The 7 Scariest Stories by Stephen King

Stephen King Portrait Session
Ulf Andersen / Getty Images

Stephen King is well-known for his terrifying novels and short stories. Over the years, he has created dozens of tales that frighten his readers (and often wind up translated onto the big screen). Let's take a look at seven of his scariest works of fiction.

IT (1986)

Special Screening of IT with Stephen King
Scott Eisen / Getty Images

Few things are as frightening as clowns—especially clowns that prey upon and eat little kids. Set in the town of Derry, one of King's favorite imaginary villages, IT tells the story of a group of children who band together to fight against an unspeakable evil that terrorizes Derry every generation or so.

Pennywise the clown is one of King's most horrifying villains, in part because his victims are often kids. The protagonists of IT return to their hometown to fight off Pennywise once and for all, with frightening and tragic consequences.

The Stand (1978)

The Stand Original Cover

Doubleday Books

 

The Stand is a post-apocalyptic tale set after the world has fallen to a weaponized strain of the flu. Small groups of survivors begin their own cross-country journeys, making their way to Boulder, Colorado in hopes of forming a new society.

One group is led by an elderly woman, Mother Abagail, who becomes the spiritual beacon for those who would walk the path of good. Meanwhile, Randall Flagg, the "man in black," is gathering up his followers in Las Vegas and planning to control the world. Flagg is a quintessential King bad guy, with supernatural powers and a penchant for torturing anyone who opposes him.

Cujo (1981)

Cujo Cover

Gallery Books 

Set in Castle Rock, Cujo is the story of a lovable family pet gone bad. When Joe Cambers' St. Bernard is bitten by a rabid bat, all hell breaks loose. As with many of King's novels, the theme of children in jeopardy makes the novel all the more frightening to read.

'Salem's Lot (1975)

Salems Lot Cover

 Anchor Books

In Salem's Lot, vampires torment the sleepy New England town of Jerusalem’s Lot. The novel focuses on a writer named Ben Mears, who returns to his childhood home only to discover that his neighbors are turning into vampires. Add a spooky haunted house, a couple of missing kids, and a priest who questions his own faith, and you've got a recipe for horror.

Carrie (1974)

Sissy Spacek In Carrie
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Before the classic film, Carrie was one of King's most terrifying books. Carrie White is an unpopular misfit who gets picked on by bullies and abused by her mother. When she discovers that she has telekinetic powers, she uses them to wreak havoc and exact revenge on everyone who has wronged her.

Pet Sematary (1983)

When the Creed family's beloved cat Church is hit by a car, Louis Creed buries the pet in the local graveyard. However, Church soon reappears, looking and smelling pretty dead. Next, the Creed's toddler son is run over by a speeding truck, and he too comes back from the dead. The novel expertly hones in on parents' fears about their children.

The Shining (1977)

On the set of The Shining
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In The Shining, aspiring writer Jack Torrance is a struggling alcoholic who moves his family to the remote Overlook Hotel, where he hopes to write his novel. Unfortunately, the Overlook is haunted, and the ghosts of previous guests soon drive Jack to madness. His son Danny, who possesses psychic abilities, can see what's happening around him as his father becomes increasingly erratic and dangerous. King has said that the book, which he wrote while traveling to the Rockies, was heavily influenced by Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House.