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The 5 most terrifying scenes

In no particular order:

1. The Devil appears to Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov
2. Jonathan Harker awakes in Castle Dracula to find himself surrounded by three female vampires
3. The closing pages of Double Indemnity, when the narrator knows he is going to be murdered
4. When the padlock falls from the coffin in M. R. James’ story “Count Magnus”
5. The description of the torture machine in Kafka’s “In a Penal Colony”

Damn! I haven’t included anything from The Turn of the Screw!

I don’t read a great deal of ghost, horror or sci-fi stories so my pick are the well-known ones:

1 The Monkey’s Paw where a knock at the door has to be answered or does it?
2 The Turn of the Screw which challenges the reader, as in the above, to imagine their own horror, probably more terrible than the writer’s own vision.
Whereas with Poe his imaginative descriptions are a match for any of his readers! Therefore I have chosen three from the ten I have in a paperback edition of a selection of his great mysteries.
3 The Black Cat and the knowledge that decaying remains are alive.
4 The Tell-Tale Heart which concludes with a ringing noise growing louder by the second.
5 Metzengerstein with its appearance of a spectral animal to frighten the people.

I don't read any ghost, horror or science fiction (beyond the very rare short story) and the books I remember most for frightening me date back a fair way and were really the writings of a hack crime writer.  His name was Dominic Devine and after reading a couple of his books, I was quite scared sitting on our sofa!  Things had come out from underneath the sofa in his stories, I seem to think.  I see this was nom de plume of David McDonald Devine and a site I found called him 'hugely under-rated, writing books superbly plotted and well-written'.

I have always remembered his name but for many years never found anything else by or about him.  Still hard to find anything beyond the titles of his books.

I doubt I could muster 5, but I don't think we should assume all scares come from genre fiction. One of my top picks would be in Nineteen Eighty-Four, when Winston Smith discovers the rebel movement is nothing more than O'Brien's elaborate ruse to trap him. That sort of gut-wrenching rug pulling is far more terrifying to me than anything paranormal or physically disgusting. It's this scene rather than the rats of room 101 that is the true terror at the heart of the book, because it's here that Smith realises there is no chance of escaping the system, and he was foolish to have allowed himself to believe otherwise. Incredibly depressing and claustrophobic!
Joe McWilliams

A top five I don't think I can do, at least not without a lot of effort. The only one that comes to mind immediately is a scene from Astrid Lindgren's Rasmus and the Vagabond, which my mother read to my siblings and me when we were very little. The boys in the Vesterhaga orphanage hear the woman who runs the place (damned if I can remember her name or title) coming and see her shadow on the wall. It terrified them and it terrified me.

Here are mine.
1.  The scene from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" where the men go to Highgate cemetery to exhume Mina (IIRC) and put a stake through her heart.

2.  When Jane Eyre goes up to the attic for the first time.  I know that this has become a cliché but the first time I read it, it terrified me.

3.  From the Second Pan Book of Horror Stories, William Sansom's "The Vertical Ladder".  A schoolboy is dared to climb a rusty ladder on the side of a gasholder.  I'm scared of heights and this terrified me.

4.  The funeral scene in Donna Tartt's "The Secret History".  There are so many gripping scenes in this  book (although I admit the book dragged a bit during the final third); the lead-up to the murder; the attempt to act "normal" afterwards; the discovery of the body and the initial investigation.  But the scene where the students stay with the grieving family of the student they murdered before attending his funeral was so atmospheric that I had to put the book down at times as I thought I was going to hyperventilate.

5.  The burning house in Zola's "The Debacle" .  A child is heard screaming and screaming and screaming ...and then the screaming stops.

I have to say I don't find any of the horror stories I have read scary, I haven't read that many, but nothing I have read has made me feel scared the only one which made me feel uneasy in places was Dracula the first time I read it.

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