Halloween 2012: What's scary?

This Halloween, six top writers reminisce about the things that used to scare them — and what scares them now

Published October 31, 2012 10:11PM (EDT)

          (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-719509p1.html'>Tami Freed</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Tami Freed via Shutterstock)

Halloween is the strangest of holidays, the day we actually invite the creepy, the spooky, the downright scary into our lives — as if we aren't surrounded by enough horror, with many of us just now emerging from the very real, unwanted terror of Hurricane Sandy. But there is something strangely alluring about having control over your own fear, to make it into a fantasy, whether it involves walking through a haunted house, or dressing up for a costume party, or watching horror films, knowing that you can hide under your coat, run out of the theater, or hit STOP.

We've asked six of our favorite writers to open up and tell us what freaked them out when they were younger — and what scares them now.

The essays include (click on the title to read each piece):

"Real-Life Body-Snatchers," by Peter Trachtenberg

The author of "The Book of Calamities" sees body-snatchers. All the time.  

"The Horrors of Aging," by Kate Christensen

The PEN/Faulkner Award-winning novelist used to love Halloween. But now every dangling skeleton and rotting pumpkin in the neighborhood is reminding her of her own mortality.

"Fearing Fear Itself," by Jennifer Gilmore

Why would anyone actually want to be frightened, wonders the acclaimed author of "Something Red."

"My Lifelong Pursuit of Ghosts," by Julie Klam

Will this haunted-house-hopper (and famous dog magnet) ever encounter a real ghost? 

"The 4:30 p.m. Matinee," by Meg Wolitzer

The celebrated novelist says adulthood isn't seem half as scary as that late-afternoon TV movie.

"Pretending Fear Doesn't Exist," by Jonathan Lethem

Can a genre-bending novelist like the author of "Motherless Brooklyn" and "Chronic City" build an immunity to fear?


By Jonathan Lethem

Jonathan Lethem, the Roy E. Disney Professor in Creative Writing at Pomona College, is the author of, most recently, and the story collection "Lucky Alan" and the novel "Dissident Gardens."

MORE FROM Jonathan Lethem

By Peter Trachtenberg

Peter Trachtenberg is the author of "The Book of Calamities: Five Questions About Suffering and Its Meaning" and "7 Tattoos: A Memoir in the Flesh." His new book, "Another Insane Devotion: On the Love of Cats and Persons," is forthcoming in November. He lives in Pittsburgh, where he's an assistant professor of creative writing.

MORE FROM Peter Trachtenberg

By Jennifer Gilmore

Jennifer Gilmore is the author of "Golden Country" and "Something Red."  Her new novel, "The Mothers," is being published by Scribner in April 2013. You can follow her on twitter @jenwgilmore.

MORE FROM Jennifer Gilmore

By Kate Christensen

Kate Christensen is the author of six novels, including "The Great Man," which won the 2008 PEN/Faulkner award, and, most recently, "The Astral." She blogs about food at katechristensen.wordpress.com. She lives in Portland, Maine.

MORE FROM Kate Christensen

By Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer is the author, most recently, of The Uncoupling.

MORE FROM Meg Wolitzer

By Julie Klam

Julie Klam is a writer living in New York City. Friendkeeping: A Field Guide to the People You Love, Hate, and Can't Live Without is her fourth book, and just came out from Riverhead in October.

MORE FROM Julie Klam