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Do or Don’t: Very Scary Books

St. George Dragon Puppet Show in Paris by Alfred Eisenstaedt

This new book was way too much for me…

Last week, after hearing rave reviews, I picked up a copy of I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. The true-crime book focuses on a journalist’s obsessive search for the Golden State Killer, a serial rapist and murderer who terrorized California in the 1970s and 1980s.

While I lay in our cozy pink bedroom, cuddled under the covers, my mind started racing: the Golden State Killer would sneak into people’s houses at night and attack them while they slept. He used a flashlight to blind them. He preferred suburban couples. Suddenly the room felt ominous. Was that a footstep? Was something under the bed? Where was Alex???

The author, Michelle McNamara, seemed equally terrified by her years of research: “There’s a scream permanently lodged in my throat now,” she said.

I made it all the way to page 16 before shutting the book for good.

My friend Stefan actually cut himself off from scary books as a teenager. His dream was to move to a cabin in the woods one day, and he didn’t want to fill his head with chilling images. “I only slipped once with the Blair Witch Project,” he admits. (Update: He now lives in said cabin and never gets spooked.)

Funnily enough, I’m okay with fictional thrillers. I tore through The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl. But true crime makes my blood curdle.

Curious: Can you handle scary books? What about movies and podcasts? Which do you love? Am I just a wuss? Please weigh in below…

P.S. The Shining as a romantic comedy, and a terrifying podcast.

(Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt.)

  1. Jeannie says...

    Omg they just arrested a suspect for the crimes described in this book!

  2. Brita says...

    I have to say, having finished the book last week, it feels so close to home that they believe to have CAUGHT the Golden State Killer today! Here is a link for live updates: https://www.reddit.com/live/10u13m7afbnb1

  3. I looooove true crime podcasts – but I listen to them at work, where I’m surrounded by people in a bright office, or while driving somewhere with my husband. I’ve learned I can’t listen to them while home alone. I don’t read as many true crime books, but my rules are: 1- read another book at the same time, so I can pick up something happy to transition out of the gloom. 2- I’m allowed to skim over details if it’s too intense. 3- never, ever read it before bed.

  4. Heather says...

    I read this book over the weekend and was telling a friend about it this morning while we were running (i waited until it was light). She notified me about this post and i had to come comment! This is the first true crime book i’ve read and it was TERRIFYING. Today i came home with my five year old, parked our bike in back, and asked her where the water bottle was that she had left behind earlier that day. It was gone. She showed me which window ledge she’d put it on and it was gone. I was completely beside myself in panic. Someone had been in our back yard and taken it. Maybe they were observing, prowling, planning. Maybe they were in the house. Then i looked down and the damn waterbottle was tucked UNDER MY ARM. Apparently i’d picked it up without realizing it. This may be the last time i read a book like this but i gotta say, Michelle McNamara wrote a compelling, empathetic book before her death <3

  5. Hannah says...

    In theory, I would totally read this and be into it. However, I learned a long time ago that I can only take books/movies/shows of this nature in small doses. Like I can only read one Stephen King book every few years because that’s how much they scare me and how long I’ll be thinking about the story and mulling it over and discussing with friends or family before I feel ready to read another. This book sounds amazing and I’m pretty sure I’ll read it one day but it probably won’t be any time soon because I just finished a fictional crime series I’m still reeling from :)

  6. Lizzie says...

    I truly just picked this book up at the library a week ago! While I can’t do fictional horror (monsters seem way too scary as soon as I’m alone–I know, ridiculous), I’m a sucker for true crime, suspense, and thriller. I cannot wait to get into this book.

  7. Lucia says...

    I don’t usually read crime nor thrillers, but sometimes am curious what is everybody talking about. I remember when I read Ring by Koji Suzuki, a horror story famous later as a movie, that I was scared even by the book itself. I was even trying to avoid to look at it.

  8. Paulina says...

    I’m a real scaredy cat! I’ve even cut out scary movies. I’ve come to realize that for some people it’s entertaining and fun to get scared. I get completely freaked out and actually suffer miserably. No need to suffer voluntarily. I have fun doing other things and that’s perfect as well. Loved your reflection about this subject!

  9. MaryMargaret says...

    I hate gore, but do love true crime, thrillers and mysteries. Just read I’ll Be Gone In the Dark (prompted by your “no go” post!) and it was a fast and totally fine read. More of an interesting, puzzle-solving bent than scary. I would say it was higher on intrigue and amazement (how did this string of repeated crimes happen in a tight geographic area?!?) with a peek into the lives of those who venture down the sleuthing rabbit hole. A worthwhile read!

  10. I love good writing, but recently realized that I need to protect my already over-active imagination from the stuff closer to real life. I read the book “Fierce Kingdom” about a mom and her four year old son who experience and hide from active shooters at the zoo. When the high school I work at had a real life lock down a few weeks ago, I was hiding under the desk imagining I was being hunted by the villains in the book and it made the real life situation a lot worse.

    • chrissy says...

      Moira,
      That is terrifying- I work in a high school too and everyday I worry… what’s going on in this world?
      Chrissy

  11. Christina Child says...

    I avoid scary movies like the plague, but I recently read Mind Hunter (the book that inspired the Netflix series about how the study/profiling of serial killers was born). It is built around some HEAVY material, and they do outline the Golden State Killer in detail, but because it’s focused on how the FBI ultimately benefited and learned from the crimes it was an easy and fascinating read!

    • CJ says...

      I watched Mind Hunter a few months ago and literally could not sleep after watching a few episodes. Too real. Too scary. I love that they learned so much about patterns of behavior and serial killers but man, I was totally spooked especially by the BTK dude (who worked for a cable company and was regularly in people’s homes) portrayed in the series. Chills.

  12. Liz says...

    I can’t even watch A Christmas Carol!!! Thought I could try again in high school…nope. I had the hardest time going to bed for weeks. I have never tried again. Nothing with shadows!

  13. attygreen13 says...

    Funny, I ONLY like to read true crime. Fictional scary stories are just too easy to dismiss – the real stuff is way more interesting. And, yes, terrifying. I was a prosecutor, and we had a serial killer (of young, college-aged girls) in my city at the time. After you’ve seen real evil up close, ghost stories pale in comparison.

  14. Shannon says...

    Can’t handle scary! The too many times I’ve rehashed the Manson murders in my head…I could have lived without knowing about them!

  15. Ramona says...

    I started listening to the I’ll Be Gone in the Dark audiobook yesterday in the car on my way back from a 1 PM meeting. I thought it would be fine to listen to during the day, and that I just shouldn’t listen to it at night when it might freak me out. Well, somehow right around bedtime my thoughts turned back to the book and I was up past midnight freaking out about every little noise! Even though the writing was absolutely fantastic, I’m not sure if I will continue with the book. The fact that it kept me up at night seems especially disturbing knowing that the author wound up accidentally overdosing on meds she was taking due in part to sleeplessness and nightmares from writing the book.

  16. Shannon Nobles says...

    OMG I made it only a tad bit further before quitting as well… way too scary for me too!

  17. Andrea says...

    In theory, I want to read scary books. I have paged through enough of Gone Girl in supermarket lines to know the basic story, but I can’t sit down and read them. I once read half a book about vampires at a friend’s house in high school and didn’t sleep for a week! Sometimes, when I read a really intriguing review, I’ll look up the Wikipedia article so I can read the plot without having to read the book.

    • Chantal says...

      Lol I do that same thing with scary movies that seem interesting! Open Wikipedia and read the plot

  18. Cecilia says...

    I read here you were reading that book and bought it. Read half before shutting it out for good…. I always finish all books, but it was so scary! Plus I read how the author died while writing it and it was too much!

  19. Barbara says...

    Ha Ha. Got it on your recommendation and started it this weekend. The same weekend we decided to move from suburbia to the city and bought a house. The farther I got into the book the more reticent about that decision. Would someone break in? Would I meet my demise in the new house?I decided to put the book away…I want to meet my new home with open arms! !!

  20. Heather says...

    Nooooo I do NOT do scary. Single white female terrified me in college and I haven’t watched a scary movie since. Books are even worse. I get way too involved and feel all the feelings. No scaries for me!!

  21. MissEm says...

    I do not do scary. When I was a kid, I somehow had all the scary-loving friends so it was ghost stories and terrifying movies far too often (um, I slept with my light on for 13 years, no joke). One of my earliest memories is going to bed as a four year old on Halloween night after my mom read us a scary picture book. I remember laying there thinking, why would anyone want to scare children?? It totally baffled me.

  22. Natalie says...

    I can’t do scary movies or scary books! Fact or fiction, they always get into my head!! I feel like such a wuss whenever I get invited to a scary flick, but I value my sleep too much for that nonsense.

  23. Kat says...

    I just have to comment on the photo on this post! What were the kids looking at?!?!? I would LOVE to know! The expressions on their faces!

  24. Sarah says...

    About a year ago, I started listening to true crime podcasts such as My Favorite Murder. I even joined “murderinos” groups on Facebook because, in theory, this stuff intrigues me. But after a few months I had to stop. I was starting to become very paranoid, and acutely aware of all the ways in which I could be kidnapped, harmed, murdered, etc. I half feel like it’s kind of healthy(?) to be in that mindset- it’s good (esp as a woman) to keep your guard up, and to be in the know of tricks and what to look out for. But when it turned into constant anxiety or worry that something was going to happen, I had to tap out. Now, I carry pepper spray and a flash light with me when I walk my dog at night (other times, too!) and I always keep my wits about me and follow my intuition, but I’m not constantly thinking over several murder stories when I’m out alone, wondering if I’ll be next.

    • Kimberly says...

      This was me! My husband worked nights and I was a wreck for years. Then I stopped cold turkey, no books, movies or internet about crime or sociopaths. I don’t even watch the news now. It’s amazing how the anxiety just disappeared. Best thing I’ve ever done.

  25. Molly says...

    Nopity nope nope…NOPE! I can’t even allow myself to watch Law and Order/ L&O SVU anymore even though I LOVE the show. Also if you ever feel compelled to watch “Inside the Mind of the BTK Killer” documentary, trust me and keep on scrolling. I watched it 10 years ago when I was in college and have truely never been the same since. You learn WAY more than you ever wanted/needed to know and they interview the actual guy. Horrifying is an understatement.

    • Molly says...

      I couldn’t finish lovely bones either – way too scary.

    • Molly says...

      Oh lord, you know you’re a wuss when even writing those two comments makes you worry you’re going to have a nightmare for even thinking about it for a second.

    • Cynthia Miller says...

      I’m with you!

  26. Gina says...

    I actually kinda can’t wait to read this, but don’t read much true crime, so fingers crossed! My son ( at 13!) and I LOVE horror movies, so I THINK I’ll be ok…

  27. Jo says...

    I couldn’t watch Desparate Housewives because I found it so creepy that the narrator was dead! Definitely won’t be reading this book…!

  28. Sarah says...

    UGH, yes! I could have written this. I got so sucked in, but COULD. NOT. sleep to save my life for seriously 2 weeks. The writing was incredible, and the story is totally insane, but it freaked me out way too much. I had to go on a strict diet of Parks & Rec after that to cleanse my palette.

    • Natalie says...

      haha, ideal palette cleanser!

  29. Lyndsay says...

    I looooooooove anything scary. The thrill is like a high for me. It’s fun. I look at horror films as art more than anything. They aren’t real. Even if the film is based on something real it’s usually super padded. SAW IS NOT REAL, GALS. I also feel that when I listen to true crime podcasts or read scary books that they’re preparing me for if something dreadful were to happen to me. I have read it all…so now I feel like I’ll be surprised by nothing. Cant wait to read Michelle’s book. I hear nothing but amazing things about it! And if anyone wants to start a Brooklyn scary book/movie club let me know!

  30. I love horror in both books and movies, true crime though I feel mostly indifferent towards. My favorite kind of horror is ghosts and other fantastic creatures / phenomena, then it leans more towards fantasy than serial killers. Much more fun ;)

  31. Lauren says...

    (1) I need to understand why there are so many horror movie previews on Bravo. Like, is the audience of Vanderpump Rules really the same audience that goes to see Saw III??? Bravo should be a safe place! I shouldn’t be frantically pawing for the remote while shielding my eyes during a Shahs of Sunset commercial break!

    (2) I like to read the spoilers for horror movies and about true crime, but i cannot watch movies trailers, movies or documentaries that are even remotely scary. Since having a child I can no longer read or hear anything about bad things happening to children. It sends be into a blind panic.

    (3) I saw the Ring in college and became convinced that watching the video within the movie meant i was going to die in seven days. I was non-functional for a week.

    • Stella Blackmon says...

      Really laughing at your #1. I definitely love Vanderpump AND horror, haha.

    • Molly says...

      Lauren, no truer words have ever been spoken in regards to your first point! Bravo needs to stop with the scary previews.

    • Natalie says...

      LOL! I just want to watch my RHONY in peace! Those chicks are scary enough…

  32. While I understand the subject matter is terrifying, it’s a shame you aren’t able to read further into this book – she was a truly excellent writer and on top of being by far the best true crime book I’ve ever read, this may well be one of my favorite memoirs, too. I got teary when McNamara writes about her relationship with her mother. I’m so sorry that she died before she could fully understand the impact of her singular voice, work ethic, and skill.

    While I understand this genre isn’t for everyone, I hope this post won’t dissuade anyone from reading this book. If you are going to trust anyone to tell you about this case, it needs to be this compassionate, brilliant woman.

    • I agree with you, I am not sure if I could read the entire book or not ( I do get freaked out sometimes) BUT after listening to an interview on NPR about this book I became more interested on reading it because she was such a beautiful writer and impacted so many lives. I will at least try to read it.

  33. Lindsay says...

    I read Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders and didn’t sleep for roughly 2 weeks. I had just moved from Brooklyn into a house in the suburbs at the time and I felt very vulnerable without the 3 floors of apartments below me!

  34. Lauren E. says...

    For some reason, scary books don’t scare me at all but everything else does! Stranger Things had me awake at night for a straight week (and how much more fictional can you get?!). When I was a kid I couldn’t even look at the cover of the Gremlins video game but I could RL Stein, VC Andrews, Stephen King, and none of it bothered me.

    • Erin says...

      Me too! I have loved scary books for decades, but Stranger Things? Nope. Too much.

  35. Alex says...

    I’m a total baby about these sorts of things in general, but I could never read this book because I feel like working on it must have been (sort of) what killed Michelle McNamara. Yes, she had an undiagnosed medical condition that was part of the problem, but anyone who has Adderall, Xanax, and fentanyl in their system at the same time must have been deeply troubled by something.

  36. shelby gibson says...

    I work in crisis response so I echo the person that works in criminal law and deals with the disturbing/upsetting on a daily basis. If I’m at my desk or working on a case in an official capacity I don’t get wrapped up in things but I have to be mindful of when I review police notifications that come to my email (for work) at night or right when I wake up and it’s still dark. I don’t partake in any true crime entertainment because I deal with it every day but also I’d get too spooked.

  37. TS says...

    nope nope nope. nothing scary ever. watching movies like house on haunted hill as a kid had me so scared – i remember making it a “rule” that you couldn’t jump out at people during hide and seek.

    Now as an adult, i don’t see any reason to cause myself more stress!
    i can’t handle anything disturbing (watching 12 years a slave, i had to leave the room at times) and I cry at disney stuff all the time (coco, up, moana, you name it)…. so, now i know why my mom only watched rom coms!

  38. Amy says...

    I cannot handle scary anything. No. Nope. No way. My husband has worked nights and/or second shift for the majority of our 9 year marriage and with a baby in the house, I’ve decided I am effectively cut off from anything scary. Even the podcast “My Favorite Murder” which can be relatively funny and a bit like eavesdropping on a conversation between two best friends is too much for me. Actually, the episode that made the decision to cut off “all scary” was about the Golden State Killer/Original Night Stalker. It still haunts me. I’m 31-years old and, because of that episode, I check under our bed every night (I don’t even know what I would do if I came face to face with someone). I once came home from work to discover the drop-down door to our attic wasn’t latched and ran out–while carrying our baby, don’t worry–to call my husband and verify he was the one to leave the door unlatched (he was). We always talk about setting boundaries in our personal lives, and my biggest boundary is NO SCARY.

  39. JR says...

    I personally steer clear of all scary or deeply dark or depressing books and movies. Those feelings come up often enough in real life. I personally don’t care to pay money or invest time creating those feelings unnecessarily.

  40. Lauren says...

    I work in criminal law and read/work on real life creepy/disturbing cases on a daily basis, yet for some reason true crime outside of my work creeps me out too. So much so that I have planned escapes from my house should my nightmares come to fruition! (grab dogs and leap from second story window, use own body to break fall and save dogs – not a great plan). With that said, I love the podcast Small Town Murder – all real stories but told by comedians so while you may hear something horrifying you’ll also laugh moments later.

  41. There was a Christopher Pike novel…Slumber Party…? that scared me so badly when I was in 4th grade that I had to hide it between the mattress and box spring of the guest bedroom on the other side of the house. I also made the same Blair Witch Project mistake. Doh!

  42. Klara says...

    No book, but I saw The Sixth Sense when I was 17… checked for dead girls under my bed for a month after…

  43. Nicole says...

    Until I had a baby, I was totally OK with scary books, shows, etc. Now….I can’t even watch Law and Order. It’s no longer entertaining for me to be presented with all the scary things in the world; I worry enough as it is!

    • Alex says...

      Yes, this is me! I used to loooooove scary books, movies, etc but having a child has definitely made me more of a wuss. I haven’t totally sworn it off, but it definitely depends on the content…. there are some things I just don’t want to think about.

    • Maiz says...

      Wow, same here! I really enjoyed scary movies before kids.

  44. KY says...

    I love crime stories – true and fictional. Sometimes I wonder if there’s something wrong with me, because that’s kind of the only genre of books I read or listen to. I’m easily scared though, and on TV or in cinemas I often have to switch off the sound or close my eyes, because I can’t stand the suspense. It’s weird. But I still enjoy it a lot.

  45. Sadie says...

    I have never liked scary movies; they’re exhausting! I felt somewhat vindicated when I read Gavin de Becker’s “The Gift of Fear.” It’s a personal safety book about our fear response and the way we unconsciously read danger cues. His take was, don’t mis-calibrate your internal fear response with tales of murder and mayhem from around the world, whether via true crime or the nightly news. You’ll feel afraid all the time, and stop listening to your own fear. You want to live in your world as it is– largely safe– and when something is really wrong, your brain will clue you in, and you’ll feel confident, not paranoid, listening to it. I live by that advice. I don’t do horror at all, and I don’t live in fear of the dark.

    • Evie says...

      In the words of Rodrigo de Souza: “Eso!”
      Love your insightful comment.

    • Kimberly says...

      I love that book and highly recommend it to all my friends and colleagues.

  46. Laura says...

    Thank you for the head’s up on that book. I will be sure to avoid. I am so sensitive to all things scary, last night I opened Netflix and there was a trailer that automatically played for A Series of Unfortunate Events that scared me so much I slammed (as in gently, but quickly) shut my computer.

    • Lauren E. says...

      My husband and I went to see a late night movie last year so the theater was empty, and he left me to go get snacks. While he was gone the preview for IT played and I really thought I was going to have to walk out. I closed my eyes, plugged my ears, and nearly had a panic attack. So brutal!

  47. laura-london says...

    I’ve commented in the past, but as someone whose friend was murdered, I find the obsession with murder/murderers sickening. There’s nothing remotely funny about murder, and devouring murder-related media for personal kicks/thrills is odd. I think people forget that the content, inspiration or storyline for the media has probably occurred and someone had to endure that awful and horrific way to die.

    And I just can’t comprehend giving air time to sickos who kill people and destroy the lives of anyone associated with the victim.

    • shelby gibson says...

      totally agree. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend – I have a hard time with people consuming so much content around true crime and not thinking of the people involved. I remember hearing of a family whose daughter was murdered that was offered a documentary or podcast series on the story and they were so disturbed/offended by the request.

    • Victoria says...

      I’m sorry this happened to your friend but I do think curiosity about death is part of the human condition. We’re all considering our own mortality.

    • Lyndsay says...

      It’s also about curiosity of mental health and how our brains work. I’m sure whoever murdered your friend(terrible and Im so sorry) was severely mentally disturbed. Sometimes the more we know about situations like this the more we can spot them ourselves.

    • Claire says...

      I’m sorry to read of your loss. How truly horrible. Wishing you comfort and peace.

    • Cait says...

      I’m with you on this when it comes to things like “my favorite murder” – when people say it can be funny, how? I feel like this book is a bit different though, she was genuinely trying to solve this case and try to get his victims some justice.

  48. Trish says...

    Way too afraid of true crime thrillers, because there’s an overwhelming foreboding of it being real; like, it is something that happened and can/will happen again, and we can be the next victim.

    I made the mistake of reading Kiss the Girls by James Patterson and by God, I had so much trouble sleeping, even when I had people in the next room. It continued for a long time, I started keeping chairs, or a mini desk, a stool, whatever I could find after closing the door in the anticipation that if anyone opens the door, the moving of the chair/desk/stool would wake me up. I couldn’t even go stand in the balcony after dark; it was terrifying.
    Lesson learnt: Never doing it again! NEVER!

    I have never watched horror for the same reason. Never could handle it. I still see images from horror shows watched when I was tiny. Still afraid of them.

  49. I decided years ago in my early 20s that horror movies are not for me and that my sanity is way more important than being “cool” in the eyes of some friend that really isn’t a friend at all. The inside of my head is a scary place to live in as it is, and everybody calling me a pussy for not wanting to watch Saw should try to live in it for a day.
    Nowadays I feel like a badass for standing my ground on these things.

  50. Jamie says...

    I can read the plot of scary movies (and am interested in what happens) but cannot see or hear even a second of them. I have to block my ears and close my eyes if a trailer comes on unexpectedly. Ridiculous! I really love the plot of Get Out but alas will never be able to see it. I would have nightmares for ever.

  51. Carolin says...

    Definite no! I cannot do scary anything – and anything ressembling true crime is the worst. I cannot watch or read any Scandinavian crime or even the German version of America’s Most wanted (both very popular in Germany). Once I had to send a book on the Rwandan Genocide straight back to the shop because I couln’t even stand the thought that the book with it’s pictures and describtions was in my house.
    My almost 5-year old boy seems to be like me: he will jump up leave the room whenever something scary happens in a child’s (!) movie (it’s not going to be ok, mum, it’s not!!). I have to hold him and reassure him that things will work out fine. …and it can be someting like Paw Patrol! (We watched Disney twice and he “never ever” wants to see the Lion King or Arielle again (and asks But why are they bad?? months after seeing them).

  52. Andrea says...

    For as king as I could remember, I never liked anything scary. Scary movies being the big thing for me. So I just never watch them My motto is that I don’t pay to get scared. However, I didn’t realize that crime documentaries are even worse – I remember hearing voices when I went to bed that night and since then never again. :))

  53. jenius says...

    After my first one or two scary books and movies as a teen, I felt like I already had enough stress in my life, thank you very much and therefore lost any desire for all scary things. I know they exist in the world for some people and have no desire to share those experiences even in written form. I send prayers to those who suffer and hope to live a life that contributes peace, joy and love to the world in a meaningful way. For that reason, I love fun, wholesome and creative experiences, including books, film and music!

  54. Laura C. says...

    No I can’t. I started reading “The Hound of the Baskervilles” at home and I HAD to continue with the reading in the afternoons and with my mom at home. Since then, no scary books for me.
    Horror movies?! Me!?

  55. Lucia L says...

    I loved this book. I thought McNamara did a beautiful job humanizing the victims and exploring the victimization of the communities involved. A good friend of my mother’s was murdered by her ex-boyfriend when I was a child and I know how important it was to my mother and her family that she was remembered for who she actually was and not how she died.

  56. Amber Gwynne says...

    I’ve always enjoyed crime novels (and now I’m really into true-crime podcasts!). However, I finished a PhD last year in which I surveyed and interviewed individuals about how they choose and read self-help books to help them manage depression. One of my participants commented that he preferred self-help books and uplifting memoirs over other genres, and that he felt readers who enjoyed thrillers and crime books were ‘addicted to fear’! I remember nodding along and letting the comment pass, but it’s haunted me for years! Am I addicted to fear?! I don’t think so. I think I enjoy the intellectual challenge of trying to piece all the clues together. I should have done a PhD about how and why people enjoy reading books and watching or listening to crime programs…

  57. I find I am far too sensitive to read scary books or watch thrillers. Even action movies scare me at times. Early in our marriage my husband would poke fun at me and convince me to watch a scary-to-me show with him (and we’re talking prison break, here) I’d wake up in the middle of the night, turn on the lights, or wake him up, and not go to sleep until he checked everything.

    We now watch romantic comedies or read our own books in the evening! hah!

  58. Liz says...

    I had the same issue with that book! For a few nights while I was reading it, I would wake up in a panic, my heart racing, and I would wake my husband up. He would sweetly reassure me, and after a few minutes of listening to my giant dog snoring at the foot of our bed, I would feel better.

    I did finish the book, though, because the writing was just so good. I have a crazy imagination, and anxiety issues (PTSD and generalized), and I still love suspense and thrillers.

    If something is really bad or scary in any book, fiction or non-fiction, I put the book in the freezer (like Joey on Friends.) It’s silly but it totally helps me mentally.

  59. Lana says...

    I figure books are supposed to add to your life and be worth your time, so sad and super scary ones are usually not in my repertoire.

  60. Emily says...

    I am such a wuss when it comes to scary movies, yet I LOVE the true crime podcast My Favorite Murder. The hosts, Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, are so hilarious I forget to be scared! I fall asleep to it more often than not!

    • Jean says...

      YES!! This podcast is the best. Highly recommend it.

  61. Rez says...

    Stupidly, I just googled Golden State Killer as I don’t know the story.
    Big. Mistake.
    My husband is traveling and I’m home alone with the kids.
    I can’t even read the Wikipedia info about this, never mind an entire book. Hell no!
    I’m off to read celebrity gossip to clear the brain palate.

  62. Liv says...

    I had to stop reading McNamara’s book because my husband went out of town! But I found it so well written, I’m picking it up again tomorrow! I love listening to true crime podcasts (especially My Favorite Murder!)

  63. Stacey says...

    I am a diehard fan of the podcast “My Favorite Murder” and I can handle any crime story UNLESS the identity of the killer is a mystery. I have to have that neat little bow around everything at the end. I picked up Michelle McNamara’s book and made it all the way to the description of the Visalia Ransacker (also still at large). NO THANK YOU, PLEASE!

  64. Kzilla says...

    I loved I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. But, I’m kind of a true crime junky.

  65. Rebecca says...

    OK, this is *legit* why I love living in a giant apartment building in Manhattan. I grew up on 13 acres, and if something ever happened to me or someone in my family, even the most blood-curdling scream I could muster wouldn’t alert our neighbors, who were at least 1/3 mile away. In the city, I know and trust 6 neighbors on my floor. That feels much safer to me!

  66. Mindi says...

    I love being scared- thrilled, really. Scary movies, scary books, roller coasters… This book, though- had to listen only during the day (it was a great audiobook, by the by!) I also listened to the podcast that goes with it. It was fascinating to hear more about McNamara’s writing process, and getting the work published.

  67. Colette says...

    I just finished Gillian Flynn’s “Dark Places,” which was awesome! Thrilling and scary, but not too scary, and, it’s a novel in the end, so no real terror to be had :)

  68. Dana says...

    Oh heck to the no! There have been moments in some novels that I’ve read when things get a little suspenseful, and I have had to close one eye to get through parts so I didn’t miss anything.

  69. Abby says...

    Reading the plot summary on Amazon about this book made me lock my bedroom door that night!

  70. Laura B says...

    I live on a beautiful property right off a busy road with no neighbors, lots of windows and an upstairs that settles as if someone is walking from one end to the other.. suffice to say I do NOT read/listen to/watch scary things! I love a good thriller now and again to read, but it has to have enough elements that aren’t even close to my life to be ok (i.e. set in a big city) and preferably told from the “good guy’s” POV!

  71. becky84 says...

    nope, nope nope. I hate violence. Always have, always will. I don’t read disturbing books or watch horror movies. Life has enough horror. I need only turn on the news.

  72. becky84 says...

    I had an ex boyfriend who loved horror movies. I watched them with him, I hated every minute. I’m 33 and haven’t watched anything over PG 13 in a decade. I don’t read disturbing books either. I work with terminally ill people all day. Real life is heartbreaking enough for me. I choose to dwell on happiness.

  73. Meagan says...

    I just finished reading Tori Telfer’s “Lady Killers,” and almost had to stop! I live alone in an apartment, and the collection of true stories about female serial killers was definitely a scary read. I decided it was best read by the pool in broad daylight, and was able to finish it!

  74. Carrie says...

    The last scary movie I saw was The Sixth Sense in 6th grade. When I’m home alone and vulnerable, I still picture a god-awful scene from that movie in my head for some unknown reason and immediately turn on as many lights as possible. So they’re a hard no for me. Same goes for books and TV shows; however, did recently make an exception for “The Girls” and it wasn’t so bad.

  75. Allie says...

    It seemed like in high school, watching scary movies was the thing to do. Everyone piled into someone’s basement and watched Scream and waited to see who was the first to get spooked. One day, I think I was in college, I realized I HATED the feeling of being scared. It wasn’t thrilling, it was debilitating. And I thought, why on earth am I inviting this feeling into my life? And that was that. Haven’t watched a scary movie or tv show it read a scary book since. It was so freeing!

    • Kel says...

      Yes, exactly! I realized the same and made the same decision–I think it was as the tears were rolling down my cheeks in the theater and also in the car on the way home after enduring What Lies Beneath. It feels amazing to be alone in my house in the woods and not feel like someone is watching me. 2 of my 4 kids have wild, irrational imaginations like me, and 2 are fearless. So I think it just might be inherent and something that needs kind care in order to live without fear of the bogeyman.

    • gfy says...

      ditto. so well said!

    • sha says...

      Same :)

  76. Lauren says...

    I can’t handle anything scary – books, podcasts, movies, etc. I dwell on it too much and its too disruptive to my sleep, day! So I just stick to happy, easy things.

  77. OBSESSED with true crime books. Anything Ann Rule, Helter Skelter, Devil in the White City, etc etc etc. I cannot WAIT to dive into this one.

    I don’t know what my interest in true crime stems from but the lack of icked-out-edness is probably related to the Polly Klaas kidnapping. I was 8, we lived on the same side of town and some of my friends’ older siblings knew her so…I guess the shock value went out at an early age? I dunno.

    • I should clarify that I mean anything by Ann Rule PLUS all those others…didn’t mean to imply she wrote them :)

  78. I had the exact same experience reading this book so I’m glad I’m not alone. I have no problems listening to true crime stories on podcasts, but for some reason it’s much scarier when reading them. Not sure if it’s because reading allows our imaginations to run wild versus listening to a story attentively. I don’t think I’m going to finish this one either!

  79. Olivia Rosser says...

    Weirdly for me it depends on how the scariness is delivered. Scary movies are a hard no, true crime only in podcasts and scary stories, paper form only.

  80. Sara says...

    I started watching the Versace Murder True Crime Story. Couldn’t get through it. It was just horrifying that someone could actually torture people like that in real life.

  81. Katie says...

    There is a great documentary series on the Golden State killer airing on HLN right now- its called Unmasking a Killler. Its so creepy!!!!

  82. Maggie says...

    That’s a hard no from me, Jo! No scary books, no scary movies. I’m not a big TV watcher, but I’m lucky that my husband never watches, because I have the annoying habit of pausing whatever I’m watching if the suspense is too much for me. And we’re talking about on really tame shows — I’ve paused Jane the Virgin to calm myself down! (Wow, that’s embarrassing to admit!)

    I do, for some reason, find myself reading scary listicles on BuzzFeed sometimes, which then usually takes me down a scary Wikipedia rabbit hole. That’s enough for me.

  83. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

    I’m a Highly Sensitive Person (this is a real thing!!!) and discovering I’m an HSP helped me feel better about the fact that I’ve ALWAYS been a wuss with anything scary/creepy/disturbing/violent, whatever. Even things that people swore up and down weren’t scary would give me nightmares for weeks or months.

    And now I think my daughter (who is 2) is an HSP!! TV shows and movies that most toddlers love (Trolls, Frozen) give her bad dreams. She says they are “scary in my ears,” which I take to mean the music is scary to her! Oh well.
    Here’s the test if you want to know if you are HSP (I think you might be, Joanna?)
    http://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/

    • B says...

      Oh yes. I am an HSP also, and I will not touch scary books or movies with a ten foot poll!

    • KM says...

      A good hard No to scary,spooky everything. My overly anxious, super sensitive and wussy self cannot handle it.
      Joanna, since you had talked about dealing with anxiety, have you ever come across children with really high anxiety. I am noticing that my 5 yr old boy is getting highly anxious watching anything with conflict, like why is someone screaming, are they fighting, is someone mean to someone, will they be friends again. I know these may sound routine questions but his reaction is very strong and it effects his sleep. I really cannot explain it in words. This is also true with story books, which concerns me. If you can do a post with some experts who can shed a light on whether are children should be exposed to movies or books at all ages ? Or if we see such signs should we restrict them to simple, conflict free books or movies? Or is it ok to not let children watch or read, if it really bothers them than helping (which will be so sad for me coz Books were my world as a kid). Any suggestion by anyone would be a great help.

    • Elise says...

      Me too!!

    • Heather says...

      Your comment so resonated with me! I’m an HSP too but I never thought about it in terms of scary books and movies, which I hate…even those that aren’t scary to other people can leave a disturbing image in my head for months. (And my kiddo is the same way.) I guess it now makes sense why I was scarred by Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for life after watching when I was 5ish…I haven’t been able to touch a blueberry since! (And, while I joke about it, I’m also totally serious!)

  84. I can’t do scary books (or movies). Although, Devil in the White City was an incredible story but so creepy I couldn’t read it alone in the house.

  85. Rachel says...

    Strong recommendation for the My Favorite Murder podcast. Their motto is ‘Stay Sexy and Don’t Get Murdered’ and they are hilarious storytellers sharing true crimes. Some of the stories are sad and shocking, some outrageously funny, but all told like you’re hanging out with your girlfriends. Perfect for a non-scary way to learn about super scary stuff!

    • Sarah says...

      I tried to listen to My Favorite Murder, and had to turn it off within the first few minutes. It disturbed me too much!

    • amber says...

      Yes!!! Murderinos forever <3

      I read this book and loved it. I don't typically scare easily and found this book super interesting but I did have some mild nightmares while I was reading!

    • Liv says...

      Yay! SSDGM!

    • Kim says...

      As a victim’s family member, I think it’s really disturbing and gross that these women even have a podcast about this stuff. The title alone is just so disrespectful to me.

    • Sarah says...

      Kim, I’m sorry. I find it insensitive too. The way they talk about such gruesome topics so casually really upset me.

    • retro-roost says...

      I really feel these are normalizing crimes against women (and others) in our society. Many of the scenes and trailers I see on TV, even during the family hour, would have been R rated in an earlier time due to their violent nature. I completely understand why some children are disturbed and afraid with modern day “entertainment”.

  86. Simone says...

    I made the mistake of reading Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Absolute most terrifying book I have ever read. It haunts me to this day! Every time I am tempted to read a “scary” book, I remember that novel and chicken out on anything that looks remotely frightening.

    • Shannon criscola says...

      I agree 100 percent on Pet Sematary–the worst!!

    • Cher says...

      I’m 47 and I read that book 30+ years ago! Still the scariest book I ever read. Though Stephen King’s Tommyknockers is a close second…

  87. Absolutely not! I also can’t even watch scary movie TRAILERS without getting freaked out though, so I may not be the target audience for scary books…

  88. Amy says...

    I am almost done with this book. I’m a horror/thriller junkie but this book has already fucked me up. I’ve been paranoid for the past few weeks, in a duct tape a knife behind my bed frame kind of way and I’m afraid of being alone at night. I’ve spoken to my husband about finally ponying up for home security.

  89. Sarah says...

    I totally get it. I can hardly watch titanic because there were actual people enjoying a lovely time on a beautiful boat who then actually got trapped in the lower decks when they flooded, who actually fell all the way down the deck of the boat when half of it went vertical, who actually literally froze to death in the ocean while watching this unimaginable event unfold. It breaks me!

    • Sarah says...

      Same, Sarah! Can you imagine? For some reason, I think about Titanic on a regular basis. The whole story is so fascinating and terrifying at the same time. I saw a book with pictures taken of the shipwreck, and there are some things that still sit as they were left– I think one was a belt draped over the metal bed frame. There was a glass and carafe sitting on a wash table too. Truly haunting.

    • Rachel L says...

      Sarah & Sarah…I totally agree. Every time I see that movie I think ‘It must have really BEEN like that!’ and it’s so terribly sad and terrifying. I think of the people clinging to the priest as the ship goes vertical, he is trying to comfort them with bible passages but he’s as scared as they are…and the little string quartet bravely playing (as they apparently did) right to the last minute when survival was impossible…I think it’s so haunting because it happened so quickly & they were people just like us (I mean not in wartime or anything)

  90. Jenni says...

    I can’t! I never could. I can’t even watch commercials for scary movies.

  91. Tiffany says...

    So funny that you posted this, because I can no longer handle scary/disturbing books and movies, either. Fictional suspense I love, but if there is any chance at it being true, forget it. I do a lot of running in rural areas and trails, and I have found that true stories make me way too nervous. More caution is never a bad thing, but I don’t want to be unnecessarily wary. I don’t even watch Dateline anymore!

  92. Tera says...

    I used to love listening to The Black Tapes podcast, until I started hearing things go bump in the night….