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October 6, 2017 8:45 AM   Subscribe

40 of the Creepiest Book Covers of All Time selected & riffed on by Emily Temple, Associate Editor at Literary Hub
posted by chavenet (40 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm reading The Vivisector right now, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't slightly enjoy the double takes I get on the subway when I settle into a seat and pull it out of my bag.
posted by holborne at 8:54 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


Great collection, but it would have been nice if the author had bothered to credit the actual artists of the covers, besides Tom Adams.
posted by ejs at 9:02 AM on October 6 [12 favorites]


The Vivisector

/eye twitches involuntarily
posted by Existential Dread at 9:04 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Some of those are pretty creepy, but "Spawn" just makes me laugh because it reminds me of the end of The Mr. Belvedere Fan Club, one of my all time favorite SNL sketches.

I actually really like The Case Against Satan cover and I don't find it particularly creepy.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 9:06 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

The cover includes the artist's name quite prominently, Stephen Gammell. The drawings and covers of this edition should remain at the top of every list of creepy book art.
posted by Existential Dread at 9:07 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


In high school, someone left a stray copy of The Stranger in one of the science lab sinks. I knew nothing about Camus, but was so intrigued by the cover that I started reading it on my lunch break. I think I finished it that night.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:08 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I read that Don't Look Now collection of du Maurier stories recently and didn't find the cover especially creepy or memorable. "The Birds," (which I only knew from the movie I didn't really like that much), on the other hand, was absolutely wonderful.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:25 AM on October 6


In high school, someone left a stray copy of The Stranger in one of the science lab sinks. I knew nothing about Camus, but was so intrigued by the cover that I started reading it on my lunch break. I think I finished it that night.

The only thing scary about that is the suggestion that I would be about to read the story of a Korn mall metal also-ran from the 90s.
posted by codacorolla at 9:27 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that's a pretty weak source cover for Shaun Hutson. There's way creepier covers just of Spawn... never mind his other novels.

Discovered the other day that The Wizard of Gore has a page on his website dedicated to cover art with quotes from some of the artists and links to their work
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:27 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


The mid-70s to late-80s really were a golden age of pulp horror cover design (Grady Hendrix's new Paperbacks from Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction is a great survey). Michael Whelan's cover for DAW's 1987 Lovecraft anthology At The Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror, in particular, is burned into my mind from months of seeing it at supermarket checkout lines with my mom. The fact that I'd sometimes wait for her in the video store down the block pretty much sealed my fate, aesthetically.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:32 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Michael Whelan's cover for DAW's 1987 Lovecraft anthology At The Mountains of Madness and Other Tales of Terror

What's even better is that it's one detail taken from a larger image, which blew my adolescent mind when I finally found this book after having previously collected several of the smaller paperback collections with similarly excerpted images.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:43 AM on October 6 [5 favorites]


I remember seeing the Stephen King Night Shift cover with the gauzy hand of eyeballs in B Dalton as a kid. Creeped me the fuck out. Couldn't wait to figure out how to read that without the parents finding out.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:45 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]


The only book cover that has ever truly given me a fright was a copy of Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk - I didn't realise it glowed in the dark until I walked back into my bedroom in the middle of the night after a trip to the bathroom to see a spectral face staring at me from my nightstand. Genuinely awful - what a great piece of cover design!
posted by DSime at 9:48 AM on October 6 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure I totally get the cover to The Ritual. I see the tree, and there is a suggestion of a lung x-ray, sort of. What am I missing?
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 10:09 AM on October 6 [2 favorites]


I remember being in Grade Seven or so and going to the local bookstore in my midsized Ontario town just to check out the horror covers -- this would have been the mid-'80s, which I guess was kind of a golden age of horror books with covers exactly like "Piper", "Spawn" and "Cat's Eye." Cavalcades of weird children, half-face-half-skulls, spooky dolls, etc. Always in that kind of faux-painterly, embossed-lettering style.

I kind of miss them... I sort of vaulted over this stuff, not having the money as a kid to buy them, not having the nerve to check them out of the library, and then kind of getting right into Clive Barker as soon as I was old enough to buy/read horror, at which point things like "Piper" seemed a bit silly.

But it's a super specific memory: walking through the bookstore, looking at books I wouldn't dare to flip through, let alone purchase. It all felt so illicit as a kid.
posted by Shepherd at 10:09 AM on October 6 [8 favorites]


In high school, someone left a stray copy of The Stranger in one of the science lab sinks. I knew nothing about Camus, but was so intrigued by the cover that I started reading it on my lunch break. I think I finished it that night.

The only thing scary about that is the suggestion that I would be about to read the story of a Korn mall metal also-ran from the 90s.


I thought they looked more like Klaus Nomi's backup singers.
posted by rocket88 at 10:18 AM on October 6 [4 favorites]


I am lucky enough to own the Pan 'Tales of Unease' and - yes! - 'More Tales of Unease', and the latter cover is definitely the creepiest.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 10:23 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Michael Whelan's cover... a larger image - one of my favorite convention purchases was a small poster of that. Maybe 2 posters; it's been a while.
posted by doctornemo at 10:31 AM on October 6


I think I own 1/2 of these books.
Which might explain some things.
posted by doctornemo at 10:31 AM on October 6 [5 favorites]


Michael Whelan's cover

Sheeesh, only really knowing his Dark Tower work the more I learn the more I continue to be impressed by him.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:41 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


I'm glad that the Animorphs were on this list. I've always found them...unsettling.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:00 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


This would have been 1000% funnier if this were an Ortberg post on The Toast
posted by Spiced Out Calvin Coolidge at 11:16 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


This would have been 1000% funnier if this were an Ortberg post on The Toast

Fair, but what could you not say that about?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:19 AM on October 6 [3 favorites]




My parents had that edition of Night Shift and it definitely rattled/intrigued me as a kid. I remember the silver-foil paperback edition of The Shining and the Salem's Lot cover making an impression as well. In fact, both of them read a lot of horror paperbacks of the sort that have a cutout cover with some hideousness lurking within.
posted by Kafkaesque at 11:29 AM on October 6


When I was a kid I was particularly spooked by the covers on a couple of my parents' books, 80s paperback editions of The Inferno and The War of Worlds. The Inferno cover artist's concept was apparently "Rorschach inkblot from Hell." The War illustrator (the venerable Richard M. Powers) painted a watery, wavering scene of Martian triumph, with an enormous, skull-like alien looming over the writhing corpse-slave remnants of humanity. I think I had a vague idea, for a time, that such a scene actually occurred in the book.
posted by Iridic at 11:32 AM on October 6


These ain't scary, The Best of CM Kornbluth is scary. '70s Vonnegut is scary. '80s Beverly Clearly is scary.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:38 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


I gave up after number 5
posted by infini at 11:48 AM on October 6 [1 favorite]


When I was about twelve, I found a copy of The Doom That Came to Sarnath with the Gervasio Gallardo cover. I was a very sheltered kid then, living in a remote, agricultural town, and though that art now looks harmless, and very nearly Muppetty, at the time the book felt like the the darkest and most dangerous object I could possibly possess. I hid it like it was porn.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 11:50 AM on October 6


A visual representation of how it feels when you find out what Roald Dahl was really like as a person.

Pretty much.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:54 AM on October 6 [7 favorites]


Brocktoon! —that’s for Clinging to the Wreckage.
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 3:20 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


#41
posted by 4ster at 5:58 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


The Levi cover reminds me of photos of the claw marks inside concentration-camp gas chambers. I can't imagine that this is just coincidental.
posted by scratch at 6:27 PM on October 6


I've been a fan of Michael Whelan's work since I started reading sci fi in the 70s. He painted the covers of some of my favorite books.

If you'd like to see more of his work, I can highly recommend his official Tumblr.
posted by Squeak Attack at 6:31 PM on October 6 [2 favorites]


Pursuant to 4ster's #41, the cover of Hana Yanagihara's A Little Life. I thought it was a portrait of a man crying, or trying not to cry, but then I learned that the title of the photo is "Orgasmic Man." (Morrissey just looks like a drowsing spaniel.)
posted by scratch at 6:35 PM on October 6 [1 favorite]


Iridic, those Divine Comedy covers are gorgeous! I'm going to have to see if I can track down copies of the books.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 7:00 PM on October 6


I would actually be pretty well sold on The Land of Laughs just because the artist somehow put George Booth dogs on a hyperrealistic pulp fantasy 80s cover.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:47 PM on October 6 [3 favorites]


Abehammerb Lincoln: "I remember seeing the Stephen King Night Shift cover with the gauzy hand of eyeballs in B Dalton as a kid."

Unlike a lot of these, which are impressionistic, that's a pretty accurate take on one of the stories in the book ("I Am the Doorway").
posted by Chrysostom at 9:27 PM on October 6


A Visit From the Footbinder. Shiver.
posted by apparently at 7:04 AM on October 7


This cover for Hunger by Knut Hamsun is pretty horrifying once you've read the book.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:41 PM on October 8


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