The Book that Scared the Bejesus Out of Me: IT

To get in the Halloween spirit, I’m sharing a bookish spine-tingler from the past.

It was a dark and stormy night. . .

No. Wait—

It came from a dark and stormy drain. . .

A week or so ago, the illustrious Chuck Wendig asked his readers to discuss their favorite Stephen King story. That’s a tough one. I could rattle off at least a dozen of Scary Stevie’s stories that continue to haunt my dreams and spur irrational fears twenty-five years after reading.

By far, IT scared the crap out of me more than any other book ever— 1100+ pages of pure horrific terror. For those of you too chicken to delve into the pages of the classic nightmare in print, a quick summary: 1958. Derry, Maine. Something is preying upon children, hunting them, devouring them. This something trawls children’s nightmares, shape-shifting into whatever will terrify them most. But its signature is that of Pennywise the clown, a fanged Ronald McDonald/Bozo lurking in the storm drains, clutching festive balloons. The seven kids comprising The Loser’s Club discover the monster, confront it, and kill it…or so they think. Thirty years later, the murders start again, and the group’s members return to Derry, to the horror they’d blacked out, to stop it once and for all.

Maybe because I read IT when I was thirteen (what the hell were my parents thinking?) and the unlikely heroes of the story were around my age. I was already plagued by an overactive imagination, and IT crawled into kid’s brains and dragged their worst fears and phobias into reality.  I’d been creeped out by clowns since watching Poltergeist at eight (again, thanks Mom & Dad). Or maybe IT was just a damn good (though occasionally wordy) tale.

IT preyed upon my irrational phobias. When I was six, I was stuck in the hospital for two long weeks. After my parents left to get some much needed sleep, the sadistic nurses allowed me to watch two movies that tormented me for decades: Piranha and Jaws. Picture it: an already frightened little girl, alone in a dark hospital room, eyes wide in horror as Jaws chomped on Quint and piranhas devoured kids in inner tubes. In the dark hospital room, evil fish baring razor-sharp teeth swam around my bed, waiting for me to dangle a toe in the blood-drenched water.

I saw them for years.

Once I read IT, I became terrified of my swimming pool. The pool had a drain. IT came through drains. IT would appear as a swarm of piranha, stripping my pale flesh with razor-sharp teeth. IT would shift into a shark, pulling me under the turquoise water, swallowing me whole.

I stayed out of the deep end. And I barely swam alone until I was seventeen.

Oh, and there was the little episode of the balloons. . .

My wonderful Dad had read IT before I did. Prankster that he is, he decided to traumatize his child play a prank. The drain in our shower had been loose for weeks. Though I was a mature thirteen, I placed an oversized bottle of shampoo on top of the metal grate, just in case (as I wrote—overactive, occasionally irrational imagination). That evening, I’d dropped my towel in the bathroom. One of my parents called me away, made me do a chore or something before I could turn on the water. When I returned, I pulled back the flowered curtain to find the shower drain tossed against the wall. . . and a bunch of balloons bobbing against the harvest gold tile directly above the open pipe. My parent’s laughter couldn’t drown out my screams. ***

pennywise in shower

Explains a lot about me, right?

In the spirit of this spooky time of year, which book(s) scared the bejesus out of you?

***Please note: after digging though our respective memories, my mom and I have realized that she bears no responsibility for said “Balloon Incident.” My father admits nothing.

 

 

29 thoughts on “The Book that Scared the Bejesus Out of Me: IT

  1. Karen

    I almost didn’t click on this because I hate clowns so much. I’m glad I did though – I enjoyed your writing : )

    Karen

    It’s a tie for the book/story that scared the bejesus out of me the most. Two short stories by Stephen King (I think they’re both in the book Nigh Shift) – “The Lawnmower Man” and “Children of the Corn”.

    Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      Why do so many of us HATE clowns? There must be a study somewhere. Those were great S.K. stories. Lawnmower Man freaked me out.

      Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      I can’t read the scary stuff anymore. At all. You’d think it would be easier as an adult. Nope.

      Reply
  2. Dana

    I have a fear of clowns that stems from Poltergeist and seeing the cover of “It” in Blockbuster – damn that Pennywise. I never read it, and I tried to read The Shining after I saw the movie. I couldn’t make it past the first chapter. I need to stop watching movies before I read the book.
    Dana recently posted…The hidden dangers of room serviceMy Profile

    Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      Yes—must read the book first! The Shining was awesome, one of S.K.’s best by far. Since the movie is coming out soon, go read THE BOOK THIEF if you haven’t already. Totally not scary (but disturbing, touching, and amazing). Must read that book first.

      Reply
  3. Stephanie

    Oh boy, I don’t think I would have dealt with that prank your parents pulled very well. EEK! And I was older when I read IT. Of course, I’m a big chicken-baby.

    Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      I’m a big chicken-baby now. I squirm every time I see commercials for Walking Dead and American Horror Story. Age made me more susceptible to being scared somehow.

      Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      Somehow, I’ve never read any Lovecraft. {Go ahead, slap my hand.} I should remedy that soon. Thanks for the reminder.

      Reply
  4. Bill Dameron

    Wow, your parents were evil! :) We live in Boston but have a place in Maine, not too far from Stephen King’s house. Every back road, every town is like something from one of his books. Pet Semetary is one that scares me, but I would have to say The Shining is the one that scares me the most.
    Bill Dameron recently posted…Reality TVMy Profile

    Reply
  5. Ice Scream Mama

    well the clown in this post did. i also almost didn’t click. freaked me out. i remember IT well. my father read it too and it scared the daylights out of him, so i refused to read it. now i’m glad. when i was younger i saw Salem’s lot, which gave me nightmares for years and of course, jaws, never got over that one.

    Reply
    1. Kerry Ann Post author

      It’s amazing how movies & books from childhood can freak us out for life. I’m working on getting over Jaws. I didn’t go back in the water until a few years ago (quite a challenge as a beach-going Floridian), and that was only so I wouldn’t pass my phobia on to my kid.

      Reply
  6. Natalie - The Cat Lady Sings

    IT – AGH. This was my experience with the book, too, except I was 14 or 15 when I read it. My little sister, four at the time, would hide the book because she thought the cover was so scary. And I had a hard time taking baths for years after.
    Natalie – The Cat Lady Sings recently posted…Mother and SonMy Profile

    Reply
  7. Angela Ryan

    Great post! Very accurate and well-written. IT is a creepy ass story. I also read it young, around age 12 or so. I read King’s Thinner around the same age, and for some reason that freaked me out more. This was a very enjoyable read, and I love how every reader, who is probably also a great fiction reader, can relate to it in some way — if not with that specific book, certainly a similar book or film. Also, I really like your page layout and design — quite lovely.

    Reply
  8. Rosanna

    At least all those fears didn’t go to waste. Look here you are now with a story that would certainly get laughs instead of shivers. And that’s quite a feat in writing. I make people cry with the way I write. Boo hoo

    Reply
  9. Shell

    OMG on the balloons- I would have freaked out.

    I started reading It about that age as well. And it’s one of the few books that I’ve ever started reading that I didn’t finish. I usually finish anything(even the super awful book I was reading last night that I think might be the worst book ever)- it’s a compulsion of mine. But with that one, I knew I wouldn’t be able to function if I kept reading it.

    Favorite Stephen King is hard. The Green Mile was incredible. There are a few stories from Nightmares and Dreamscapes that stick out for me, even though I think it’s been almost 20 years since I read them. Least favorite is Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
    Shell recently posted…I Miss It: Pour Your Heart OutMy Profile

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  10. Linda Lange

    My favorite Stephen King–although I don’t find it the scariest, just the most engrossing–is “The Stand.” A book that terrified me as a child (before King’s time, since we’re about the same age) was an edition of “Jane Eyre” that included a full-page engraving of the mad Mrs. Rochester bending over Jane in her bed. I was so afraid that some fearsome figure would come in the night to hang over me that way. Just looked at it now (still have the book), and it’s not nearly as frightening as my memory of it.
    Linda Lange recently posted…HALLOWEEN AS IT USED TO BEMy Profile

    Reply
  11. Kat

    THANK YOU FOR INCLUDING THAT CREEPY CLOWN AT THE END OF YOUR POST. You didn’t have to write anything else…just that horrid clown would have been enough. Now I’m going to have nightmares about the book AND the clown. How dare you!
    Kat recently posted…Your Heart’s Not SmallMy Profile

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  12. Pingback: 10 Books that have stuck with me | KerryAnnMorgan.com

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