The Fright Stuff


I don’t think I’m an easily spooked person. Once, my boyfriend hid on top of my washing machines behind a folding door and tried to scare me, but all he did was dent my detergent bottle. (Okay, one time, he did hide in the shower with the shower curtain OPEN and jumped out and he got my ass real good. He was so excited. He was like, “I got you?! I scared you?!” and I just sighed and said, “You are the superior being,” and then took a barefoot walk around my dirty block to take my blood pressure down. But in my defense, what kind of monster would hide in the shower with the curtain OPEN? How did he fit in there? He’s a grown ass man, y’all.)

I digress. As readers of horror, we know that the written word can evoke such a paranoia and deep sense of fear because it’s in our imaginations, we might not conceive of the scary thing, but we bring it to fruition in our minds’ eyes.

And yet. There’s this concept of the horror picture book that really freaks me out. Sometimes images are, actually, worth ~1000 words. Or at least their equivalent. I mean, think about the G.D. Babadook. Or that damn Momo Doll. Nu uh. Mm mm. Nu uuuuuh.

So for this edition of The Fright Stuff (you’re in Book Riot’s weekly newsletter about the latest and greatest in horror, in case you needed reminding!), I’m going to take you on a tour through the ring of hell known as Picture Books. I’m Mary Kay McBrayer, and I’ll be your Virgil.

Earworm: “When the Lights Go Out” by the Black Keys

Fresh Hells (FKA New Releases):

Ghoulish: The Art of Gary Pullin by April Snellings

You’ll likely recognize the artwork of Gary Pullin from his famous film posters like that of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Big Lebowski, Vertigo, and The Babadook. This book is a gorgeous, full-color compilation of his illustrations, curated and illustrated by the fantastic April Snellings.


born to be posthumousBorn to Be Posthumous by Mark Dery

This biography details the life and artwork of eccentric illustrator, Edward Gorey. You likely will recognize him from his Gashlycrumb Tinies or his alphabet of ways to die.




Little: A Novel by Edward Careylittle by edward carey

This fictional biography of Marie Tussand is a fascinating account of this little person’s development into the curator of the wax museum that we know today. (And if you’re wondering whether this is horror, well… she was ordered by an angry mob to cast the severed heads of murdered aristocrats, soooo.)


bites of terror by cuddles and rage book coverBites of Terror by Cuddles and Rage

Based on the webseries Cuddles and Rage, this book imitates the structure of Tales from the Crypt, but spins tales of macabre whimsy about food. For example, what happens when a deathly mold overtakes a neighborhood of strawberries?



Cryptkeepers (FKA horror from the backlist):

deceptive desserts christine mcconnell funny cookbooksDeceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide to Baking Bad Christine McConnell

You’ll likely recognize Christine McConnell from her show on Netflix that was equal parts puppets, horror, and baking, and this book is its delightful counterpart. If you’ve ever wanted to make a cake shaped like a Gremlin, this is the book for you and this is the time to get it–who among us has yet to resort to stress-baking during this quarantine?

Carmilla edited by Carmen Maria Machado, written by Joseph Sheridan LeFanu, and illustrated by Robert Kraiza

While you are likely familiar with the original lesbian vampiress serial text, this new edit by Carmen Maria Machado will bring it into a whole new light for you–and it’s accompanied by the gorgeous illustrations of Robert Kraiza, inimitable tattooist.


infidelInfidel, story by Pornsak Pichetshote, artwork by Aaron Campbell

This graphic novel features a Pakistani Amercan Muslim woman who lives with her fiance in an apartment building that is haunted by the literal and figurative monsters of racism. This one is pretty great because of its focus on representation not just in the actual world, but in the world of horror and comics, as well.


Afterlife with Archie: Escape from Riverdale, story by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, artwork by Francesco Francavilla

In a campy-spooky Archie/Sabrina crossover, Sabrina brings Jughead’s dog (Hotdog) back to life, but he’s just not the same after his resurrection. Then, his not-the-same-ness starts to spread to the rest of the town, leading to an emergency evacuation!


cover image: scary shadowed gothic mansion and a giant key with skull overlayedLocke & Key, story by Joe Hill, artwork by Gabriel Rodriguez

If you’ve loved the Netflix adaptation, it’s definitely time for you to dive into the source material. After a home invasion turned murder, the Locke children begin opening doors in Keyhouse, and their contents are not as innocuous as they seem.



Want to read an alternate opening to Jordan Peele’s Get Out? Be careful, Dre!

Japan is seeing a resurgence of imagery featuring the healing monster, Amabie. Read more about the folkloric cryptid here.

Not EXACTLY horror related, but more horror adjacent: when you’re ordering the books recommended above, consider this article about how to actually help bookstores during this time of pandemic.

I don’t know about y’all but this quarantine is feeling REAL 18th century to me. In case you’re wondering how they entertained themselves before screens, and when they just couldn’t read anymore, Emily Temple has gone deep into the parlor games manuals of the 19th century and compiled some of the most fun.

Author Gabino Iglesias explains how writing horror can help ALL writers.

Want to know how authors kept their writing rituals alive? Edith Sitwell used to lie in an open coffin.

Rest in peace, Polish composer, Krzysztof Penderecki, known for haunting avante garde scores like those the film adaptations of The Exorcist and The Shining.

If your books are looking a little worse-for-wear from being taken in the bath (or locked in the freezer, for safety), this article shows how to care for them.

Have you watched Shudder’s new docuseries about cursed films? Check it out here. And,if you don’t have Shudder you can use the promo code SHUTIN for a free month.

LitHub’s astrology book club has some fresh picks for April based on your zodiac sign!

That’s it for this week–just kidding. You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without mentioning Alvin Schwarz and Stephen Gammel’s trilogy of Scary Stories to Tell in the Darkdid you? (Talk about childhood nightmares!) This is my most favorite Tweet I’ve ever Tweeted:

If you think that’s as funny as I do, feel free to follow me @mkmcbrayer. I’m also on IG @marykaymcbrayer. Enjoy your spooky picture books from the safety of your home, and I’ll talk to y’all next week! (By they way, if you have a special themed request, drop me a line! I’LL BE HERE.)

Your Virgil,


Mary Kay McBrayer
Co-host of Book Riot’s literary fiction podcast, Novel Gazing