What is it that sends a chill down our spine? Sometimes it’s the creak of a floorboard, or the shift of a shadow (trees can look suspiciously human, after all). Sometimes it’s a phone call where there’s no one on the line ... and sometimes it’s a quote from a terrifying book.
These creepy quotes give us a hair-raising chill, one that makes us open our closet doors and double-check our locks. From real-life monsters like John Wayne Gacy to the story that influenced the first season of True Detective, you might want to read them with plenty of people around.
Then again, some killers do love a spectacle, don’t they?
‘There are no kids out there now, Mom.’
Martha’s eyes were wide behind her large, silver-framed glasses as her head turned slowly from the window to face Jenna. ‘They disappeared...They disappeared into the ground.’
–The Loveliest Dead, by Ray Garton
Suddenly I heard something—a faint, light tinkle, like that of a metal wrench being struck against a pipe. In the next moment I could hear the distinct sound of metallic tapping ringing up from below through the radiators. The sound was unmistakable. [He] was in the house.
–Crawlspace, by Herbert Leiberman
Out of a habit she’d acquired in childhood, Lynnette stared up the hill to the Van Fleet mansion. Where no one cared to venture after dark. So deserted that even the electricity wasn’t connected.
There was a light in a room on the second floor.
–Nella Waits, by Marlys Milheiser
It was an abattoir of bones, of curving ribs like the spars of sunken galleons, of shattered femurs and scoliated spines, of fleshless fingers clutching and blank skulls with empty eye sockets staring, jaws agape, and tangled shreds of disintegrating hair still clinging to their yellow-ivory domes.
–House of Bones, by Dale Bailey
“Where did you get that bear, Olive?”
“From Jasper,” she answered matter-of-factly, licking her fingers.
“Did he give it to you?”
“How did you get it from him?”
“I snucked behind him and cut his throat and took it.”
–The Sopaths, by Piers Anthony
The blinds were up, which explained the extra light in the room, and there was something stuck to the pane of glass. She frowned, not quite understanding what it was doing there, why the blinds were up. Then she pulled the object off, scrutinised it more closely.
And felt her heart lurch.
It was a photo. Of herself, sleeping.
There were words on the back. Neatly printed block capitals. She read them.
I’M WATCHING OVER YOU
–The Creeper, by Tania Carver
His whole body stiffened. He was evidently staring at something behind my back. His eyes were wide open and protruding slightly, his irises fully exposed and the whites gleaming. Everything about him was taut, coiled and alert. I wheeled round and followed his gaze. He was looking through the wooden arch of the door frame, at some distant point at the far end of the hallway.
‘It’s coming,’ said Chapman.
–The Sleep Room, by F.R. Tallis
A motto was stenciled on the headboard in fading black letters, N’ESPÈRE RIEN, ‘Hope for nothing,’ the marrow of the Huguenot religion: only God knows which sinners will be saved; therefore hope for salvation is an illusion.”
–Incubus, by Ann Arensberg
‘Just because you can’t see them and you can’t hear them, that doesn’t mean they’re not here.’
–The Devil in Gray, by Graham Masterton
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She pressed the button on the flashlight; it didn’t work. She shook the cylinder violently; the batteries jiggled, but still no light. There was movement; a figure slid through the darkness and stood, back to Allison, against the outline of the rear window.
‘Hello,’ she called, her voice choked and frightened. There was no answer.
–The Sentinel, by Jeff Konvitz
Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
–The King in Yellow, Robert W. Chambers
The serial killer was a colder, more calculating animal than the mass murderer. Part of the serial killer’s method was façade, the ability to live an apparently normal life between, and in spite of, the accumulating murderous episodes. The serial killer is everyone’s next-door neighbor.
–Buried Dreams, by Tim Cahill
A mesh of thick vines grew upward from the base, crawling along the withered trunk, sutures trying to close the gaping wound where the sides lay back like flaps of charred flesh. The wind streamed through the gap, tugging the cuffs of my wet pants, brushing at the grass, tearing at the leaves of the new growth around the tree. Then I heard the cry again, and once more I froze, for I discovered the thing that voiced it, almost hidden behind the moving greenery.
I was looking at a human skull, and it was from behind the parted jaws that the screams came.
–Harvest Home, by Thomas Tyron
God! Whose hand was I holding?
–The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
“Wendy? Darling? Light, of my life. I'm not gonna hurt ya. I'm just going to bash your brains in.”
–The Shining, by Stephen King
Featured photo: Thibault Martin-Lagardette / Flickr (CC); Additional photos: Chris Dobbins / Flickr (CC ); Matthew Rutledge / Flickr (CC); Marc Donis / Flickr (CC); houston, i am the problem. / Flickr (CC); r. nial bradshaw / Flickr (CC)