I can’t shut my mouth about a good, scary, true story. Seriously, I’m pretty sure that’s why my friends take me as their plus-one to holiday parties: you want to stop making small talk with your boss’s fourth wife? Let me tell her this thing I just heard about the family annihilator who inspired the Amityville Horror while you refill my bourbon. You’re welcome. There’s just something about the story’s truthiness that adds a level of horror that we just can’t in good conscience ignore. So for those of us who are not faint of heart, or if you need something to end unwanted conversations, here’s my list of the eight best true horror stories and why they’re scary.
“TORCH SONG” BY CHARLES BOWDEN
Charles Bowden (both the essay’s author and speaker) is a journalist who takes the ledes that no one else wants. The stories of child murders, rapes, and other crimes alongside which the newspaper won’t run advertisements because no one wants their products to be associated with those crimes. After one such story, he says, “fifty subscribers cancel within an hour.”
The essay shows how reporting those crimes had him enter the criminal world as a spectator and inadvertently became a part of it. He says:
“I wonder if there is a monster lurking in all of us. I never cease, I realize, scanning faces when I prowl the city, and what I wonder is, Are you the one? I look over at the other cars when I am at a stoplight. This becomes an unconscious habit. Sometimes I think I have adopted the consciousness of a woman. Now I think like prey.”
SCARY BECAUSE: This essay shows how even the most self-assured human’s empathy can make him impressionable. And that’s scary because it’s infectious.