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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. Wendy says...

    I could only read Gone Girl in the day time, and had to have another book as my night time book cos it was too real and completely stuffed up my sleeping!

  2. Ib says...

    “girl on a train” is “fine”, because the victims are not random.

  3. Nina says...

    I can’t even read super scary fictional books. I KNOW its not true but…is that a person hiding outside my door to kill me? I do love thrillers though but things like Stephen King (after several as a teen), nope to the nope.

  4. Heather says...

    I can’t watch horror movies (like the slasher film type) anymore but I do love a good thriller book. I read The Kind Worth Killing this past summer on a trip with friends and I kind of thought everyone was then going to kill me after that and subsequently made everyone else read it too. Recommend!

  5. Kelsey says...

    Hahaha saaame experience. I bought Michelle’s book because I wanted to support her work and I was so excited about all the rave reviews and then…I got too scared. Haha same for me- I can read fiction thrillers but apparently *not* true crime

  6. riye says...

    I read mysteries and thrillers and, probably, because they’re fiction, they don’t bother me. I can’t handle true crime or horror though. The ridiculous thing is, I don’t get scared–I get mad. If I were in a horror movie, I’d be the idiot who gets killed in the first half hour for wagging her finger in the monster’s face and telling it off in no uncertain terms. I think I get it from good old mom who didn’t suffer fools or people who make a mess for others to clean up–and wasn’t shy about letting you know!

  7. Rachel says...

    NOPE. CAN’T. I had to stop watching crime drama years ago b/c the serial killers were seeping into my dreams. (But yeah, somehow Girl on the Train is fine?)

  8. I can’t do scary at all! It’s funny, because I was going to recommend the old British show, Father Brown, for people who might like mysteries but on a much milder scale…..but just a few nights ago I made my husband skip one that had ‘ghost’ in the title!! I guess the fictional ‘real’ ones don’t scare me as much. It’s a lovely show though, if you can say that about a show where almost every episode includes a murder! Father Brown is a priest and always solves the murder before the detective, with so much love and care for all involved – he’s much more concerned about reaching the heart of the criminal than getting them convicted. My husband is in seminary and says he’s getting pastoral inspiration from him! We probably shouldn’t be watching it every night though – I don’t need murder mysteries running through my head so much. Still, if you don’t do scary or disturbing but still like the idea of a murder mystery, the show is on Netflix and we love it!

    • Mel says...

      Yes yes yes! I love Father Brown!

  9. Bridgett says...

    Ditto! When I saw the title of this blog I knew EXACTLY which book you were talking about. I started it at the worst possible time — the week my husband was out of town for a few nights. I slept with the lights on!

  10. Lamah says...

    Just the other day, I started watching “The Godfather” for the first time in my life (I’m 29). The amount of praise I heard about it is enormous, about it being the best movie ever made etc.. I was actually enjoying the beginning, the wedding, the cinematography, and then came the scene of the head of the dead horse in the bed. I was absolutely shocked. Why would would anyone film something like that?!! I stopped watching it on the spot. No Godfather for me, no Godfather 1, 2 or 3. In fact I began to question the mental health of everyone who recommended for me (a bit judgmental of me, but I was really traumatized by that scene).

  11. AndreaJane says...

    I read Helter Skelter as a teenager and put myself on a curfew – no leading it past 5:00pm or I wouldn’t sleep. My sister walked in the room while I was reading it and startled me so bad I hurled the book across the room at her and burst into tears. Now I know my limits. No true crime books or movies.

    • Olivia says...

      LOLOL ?

  12. AC says...

    I love scary, suspenseful, thriller, etc. But I cannot do gore.
    The scariest movie I have seen recently is Veronica, which is on Netflix. It’s based on a real police report.
    The scariest book I have read is Helter Skelter, about the Manson Murders.
    Any time it’s true crime or based on true crime makes it all the more scarier, and I hug my people a little tighter.

  13. Sarah Smith says...

    I’ve always been a weenie about scary stuff and go to “worst case scenario” immediately. However, the podcast My Favorite Murder has really dipped my toes in the true crime world. They do an excellent job of lightening up a terrible subject with humor and I actually look forward to listening to the two shows each week.

  14. Aileen says...

    Really scary books where people break into your house, rape and murder you are an absolute no no! I used to love the Patricia Cornwell books but then I had nightmares and now cannot face the thought of them!!

  15. Kristi says...

    My favorite book is In Cold Blood – such wonderful writing about something so horrifying. I am usually ok reading scary stuff, but I completely avoid scary movies. For me the movies stick with me more – as I tell my kids, there are some things that you can’t unsee!

  16. katie says...

    Hard pass from me on non-fiction horror OR really scary movies. My brain just cannot handle it. I will scare myself silly, and I actually enjoy (dare I say, pride myself on?) not scaring easily; on being something of a cool customer. In fact, when you posted a link to this book the other day, I followed, read the synopsis and was just like NOPE. Case closed. Especially being from Cali. We had enough high profile kidnappings as a kid to scare me for life. I don’t even want to have the familiarity with places where these crimes went down. Plus, I grew up in the boonies with nary a neighbor in sight – just a lot of vocal wild animals, and I love that I never felt scared out there. I don’t wanna mess with that! Am I being emphatic enough? YIKES O RAMA!!!

  17. edie says...

    ….but have you seen ZODIAC with Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr? That film is amazing, but SO SCARY because it all happened.

    • Annie says...

      OMG this film! The broad daylight picnic scene haunts me :(

    • Sarah says...

      The picnic scene–me too!

    • edie says...

      Annie and Sarah – yes! As well as the scene of the young mother and her baby! Yikes.

  18. Jenny says...

    I totally cut myself off from reading anything about the Golden State Killer in particular. I happen to have grown up in Irvine which is one of the cities in southern California where he was active–and my parents house is about a quarter-mile away from where one of the murders occurred. I fell into a Reddit hole at Christmastime one year reading about him while staying at their house and then could not sleep all night. The Golden State Killer was never caught, would now be about the age of my friends’ parents, was last active in Irvine…no thank you!!

  19. It’s not just scary, I can no longer do sad. Ever since I gave birth to my first child my emotions have been so raw that anything scary or sad is too much to bear. I think the anxiety of keeping tiny people safe in a big scary world is such a burden on my psyche that I have to keep my entertainment light. I can handle (and actually love) very dark humor, but I need to laugh through the hard stuff and otherwise pretend the world is roses to keep my sanity in check.

    • Sam says...

      Yes! I feel the same way since having kids!

    • Annie says...

      Totally with you on sad stuff after having a baby!

    • Sue says...

      Same here. Baby came and anything scary went out the door!
      I recommend you watch Fleabag. Such a good show! It’s funny, sad and written and stars Phoebe Waller Bridge (also known as your new style icon), she’s brilliant.

    • Claire says...

      I think having a kid completely rewires your brain.

    • Thanks, Sue! I will definitely check it out!

  20. Meems says...

    No times three.

    I will not read the 184 comments because I am concerned there will be information that will result in a “trigger” of some especially bad memories for me. Since you mentioned why the book disturbed you so I will share that I am a rape survivor and that April is SAAM, Sexual Abuse Awareness Month.

    I have written about triggers in the past.

    Thank you for asking the question. It is comforting to know others do not want to get unnecessarily spooked for whatever reason.

    • g marks says...

      I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you. I think you are very brave indeed to comment here and I appreciate your perspective.

    • Thank you so much for sharing. I had no idea it was Sexual Abuse Awareness Month! You are strong, and I know disclosure is tough. I think we all need to be more sensitive about triggering information.

  21. Charity says...

    I have a really hard time with true crime and fictional crime in both book and movie form. They just make me feel too unsettled. I’m not into horror or thrillers either. Interestingly enough, I recently started listening to a true crime podcast called Wine And Crime, which is amazing, and mostly doesn’t creep me out too much… maybe having a group of slightly intoxicated Minnesotan women recount the stories makes it easier to handle? Worth a listen!

    • Abbe says...

      I LOVE Wine & Crime!

  22. Sasha says...

    I love that picture of the children! The varied expressions are just delightful. I wonder what they were all looking at?!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      omg, they are SO adorable. they were watching a puppet show of st george and the dragon! :)

    • Olivia says...

      Wait a minute. Those are modern-day children?

  23. laura says...

    i am getting nervous just reading the comments! i guess i am a true wimp! i read about the golden gate killer in a dr’s office people magazine and i got super spooked thinking about him sneaking into all those homes in the night.

  24. Megan says...

    I realized a few years ago how deeply I internalize books, movies, and TV shows, and have since tried to take better care in what I choose to read and watch. It’s not just the scary – which I’ve always had an issue with – but also the overtly emotional or violent. For example, I had to stop watch This is Us because it made me so sad and emotional for a day or so every time I saw it. I may also be one of the few people on the planet who hasn’t watched Game of Thrones because of the gratuitous violence. I had to give up Criminal Minds because I couldn’t sleep or had nightmares after many episodes. Ironically, I love police procedurals and books along those lines – Jack Reacher, Catherine Coulter’s FBI series, Karin Slaugher – but I have to take care in how and when I read them.

    • Katrin says...

      Yes, I am exactly the same. I cannot watch or read thrillers and violent scenes, and I hated the one episode of Game Le Thrones I watched with my husband. For the same reason as you. It makes life a bit complicated at times, like I had to miss out on seeing Winona Ryder, whom I admire, in Stranger Things, and on seeing Claire Danes in Homeland because it would totally freak.me.out. I cannot bear “Sherlock” either, although I find it intriguing. Why are so many movies and TV series so scary??? And it is already clear that my 7-year-old daughter is the same way.

    • L says...

      I can’t watch or read anything violent because the images and thoughts stay with me. Nothing horrible ever happened to me, but I am very sensitive to violence and seeing guns on tv. My tv shows, movies and books are vetted by friends. It is complicated, but I figure the world is a scary enough place, I don’t need to hear any more than necessary while reading the news (which I can’t watch).

    • Nora says...

      Same on GoT and This is Us. It feels like everyone else in the world can watch those shows without blinking.

      I’m still traumatized by a single scene in a book I read in the late ’80s.

      It’s a little unpredictable for me what I am okay with and what will make me want to curl up and die of despair, but I err on the side of caution.

    • Megan says...

      Glad to know I’m not the only one! And L – the friend vetting thing is what I do too. Someone will recommend some great show, book or movie, and I ask twenty questions about the “scary” factor. But it’s just what you said – the world is scary enough without me having those things occupy my mind.

      And Nora – I know exactly what you mean about a scene of a book haunting you. I have certain ones that have stuck with me for years too.

      Katrin – I also couldn’t do Stranger Things, but I’ve been able to tolerate Sherlock as long as I’m careful when I watch it. It helped that my husband had seen the first two seasons before I started watching, so he was able to tell me when something big was going to happen that he thought might freak me out. But it seems like TV shows have gotten so intense. Must be why I still watch so many reruns. :)

  25. Olivia says...

    My husband and I used to listen to episodes of the TV show “Forensic Files” on car rides. This also happened to be in the dreary, light-poor end of fall. We eventually just kind of looked at each other and mutually decided that enough was enough! It was totally giving us the creeps and bringing us down. I have never tried to read a scary book and am almost tempted to…but I checked out “The Apartment” (I think it’s called) and was too much of a scaredy cat to even read it.

    Sometimes, when I see stories about serial killers etc., I go completely down a rabbit hole about how could there POSSIBLY BE people who try to cause others pain and suffering in this world?? How is there even war??? Idk that I could expose myself to true stories like this!

  26. Lauren says...

    I remember as an adolescent not being able to understand why my mom couldn’t watch certain shows or scenarios in movies. And she would say she couldn’t ever forget it once she’d seen it, and it lived there in her mind, even in some forgotten room. And I never understood how she couldn’t draw a line between reality and entertainment. But now I know. I think with more life, with more years, more risks to love those around you, it has become much more vital for me to protect my mind from entertainment that quite literally entertains my worst nightmares. To lose those we love, to see violence enacted towards yourself or them, those are all of our most vulnerable moments in our minds, letting ourselves think about worst case scenarios. For me, I’ve shifted in huge ways in my 30’s to care better for my mind and what I use to “relax” — stories that build up or bring hope in some way. Anyway, I guess I’ve just become my mom, which was inevitable, I suppose.

  27. Can’t read scary books about true crime or watch horror movies. It has never been my thing precisely because those thoughts can creep in your head and of course, “what if it happens to ME? It happened to this character/person. It could happen to ME.” I’d rather not have my thoughts infiltrated! Thrillers like “The Girl on the Train” are great though!

  28. Jenna says...

    Nope! Nope, nope, nope. Since my early 20s, I’ve found that I need a bit of softness with my entertainment. At times I can handle the scary, the spookies that the most wicked corners of the earth drudge up, but I find I need to end my days with soft, funny or lighthearted. A good late night chuckle from a book or podcast help ease me into the morning, reminding me of the humor the night before.

  29. Colleen says...

    I have yet to experience a book quite like Gone Girl. It had so much suspense and unexpected twists without unnecessary violence towards women which seems to seep through every crime novel out there :/ As a woman in her 20’s who’s lived alone for 6 years, I have experienced a handful of frightening situations of having a creepy neighbor knock on my door after midnight/being followed home/approached in the laundry room…I do not need an overly violent crime novel to fuel my fight-or-flight senses. I would lose sleep every time I’d try to get through a crime novel (fictional or nonfictional) D: Not worth it!

    Side note: I’ve read Lost City of Z and am currently reading Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (there is suspense- but not that “creepy, crawly someone’s watching me” type). David Grann’s writing really grabs my attention if you like historical mysteries (both solved and unsolved).

  30. Katy says...

    I love true crime documentaries, and there’s a couple I don’t hear about too often, but would recommend. The Staircase (mini series). And then the documentary, Dear Zachary. Dear Zachary needs a very large warning. It is terrifying to watch, and I can only imagine a million times more difficult if you have kids. I saw it before I had kids and sobbed, hyperventilating sobbed, throughout the documentary out of fear, anger, heartache, etc. The true story is literally unbelievable.

    • Liz says...

      OH MY GOD I watched Dear Zachary on a recommendation from a friend. He has great taste in movies, so I went in blind and didn’t even google the premise before watching. I have never cried so hard in my life!!!!! I texted him after saying I couldn’t believe he didn’t warn me and that I needed to put our friendship on hold haha. It is so incredibly well written and edited/produced, and hits you right where it hurts. So good (theatrically speaking) but so so bad at the same time, ha. Glad to hear I am not alone in this!!!

    • Katy says...

      Right?!!? Liz, that’s how I felt recommending Dear Zachary to this group. I went back and forth — is this something you even recommend someone else view?! On purpose?! I went into it not knowing the premise either. My heart starts beating fast just thinking about it. Thank you for replying. For sure, heavier sobs as your progress through it.

    • Laura says...

      Mommy Dead & Dearest is another interesting true crime doc.

      It reminded me of the novel Sharp Objects, written by Gillian Flynn (who also wrote Gone Girl that some people are commenting on in this thread).

  31. Nope. Nope. Nope.

    Not doing scary anything. At all.

    Actually, I find my moods are highly influenced by what media I consume anyway, and after years of teaching about this as part of my classroom’s social/emotional curriculum, I realized I wasn’t taking the advice we were giving students to be aware of how books can affect your mood (um, not that we were discouraging read. All the students were books worms, actually, but many also were emotionally intense and learning to create environments that supported their needs). Soooo, now trying to be more aware of when a TV show is making me too anxious with *drama* or a melancholy book is bringing me down.

    • katie says...

      Yes! My anxiety is definitely related to a ‘high news’ diet – I finally just stopped. I only read the NYT friday-sunday, in print. This has helped me, a lot! Could not agree with you more…

  32. Sharon in Scotland says...

    I enjoy all things scary. Pop trigger do “Murder with Friends” which is good. I read ‘ The Exorcist” much too young and hid it in a cupboard under a pile a magazines. BBC used to do a double bill of horror films on a Friday night in the 80’s, a Hammer Horror and a vintage Bela Legosi type film. The scariest thing was watching the servant of a young nobleman, (newly returned from the big city with “new friends”) sitting by his grave, with her hair unbound, whispering and encouraging him, as a fresh vampire, to dig himself out of his coffin, “I know it’s dark, come on, come on…………” until his hand emerged from the soil. I didn’t sleep all night and heard Barry from next door come home in the early hours!

  33. nope. i can’t do it. my sister listens to “my favorite murder” and LOVES it. she always wants to tell me the stories when they turn out “well.” i keep telling her just because they turn out well doesn’t make the story any less scary. i can’t handle them. after the stories she told me really got in my head, i made her promise not to tell me any more.

  34. Scallywag says...

    It depends! True crime scares me but mostly temporarily. However, when I was about 18 I read Black House which was co written by Stephen King and Peter Strauss and I used to hide it between readings because just seeing the book gave me the creeps!

    • Brianna says...

      You could have put it in the freezer like Rachel did on Friends.

    • Claire says...

      LOL! great idea!!

  35. Kate says...

    I have always had a fascination with serial killers, and I remember getting a book about them and devouring it when I was 16 and my parents left me home alone for a weekend. Not my smartest move, I think I was awake until 4 am, and I checked the locks about 9 times that night!

  36. Nina says...

    Movies – yes, with a bit of looking away/hiding face against boyfriend’s shoulder. Books – so much scarier! Henry James’s ‘The Turn of the Screw’ really freaked me out when I read it years ago (was doing a lot of babysitting at the time…). Your own imagination can create images way spookier than anything on a screen! As for the true crime craze, I feel very uncomfortable about the idea of being ‘entertained’ by real horrifying crimes, with real victims – and real perpetrators who must presumably have suffered something appalling themselves at some point.

  37. I absolutely avoid scary/horror/bloody/gratuitous violence. Real life is scary and intense enough. I check R-rated movies before I watch them to see what the rating is for – language, okay, sex, okay, but violence and horror, NO WAY. Sometimes, however, reading the news can even get me if there’s a story of a child molester or school shooting or torture. I find it going on and on in my mind and troubling me on a deep level. I am not a fearful person – I am perfectly fine alone at night in my house or walking downtown, but I never got a thrill out of violence and gore.

    Also, Joanna, there was a murder a few miles from my neighborhood where a high schooler broke into a family’s home and knifed/killed them at night. That gave me some bad nights.

  38. I used to listen to the “My Favorite Murder” podcast on long walks while I was pregnant. I absolutely love the hilarious hosts! But once our baby was home, I realized I had enough crazy thoughts running through my head… so I cut myself off cold turkey. News and lullabies are the only things coming through my headphones now.

    • Court says...

      OMG! The exact same thing happened to me! I binge listened to My Favorite Murder and was obsessed while pregnant. I had to quit! I was getting anxious on my walks and couldn’t turn off my brain at night once my baby was born because I had all those crimes in my head.

    • sarah says...

      Ha yeah I have always enjoyed my favorite murder…and am currently 6 months pregnant. I keep thinking I shouldn’t be listening to this!

  39. I had to stop reading Ginny Moon a few months ago after having nothing short of an anxiety attack while reading it. The sad part? It’s superb writing. I am currently reading The Road, which I read with one eye open and one eye shut and my hands ready to cover my face. Why is it that some of the most wonderful writing has to be on such terrifying topics? I’m forever pulled in by the tension, drama and flawed characters only to find myself unable to go deeply into their worlds. I would never have attempted I’ll Be Gone in the Dark. I can’t even watch the news. Also….does anyone else struggle writing about books with the option for italics or underline? Ugh. The struggle is real.

    • Amy D says...

      Oh no! I bought The Road at a library sale the other day knowing nothing other than it was a Pulitzer winner. I didn’t know it was scary. (insert scrunched up nose face)

    • Amy D – I just finished The Road last night. It is now one of my all-time favorite books. The writing is unlike anything I’ve ever read. I get the hype. The story is intense but very tight and moves quickly. McCarthy doesn’t linger over or draw out the hard parts, which makes them somehow even harder but also manageable. I hope you enjoy it.

  40. Liz says...

    I love scary movies! I think one of the scariest movie is The Others with Nicole Kidman. Anything with children scares me!!

  41. Kara says...

    I can’t do scary, true crime or fiction. Like even reading through this comment thread is making my heart start to race haha! My husband hates scary movies but is always reading or watching things about real life horror stories, and the way he processes his anxiety around it is to talk about it, like he’s releasing it from his mind. Whereas listening to him even summarize it, my mind absorbs and cannot release it. Needless to say we no longer talk about those things he reads/watches.

  42. Claire says...

    You are not a wuss! This line moves around for me too. Depends on the story. I am a great believer in books and the importance of telling stories, even if they are difficult. But still. I think it is important to tend to our inner landscape with some gentleness, love, and beauty. There are so few tales about the happiness of life, but I crave those, and end up looking elsewhere for that. If a story falls clearly into the category of fiction, then I am mostly ok. I’ve been a mystery lover since I started reading Agatha Christie and Nancy Drew as a kid, for example. Ghost stories, fantasy, sci-fi are all mostly fine too. I can get caught up in the characters or the story telling or the creative imagination of it. But I am pretty empathic, and I often find real life stories too awful. Having a son changed my perspective so much. And the older I get the less tolerance I have. Current news also plays a role in my choices. There are so many monstrous things in the news that it shrinks my capacity. I don’t think the human psyche is built to process all of that, or at least mine is not.

  43. Ro says...

    This is my favorite genre! I can happily read something horrific right up till the moment I drift off to sleep, fiction or non. I love Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, and anything true crime.

    I consider myself a highly empathetic person, and for years was way too sensitive for anything that was even remotely upsetting. But as I got older, something flipped and now I just can’t get enough. Horror’s also my favorite genre for movies, so I may be desensitized at this point. I think it takes some getting used to, and definitely isn’t for everyone. But once you’re in, you’re in.

    • Britt says...

      Same – I am obsessed! I have been since I was a kid. I actually get annoyed when a much-hyped book or movie isn’t scary enough for my liking. I don’t think people would guess it to look at me, but horror is def my favorite genre. I’m glad my partner can hang through all the scary movies with me!

      True stories, not so much…I love my favorite murder for their chemistry and humor, but I tried watching confession tapes and I just can’t handle the real-life stories, not to mention crime scene photos. There’s definitely a line for me.

  44. Brenda says...

    I don’t do scary movies, let alone scary books. I saw The Exorcist when I as about 9 at a sleepover and was forever traumatized. Nope, never, not gonna happen.

    • Eliza says...

      Same age, same movie! Every nightmare I had for a decade was exorcist-related! I slept in my parents room for MONTHS afterwards. The first scary I movie I watched since was Get Out, which I actually thoroughly enjoyed even though I was tense the entire time (I can get on board with some thrillers), but besides that NO THANK YOU, NEVER. The news is often enough to scare me, I don’t need additional fodder.

    • Madame says...

      Same. I saw the exorcist when I was maybe 12 at a sleepover… images etched in my mind forever! I have always wished I could go back in time , and NOT watch it. I don’t EVER watch scary or even too suspenseful movies…
      I do enjoy an an occasional who dunnit… English cozy mystery, but that is it!

  45. Julie says...

    I don’t read about wars fiction and nonfiction, they are far more scary and disturbing.

  46. jac says...

    I read In Cold Blood whilst at EuroDisney. Alone. It was amazing! I am positive I seemed like a real weirdo though. : )

    • katie says...

      HAAAAAAAAAA! this is so dark & weird & awesome. Good on ya. EuroDisney is the weirdest, for sure.

  47. I can handle “scary”. I cannot handle *gory*. No no no nope nope nope nope.

    I also vastly prefer fiction over nonfiction when it comes to disturbing things and even then there are subjects I prefer to avoid. I don’t like horrific domestic violence, in general I do not like rape, and I do NOT like it when children or animals get murdered. And I don’t even especially like it when it’s fiction, but it’s based on real events (for example, A Thousand Splendid Suns was an excellent book but the horrific violence perpetuated on the women — knowing it was very much based in how women were actually treated in Afghanistan — made me so upset.)

    Of course, there are always exceptions, so I guess it all depends on the execution. For example, I loved Stephen King’s IT — the characters in that book are just so great, and that book had gore, horror, attempted rape, as well as animal and child abuse, but it was so fantastical it didn’t bother me THAT much. The Woman in Black was creepy AF and I loved it (but here there was no gore.) I also LOVE love LOVE Tana French’s books with my whole heart, though those are more true crime than anything else (again, they’re scary but there’s no gore!)

  48. Cindy says...

    Nope. Not for me. When I was a junior in high school, I tried to read Stephen King’s It (no italics in comment section, gah!). I made it to about page 200 and became aware that this book, which I was reading in my leisure time (!), was actually changing my mood. That scared me and made me feel out of control. I closed it and haven’t read scary books since. (Now it’s really more about valuing sleep way too much, but still.)

  49. I feel the same tension. Although, listening to Patton Oswalt’s tender interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross about his late wife’s work on this book had me hooked and eager to read. I am probably going to get it from the library as soon as I can to give it a go. I read ‘In Cold Blood’ earlier this year and just finished listening to the podcast “Atlanta Monster” and am currently listening to the podcast “Up and Vanished,” and I can’t help but get spooked! Even when it’s broad daylight and I have my two huge dogs and husband home with me! I may need to wean myself off of true crime for a bit after this.

  50. Lindsay J. says...

    Hi Jo,

    Funny you should mention- I listened to a Podcast about the Golden State Killer (I don’t remember which one- it was a 2 part series). In the first part, they talked a lot about what you mentioned- crawling into the houses, attacking couples, etc. It left me so spooked!! In the second part, they discussed how he was captured (made me feel better but still….). I can listen to True Crime podcasts and even read scary books, but this one story in particular just left me shaken. Know you’re not alone :) I don’t blame you for dropping the novel. Life is too short! Thanks for sharing.

    • Amanda says...

      He has never been caught! That’s why it’s still so terrifying….

    • Christine says...

      I actually don’t think they’ve caught the Golden State Killer yet. :/

  51. Michelle says...

    I LOVE scary books. There is something about cozying up with a scary book I can’t get enough of. However, there was one time in college when I was home for break and I had to wake my mom up in the middle of the night because ‘IT’ was just too much for me to take.

    • Carrie says...

      It appears we are in the minority :) I think out of these 200 + comments I counted 2 other people besides us who enjoy a scary book!

  52. Han Merkley says...

    I don’t do scary books or movies! I scream if my three year old hides in a cupboard. Unfortunately there is enough scary stuff in real life…so I try to focus on the peaceful, happy thoughts and actions out there.

  53. Kathleen says...

    Depends. I think as I have gotten older, I have become more sensitive to crimes involving kids, pregnant women, or animals. I was fascinated by “Gommora” but had to quit “Zero Zero Zero” 50 pages in – when the author started discussing the tactics of Guatemalan death squads. I really liked the podcast “Stranglers,” but sometimes cannot handle “Criminal.”

    I am torn about reading the Michelle McNamara book. I want to believe that it will confirm my prejudice about the suburbs, and I can use that confirmation as cozy security blanket while I read.

  54. holly says...

    I read American Psycho for a class many years ago in college and I literally could not go to sleep easily for a week! It was seriously disturbing. That was basically the last scary book I have read. lol. I learned my lesson.

  55. Sasha says...

    Nope! No scary books, fictional or otherwise, no scary movies, nada.

    I find plain old life scary enough, without adding to it. I just don’t have that personality of liking to be scared. My mom thought it was fine to be exposed to just about anything as a child, so I watched The Shining, Jaws, Roots, all by kindergarten, overheard conversations about extremely adult topics. I have pretty different opinions about what’s appropriate for young children. I’ve literally told her to shut it, or picked up my kids and walked out midconversation with her, and she’s still baffled.

    And alone in the woods isn’t scary for me, hiking, cabin, tent, whatever. I feel really safe. I do have three dogs so I’m not technically alone.

  56. Lindsay says...

    No way! I’m a total scaredy cat! I do not enjoy being scared, whereas my husband absolutely loves stuff like that.

  57. Talia says...

    Nope to scary books and scary movies. I spend entirely too much time alone, so not going to spook myself.

  58. Karen says...

    Am I the only person who can’t stand My Favorite Murderer??? I love crime/ scary stories but the banter is too much for me. I want the facts, not the air-head commentary! I know people love it, but it is not for me.

    • Melanie says...

      YES! I had a friend swear I would love it and I couldn’t stand it at all. Maybe I didn’t get to the meat of the show? Ugh…I was so excited and ended up hating it.

    • Jenna says...

      Same! Love true crime but found myself skipping ahead so much to try and get past all the banter to the actual subject in time for my 30-minute commute. Eventually bailed and became addicted to Sword and Scale (although fair warning, it is dark and can be VERY disturbing at times – not for the faint of heart).

    • Karen says...

      Jenna – I love Sword and Scale! Another favorite is You Must Remember This – it has an awesome feature on the Manson Family. No banter.

    • Babs says...

      I’m so glad someone else feels the same way. I just want them to talk about the murders and STOP talking about anything else.
      On a different note, I enjoy all things scary – books, movies, etc. I just finished “The Woman in Black” by Susan Hill – fun vacation read.

    • Nora says...

      THANK YOU!

      I only listened to a couple of episodes but the banter was boring and worse, they didn’t know anything more than anyone else who had read about the crime in the Sunday paper.

      Maybe it got better over time?

  59. Rachel says...

    I loved this book! Funnily enough, I couldn’t read or watch horror when I lived in the suburbs growing up. I went to college in the rural Northeast, and I really had to stay away from it there! Now that I live in a city, I have no problems reading or watching horror. Though, once or twice a year we’ll vacation to a lake house or country house, and neither my husband nor I sleep very well.

  60. Sarah says...

    I like some of the older movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and The Shining. I can’t do anything like the Saw movies, nor do I want to.
    As for books, kind of the same deal. Nothing too gory or over-the-top violent and a lot of the newer stuff seems to rely on cheap shots to scare, disturb, terrify. I like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and Stephen King’s The Shining.

    • Kate says...

      The Historian is THE BEST. The first time I picked it up I couldn’t stop reading it, but I was getting so freaked out that I moved my chair into the corner of the room and turned on every single light in the house and read til 2 in the morning and even fell asleep with the lights on. What a great book!!

    • A says...

      I heard Netflix is doing a Haunting of Hill House series!

    • Sarah says...

      I’ll keep my eyes open for a Haunting of Hill House series! That would be great. The old (maybe even black and white?) movie is good!

  61. Meghan says...

    Through my work, I deal with survivors of real-life trauma and crime. Pretty early in my career, I decided to stop consuming violence in my media choices. It’s been a positive decision for my mental health and balance but means I miss out on great new shows or books from time to time. Like, I read a Handmaids Tale when I was in high school but know it won’t translate well for me in the new TV adaptation. I studiously avoided My Favourite Murder podcast because of this but listened recently while traveling and fell in LOVE with the witty commentary and feminist perspective. We all live with our own inconsistencies, don’t we!

  62. Megan says...

    I love scary movies and books, but mostly for the psychological component in addition to the thrill. On the wait list at my library for this book, and am hoping a few CoJ readers were ahead of me and cancelled their holds! :) I also love the comment about falling asleep to comedies – I never have a problem with sleep or imagination if I turn on The Office, Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, or Friends as I’m winding down. Bring on the thrill!

  63. Victoria says...

    I hate not finishing books, so I forced myself to finish this. But I have to admit – I was skimming through parts of it just to page through! I also felt as though I was invading the victims’ privacy by casually reading about the worst moments of their lives. Glad to hear I was not the only one who didn’t love this heavily publicized book.

  64. Mikaela says...

    It would be cool if you could update the post to include the back story this book, because I think it’s important. The author tragically died before finishing (the way I understand it, accidentally and partially as a result of the terror of her research) and her husband, Patton Oswald, finished it for her as a tribute.

  65. Lisa says...

    I veer between enjoying scary things (loved Gone Girl and On Cold Blood is one of my favourite books), and being a complete chicken. I was fifteen at the time, but it took me about five false starts, watching the movie at 5am and getting my brother to watch it with me, to get through the first Scream movie. I used to love reading the creepy haunted threads on places like mumsnet and Reddit, but I think now post partum I couldn’t handle it.

  66. Stacy S says...

    I can’t do scary books, movies, TV shows. Surprisingly, fantasy and sci-fi don’t creep me out, but anything that could potentially be a real thing. Nope! But give me all the series’ about vampires and werewolves and I’m happy! Supernatural is my favorite TV show!

  67. Carrie says...

    Joanna, I bought this after I saw it posted here last week and I just finished it last night. I loved it, I flew through it so fast! When I finished Michelle’s afterward I had actual goosebumps on my arms, that has never happened to me before!

    I think what I find so enjoyable about true crime is the heightened sense of awareness to the people around you. How well do you know them? Not like I’m paranoid of everyone I know now, but it’s just such an interesting perspective to have. The reality is, there are bad people out there. And thanks to books like this, I am a bit more cautious.

    Anyhow, I’m officially on a true crime kick now, so I started The Stranger Beside me the moment I put down I’ll be Gone in the Dark!

  68. Kirsten says...

    I am a lifelong ‘scary’ story/true crime person–apparently even when I was little, like 4 or 5, my mom would make up stories to tell me and no matter what she said I would always tell her “make it scarier!” Really creeped her out. Then I spent most of my high school years watching true crime television shows (what’s up Unsolved Mysteries) instead of doing my homework. Weirdly, I don’t like horror or war movies but I do love a good murder mystery or suspense thriller. I spend more time than I should listening to true crime podcasts.

    I will say, though, that since having a kid I CANNOT read/watch/deal with any story that involves something happening to a child or a family. I have to skip episodes and not read headlines because it’s too gut-wrenching for me.

  69. Courtney says...

    My work for years has involved knowing and processing the true life horror stories of crime victims, and yet I find any books or movies that veer into that realm are too stressful for my free time. I consider it self care to be willing to shut the book, stop the podcast mid-series (sweet lord…the “unsound” episode on The Black Files! ?), or decline the movie. I’m ok with crime stories if it’s them being solved (Mindhunter is a current fave), but not the creepy crime actually being committed or the psychological fear aspect of realistic horror movies/stories (that new movie about the woman being stalked ??‍♀️). I guess for me, feeling vulnerable and without the ability to mentally reconcile or “solve” something is too much.

  70. Steph says...

    I cannot handle the scary movies – maybe it’s a visual thing, maybe because blood makes me queasy. I LOVE a great horror book though! True Crime or Fiction, but I prefer Fiction which also might be better if the True Crime ones are a little TOO real. I turn October (appropriately) into my horror theme reading month – so far I’ve covered the best of Steve King (Salem’s Lot, It, The Shining, The Stand), Ghost Story by Peter Straub, White is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, Dracula, The Ruins by Scott Smith, Bird Box by Josh Malerman, Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, Books of Blood by Clive Barker and few H.P. Lovecraft stories.

    • Kate says...

      Writing all of these down! Same – can’t handle scary movies, love scary books!

  71. Mandy says...

    Cut myself off from all sources of scary, be that news or fiction or any of the really intriguing sounding podcasts! As soon as my first son was born (16 years ago!) it brought me such anxiety. I steer clear and although I try not to turn a blind eye to the horrors of the world I’m better off staying within my cheery boundaries.

  72. Lucy in England says...

    Nope nope nope.

    I left American Psycho in a guesthouse toilet on holiday as I couldn’t bear to have it with me even one more moment after bringing it in there for a read!

    I cannot, will not and do not watch horror or slasher movies. Even some of the crime movies like zodiac come back and wallop my psyche now I’m a parent.

    Also, Readers flipping Digest!! Always the worst most graphic true crime and always just lying around at my Grandma’s house for nosy impressionable kids to terrify themselves with.

    • Adrienne says...

      I can’t believe you mentioned Readers Digest! When I was about 10, I read articles about serial killer Ted Bundy in the Readers Digests innocently sitting in a basket in my grandmother’s living room. Even as a kid, the psychological aspects of those stories fascinated me. For about 20 years , I was all about true crime. Now, I can’t bear to read/watch it, especially if it involves some menacing stalker breaking into a house…

    • katie says...

      OMG! YES, Lucy! I would read the “drama in real life” in my Grammy’s Readers Digest and just freak myself out. I read one about a crocodile attack in Australia that STILL HAUNTS ME. I cannot enter a cloudy/green body of water – ever – without thinking about the “death roll” that crocs do and just…checking in with myself to make sure I’m not afraid before taking the plunge. WTH.

  73. For many years I was a huge fan of Stephen King and literally the same day I had my first baby I could no longer read him. I had taken one of his new books into hospital with me and got a few pages in but the next day I tried to carry on and could not face it. Haven’t read any since – almost 27 years now. And real life horror is a no-no. Ghost stories are fine though.

  74. Rachael says...

    Nope! Nope! Nope! I cannot read true crime and even some fictional thrillers are too much for me. I still love them but they make it hard for me to sleep. I also do not like to watch very disturbing television, which is difficult because that’s all my husband likes. I just need a “palate cleanser” after – like parks and recreation :). I have always had a very active imagination and I think that’s why it’s hard for me to “let go” of scary stories or television. They stick with me!

    • Dee says...

      Haha what you describe as a ‘palate cleanser’ we describe as ‘something cheery for the road’, but I know exactly what you mean!

    • katie says...

      Yes. This is why I keep the ’05 Pride & Prejudice in my DVR at all times. Then, I can be sure to watch something cheery before bed, even if I just watch a scene or two.

  75. Megan says...

    Joanna, have you ever considered starting a CoJ book club? There’d be so many interesting discussions in the comments, and you could even have readers recommend/vote on what book to read next. I just randomly thought about this because I always want to discuss books after I read them, but rarely does anyone I know read the same ones! :)

    • katie says...

      Love this idea, Megan. I’d be into it.

  76. Andrea says...

    I LOVE scary books! I do get creeped out sometimes – it’s the only time I actually enjoy hearing my neighbors walk around upstairs at night…

  77. Kelsey says...

    I loved this book! Yes, it was scary and yeah, I only read it during the day when my husband was home and basically in view, but it’s so worth it. The author’s research and ability to connect with suvivors and former/current dectectives is amazing, and it’s awful that she died before she could complete it. My heart would sink everytime there was an editor’s note to insert her incomplete research, but she was so passionate about finding the killer you couldn’t help but be desperate to know the ending.

    You do have to at least like true crime to get into it, if you’re not watching old Forensic Files on Netflix and listening to true crime podcasts, the nature of the details on what happened is going to put you off entirely. I don’t think anyone can just jump into this book.

  78. Tiffany D Frias says...

    I never really enjoyed too much scary stuff in general, but after I had a child I became vigilant about eliminating as much unneeded exposure to scary stories (fictional or otherwise) from my life. I am already working against myself to instill a fundamental sense of safety in my kid. I don’t need random stories of horror and fear to increase my already lively sense of anxiety. Besides, what we choose to feed our minds can have all sorts of effects on our experience of life – might as well feed it as much love and light as possible.

  79. Christina says...

    I am fascinated by these kinds of books, but I can’t read them! It’s the same for me with TV and movies! What’s weird is that I can handle monster or ghost related media, but anything involving serial killers or humans committing the crime, I can’t do it. There is something about the plausibility of these stories that make me think the exact things you did when I’m home alone.

    I used to love Criminal Minds and SVU, but one Christmas Break in college I started having crazy dreams to the point where I freaked myself out so badly that I sat on the porch and waited for my parents to get home from the grocery store one afternoon when I heard a sound from the attack. I was quickly cut off from watching / reading that stuff and never went back…haha

  80. Steph says...

    This is the reason I deactivated my FB account last year. I have two young boys and regularly scrolled past acquaintances’ posts of horrifying true stories on how various children died. I would think “I shouldn’t read this but what if it’s something I need to know?” Then I would stay awake in bed long after my husband fell asleep needlessly worrying. Late one night I finally nudged him awake to tell him (somewhat embarrassingly) that I couldn’t sleep from worrying about a freak accident happening to our boys. He snuggled up close and, as we talked, I realized FB wasn’t adding much to my life but certainly seemed to be taking a good bit away. I deactivated my account immediately and haven’t looked back since! :)

    • Tiffany says...

      So much this

  81. Colleen S says...

    I watch this type of stuff all the time, and then find the books incredibly boring. As I live not more than twenty miles from locations The Golden State Killer did his thing, I definitely could not read this book. I read an online article about the Zodiac Killer before I went to bed, and slept with scissors under my pillow for days.

  82. Nicole says...

    I have this book waiting for me in audio book format. I’m a little nervous but I know when to stop listening or reading.
    I have a hard and fast rule with ‘scary’ stuff- I don’t do brutality. I don’t want anything exploitative. I’d just rather not expose myself and my vivid imagination to it. I don’t trust myself! So I feel like all of my friends know not to recommend anything to me that has any brutality to it. Their discretion is greatly appreciated!

  83. Sonja says...

    At 15 my Dad made me watch The Ring with him. I think this was retribution for making him watch Bend it Like Beckham with me. He won that battle but lost the war when at 15 I slept on the floor of my parents room for a week. Ha!

  84. Meg says...

    I have always wanted to read In Cold Blood (capote), but i just can’t. I can’t have such a nightmare of a scenario near my BED!!! that being said, i’m also a big fan of the podcast, My Favorite Murder (tagline, “stay sexy and don’t get murdered!”) It makes what is scary seem manageable, and kind of funny. well, the co-hosts are funny. Byeeeeeee!

    • kelsey says...

      Same here! I’m a big fan of My Favorite Murder. There’s only one episode I won’t listen to again, the one where Jennifer Morey is attacked in her apartment by the security guard. Umm no.

      I did have to stop reading Helter Skelter. The scene where Charles Manson comes out of hiding in the TINIEST kitchen cabinet will forever stay with me.

  85. Amy says...

    The exact same thing happened to me with this book! I was going to attempt to read it during daylight hours but maybe not now that I’ve read through some of the other comments :) The only super scary non-fiction book I’ve been able to get through was Helter Skelter and that was still tough to get through towards the end, even knowing it was a closed case. Scary movies are even worse – I don’t even attempt them anymore. I’m a wuss!

  86. Louisa says...

    I got this book on your recommendation! I was traveling this week and it was my only book. I wish I hadn’t read it.

    In 1998 – 1999, I (early 20’s, pre cell-phone) had a nameless stalker: phone calls dropped, weird messages on my machine, notes left on my car (both at work and home), my car trailed and blocked in. And a peeping tom outside my 1950’s ranch house, who left footprints and a block (to stand on) behind – my roommate chased him down the street. When I finally called the cops, they were practically angry with me for not calling it in sooner. I was like “it’s just some weird guy -whatever.” “NO. IT’S NOT. YOU CALL US NEXT TIME.” I moved with no forwarding address/number (back when such a thing was possible, and I was young enough that it was easy).

    This book has had me in permanent goosebump status ever since.

  87. Molly Fiegel says...

    I’ve pretty much given up scary stuff all together.
    I have a photographic memory, so a single image from a scary movie can literally haunt me for Years. I had a kick of reading scary stuff as a young teen, but got about 40 pages into Tommyknockers and was so freaked out I never read another scary book.
    I know it’s a very popular genre, I just can’t get into being scared. The world is scary enough; I want to focus on happy stuff.

  88. Amanda says...

    I love suspense movies and books, but I’m very careful to avoid them before I or my husband travel for work so I can sleep. As a mom who spends most of her downtime pretending to enjoy random felt food combos and dancing to Elmo books, it’s a responsible way to get a cheap thrill.

  89. Liz says...

    Just keep the book in the freezer! :)

    • Andrea says...

      Yep!

  90. Deb says...

    I watched an episode of Luther (I think it was Luther?) right after I moved into my first flat and in the episode a professional woman gets home from work, goes about her evening, then gets into bed and goes to sleep and the camera pans away to reveal a man hiding under her bed. I stopped watching that show and checked every cupboard and under the bed EVERY night until my boyfriend moved in. It scared the bejeezes out of me.

  91. Val says...

    I stopped seeing horror movies in college. Not worth the mental anguish! Scary books and podcasts are ok to an extent. Girl on the Train was fine but not much more than that I think. The older the story is, the better I can handle it. I still was spooked after seeing the show Alias Grace, which was recommended here. I need sunlight, flowers, and rainbows to get rid of the spook. And blue open oceans are great but not dark lakes in the woods.

  92. Leslie Olsson says...

    As a kid, I got a copy of the “Scary Stories” book as a present. I couldn’t even have the book in my room without it giving me nightmares. To this day I don’t think I can read it after dark!

  93. I’m a lifelong a horror-scary-crime movie/book/podcast addict. I love watching scary movies, reading thrillers, following true crime stories etc, but am having trouble getting into this book (and not bc it’s too scary)… I’m about 1/3 through and it feels like she’s just monotonously listing off victims and violent attacks without building a story (the most interesting part of the book so far was a brief foray into her past, unrelated to the golden state killer). It just feels violent and sad but not interesting or intriguing. Not sure I’ll stick with it. A legendary true crime book, however, is Ann Rule’s Stranger Beside Me, about Ted Bundy. I read that in high school (a few years before going to college at UW and living in the dorms he stayed in and subsequently living in a house very much like/very close to the ones he targeted in the u-district), and that story is exceptional, because Ann Rule herself was actually part of it, so her storytelling was so much more than just ticking off a list of heinous crimes. That book has stuck with me like I read it yesterday (and I’m in my early 30s now!).

  94. Jeannine says...

    I never had much of an appetite for scary anything, but only when I had kids could I not stand it at all. Not sure what it is, but bad/scary stories stay lodged in my brain for, what seems like, eternity.

    I would actually love to hear any tips to stop those negative stories from infiltrating my mind! I don’t want to remain oblivious, but for my mental health I just need to avoid avoid avoid.

    • Neen says...

      Yes! I second the request for tips to stop negative stories infiltrating. I want to be informed, but would like to ensure my thoughts are my own.

    • I am very sensitive to scary images/stories, and I find when one gets stuck in my mind and I start ruminating on it, it helps to tell my husband or my best friend. In their absence, I journal about it. Telling it/writing it out gets it out in the open and lays it to rest. Sometimes they laugh with me at the absurdity or sometimes they comfort me and I cry. Whatever it takes :)

  95. Michelle says...

    Totally with you! I don’t watch true crime news shows or watch scary movies, either. Just don’t need that terrifying noise in my head. I also avoid news stories about children being abused or hurt. I think the steady diet of this stuff we have been fed since the advent of cable news has a lot to do with societal levels of anxiety and fear, and with helicopter parenting.

    The truth is we have never been safer or less likely to be a victim of a violent crime, and that’s all any of us really needs to know!

  96. Juliette says...

    I usually stay away from anything too scary! When speaking about horror movies, a friend once told me „Why spend hours of your life on something that doesn’t make you feel good?“. Sometimes I’ll crack and read a thriller – for the thrill of it – but unfortunately they always come haunting me, preferably at night…

  97. Emma says...

    I am VERY into true crime, to the point where it is a joke among my friends that I only ever want to talk about murder (cults too!). There’s just something about looking the worst of humanity straight in the face, you know? The realization I’ve come to over many hours of listening to My Favorite Murder is that if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. There really isn’t much to be done about it because evil finds a way. That randomness and total lack of ability to control I find comforting. As Michelle McNamara said (and her husband Patton Oswalt repeated) “it’s chaos, be kind”. The chaos is *fascinating* though. – I’m dying to read this book.

    • Liz says...

      Hieeeee!

    • Becca says...

      SSDGM y’all ??

    • Amanda says...

      I agree. I don’t think it’s the violence that’s captivating; it’s the psychology of it all. If you are decent, kind and empathetic it’s fascinating that humans can act in such a way.

    • Carrie says...

      I’m the same way, life time lover of scary movies, murder mysteries, true crime, etc. You’ll like it! I found it so interesting and thrilling. It also left me wide-eyed awake when my husband left for work every morning at 3:30am haha

  98. Allison says...

    I am from the Sacramento area where the crimes were targeted. My friends and I actually have Scary (and somewhat funny) stories about the lore surrounding the Golden State Killer (not be be unsympathetic to the victims). We all called the killer a different name, everyone “knew” someone that had been a victim. My mom claims we almost bought a house that was targeted. His methods were different depending on who you talked to. I feel like there is a dark, Fargo style movie in there somewhere. I picture someone interviewing all our parents and grandparents with the wild stories and crazy over exaggerations. In reality, the crimes had entire suburban neighborhoods petrified. I might read the book, but I live in the Sac suburbs now…and I like to sleep….sooooo?

  99. I read “Murder in Mesopotamia” when I was only 10 years old. I couldn’t sit in our balcony alone for weeks after that. That was my first thriller and I read all the Agatha Christie books I could find at those ages after that book. I still love thrillers and murder stories although they still give me the chills too. I love reading the books and usually hate myself right after reading them :)

  100. Weirdly, I just listened to the “My Favorite Murder” episode highlighting this rapist/murderer. My boyfriend and I listened to the episode on the way home from a trip and were spooked. Then we got home and there was a random balloon floating in my bedroom. Never found out how it got there. I resolved never to read about this particular case again!

  101. Tess says...

    I read this book last week as it has just come out in the UK (where I live) to rave reviews. WHAT. WAS. I. THINKING?! I live in the countryside, I have a massive over-imagination and my husband was away on business last week. The book is basically my biggest, doom-mongerer fear condensed into two dozen chapters of bad news. However, it is beautifully written, which is a thought I’ve been consoling myself with as I lie wide awake at night in my creaky old house, clutching a giant maglite torch to my chest.
    So yep, day time reading. Don’t be an idiot like me and read it in bed “before sleep”.

  102. Sarah says...

    Whenever a book gets too scary I think of Joey from Friends reading The Shining– put that book in the freezer. (I’ve never actually done it but my sister has!!)

  103. Amanda says...

    OMG! I’m reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark now and it is truly terrifying. I’ve had a few sleepless nights and a few nightmares since I started. I love true crime (SSDGM, y’all) and I’m halfway through the book so I’m committed to finishing, but it hasn’t been fun. Thankfully Michelle was such a beautiful writer that it curbs a bit of the horror.

  104. Jackie says...

    You are not a wuss! They are not for me at all, especially as a new mother. I also can’t enjoy a story knowing this was someones beloved daughter, mother, husband, brother, whatever, and their families of course, that endured this tragedy.

  105. KimKay says...

    No way, I’m protective of myself because I will remember the scary parts for too long. Especially movies.
    Recently I was needing a comfort book since my Mom fell and broke her pelvis and arm. She is in a great rehab and slowly healing. I chose Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
    It is more than OK to be a light weight and know what to avoid or not finish.

    • Michaela says...

      I love that book! I just read all the Anne of Green Gables books for a similar reason. Sometimes you just need to read something delightful. Hope your mom gets better soon ❤️

  106. Ruth says...

    Nope, no scary stuff for me. You’re not a wuss! Some people enjoy that sensation of being scared. Not me!

  107. This is the story my mom used to tell me as a kid to make sure I always locked the door from our kitchen to the backyard. Probably too much for a ten year old to handle, but my parents got married in the late 70s and lived in Carmichael, CA – right in the middle of this guy’s territory and it was really terrifying for them as newlyweds and new homeowners. Needless to say, my mom’s stories stuck and I always make sure my doors are locked before going to bed every night.

    • Allison says...

      Right?!?! All of us Sac kids have stories about the killer. I can’t imagine telling my kids the stories we all swapped on the playground about the killer.

  108. Col says...

    I find true-crime books to be fairly interesting, but no so much the scary-movie version. What gets me, though, are (fictional) books about deaths/tragedies affecting children. It’s practically a genre, and I just don’t go there. Too horrible to contemplate.

  109. I was this way with In Cold Blood, too! Reading I’ll Be Gone in the Dark now and it’s TERRIFYING but I also cannot put it down. Keep going with it!

    • Lucy in England says...

      Oh my goodness In Cold Blood! Stark, beautifully written, horrible.

  110. Caitlin says...

    I have an intense irrational fear of this kind of thing happening in real life. I am a 30-year-old woman and sometimes when my husband travels, I have to go sleep on my older sister’s couch. While I do like to read this stuff, I have a very creative brain that goes straight to worse case scenario! Just reading this intro to the book totally freaked me out!

  111. Heidi says...

    I listened to a few episodes of My Favorite Murder and found myself conjuring up some of the darkest images at night while I tried to sleep, even going so far as grieving for people I’d never met whose life had a tragic end. I determined that not just for myself but for my two little boys, I had to stop listening to these type of stories because it was having too much of an emotional impact on me and making me fearful for my children. I’m better off listening to The Guilty Feminist!

  112. brianna says...

    I first fell in love with mysteries/suspense/thriller/horror when I discovered Dean Koontz in college. I still can’t get enough of any kind of book within those genres. I won’t watch scary movies, though – not during the day, not at night, not in a room with a million people. I made it through five minutes of the Blair Witch Project before I had to leave the theater.

  113. Maclean Nash says...

    This past year I have become OBSESSED with the podcast My Favourite Murder. Listening to other people tell true crime stories on my walk to work, for me, is far less terrifying than me reading it and hearing it in my own voice. Plus, the ladies are able to sneak in comedic relief and I love why they are making the podcast.

    I have yet to read a true crime book but I first heard about it on the MFM podcast so I think I might just have to give McNamara’s book a go!

    SSDGM ;)

  114. Elizabeth R says...

    TV shows scare me more than books. That book was so so good and compassionate in an odd way.

  115. Gina says...

    True crime is awesome, but is best when consumed in the morning so that it’s not the only thing on your mind before bed.

    Having read about so many cases, I now feel super prepared if I’m ever in a someone-wants-to-attack me situation.

  116. Meg says...

    My parents are former police – my dad was an officer in the California Bay Area, and my mom was a dispatcher, so crime was normalized really quickly when I was a kid. That’s both a good and I bad thing, I guess – I’m not nervous, but incredibly aware. Being from the area that the Golden State Killer targeted, the book was incredibly interesting. He was a legend, a ghost story, and knowing the whole story as an adult is fascinating. I love eerie/creepy things, but I guess it comes with the territory when your parents meet over a homicide – literally.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, what a story, meg!

  117. I have a very low threshold for too scary (fictional or not). Books especially; I concentrate infinitely more when I read them when I watch tv (ie browse the internet with the tv on) xAllie

  118. Kate says...

    There’s nothing I like better than a good scary read (scouring the comments for recommendations!!) but I absolutely can’t handle horror movies! I saw a part of Scream and couldn’t get it out of my head for literally years. But a good scary book? I will gobble it down and look for another one.

  119. Katie says...

    Nope, can’t do it. I have to watch Dateline and House of Cards in the daytime–not worth the bedtime anxiety and bad dreams! I did love the Cormoran Strike series (JK Rowling’s pen name) but they seemed far fetched enough it didn’t feel as threatening!

    • Claire says...

      Yes! If I’m ever going to attempt to watch or read something mildly creepy or suspenseful, it has to be on a lazy morning or the brightest sunniest day, and has to be followed by something light or goofy!

  120. To me, life offers enough heaviness. I find that what I need from entertainment is to laugh or feel hopeful.

  121. I feel like there is enough scary news and personal grief in life to fill a need for the excitement produced by fear through entertainment. My entertainment takes me away from fear and fills me with hope. Right now I am binge watching the second season of Victoria and the love story makes me cry with every episode. I love their love. I can handle difficult things in movies and books, as long as there is something hopeful and beautiful to hold on to that is bigger than the fear.

  122. Rachel Gerber says...

    I LOVE True Crime stories and I will have to check this one out. I belong to Book of the Month club, which selects 5 books for you to pick (they are always amazing) and often they have good thrillers. Here is a link—its the best part of my month~~~https://www.mybotm.com/pw4ju2wgt3ohto6r—-
    I also just read The Perfect Nanny but it didn’t live up to the hype (for me, anyway).

    • judy says...

      I just read “the Perfect Nanny” and was disappointed as well.

  123. This is so funny because I saw that you were going to start it and was all set to buy it, but I don’t think I can do it now. I don’t watch truly scary movies and books can actually be even scarier as everything takes place in your mind. I remember reading The Shining when I was 14 and holding the book sideways because the words were so scary that I had to have them facing somewhat away from me. I guess I have to pass on this one, although it does sound amazing. Thanks for following up! No need to have terrified Cup of Jo readers all around the country! LOL.

  124. Denise says...

    Definitely NO to scary books, and movies too for that matter. I think there’s enough violence and tragedy in life already than to add it recreationally to my poor sodden mind where it sticks and repeats and only increases my stress.

  125. Hannah says...

    I listened to this book twice on Audible actually, but I’m a huge true crime fan. It definitely is one of the scarier true crime books I’ve read though. I just watch episodes of The Office as I fall asleep if I get too freaked out, and that seems to work!

  126. MK Baehl says...

    I absolutely loved it – but full disclosure I read it in the span of a few hours during the day. Books I can always handle but I’m a wimp when it comes to scary movies. I love a good true crime podcast but I couldn’t get through an episode of the podcast Missing & Murdered – it was way too heartbreaking and dark.

    • Omg I’m obsessed with Missing and Murdered, you have to try again! Listen to season 2, Finding Cleo–it’s so fascinating and sad and about so much more than the central “crime” (systemic racism, cultural genocide, etc). I think it’s important for people to hear (especially in today’s hateful climate–even though in Canada, the US has the same problems), if that makes sense–it really brings to the forefront the terrible systemic abuse suffered by generations of indigenous communities (and I think a lot of people would be shocked to hear how recently this was..is… all happening). I’ve been telling everyone I know to read it!!!

  127. Steph says...

    It is always comforting when I can close the book and tell myself- this is fiction. I read Jaycee Dugard’s memior a few years back and there are a few scenes that have stayed with me sadly. That was the end of true crime for me. With that said, I know I won’t be able to stop myself from reading her second book coming out in July. Everyone loves a happy ending, right?

  128. Kim G says...

    Don’t pick up The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani!

  129. Britt W says...

    I am an excellent worrier so even the little snippets of true crime news freaked me out as a kid (JonBenet Ramsey anyone?) But in law school you read a lot of gruesome cases and have now gotten somewhat better at compartmentalizing awful and terrifying crime in the name of legal analysis. But this, https://www.themarshallproject.org/2015/12/16/an-unbelievable-story-of-rape, compelling and amazingly written piece by The Marshall Project definitely messed with my head a bit. That said it is so well reported and interesting I recommend it to everyone…just read in the middle of the day and possibly have someone to discuss it with afterwards.

    • Hanna says...

      Thanks for linking that, Britt!

      I highly, highly recommend that story as well- it’s sad but a really fascinating how the legal and investigative process can fail miserably… but then work (thanks to two women cops) all within the same case.

      Sigh….why can’t we just believe women?!?!
      https://www.marieclaire.com/politics/a12825804/believe-women/

      SPOILER about above story- no one dies, and it has a some-what-ish good ending (weird saying “good ending” in a story about a rape).

    • A says...

      Thanks so much for sharing this link–I’m looking forward to reading it (and I’m dreading it, ya know?). I’m pretty fired up on the topic of trusting and listening to and believing women (and our toxic masculine rape culture, in general).

    • Claire says...

      Seems like talking about scary stories after reading them or hearing them might be really helpful, instead of shutting them away in a dark closet so they can creep out when I am least expecting it….

  130. Annie says...

    This is how I feel about really sad books, movies and music. Ever since Lexi’s post about about ‘A Little Life,’ I keep seeing people cite it as one of their all-time favorites, so I feel like I SHOULD read it, but I’m afraid it’ll send me spiraling downward. As someone who already struggles with anxiety and depression, I’m trying to be kinder to myself and stick to uplifting stuff.

    • Katherine says...

      I’ll chime in here about A Little Life: I read it after Lexi’s recommendation and as someone who also struggles with anxiety, depression, and self harm, it was a very, very hard book to read. On the one hand, I felt like I recognized myself in Jude, but I already see myself as a very flawed person so it was difficult to feel good about being mirrored by such a character. It made me hyper-aware of my own demons, which wasn’t scary, but it sure was heavy. On the other hand, I very much appreciated having someone in a book that felt as flawed as me; it made me feel less alone and hopeful that others who read it might have a better understanding for those who suffer from mental health problems. Overall, it is not a book I will reread, but it is one I’ll never forget.

      Here’s to being gentle and kind to ourselves, Annie, I’m rooting for you.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      this is such an interesting thread. if you deal with something personally, a book or movie can hit you in a much more intense way. annie, if you don’t feel up for reading it, absolutely don’t! the world has so many incredible books, you can read some of those instead :) good job taking care of yourself and knowing what you need. that’s a meaningful and important thing to do. xoxoxo

    • A says...

      I understand that, I can’t read non-fiction books about (non-crime) death and dying. Joanna’s brother in law’s book (When Breath Becomes Air) came out shortly after I lost a parent to a disease (much too young) and my sibling was diagnosed with cancer. I feel like I’m surrounded by cancer and death and that kind of heartbreak in real life, and I just can’t dedicate my free time to immersing myself in it even more. Similarly, Lois Duncan (author of young adult thrillers and mysteries such as “I know what you did last summer!”) was unable to write horror/suspense books after her daughter was murdered, and switched to children’s picture books.

    • Annie says...

      Thank you both! :-)

  131. Danna says...

    I love to read thrillers but can’t handle true life crime books or horror movies. When my husband travels for work I sleep with a 5 iron beside the bed *just in case* I need to defend myself against the random serial killer or a zombie apocalypse. Hey, a girl needs to be prepared.

  132. Clare says...

    I never watch or read anything scary, or even very tense. I barely tolerate action or drama in my movies or tv shows. When reading I prefer literature that has a happy, or at least peaceful, ending. My attitude is – I have enough stress in my life, why would I want my recreation to add to it??

    • Moo says...

      Ditto! I love comedy, in all its forms, too much to spend time on things that make me anxious. My poor BF though loves thrillers so he watches those by himself. Not that I haven’t tried a few times to be a good sport but I usually start flipping through magazines or get on the iPad to distract myself, lol. Real life is frightening enough (just watch the news!), that I’d rather have some happy escapism.

    • Tess Williams says...

      I am the exact same way! I can’t even handle CSI, or too much Grey’s Anatomy- I don’t need to add artificial fear, suspense or sadness in my life, I would much rather watch/read a comedy or romance!

  133. Elisabeth says...

    I gobble up true crime books and podcasts. I LOVED Michelle McNamara’s book. I’m a Sacramento native and it was almost too close to home, but her gorgeous writing kept me hooked. BUT…I can’t handle horror movies. Can’t and won’t. NOPE. Strange, no?

  134. raha says...

    Nope. Cant do it. I watched “seven” in sixth grade and was so traumatized by it that i imposed a no-rated-r-movie ban on myself for years. I also tore through girl on the train and gone girl books, but couldn’t handle the movies. They were too much for me. Could you watch the movies??

    • Stephanie says...

      At 7, I accidentally walked into a friend’s room, where she was watching “Bride of Chucky.” I’ve never been the same.

      To date, the scariest movie I’ve ever watched is “Signs.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  135. ARC says...

    Nope, can’t handle scary true crime books. Love fiction thrillers, like Henning Mankell, but not the real stuff.
    My son (13) reads dysfunctional scifi novels with a very bleak world view. I could not handle that either, but he loves those books (and gets freaked out and sleeps on the floor in front of our bed …)

  136. Katie Weltner says...

    I can do it if I literally pre-read the Wikipedia page. I spoil it for myself!!! Make scary books & movies so much more enjoyable for me. Otherwise my anxiety gets the better of me and I stay up all night reading & being nervous… and that does nothing to help the overall life anxiety, ya know?

  137. Carly says...

    I also cut myself off from all scary things (movies, books, people sharing stories…) because they’ve given me nightmares since I was little and I finally accepted that I don’t have to torture myself! Interestingly, I’m an introvert and finished reading “Quiet” earlier this year, in which Susan Cain explained that introverts (or “highly emotional” people) are way more sensitive and affected by scary movies/books/stories than other people. Non-introverts can absorb the story, but then let it roll off and go about their normal life, whereas for introverts, they infiltrate our minds and sit with us much more deeply.

    • Caitlin says...

      This is so interesting! I need to go pick up that book.

    • Katherine says...

      I have Quiet on my shelf…good reminder I need to read it! I’m a deeply introverted person (as well as highly sensitive), so horror and scary books and movies are not for me. Shout out to my fellow INFJs!

    • Neen says...

      Plug for the book “The Highly Sensitive Person”. Similar characteristics to introverts, but sometimes HSPs are extroverts!

    • Claire says...

      I also have “Quiet” on my to-be-read shelf! I consider myself very introverted but I love scary books/movies/podcasts. I don’t really like true crime because I hate knowing those horrible things happened to real people. Gimme ghosts or haunted houses any day.

  138. elaine says...

    I am very protective of my psyche, i do not read, listen to or watch violent content. Nothing is more important to me than turmoil free inner world.

    • Jackie says...

      Yes, Elaine, same, here! It sets me up for thoughts I don’t process well, especially as a new parent.

    • Neen says...

      Yes! So happy to hear I’m not alone on this. I want my psyche + thoughts to be my own, and scary movies/books tend to plant new thoughts I’m not comfortable with. The news does this too, so I’ve become very picky about what I consume.

    • Anna says...

      Same!

    • YES!! Couldn’t agree more. I don’t need anything in my life that affects my beauty sleep.
      I was really into learning about the Holocaust growing up and being separated from my family was the worst thing I could imagine. After a series of VERY vivid dreams my parents took away all my Holocaust-related books. I am 30 now and I still love the stories of survivors (and not survivors), but I have to pace myself. I am really careful to not let it be the last thing I read before bed.

  139. Heidi says...

    I am a faithful listener to the My Favorite Murder podcast and I can listen to them talk about different murder cases all day. They’ve even promoted this very book, but I still can’t bring myself to read it. I am interested in true crime but something about this particular book is too scary for me to want to dive into. I think it’s the idea that it happened while people were safe in bed at their most vulnerable. And I’m a ‘fraidy cat when it comes to bumps in the night!

    Two good spooky-ish fiction books I’ve loved are Dark Matter by Blake Crouch and The Passenger by Lisa Lutz. Very suspenseful!

    • Gina says...

      Karen and Georgia are the best. <3

    • Katie says...

      I love MFM too and read the book based on their recommendation. I definitely had nightmares while reading it. It is an insane story and I loved Michelle McNamara’s dedication and beautiful prose, but without MFM’s levity to lighten the subject matter it does get very dark. I think I need MFM humor when hearing about true crime.

    • Heidi says...

      Yes! Something about their humor and the way they end with “Elvis, want a cookie? Meowwww.” resets me back into my regular world. SSDGM, Murderinos!

    • Haley says...

      Dark Matter was AMAZING! It was on the good side of spooky – it made you think rather than recoil.

    • Mikaela says...

      SSDGM! Also- LOVED Dark Matter. It was suspense meets the Time Traveler’s Wife, imo.

    • Heidi says...

      Regarding Dark Matter, I always think of it as It’s A Wonderful Life meets Jason Bourne!

    • Betsie says...

      MFM has been my gateway drug to True Crime also! I was never interested before, but now I’m hooked. Somehow, confronting these horrific, terrifying stories head-on leaves me less afraid, not more.

      Also, learning more about the history of crime has given me some insight into broader American history (the rise of the religious right/Moral Majority/Pres. Reagan in response to a series of high profile serial killers and the hysteria they generated in the 70s; the dearth of information, documentation, and prosecution for disappearances and murders of African Americans; etc etc). It’s a fascinating, and no less terrifying, window into our collective fears and values.

    • Claire says...

      I think about Dark Matter all the time. I think it scared me more than any other book in recent memory. It freaks me out to think of all the other choices I could have made or lives I could be living : [

  140. Emily R says...

    I love scary movies and scary books!

  141. katie says...

    I have this on hold from the library. Now I am reconsidering since The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule (Ted Bundy) freaked me out.

  142. Sam says...

    I will not watch a scary movie. I can do true crime up to a point but a scary movie or a story about some supernatural occurrence that causes fright is just not for me. My parents weren’t the type to monitor what we consumed as culture as kids so I’ve seen every zombie or Freddy Kruger movie under the sun. For those who like that sort of thing, its the sort of thing they like.

    • Mallory says...

      I second this.

  143. colleen says...

    You’re not a wuss. I can’t. Capote’s “In Cold Blood” terrified me. I hear Joy Behar on The View had the same fear of that book.

    • CB says...

      Even watching the “Capote” movie about him writing that book freaked me out!

      I do love listening to Criminal on my way to work because it makes the crime more human. However, their most recent episode about Casper, Wyoming was really scary.

  144. Kyla Sweet says...

    I finished that book last week and it was very well done but I agree, I’ve been SO freaked out about a home invasion ever since. Waking up to a flashlight in your eyes…shudder. But I’ve been thinking a lot about the women survivors of the attacks this week too and hoping they found some healing. It’s an important book to spotlight the pain this man caused and I can see why she wanted to find him so badly…

  145. alison says...

    I have this on my to read list! I can handle some books but not others. I am currently reading The Hunger by Alma Katsu which is party historical part fantasy and it is creepy but luckily doesn’t keep me up at night.

    I really enjoy true crime books, which tend to be scary, but could never read them exclusively!

  146. After reading your Friday Links last week, I downloaded a Kindle copy of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark, excited to read it since I’m a fan of Tana French and Gillian Flynn. I also am a fan of Patton Oswalt and heard about the tragic and unexpected death of Michelle McNamara.

    I only made it past the recount of the first victims before I had to also shut the book for good. I’m adjusting to a new move into a house rather than a condo inside a building with a doorman and cannot deal with those stories popping up in my head at night. I wish I could have read it back in my twenties when nothing bothered me!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh my gosh, it’s so scary, right???

  147. Meagan Anderson-Pira says...

    I made it to about page 8 myself. Glad to hear I wasn’t the only one freaked out by that story. True Crime scares me too much. I like a good fiction thriller but that is how I like my crime….fiction.

  148. Yea I went through a Stephen King stage in high school and realized a few books in that I couldn’t handle the horror genre. Not only do I already jump at my own shadow but after reading Pet Cemetery I couldn’t even LOOK at our poor sweet family chihuahua. Nope, not for me.