Maybe I just haven’t been reading enough Stephen King novels, but not too many books have actually scared me to the point of where I think, “Oh my God, I actually feel frightened as I read this.” Movies scare easily because they’re so visual, and it’s the things that we see that scare us. But to read something that makes us feel scared is a difficult feat for the author to achieve.
There is one book, however, that totally has the ‘creep factor’ going for it, and that’s Lois Duncan’s Down a Dark Hall. In the 1970s and 80s, Lois Duncan pretty much ruled YA horror and suspense lit, at least until Christopher Pike and RL Stine came along. She wrote freaky books like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Killing Mr. Griffin, Don’t Look Behind You, and Summer of Fear, but Down a Dark Hall takes the crown as the creepiest, probably because it involves a boarding school, which we all know are creepy enough to begin with.
Written in 1972, Down a Dark Hall is about a girl (Kit) who is forced to attend Madame Duret’s Blackwood Boarding School, and from the second she arrives at the school she knows there’s something weird about it. Um, especially because the rooms only lock from the outside. Creepy? Hell yes.
Another creepy thing about the place? Well, for one thing, there are only three other students, none of which had any sort of talent for anything before coming to Blackwood, but who suddenly excel at painting, math, and poetry since starting the school. Even Kit suddenly discovers that she’s really good at playing the piano. Where do these weird talents come from? Who the hell knows!!
And probably the creepiest thing of all is that Kit eventually learns that all the former students of Blackwood ended up dying. So, yeah…her prospects don’t look too good, do they?
Well, I’m not going to give you any answers to any of these questions – you’re just going to have to get totally freaked out yourself when you read this book! And you’d better read it quick – I read somewhere that Stephenie Meyer is developing a movie out of it…so…let’s not even go there. Read the book!!
“The moment Kit lays eyes on the great, brooding mansion looming about her, she can feel it – a strange, penetrating chill that later she would describe in a single word: evil.”