Anne Rice explains why shes too frightened to finish Dracula, Lauren Beukes recalls a horrifying graphic novel and others share their most haunting reads

Anne Rice: I have not, to this day, read Dracula in its entirety

Two scenes come to mind immediately. As a child I tried to read the original Dracula but a scene in the early pages with the vampires absolutely horrified me: where the count drives his vampire brides away from the helpless mortal, Jonathan Harker. Its then that a sack is revealed and inside it a wailing, half-smothered child, which the count gives to these vampire women. This so scared, so shocked, so horrified me, that I abandoned the book and took it back to the library. I have not, to this day, read Dracula in its entirety.

The second was in Stephen Kings Salems Lot, when Matt overhears his overnight guest Mike say to someone, Yes. Come in, in the upstairs bedroom. And then Matt hears the sound of the window hasp being turned and the sound of the window opening. Now, this is an upstairs window. Matt knows a vampire has entered the house via the window and by invitation from Mike. Hes is obviously terrified. And so was I.

Anne Rice is the author of Interview With the Vampire.

An extraordinary gift … Frances Hardinge. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris/The Guardian

Sarah Lotz: It is guaranteed to put kids off of Barbies for life

With their painted mouths and uncanny valley eyes, porcelain dolls have always creeped me out, but after reading Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge, they are now firmly in the Oh God, no category alongside clowns-in-drains, Arctic ghosts and mysterious whistles on deserted east coast beaches. A deliciously twisty spin on a changeling story, Cuckoo Song is aimed at young readers. But thanks to Hardinges extraordinary gift for atmospheric storytelling, it scared the crap out of this fortysomething most notably when the troubled protagonists dolls come to life and start screaming. Yes, screaming. Heres a taster: Its glass eyes seemed to come into proper focus, and then the doll flinched and started to shake. Its mouth fell open, emitting a low, eerie mewl

Buy it for the kid in your life now. Its a win-win: guaranteed to put them off Barbies for life, while developing a taste for brilliant, imaginatively written fiction.

Sarah Lotzs latest book is Missing Person.

Andrew Michael Hurley: Two friends losing their way on a lonely stretch of canal is unsettling enough

For me, one of the most disquieting scenes is in Elizabeth Jane Howards Three Miles Up. The premise of two friends losing their way on a lonely stretch of canal is unsettling enough, but its the more subtle moments of eeriness that give the story its power. The deeper Clifford and John guide the narrowboat into the wilderness, the further they drift from reality. They find a strange girl sleeping on the banks and take her aboard; the cottages by the towpath disappear overnight; the elderly man with the scythe who gives them directions to the village three miles up they meet again further along as a little boy.

But the very end of the story is the most chilling

Andrew Michael Hurleys latest book is Starve Acre.

From graphic novel Through the Woods by Emily Carroll. Photograph: Simon & Schuster

Lauren Beukes: This graphic novel gives Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft a run for their money

Emily Carrolls Through the Woods is rich with malevolence and horrifying endnotes, using a muted palette shot through with crimson. All the stories are unsettling, but its a scene from the story The Nesting Place that is nested inside me and gives Junji Ito and HP Lovecraft a run for their money. Bells mother raised her on stories of monsters the fog with a thousand mouths, the not-a-man with the piano key teeth, and the worst of all, the burrowing kind: The sort that crawled into you and made a home there. The sort you couldnt name, the sort you couldnt see. The monster that ate you alive from the inside out. So when the teenage Bell visits her brother and his fiance at their country house, she recognises the signs, as does the reader. The terrible reveal of the creatures face, or rather what lies behind her face, inside her skin, hot and red and writhing and full of need, was creepy as hell.

Lauren Beukes is the author of Broken Monsters and The Shining Girls.

Ramsey Campbell: Adam Nevill is among MR Jamess living inheritors

MR James immediately comes to mind – the bag that puts its arms around your neck in the dark, the mouth that waits for you to find it under your pillow, the dog whose head you pat only to realise that it has a human face that shouldnt be alive. In refining the tale of supernatural horror to its essence, James increased the terror, and among his living inheritors is Adam Nevill, who is at least equally committed to intensity of dread. The entire first section of his novel No One Gets Out Alive feels like a nightmare that grows ever more relentless, from which we may never waken, and thats my choice for sheer unrelieved fear.

Ramsey Campbell is the author of more than 30 novels and hundreds of short stories.



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