Vampires and witches in the children’s section. Stephen King and serial killers on the taller shelves. Ghosts, UFOs and monsters in fact, fiction and speculation.
The Fort Dodge Public Library has a wide range of books to cover all flavors of creepy.
In the children’s section, popular books come and go with changing fads. But one older series has never been replaced as a favorite, said Youth Services Director Laurie Hotz.
The “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” series, written by Alvin Schwartz between 1981 and 1991, are still the most popular scary books for kids.
“These are probably the most requested when a child wants a scary book, like for a slumber party or a campout,” Hotz said. “As you can tell by how well-worn they are. This is probably our fourth set since they came out, at least.”
Kids have always loved to be scared.
“The two most popular genres of books are scary stories and dinosaur books,” Hotz said. “Hands down. That has not changed in 25-plus years that I’ve worked here.”
New series that have gone over well include “You’re Invited to a Creepover,” she said, or the “Short and Shivery” tales by Robert San Souci.
There’s also the non-fiction series, the “Haunted Histories” by J.H. Everett.
“It talks about real-life creepy castles, dark dungeons and powerful palaces. That will take you all the way back to the crusades – spooky stories from back then, so you get a little bit of history in there along with being scared,” said Hotz.
Older readers can also find books on monsters, aliens, haunted houses and other paranormal phenomena – and possible rational explanations behind them, said librarian Rita Schmidt.
There’s no shortage of creepy or thrilling fiction for adults too. Some of the librarians said they are fans of the scary stuff.
“I like the psychological thriller-type books. They’re a little more interesting,” said Rachel Lavender.
Heather Hansen had a different take.
“Any book that has blood splatters on the front, I know is going to be good,” Hansen said. “In the first chapter, if there’s not a good murder or something, I’ll give up. I don’t like slow starting, slow opening books.”
Librarian Amy Presler said she’s more interested in the psychological stories.
“I like the more cerebral ones, that make you think,” she said. “The scariest books to me are the ones where things could actually happen in real life. Where it’s actually other people, instead of zombies or monsters.”
She listed “Red Moon” by Benjamin Percy, “Help for the Haunted” by John Cearles, and “The October List” by Jeffery Deaver as some recent favorites.
That last one is “a novel in reverse,” she said. “It’s about a woman who must pay a half-million dollar ransom and deliver the October list, a document that belonged to her boss.
“It starts on Sunday night and it moves back to Friday morning. And you can’t peek ahead, otherwise you’re going to ruin it.”
Lavender said two of her favorite books were some brand new thrillers: “Night Film,” by Marisha Pessl, and “Syndrome E,” by Franck Thilliez.
“‘Syndrome E’ was about a film that they found, and whoever watched the film would go blind,” Lavender said.
She said she had “a visceral reaction to it. I really would start getting so into it that at some point I just had to put it down and call someone.
“There have been plenty of times where I’ve been lying in bed not wanting to go to sleep until the husband comes in.”
Hansen hasn’t had much time to read lately, but said she recently took home Stephen King’s new “Dr. Sleep.”
“I find it intriguing because it’s the continuation of ‘The Shining.’ The little boy from ‘The Shining’ all grown up,” she said. “It’s interesting to see what happened to him.”
The adrenaline rush and anticipation of what’s about to happen is what makes these books so appealing, she said.
“I’ve always liked reading them. Even when I was younger I owned all the Stephen King books,” Hansen said. “I think it’s just the intrigue, and the suspense, and to be able to figure out in the end who did it.”