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Nightmare Fuel: Stephen King
Futurama sums the whole thing up.

You saw it coming.
Works with their own pages
  • 1408
  • Apt Pupil
  • Carrie
  • Cell
  • Children of the Corn
  • Christine
  • Cujo
  • The Dark Half
  • The Dark Tower
  • Desperation
  • DifferentSeasons
  • Dolores Claiborne
  • Dreamcatcher
  • Duma Key
  • Gerald's Game
  • The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon
  • The Green Mile
  • Insomnia
  • IT
  • The Langoliers
  • The Long Walk
  • Misery
  • The Mist
  • Needful Things
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes
  • Pet Sematary
  • Rage
  • The Regulators
  • Roadwork
  • Rose Madder
  • The Running Man
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • The Shining
  • The Stand
  • Under the Dome

  • Cujo and Misery are prime examples. Made all the scarier because they could actually happen. EEEEEE!
  • Insomnia. The main character can see people's "auras", which lets him see how healthy they are... so he can see how badly brain-damaged children in a hospital are, and he can see roughly how close people are to death. When people are about to die, their aura turns into a black "death bag", which is somewhat alive. When someone is going to crash a plane into a convention center, the death bag is larger than the center and cursing at everyone, even though they can't see it. The villain is an agent of chaos, who kills people because he wants to... and he's invisible and Made Of Air.
  • The Dark Tower has several elements that seemed designed to remind the reader that King writes horror stories. From the first three books we have Norm of Tull, the end of Tull, the Slow Mutants, The lobstrosities, a man getting cut in half by More Dakka, Odetta/Detta, Shardik, and the Pusher, who doesn't do drugs but pushes people in front of trains. Oh, and when Jake thinks he's going insane. And the Doorkeeper, who is a sentient, malevolent entity disguised as an abandoned house. And Blaine the train, who is a real pain.
    • Onward through the remaining four books, of which some of the more notable ideas and concepts include a procedure which ends up destroying little kids' minds because of what they extract. Bonus points for the fact a byproduct of the process is the accelerated growth of the kids to such a point you can hear their skulls expanding. The pain is basically that of teething ... for a solid year or so. Dandelo; Randall Flagg being psychically compelled to tear his own eyes out and then tear his own tongue out; Mordred the half-human, half-spider from the time of his birth; long pork at the Dixie Pig; ruminating on the sound of the Crimson King screaming as he is erased from existence; the can-toi; and, at the Battle of the Algul Siento, a hydrocephalic kid banging his head on the ground and dying with a sound like a watermelon being split in half.
  • 'Salem's Lot. The paranoia that permeates the whole story (a reflection of the real-life time period he was writing about, it turned out), the shortcut the Glick boys foolishly take home, seeing the ways all the townspeople are slowly turned - and the biggest shudder comes at the end, where Ben is looking at his old snow globe, and seeing/imagining himself as a pale, bloodless, nearly brainless vampire, looking up at the real Ben from a window inside the house in the globe.
  • "The Jaunt," another short story. "It's eternity in there..." Contains what is quite possibly the most gruesome and memorable ending to any of King's stories.
    • Using the Jaunt device (with no exit) as a murder weapon. Technically, the victim never dies. Ever. She is cut off from all external stimuli, alone, with no way of ever escaping. (But the court convicted him anyway.) The defense attorney made that exact argument (that it wasn't really murder since the wife wasn't dead), but when the jury thought of a human being stuck in that state forever it cemented the husband's conviction. Although to be fair, it's possible that using that way DOES just kill the person, and that it's only the sensation of journeying to an actual point B that feels like "an eternity".
  • Gerald's Game. This one is psychological rather than monster-related. It has everything: paranoia, delusion, voices, and a dog eating Jessie's dead husband. She is handcuffed to the bed and as she gets more dehydrated she starts to hear more and more voices, coupled with someone she thinks is moving around the house while she is helpless, but for most of the story it seems this is another hallucination. She finally escapes by slicing her wrists open on a shard of glass to provide lubricant to tear her hands out of the manacles. She ends up ripping a ton of skin off and almost dying from blood loss. Later she writes a letter to one of the people whose voice she heard, which involves explaining what really happened and what her recovery process was.
    • HE WAS IN THE BACK OF HER CAR!!!
  • There were two things about Dreamcatcher: The part where someone plays a tape of the "aliens" imitating celebrities and telling people that they're not dangerous, and the part where the first alien appears, because it was so sudden, Jonesy just turns around and he sees it, no previous signs to warn the reader.
    • Mr. Gray is utterly terrifying. Also, Blue Unit is just a slightly nicer version of Blackwatch.
    • "PENNYWISE LIVES"
  • "Survivor Type": A surgeon gets stranded on an island with only some powdered heroin, a couple of knives and the clothes on his back. In order to stay alive, he kills and eats a few seagulls he managed to catch, but he breaks his foot eventually. So he needs to amputate, and realizes afterwards that there's another way to keep himself alive. By the end of the story, he's cut off (and eaten) everything below the waist, along with his earlobes. The story ends with this last diary entry, with the implication being that he's desperate and hungry enough to eat his own hands, which, as a surgeon, he has been taking excellent care of for the entire story.
    • "lady fingers they taste just like lady fingers." Brrr....
  • The Raft: two college guys and their girlfriends go for a spur-of-the-moment swim at a remote lake. When they get to the raft in the middle of the lake, they see what looks like a dark patch of oil in the water. Needless to say, it isn't oil but rather, a strange creature that dissolves and absorbs people. The tone makes it horribly creepy to begin with, but the idea of waiting alone, trapped, and without hope of escape from an alien death... . The way he describes the deaths is absolutely horrific.
  • The Monkey: another short story, which utilizes and heightens every trope you've ever seen connected to those creepy monkeys-with-cymbal toys.
    • Jang-jang-jang-jang, who's dead this time?
  • Trucks: In which trucks rebel and destroy humanity, blaring demands to their new slaves via Morse code.
    Someone must pump fuel. Someone will not be harmed. All fuel must be pumped. This shall be done now. Now someone will pump fuel.
  • The Regulators. The most graphically detailed description of an exploding head since Scanners.
    • The scene where Tak "sweetens up" Audrey will make you never want to eat honey again.
    • Utilizing the power of the autistic boy he had come to possess named Seth, Tak warps reality itself and turns the Ohio neighborhood into a distorted Western filled with green blobs of cacti, black crayola crayon drawn mountains, gigantic Christmas light-like stars, and sawtooth mountains twisted by Tak from the little boy's childhood fantasies, along with monstrosities straight out of his host's coloring book. Said monstrosities consisted of:
      • No Face, a sinister faceless being who came from a fake sci-fi series called Motocop 2200, who drives by the neighborhood killing and shooting anyone in his path.
      • a mountain lion that looked so awful that Johnny (one of the survivors) felt his eyes hurt just staring at it, and which uttered a womanish shrieking cry before attacking
      • a bird that looked like it had been drawn by a child (with different length wings and uneven number of talons on each foot) pecking at the corpses
      • The band of killers drawn from Seth's imagination of his favorite spaghetti western, The Regulators and Moto-cop cartoon characters, shooting everyone in the neighborhood in their four vans.
      • A child's version of a gila monster from The Regulators, with a head looking like an "escapee from Jurassic Park" and orange eyes. The gila monster tears apart one of the survivors that had drunk himself into a deep sleep from the horrors and stress.
    • During the shooting, Marielle has one of her arms nearly shot off, leaving it to hang like a thread. Later, while trying to stitch up her wound, Entragian accidentally angers Marielle, who struggles with him until her arm is completely severed.
    • After the first shooting, Johnny sees a red haired woman named Debbie Ross lying face down on the other side of the screen door of the building he was taking refuge in. When he asks her to respond and gets no reply he checks her hand and finds a small pulse. Excited, he grabs a handful of her hair, brings her head up to get a better look at her "face" and gets this:
    The girl's face came up, except it didn't, not really, because there was no face there. All he could see was a shattered mass of red and a black hole that had been her mouth. Below it was a litter of white that he at first, thought was rice. Then he realized it was her teeth, what was left of them. The two men screamed together in perfect harmony."
    • And when he tries to call the phones for help, all Johnny gets is the voice of a little kid reciting lewd rhymes.
    • What Tak does to his other unfortunate victim, Peter Jackson. When he lures him to Seth's home, he injures him and then Mind Rapes him by eating his thoughts away, turning him into an Empty Shell/Stepford Smiler. He then sends the mentally broken and dying man to help find his "friend" by forcing him to walk across the hideous child-drawn, monster-filled wasteland. In the end, he finds his "friend" (actually a dead bum who had been shoved so hard into a nearby cactus grove that his eyes had popped out of his sockets and his bloody mouth twisted into a loopy grin), and talks to it like they were best buddies. And as his senses deteriorate, Tak uses his physical state as an opportunity to make a cactus grow and stab him in the back, paralyzing (and hopefully killing) him. What's worse is that even in his state, Peter still had enough mind left to be aware of who he was and even some sense of fear while going on the demented endless walk in search of his "friend", but was already too far gone to have done anything about his situation.
    • And remember, Tak does all this explicitly For the Evulz and to feed of his victim's pain.
  • On the subject of Misery, the thought of being held prisoner to someone that delusional and that fixated with you for a time span of nearly half a year is horrifying. And made worse by the revelation that Annie is not afraid to mutilate Paul in order to keep him under control and is completely deaf to his pleas and begging. She even cuts off his thumb and serves it on a birthday cake as the candle. What's really about the "special candle" wasn't just Annie's not-so-subtle threat to make him eat it, but when the text suddenly went off for an entire page with no pauses, sounding almost sing-song at points. It shows how absolutely terrified Paul is.
    • Annie killing the young cop. Especially when she mowes his head.
    • She MADE HIM DRINK MOP WATER!!!She also made him burn the only copy of his manuscript of Fast Cars. It's a little harder to connect to that since typewriters aren't used that much anymore, but to lose every last page of work is a writer's worst fucking nightmare.
  • Desperation. How about the fact that the whole FREAKIN TOWN has been killed in various gruesome and disgusting ways. Or the fact that all the animals left alive in the town are under Tak's control including the spiders and snakes, which are everybody's favorite animals in the world. Or how about the way that Tak possesses people, with their bodies eventually just sloughing off until all that's left is a bloody mess.
    • The insertion of the words "I'm going to kill you" into the Miranda Warning near the beginning of the book, and the Tak-possessed cop doing just that to the husband of the family at the end of the chapter.
  • Dolores Claiborne isn't exactly a horror novel, but the old woman deteriorate into madness from age and realizing she can't stop it. Only Stephen King could turn dust bunnies into a terrifying representation of a decaying mind.
  • Any Stephen King stories involving vehicles. Maximum Overdrive, Christine, and From a Buick 8 are all damn freaky when you consider this is stuff we live with and depend on, and then BOOM! You're running from an 18 wheeler that wants to enslave you, a car with a ghostly rider, and a car that, for all intents and purposes, shouldn't exist.
    • The scene in Christine where Leigh is choking on a hamburger and she sees glowing green eyes from Christine's dashboard.
  • A short story called The Road Virus Heads North where a writer buys a painting at a tag sale called, appropriately, The Road Virus Heads North, which depicts a man with teeth that are filed to a point and an evil smirk on his face driving in his car. Then things get nightmarish. The picture starts to move. Subtly at first. His arm moves to reveal a tattoo, which the protagonist writes off as his fault for not noticing it. Then it moves back. Then he sees that the car in the painting is moving along familiar roads. It stops at the tag sale where he bought it, and viciously slaughters the woman who sold it to him. The protagonist throws the painting in a fire and goes to sleep. When he wakes up, the painting is back, and the car is outside his house. And empty. As he attempts to hide from the killer, he notes that the final change has been made. The car has fresh blood in the driver's seat, and he realizes that this is what is about to happen to him.
    • Serves as particularly strong Nightmare Fuel for Stephen King's own family — he apparently owns a painting identical to the one in the story (although the story itself is entirely a product of his imagination). It hangs in his study, because they wouldn't let him hang it anywhere else in the house.
  • The Library Policeman, that is, Sam Peebles' very own library policeman. Prepubescent Sam is graphically raped. It is a pretty painful scene.
    • Ardelia Lortz. A beetle-like thing that will remind you strongly of IT, who possesses people and feeds off the misery of little children. Fuck.
  • Stephen King writes a story called "The Boogeyman." His description of the thing in the closet having "cabbage breath" is shudder-inducing.
  • The description of the eponymous character in Rose Madder, specifically how she looks right before she deals with Norman. The mental image of the 'rot' that seems to move beneath her skin is equal parts Nightmare Fuel and Squick. Then again, King seems to love hopping over the line between the two. What happens with Norman and the mask could count, too; It fuses to his face. Fortunately for him, he doesn't live much longer than that. Rose and Norman's marriage itself is a more reality-based example.
  • The scene in The Dark Half when they operate on Thad, only to find what they assumed to be a brain tumor was actually the living remains of his twin brother, absorbed/digested while in utero. Nothing but a pulsing pile of flesh, teeth, and one blinking eyeball.
    • Also George Stark's slow and painstakingly described decomposition, followed shortly thereafter by his being pecked to death by sparrows. In The Movie, his skin is pecked down to his bones, his jaw is moving in a silent scream.
    • "What's going on out here?!" "Murder. Want some?"
  • Blockade Billy has a piece of HONF at the end when Billy, after his secret has been found out, reveals what the hell is under that Band-Aid on his middle finger when he goes to talk to the umpire who screwed him earlier in the game. It doesn't end well.
    When I saw the puddle of blood after he was taken away in handcuffs - oh my God, such a pool of it there was - all I could think of was those forty thousand people screaming KILL THE UMP the way they'd been screaming Bloh-KADE. No one really knows it, but the kid didn't know that, either.
    • Extra HONF for the "secret" itself - that he killed the real Billy and his parents and their cows because he didn't want people getting suspicious about them not getting milked.
  • One of King's short stories, The Gingerbread Girl, tells the story of a woman who moves to her father's summer home in Florida after having a fight with her husband. Not scary yet? Well while there she discovers there is an insane madman who brings women there just so he can rape and murder them. The entire later half of the story is her escaping the same insane madman.
  • Possibly some of the scariest parts of King's works are the point in his career where he published "The Bachman Books". To wit:
    • Rage - A high school loser finally snaps and guns down two teachers and holds his class hostage, forcing them all to work through his issues (and some of their own). Eventually, they all get a case of Stockholm Syndrome and beat the living shit out of the one poor bastard who didn't fall for it, and who winds up catatonic for his troubles. Add to the fact that it was found in the possession of multiple school shooters, and you see why King had it pulled.
    • The Long Walk - An easy comparison to make to Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, an alternate universe America has 100 teen boys pulled from all fifty states to compete in "The Walk".
    • Roadwork - A man who refuses to move out of his house, which is in the path of a new freeway under construction, loses both his son and his mind; he ends up taking "There's no place like home" too far.
    • The Running Man - The origin of the Arnold movie, a desperate man tries to win the money needed to keep his wife and daughter alive. Now put yourself in his shoes and see how long you'd last.
  • Duma Key is creepy even before bad stuff starts happening. Imagine being in an accident and waking up with no right arm. Also, you can't remember a good portion of your vocabulary. There's a page describing the protagonist getting frustrated while asking his wife to come over and sit on the friend, on the pal, on the chum because it's as close as his fractured mind can come to the word "chair", and it doesn't end there. He ends up stabbing his wife with a plastic knife and choking her and can't remember either incident, and when she breaks the news to him that she's divorcing him, he calls her a "birch". Instead of getting angry, she corrects him and leaves without another word.
  • The short story "Gray Matter" has a man turn into a giant fungus or bacteria after drinking spoiled beer and begins to eat children.
  • One word- no, one letter: "N." That one was based on an 1894 story by Arthur Machen called The Great God Pan. King considers it one of the single best horror stories ever written and even claimed it kept him up at night!
  • On the author notes at the end of Just After Sunset, he asks if the readers are sure they locked all the doors or turned off the oven, OCD symptom or not, just in case somethings happens. As if he KNEW people would be reading the book in bed, right before sleeping. This troper had just finished reading N. (which deals with OCD) and was so effectively disturbed that got off bed just to check all that and couldn't easily sleep after that. Damn you Stephen King.
  • There was one story from the Everything's Eventual collection called "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French" about a woman who kept reliving one moment of her life.
  • Full Dark, No Stars. First off, the first story has a man being bitten to death by rats (in first person). Plus, Beadie... Just, Beadie, ok?
  • There's a short story Word Processor of the Gods. While the story itself isn't that scary, instead working the angle of drama, look at modern social networking. The pressing of a single key can effectively change reality. Imagine the power, or even the knowledge, if it were to be used by someone now.
    • And then there's "Mrs. Todd's Shortcut" (a short story). The eponymous dimension is literally accessed by wormholes. Now imagine if you couldn't find a wormhole out, or the car crashed. Given the creatures of The Talisman, The Mist, From a Buick 8, The Dark Tower series, The Jaunt and nearly every other inter-dimensional tale by Stephen King, we can only assume that such an event would not end well. Mrs. Todd drives maniacally enough to continually find new wormholes, each new route displays a new forest layout, and Mrs. Todd is obviously so warped from her experience that she might purposefully trap herself (and any passengers) in it. If you stumbled upon one of these routes naturally, you wouldn't sleep for decades. If you were guided by the only actual expert, you run a high risk of not being alive if you get out.
  • From "Skeleton Crew", a number of stories: "The Reaper's Image", especially the ending with the narrator waiting for his buyer to reappear. "Uncle Otto's Truck" had the eponymous vehicle slowly creeping up on Otto until it was right outside his fucking window. His death was also pretty fucked. And "Morning Deliveries" had the most fucked up milkman I have ever seen.
  • Autopsy Room 4, from Everything's Eventual. Live burial is a common horror subject, but leave it to King to come up with live-but-paralyzed autopsy. The funnier bits may seem to lighten up the story until you consider the protagonist's final comments:
    "I think that in the first three months after my misadventure, my ability to joke provided a slim but vital margin between sanity and some sort of nervous breakdown. Unless you've actually felt the tip of a pair of postmortem shears poking into your stomach, you don't know what I mean."
And similar to some mentions above, you may not able to listen to the Rolling Stones for a while after reading this.
  • In one short story "The Man in The Black Suit", a boy goes fishing and ends up meeting the Devil, described as having burning eyes, shark-like teeth, clawed fingers and the odor of burnt match heads. The Devil tells the boy terrible things, such as his mother dying while he was away and his plans to devour him alive. Through quick thinking, the boy distracts him by offering the fish he's caught, and runs exactly like hell is right behind him. What's even worse is that the monster pursues him until he reaches the outskirts of the forest. Go forward many years later and the boy is now an old man terrified by the prospect of death, fearing that the Devil will return to take him away and he will be too old to escape from him a second time.

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