Psychological Horror Stories

Instructor: Joanna Harris

Joanna has taught high school social studies both online and in a traditional classroom since 2009, and has a doctorate in Educational Leadership

This lesson includes 5 summaries of psychological horror stories that teachers and parents can use with their students. Since all of these novels have teenage protagonists, they could be a good fit for students aged 12 through 18.

Psychological Horror Stories

Psychological horror is a genre of literature that is based in fiction and horror that uses the mental and emotional anguish of its characters to frighten and/or thrill readers. Plot twists, narrators who move the story along, interactions with the supernatural, and murder/conspiracies are all found in psychological horror stories.

Age-appropriate novels in this genre can be located by teachers and parents to use with their students, but these novels are not always easy to find as they are not in the majority of the genre. The following novels were all selected due to the fact that they have teenage protagonists, and can be used with students ages 12 through 18.

Gwendy's Button Box

Gwendy's Button Box, by Stephen King follows a long line of King novels set in the town of Castle Rock, Maine. Most King fans are aware that there are three ways to gain entry up to Castle View through the town of Castle Rock. The Route 117 and Pleasant Road ways of passage have been visited throughout other King works, but the Suicide Stairs have been little visited until now in this novella. King partners with fellow author Richard Chizmar to tell the story of 12-year-old Gwendy and her experience with the Suicide Stairs.

During the summer of 1974, Gwendy Peterson takes the old and rusted Suicide Stairs up to Castle View where one day she sees a mysterious stranger who offers her a magic box with 8 buttons and a lever that issues silver dollars and chocolates. The chocolates issued by the lever help Gwendy lose weight and avoid being teased and bullied. Gwendy loses weight, and with the help of the magic box has wonderful experiences and great luck. However, pushing the buttons has horrible consequences for Gwendy.

The Long Walk

The Long Walk is another novel by Stephen King, but written under his alter ego Richard Bachman. This novel allows King fans to see another side of their beloved author's persona as he waxes poetic about social issues, teenage angst, and the dangers of cultural entertainment through the experiences of Ray Garraty and 99 other teenage males on the Long Walk.

The Long Walk is a deadly experience 100 teenage males must undertake, at a 4-mile-an-hour pace until only one of them is left on their feet. This is all done for the entertainment of the masses, and along the walk the teenagers are forced to contemplate the meaninglessness of their journey and other social issues. For the 99 teenagers who collapse and cannot continue the Long Walk, a bullet to the head awaits.

Flowers in the Attic

Flowers in the Attic is a classic book that most teachers and parents will remember reading in their youth and that still resonates with teenage audiences today. In this story of suspense and intrigue by V. C. Andrews, Cathy tells the story of her and her three siblings being locked away in their grandmother's attic for years. Cathy and her siblings are trapped there by their mother, but assume that their grandmother is their real warden.

As Cathy and her siblings slowly flounder within the confines of the attic, they learn more about their family history, their mother and father, and the real reasons why they are trapped in the attic. The siblings have no contact with the outside world other than the occasional visit from their mother, and regular visits from their grandmother who sees to their well-being.

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