"I was once asked what I thought was the most disquieting thing you could see on the screen and I said, "An open door."
"Being prepared for almost anything, he was not, by any means, prepared... for nothing."
Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door. You approach the door in the old, deserted house, and you hear something scratching at it. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. "A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible," the audience thinks, "but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall."
— William F. Nolan
The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.
Inside the mailbox is absolutely nothing.
Nothing after nothing came bursting out.
"Real terror is not the sight of death. It is the fear of death. What is the fear of death? Terror of the unknown."
— Pisha, Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
Watson: I ought to be more case-hardened after my Afghan experiences. I saw my own comrades hacked to pieces at Maiwand without losing my nerve.
Holmes: I can understand. There is a mystery about this which stimulates the imagination; where there is no imagination there is no horror.
Harry: We were scared. It was like being lost: very young again, with the dark, and lost. There was no... thing... to be... frightened of, but...
Edna: WE WERE FRIGHTENED... and there was nothing.
— Edward Albee, A Delicate Balance.
"Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? Nothing."
— Ethros Demon, Angel — "I've Got You Under My Skin"
"There is neither ghost of earl nor ghost of countess in that room, there is no ghost there at all; but worse, far worse."
"The worst of all the things that haunt poor mortal man," said I; "and that is, in all its nakedness - Fear! Fear that will not have light nor sound, that will not bear with reason, that deafens and darkens and overwhelms."
— H. G. Wells, The Red Room.
Then there's the kind [of horror] where the guy in the spooky mask isn't in the cupboard, but right behind you, and you just know he's gonna go "ABLOOGY WOOGY WOO!" at some point, but he doesn't, and you're getting more and more tense, but you don't want to turn around because he might stick his cock in your eye. That would be your Silent Hill 2. [...] You see, [this type] is best, because your imagination is doing all the work, all a good horror game needs to do is hand you a piece of sandpaper and shout encouragement as you vigorously massage your own undercarriage.
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'Sir,' said I, 'or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore';
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; —
Darkness there, and nothing more.
— Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven
Bart: Hey, you know what would have been scarier than nothing?
— The Simpsons on The Raven, Treehouse of Horror
Magister Hickory: The Master has been playing with us for a full week now. Lights on and off, odd noises, awful smells. And that was a glimpse of the Beast.
Thornmallow: But I saw nothing.
Register Oakbend: Which is worse—seeing or not seeing?
Josh: Man, if she's gonna get us, I wish she would just get us... I-I can't take this stress!
Megan: I sat back quietly, all week long, watching. While the two of you were slowly eaten alive by your own fear. And that's the best revenge there is.
— Drake & Josh, "Megan's Revenge"
"Now you might be asking yourself why I'm not allowing you see who I am Lucius. If you think about it, I'm sure you will recall the power of the fear of the unknown, from your time hiding your face behind that white mask, all the while under the Imperius of course. You're frightened of me now, and will be even more frightened of me in the future. I've proven I can reach out and take you at anytime, no matter where you are, from your magnificent home to your private club."
There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.
Mat: I was scared of some other games, but this is just pissing me off! He's taking all of the internet fame and stuff, and he doesn't even do anything! Slenderman is a slacker!
Pat: But you know what? That's the scariest thing about him! It's one of those things, where it's the ultimate show that your brain subconsciously comes up with the scariest things possible.
Teal lifted the blind a few inches. He saw nothing, and raised it a little more ó still nothing. Slowly he raised it until the window was fully exposed. They gazed out at ó nothing. Nothing, nothing at all. What color is nothing? Don't be silly! What shape is it? Shape is an attribute of something. It had neither depth nor form. It had not even blackness. It was nothing.
"Bear in mind closely that I did not see any actual visual horror at the end."
— Opening sentence, The Whisperer in Darkness
"Itís not great art, but itís proof that vague shapes and crackling twigs can be scarier than million-dollar FX ó that nothing is scarier than nothing."
— David Edelstein writing about The Blair Witch Project
"Before darkness fell, we caught sight of the Sea-Hound to starboard, and this glimpse was indescribably eerie - perhaps particularly because we only got a kind of general impression of the beast. In the darkness I imagined the rest, and that was worse still."
Stephen King once wrote that "Nightmares exist outside of logic, and there's little fun to be had in explanations; they're antithetical to the poetry of fear." In a horror story the victim keeps asking "why?" But there can be no explanation, and there shouldn't be one. The unanswered mystery is what stays with us the longest and it's what we'll remember in the end.