his head and ground into his face and eyes. The main character is drowned (temporarily) in a barrel of horse urine. And when the heroes capture a villain responsible for the deaths of several friends, they play a game called "Scream in Pain 'til You Answer My Fucking Questions," which involves cutting off all of the villain's fingers with a red-hot knife. Once he's answered the questions, they cut out his tongue.
  • The Beach Dogs by Andy Jennings at a school book fair. Although the title gives the impression that it's about cuddly puppies on a beach, it isn't. The general consensus is that there's something there to make everyone's skin crawl, whether it's the scene where an entire litter of puppies dies along with their mother in a fire or the scene where one of the puppies wanders into a walk-in freezer, gets shut in, and freezes to death (slowly), or even just the fact that one of the dogs gets an infeciton her her eye which causes it to crust over, and another has a skin disease which made him so itchy that he scratched all his hair off. It also crosses majorly over into Tear Jerker territory.
  • Millions of Cats. In this charming children's picture book, an elderly couple wants to adopt a cat, so the husband goes out and finds a hill covered with "... hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats..." Unable to decide which one to take back, he leads the whole pack back home so his wife can choose one. She asks the kitties which of them is the prettiest, sparking a kitty holocaust as all the cats tear each other apart fighting over who it is. Out of all the trillions of cats, only one survived, because it didn't think it was pretty and hid while the rest killed each other. And this is supposed to be a happy ending?
  • Elizabeth Scott's Living Dead Girl is one of those wonderful reminders that YA books can and do play with the big girls. It tells the story of "Alice", who has been kidnapped and held for five years by the pedophile Ray. It chillingly depicts not only Ray's systematic and thorough destruction, emotionally and physically, of his victims, but it also quietly reminds the reader of the completely random nature of such a crime: why you over anyone else?
    • Something that can be seen as very disturbing is the LACK of information; several times it's implied that Ray is forcing "Alice" to preform sexual favors for him or even rapes her, but it's never actually STATED that he is doing those things. This forces your mind to fill in the blanks as to what exactly Ray is doing to Alice and it's not pretty.
    • Yet another example is the lengths Ray goes to make sure that "Alice" remains "his little girl." She is 15 and is developing into a young woman, something that Ray is not pleased with, seeing as he's a pedophile. He starves her so she remains under 100 pounds, forces her to take medication that stops her menstruation, and forces her to wear clothes that are made for someone half her age. When he decides that "Alice" is now too old, he does the only rational thing: make plans to abduct another little girl and make her into another one of his "little girls."
    • Something that is brought to light later in the novel is bone chilling: "Alice" is not the first girl Ray has done this to. There was another "Alice" before the current one who was subjected to Ray's treatment. When she turned 15, Ray killed her and her body was found and returned to her parents for burial. But it doesn't stop there. After returning home from their daughter's funeral, the parents were killed by a "burglar,"who, oddly enough, did not steal anything. Given the threats Ray makes against the current "Alice's" family if she were to disobey, it's obvious that Ray was the perpetrator and got away with the crime. .
  • Time Windows by Kathryn Reiss was pretty traumatic the first time this troper read it in 7th grade. The basic premise of the story is that a girl, Miranda, moves into a new house with her parents. In the attic, there is a dollhouse that is an exact replica of the house she's living in. When she looks through the windows of this dollhouse, she can see images showing the lives of the house's past occupants. This starts out as being pretty cool, but eventually takes a turn for the freaky when her mother begins to take on the depressed and sometimes violent personality of one of the house's past occupants, in the worst way possible. And then there's the dead body they find in a crawlspace. Fun stuff for grades 5-9, right?
  • Toshi Maruki's Hiroshima no pika is a beautifully-illustrated picture book about—as you can guess from the title—the bombing of Hiroshima, as seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl. It doesn't pull its punches.
  • The Baby Sitters Club, of all things, gets this in one of the books. Claudia sits for a family in which the husband abuses the kids. After Claudia and her mother rescue the children and their mother, Claudia gets a phone call late at night. It's the abusive father, wailing at her to give him back his children.
  • The Ragwitch by Garth Nix deserves a mention here. A girl finds the Ragwitch on a beach.It takes over her mind and turns her into a giant, half-human rag doll with the girl's face. She can see and hear what's happening, but she can't control the body or do, well, anything.
    • What's quite possible even worse? She's not the only one stuck in there. King Merrin has been trapped in her memories for centuries.
  • The Princess 99 can easily be summed up as "What if Tim Burton and H.P. Lovecraft ran Hogwarts?". Most of the familiars are nightmare inducing, especially if you are afraid of rats. Don't believe me? Let's begin with Brig's familiar, which is described as a rat with a giant eye, a mutated nozzle-like mouth, and nothing else on it's head. Or better, yet - let's talk about Uni and Dual, two demons who do not have eyes. Even better, you can let Eulalie talk about her lovely paintings:

Eulalie: In the quadrupled helixes of its being there are cradled mysteries no man should know lest he go mad and that coiled beast is called The Dark, for to speak Its name would bring upon shadows of insanity. And the Doom Clocks keep man bound only to the surface but one will speak Its name and It shall climb and swallow all that come forth. And It will open one of Its multiplying mouths and out of It shall come the shriek that will end the world.

  • Maurice Sendak's In the Night Kitchen. Full stop. Out of clothes experience? Check. Uncensored child nudity? Check. Being nearly baked alive? Check. Diving into a giant milk bottle? Check. If the childhood memories of this book don't still haunt you...
  • There's a Nightmare in My Closet by Mercer Mayer. Has a Family-Unfriendly Violence moment where the kid shoots the nightmare monster.
  • Something of an obscure example, but there used to be a series of books featuring Disney characters in modernized versions of the Aesop Fairytales (The Tortoise and the Hare, The Shoemaker's Elves, etc.). Anyway, they eventually got to 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf' with Donald(in the role of the boy) going on a camping trip with Mickey; after dealing with Donald freaking out over harmless things all day, Mickey goes to bed and leaves the shaking and scared Donald to rough it out for the night since he won't get to sleep. Following the story that they're parodying, Donald fakes a wolf coming to make Mickey stay up with him so he won't be alone outside; both times fail and, of course, the wolf comes for real after that. While the image of a hungry wolf chasing a classic Disney char probably scared a fair number of young children, what really got this troper was a full page image that makes it look like the snarling, vicious, and possible mange ridden wolf is leaping RIGHT AT THE READER! Since this is a Disney work, no one dies; but that image STILL huants this, now in his twenties, troper.
  • What Joruus C'baoth did to that one Imperial in The Thrawn Trilogy. We don't see it happening, but for a little while after it's over the Imperial is the viewpoint character, and he's basically nothing more than an extension of C'baoth's will. A few pages later and Captain Pellaeon sees a report that the Imperial who was escorting C'baoth just... died a few hours after being separated from the mad Jedi.
    • Worse, Covell had already been the viewpoint character once before, and the contrast between the highly competent Deadpan Snarker that he was and the worshipful puppet he was MindRaped into was utterly horrifying.
  • Heckedy Peg by Don and Audrey Wood is about a mother trying to save her seven children from being eaten by a witch. Said story had a rather gory scene starting with the witch taking the children (who were turned into fruit) into a room, and the mother trying to follow her in. The witch tells her she can't come in, because "her shoes are too dirty". So the mother takes off her shoes, and tries to walk in again, only to have the witch tell her that she still can't come in because "her socks are too dirty". So the mother takes off her socks, and tries to walk in again. The witch still doesn't let her in, telling her that "her feet are too dirty". So she cuts off her feet, and tries to walk in again, this time succeeding (apparently blood isn't "too dirty"...). Mind you, this was a children's story book, read to children in kindergarten.
    • Still horrifying is, if you look closely at the spread page of Heckedy at the table, with the children as food laid out in a banquet before her, has already stuck her finger INTO and begun eating the pie, i.e. the oldest son.
  • MÅ‚ody Technik, a Polish magazine about technology, had once published a short story which left this troper utterly scared of it as a child. It's about a lake which was a dumping ground for all sorts of trash. Eventually, there is so much trash of all kinds in the lake (and an accidental nuclear explosion in the vicinity helps too) that the lake (now more of a dense bog...) becomes animate, and proceeds to eat everything around it. And it grows bigger and bigger. The government tries to destroy it, but all attempts fail. Eventually, the surviving humans desperately escape Earth, while the bog proceeds to eat the entire planet. Then it eats the whole Solar System. Then it turns its attention to the Milky Way... The illustration that depicted an amorphous monster with terrifying teeth also added to the horror.
  • Garth Nix wrote a short story called "The Hope Chest" that manages to cross the Magical Girl trope with Nineteen Eighty-Four and the first book of The Dark Tower. The main character is basically living in the Wild West With Mind Control Hitler!, and after everyone in the town slowly falls under his control, she opens the Hope Chest her mother left for her and finds a white, girly sheriff's outfit and some guns. She then basically falls into a trance and shoots everyone in the village when they try to stop her reaching the dictator's train, and even kills her sister when she turns out to be his girlfriend. Then she shoots him, and as the story ends, the train is somehow travelling between worlds and anything resembling the life she used to have is in tatters. Mind Screw ahoy, and good luck sleeping.
  • There's a children's book called Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, about a young donkey who accidentally turns himself into a rock with the titular magic pebble and spends several lonely months trapped in that form while his parents fret and despair over his disappearance. It's been very accurately described as "I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream -- for kids!"
  • A Bad Case Of Stripes. This girl, for some reason, turns a rainbow color. Harmless... until this one part where she somehow turns into her room, and the bed is her mouth and the pictures are her eyes and she's still rainbow, and her parents are standing there and the doctors are befuddled... and then the girl turns into a GIANT PILL.
  • My Mom The Frog is about a boy who had a wart on his finger, which his mom kissed. His sister then told the boy that if you touch a wart, you'll turn into a frog. The boy's mom then mysteriously disappears, and a frog shows up. Of course, everyone is sure the frog is the boy's mom. But at the end it turned out that the boy's mom was not really the frog, she had just gone to the store to get wart cream, and the frog was just some frog that got into the house.
  • "Meet Addy" from the American Girls Collection to her. The slave master at Addy's plantation makes her eat the slugs off a tobacco plant for missing them before.
    • The American Girl magazine runs a story contest every year. One year, the winning story was about someone who befriends a mysterious girl down by the lake. At the end, the mysterious girl turns out to be a malevolent ghost. The ghost drowns the main character, who then takes the ghost's place, waiting for the next victim to wander by.
  • Probably an Adult Fear more than anything else, but one of the plots in Heir to the Empire, the first book of The Thrawn Trilogy, has Leia pursued by Thrawn's Noghri commandos. Thanks to Indy Ploy after Indy Ploy she escapes them each time, but no matter where she runs and what tricks she and her family pull to throw them off, they find her. She's not safe anywhere. And she's pregnant. Thrawn might be Affably Imperial, but he wants to take her children away.
  • Dutch childrens writer Thea Beckman was really famous for her historically realistic novels. "Triumph of Scorched Earth" was set during the Hundred Years War and contained a really vivid description of the Black Death arriving in the POV character's hometown. Wiping out half the town population. Including all family members of the protagonist. With descriptions of how the bodies got carted out of town and buried in lime.
  • The Willful Child by the Brothers Grimm. It's about a little girl who refuses to listen to her elders. As a result, when she got sick, NOBODY HELPED HER and she died. But when she died, the little girl's hand kept reaching up out of the grave. So the mother had to go down to the grave and beat the child's hand to get her to stop reaching up. Oh god.
  • The following story:

"Once upon a time, there was a little boy, about your age. His mum and dad had to go out overnight, and they decided that he was old enough to stay home alone..."

    • Basically, the gist of it is that the boy has to shut all the windows, but leaves a tiny window that he can't reach open, just a little. In the night, he hears a tap dripping, but he reaches down the side of the bed and the dog licks his hand, and everything is dandy. Eventually, he gets pissed off enough to go shut the tap off. Then he finds out that the dripping was really blood dripping from his dead dog's body - and on the mirror, this is written in blood - "HUMANS CAN LICK TOO". The implication is that the bad guy came in to rob the place, killed the dog so it wouldn't bark, and could have killed the kid but didn't for some reason.
  • Some of the short stories in School Magazine are rather scary. In one story, set in a future where technology rules, the environment is obsolete and the earth is overpopulated to the point that we've concreted over the Amazon River. The story was about a family who get tickets to visit something called 'The Find'. When they finally visit it, one of the children sadly reflects that this was definitely going to be the last, there could never be another. The find? A tree. The last tree in existence. Which was implied to already be dead.
  • The sequel to Neal Shusterman's Everlost, Everwild, involves mass murder of children, and the prevention of them reaching "the light". Also, this is done using possession, and the reader sees the the torture one man suffers when he was almost used for this, not knowing why he threw the small child who couldn't swim into the pool. There's also the 'buried alive' scare that is present in both books, as in Everlost, if you stand still too long, you sink into the center of the earth. Furthermore, in the second book, one of the main characters is slowly turning completely into chocolate.
    • The prospect of Everlost is nowhere near as frightening as the prospect of Mary Hightower. Everything that happens to her from taking to the skies in the hindenberg, being brought back to life and dying again, to having her army of bodysnatching dead teenagers rebel against her only makes her more powerful and makes her seem scarier. And in Everlost, anything that seems scary, will be. Oh yeah, there's the consolation that nothing can hurt you, but the various monsters of Everlost manage to come up with fates worse than torture and death including chiming, cramming, pushing down to the center of the earth, sealing in barrels, permanently shareing a body with someone, trapped in the body and mind of a wild dog, forced into the body of a breeding sow so fat that it can't move, and perhaps the most common becoming trapped in a rut endlessly repeating the same few actions over and over again. Worst of these are probably Milos and his search for the one eyed jack he knows will end him in a deck of cards and the pair of Neons who do nothing but tell knock-knock jokes, but had never heard of the interrupting cow.
  • Being compulsory reading in Polish schools, Antek, a novella by the Polish author Boleslaw Prus, traumatized a lot of teenagers with the part where a little peasant girl goes down with fever, so her mom - going by the advice of the local elderly "wise woman" - puts her into a flaming oven for a period of "three Hail Marys", hoping to burn out the fever. The consequences are predictable.
  • The Underland Chronicles - with an eleven-year-old hero with his two-year-old sister, you'd think it be kid-friendly, right? Nope. Six-foot rats, giant spiders, flesh-eating fish, dozens of rats falling down a chasm to their death - and though it isn't described, we're told Gregor hears them hit rock bottom. And that's just the first book! Other books have delights such as Gregor's arms getting infected by some kind of octopus-like creature, a giant whirlpool, a main character getting eaten in seconds by countless tiny mites, another character getting her nose nearly bit off, poisonous frogs, plants that will charm you so they can dismember you, the implication that the Jungle is a Genius Loci ("Does this place have a brain?" "Where do you think all the paths came from?"), near-dehydration, Hamnet's tragic past, the mouse holocaust, the Bane...
  • In the book The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks, about a fairy and a human woman who become friends and the former grants the latter's wish for a child, despite the fairy queen strictly forbidding it, the second half of the book contains a scene in which said child squeezes a wasp out of the toothpaste tube. Think about that. A live wasp. Inside the toothpaste tube. The illustrations in the book made the wasps look more like yellowjackets, which are worse than normal wasps.
    • After the wasp in the toothpaste, we also have a bit where the girl opens a packet of cereal and finds several wasps in that. Then, she finds a necklace. With dark gemstones that are shaped like wasp stingers. And her one friend puts it on her before she can protest and the stones dig into her skin so it won't come off. It doesn't hurt her, but still! She then goes home and finds a magic wand covered in thorns. When she picks it up, that too becomes stuck into her hand. She uses it to make an endless supply of toys appear, which leads to (1) a life-sized baby doll with glowing, green eyes appearing and (2) her nearly dying from suffocation as the door to her room gets jammed and she is almost buried alive. Oh, and before all of this happens, there's a lovely scene where her mother finds the wand in the garden. It's lying there in the dark, glowing with a pulsing green light, and it burns her when she tries to pick it up. And this is for kids?
  • The Lilies by Alison Prince is about a girl and her mother who rescued wilted flowers from rubbish bins and "planted" them in their garden. It was implied that the flowers talked to them and/or were some godlike beings. Not so scary, right? Well, a priest gets wind of this and, deciding that the girl and her mother are demonic, goes to kill them. There is one terrifying bit about the mother wanting to be buried with the flowers and about the girl lying down over where she planted some lilies so that the lilies will grow through her body.
  • Sara's fate at the hands of Miss Minchin in A Little Princess. The worst part is, there's no clear explanation as to why Miss Minchin has always resented the little girl so much, and Sara had no clue she hated her until her father dies and Miss Minchin no longer has to treat her like a parlor boarder anymore. This book can either be a heartwarming story or a hearty spoonful of Paranoia Fuel. Miss Minchin is definitely one of the cruelest Sadist Teachers in fiction.
    • One of the adaptations turns the question of resentment into a bit of a Tear Jerker by implying that her father wasn't nearly as kind to her as Sara's was. Still, the scene in that same adaptation, in which we see Sara's father in the war zone, with all of the dead around him, is plenty scary.
  • The Silverwing series. These books are nothing EXCEPT horrible things happening to bats, from burning alive to being bombs to getting your wings pecked off (as a child—and still alive) to suicide...the list goes on.
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon. It's not a particularly scary book in the traditional sense; Harold is a little boy who draws things with his crayon and they come to life (almost exclusively nice things). The creepiness comes later when you realize that Harold is the ONLY real character in the book. The whole world is empty, except for Harold and his crayon.
  • The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston is about a boy who ends up being sent to live at an old gothic manor. The titular children are ghosts that are trapped there. Although the children themselves are benevolent, there's a tree in the garden which the children called "Green Noah", inhabited by a demonic tree-spirit. This troper remembers listening to it on tape when she was young, while on a road trip with her family, in the middle of the night, and the little poem about Green Noah is especially creepy:

Green Noah, demon tree,
Evil fingers can't catch me!

  • As mentioned above, Nancy Farmer's pretty good at Nightmare Fuel Filled stories. One of her most well known is House of the Scorpion. With the entire concept of eejits: You're captured, have your brain modifyied to become mentally handicaped and totally obedient. Totally obedient. As in, "if you don't get the order to stop, you work until you drop dead." As a matter of fact, Matt comes across an eejit early on in the book who did just that, in a opium field. Imagine, working in a field under scorching heat, feeling your body slowly dehydrate, knowing that you're slowly dying, and yet unable to do anything but work, and work, and work, untill slowly you black out, even as your body still desperatly tries to continue...
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are very violent, but some of the worst offenders were the horrific hallucinations shown by the trackerjacker venom involving ants crawling onto the main character; a fog that burns you clothes and skin, paralyzes you, and if you are completely submerged, makes you have seizures and die, killing an 80-year-old woman; and genetically engineered wolves that maul Cato nearly to death, who've been created to look like all the dead tributes, who all the remaining contestants have killed. It's heavily implied at the time that they show up, and it's left open that the wolves were created using the DNA of the dead tributes.
    • The creepy white giant lizard muttations in Mockingjay. They smell like a horrific combination of the blood of their victims and the sickeningly sweet fragrance of President Snow's signature roses. Oh and they maul and dismember anything in their path, even Capitol citizens, to get to Katniss.
    • Also, the thing in the Capitol in "Mockingjay" that basically melts a soldier while still alive.
    • For that matter, any of the endlessly inventive ways of killing people that the Panem scientists have invented - during "Mockingjay", it's clear that the Capitol prefers psychological warfare to flat-out annihilation of opposing forces, even though it's clearly capable of the latter.
  • The Stephen Baxter novel Evolution has gallons of nightmare fuel, but the most jarring of it comes near the end (taking place 500 million years hence, with the "Trees". Basically, these Trees are a giant mass of symbiotic organisms, in which the apelike descendants of people live in. It's already kind of creepy. It gets worse. The Tree itself is somewhat self-aware. In the opening of the story, it decides that the troop of posthumans cannot afford another child. When a mother puts her child in the leaves of the tree, it grows fibre all around the baby and actively tries to suffocate it.
  • The children's horror anthology Baleful Beasts and Eerie Creatures was pure nightmare fuel to its readers, partly because of the incredible illustrations by Rod Ruth. One story, The Patchwork Monkey, involves a horrifying monkey doll and what it does to a young girl's brother. it tries to MERGE with him and succeeds,and the last scene is her brother, wearing its red ribbon smile as he speaks to her in its voice. Picture of it is at http://the-haunted-closet.blogspot.com/2008/06/patchwork-monkey.html and almost every story in the book was as scary.
  • Joyce Carol Oates' Thanksgiving. In it, a girl and her father go out to do the grocery shopping for the sick mother, in preparation for Thanksgiving. They take a wrong turn and find themselves in the parking lot of a strange, dilapidated grocery store. All of the customers in there are sad and defeated-looking, all of the employees are ominous, and all of the food is described as being rotted or spoiled. The idea is supposed to be that bad things can be turned good if one tries hard, but it's still a very creepy way to show it. Three points stick out in this troper's mind - the first is a description of one of the employees, particularly how a section of his jaw is missing. The second is when the girl is forced by her father to go down one of the dark and scary aisles to get detergent. She tells us how there's a giant hole in the floor and how she has to balance her way along the edge, all while trying not to get a bottle of detergent so heavy that she loses her balance. The final, and possibly scariest, part is towards the end, when they're going for a turkey. The meat is kept in a room and the only way to enter is to crawl through what is essentially a hole in the wall. Inside, it's almost pitch black and the floor is covered with disgusting, uncooked meat and a lot of blood. And of course, the girl has to go in alone, since her father can't fit through the hole.
    • While we're on the subject of Joyce Carol Oates, the short story "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been" is about an escaped killer who tries to convince a girl who is home alone to come out of her house and go with him. In the end, the girl opens the door and steps outside. The end.
  • Left Behind: The Kids, in contrast to the adult series, is the fate of a group of young men and women as they struggle to cope with the horrid apocalypse. Oh, did we mention that their parents have all disappeared and everyone's getting beheaded right and left? And everything's out to get them? That the adults that are left don't give a crap if the people they're threatening with death all range in age from eighteen to thirteen? Oh, wait, no, the thirteen-year-old died in an earthquake in the beginning of the series. Gruesomely. One Chinese kid gets drugged by his own dad in order to force him to take the Mark of the Beast. Also, half the adult figures that the younger characters respect end up getting killed off. You know, for kids!
  • Stranger in A Strange Land's protagonist, Valentine Michael Smith, has vast psychic abilities owing to his Martian upbringing. Among these is the ability to make any object, regardless of size or make-up, just "go away." This includes humans, and Smith spends most of the book with an odd mix of Blue and Orange Morality and Black and White Morality, meaning if he perceives a "wrongness" in you, you're just gone. No appeal, no argument, you just disappear because the Man from Mars said you were bad. Everyone else is frighteningly blase about this, even though Mike's bodycount (not that there are any bodies to count) gets up into the high hundreds.
  • The Star Trek series of novels 'Invasion!' The invading force are basically hell-demons from old Earth mythology that want to take Earth for themselves because they believe they are entitled to it due to living there before humans even existed.
    • In First Strike they try to kill McCoy by burning him in a wicker man and their method of attack in 'Soldiers of Fear' is a beam of literal Nightmare Fuel. It's a weapon that projects feeling of terror and images of each person's individual worst nightmares so strong that it can completely destroy a person's mind if exposed to it for too long. And Deanna is empathic, which means she felt/saw the nightmares of every member of the crew of over 1,000. Not to mention the imagery described on Brundage Station and Data's completely detached, emotionless reaction to it while the rest of the trained Starfleet officers were freaking out.
    • Also, poor, poor, poor Julian in Time's Enemy. Imagine having all your friends die and your ship almost completely destroyed in battle. You try to send out a distress call, only to discover that you have been thrown so far back in time that humanity is still in amoeba form, so there is no one to rescue you. You could just put yourself out of your misery...but wait. Someone has to take care of the Dax symbiont, the only other survivor of the crash, who is a slug like creature who can't talk without a host body. So you spend decades slowly going mad with nothing to do but write medical notes and no one to talk to but a slug who can't even hear you. Then, imagine you are the Dax symbiont. You can't see, hear or communicate, can only move around within your 1m square tank. And you have to live there, slowly going mad for 5,000 years. At least Julian got to die after about 80. Then imagine finding out that this is going to happen to you and you have almost no chance of preventing it.
    • The scene where members of a Bajoran rebel cell die in agony from having only half of their molecules rematerialize after trying to transport over too long a distance.
    • And then there's the acid burns Julian and Kira get from that shape-shifting alien. Especially the stubborn way they continue trying to go on without medical treatment, including Julian climbing down several decks with hands that were blistered to the bone!
    • The scene where Julian is trying to find said homicidal shapeshifting alien in the pitch black infirmary, and the scene when Julian and Kira are fleeing from a whole swarm of them that have assumed the form of giant, robotic insects that make shrill clicking noises and get trapped in a turbolift shaft.
    • Also, the shape-shifters can't see you, but they can hear you.
  • There's a short story by Anthony Horowitz (of Alex Rider fame) called "Harriet's Horrible Dream". Harriet is a spoilt little brat whose family goes bankrupt and she's sold to a restaurant. Not to be a waitress, oh no. The restaurant is called the Sawney Bean, and yes, she is going to be cooked and eaten. Of course, since it's a children's short story, it's All Just a Dream, except it isn't. She wakes up...on the kitchen counter. Sweet dreams, kids!
    • Horowitz later wrote a Spiritual Sequel called "SheBay" where a couple run out of money and auction off their daughter online. A four-way bidding war ensues between the owners of the Sawney Bean; a mad scientist who wants to dissect her; a coven of Satanists looking for a human sacrifice; and a seemingly kind old couple in charge of an orphanage. They win the bidding and throw the girl to the "orphans", who are all orphaned tiger cubs.
  • Even the "Guinness Book Of World Records" has some, no matter what edition. More specifically; some of the images, and even some world record descriptions, can be pure Nightmare Fuel. Several examples include images of the most pierced person, the longest full body burn without oxygen, and the largest venomous spider.
  • The boy's version of Once Upon a Potty, while a good story about teaching toddlers potty-training... This Troper don't know about you, but having some omnipresent, unseen force telling a little child to go "wee-wee" and "pee-pee-" and then pick up the bowl and show it to his mom...? Messed up... Not to mention the part before it, when it shows the toilet, and asks several questions, including, "Do you eat out of it?"
    • Of course, the fact that it was somewhat anatomically correct, and the toddler never wore underpants was also somewhat nightmarish.
  • Twilight: Renesmee's birth. There's something uniquely unsettling about inserting a pregnancy scene that the chest-ripping scene from Alien into a young adult romance. This includes Ripping Bella's body (including spine!) from inside out.
    • Two more words: Wife Husbandry. Jacob's relationship with Renesmee is squicky, but it starts to become more than a little horrifying when you think about how common the practise is among the were-wolves, and that adult men and older teenage boys are given unrestricted access to very small children they have romantic/sexualised feelings towards, changing their nappies and babysitting them and such. Or that the little girls, when they come of age, are expected to have sex with men they see as surrogate father or uncle figures. Even if they waited until the girls reached the age of consent, it's likely that the relationships would be more than a little coercive, especially as the men, who had been expected to sacrifice healthy adult relationship and even sex for their sworn love, might just get to thinking that the girl owed them something. At the very least, they'd probably have been gagging for sex for almost two decades. It doesn't exactly make for the gentlest introduction to adult sexual relationships.
      • And one more thing : Bella's blood is Edward's crack. Maybe you don't want to see Edward as a bad person, but he has a chemical dependency that he can't fully control, and which -if he loses control even once- will result in the brutal murder of whoever happens to be nearby and tasty. Admittedly, Bella is pretty self-destructive and seems to enjoy putting her life in danger, but imagine yourself (or a girl/woman you love) having to share a school room or workplace with a partially reformed serial killer who wants to taste your insides. Now imagine that you ( or the female loved one) unknowingly dating this same lunatic especially since, even once he has been ditched , he will obsess about you, maybe even begin to watch you/your loved one every night while you sleep. And there are people all over the world like this, who- unlike traditional vampires- can wander around during the day. Maybe you, or your loved one has just started to date that person right now. Maybe they are seated at the nearest cubicle or desk. Or that of your wife, best friend, sister or daughter. Think about that for a moment.
  • There is a book about a teenager helping her younger brother vanquish miscellaneous things that go bump in the night. Among these midnight hallucinations was this puffy-faced cotton candy thingy that ate pajamas; they either vacuumed it up or found a loose hair on it and pulled said hair until the thing unravelled. We also had a book, which I think was called “There’s no such thing as monsters.” Invariably, pretty much every page had some kind of monster or other on it. The illustrations were not so frightening, but the message, which seemed to be “Be afraid of monsters so that your parents will have a reason to buy this book,” was. Then there was the Dr. Seuss classic, “What was I scared of?” with the possessed pants chasing the bear-cub/who all throughout a black and blue version of Sleepy Hallow. What was I scared of? The Addams Family approach to psychotherapy.
  • There was a poem in a book This Troper read once about a little boy named Jimmy. The first paragraph is about how good of a little boy he is, and how everyone loved him and gave him "chocolate with pink inside". But then, while at the zoo, he slips away from his "nurse", is immediately killed and eaten by an escaped lion. As if that wasn't enough, at the kid's funeral, everyone expresses disgust and almost no angst at the poor boy like he became the naughtiest kid in the world. Even his own parents say it served him right to be killed by the lion. The lack of angst is just disturbing. It seems to show the aseop as: "No matter how nice you are, everyone will hate you if you break a rule."
  • Invoked in Who Cut the Cheese? by Stilton Jarlsberg. Once CheesyUniverse is overrun by a Swarm of Rats, it is compared to "the sort of nightmarish scene Hieronymus Bosch might have painted".

--- Sleep well, children!

  1. later known as John Clark
  2. However, Your Mileage May Vary as to whether this is Nightmare Retardant, because without limbs, the priest bears an uncanny resemblance to Monty Python and the Holy Grail's Black Knight.