Ten Novels that Exploit Common Phobias

Last year my brother drove from Las Vegas to Nashville in a day and a half.  That’s a 27 hour drive in 36 hours.  He kept himself awake by chain-smoking, rolling the car windows down, calling everybody in his phone book and listening to a Stephen King audiobook. When he finally slept he was so tired he fell into one of those deep, nightmarish sleeps informed by his listening choices and exhaustion.

He’ll still tell you how freaked out he was when he woke up.  But that certainly didn’t keep him from starting the book up the next morning and listening on until he finished.  No matter how terrified we are horror novels are one of the hardest to put down.  They force us to face the worst and scariest of human society and hold space in that moment.  We can’t make the character run, we can’t fix it for them.  All we can do is hope for a happy ending while being perfectly aware it’s probably not coming.

When a fear stops being something that keeps us from doing something stupid and begins to keep us from experiencing life it moves into the realm of phobia.  Phobias change and morph depending on age groups (kids have didaskaleinophobia- the fear of schools- much more than adults), cultures (western culture has Thanantophobia – the fear of death- more than other cultures), and eras (demonophobia – the fear of demons was much more common in the Middle Ages and is almost eradicated now).  Here are some surprisingly common phobias of our time:

  1. Arachnophobia – the fear of spiders
  2. Ophidiophobia – the fear of snakes
  3. Cynophobia – the fear of dogs
  4. Mysophobia – the fear of germs
  5. Catoptrophoia – the fear of mirrors
  6. Anthropophobia – the fear of people
  7. Latrophobia – the fear of doctors
  8. Pediophobia – the fear of dolls
  9. Phasmophobia – the fear of ghosts
  10. Coulrophobia – the fear of clowns

Part of the fun of the month of October is we get to experience fear from the safety of our own homes.  When the doorbell rings unexpectedly on the 31st it’s probably not a serial killer so much as a goblin.   It takes fear and makes it fun.  Below are a list of books (corresponding with the list above) that will allow you to explore phobias from a safe distance… even if they do keep you up at night.

If you like what you see please click-through to Amazon.  It’s free to you and helps me pay the ginormous electric bill from leaving the lights on all night.


  1. The Hatching: A Novel by Ezekiel Boone.  The apocalypse is brought on ancient flesh-eating spiders.  It’s a pretty horrifying page turner… and the sequel comes out next year.

  2. Awakening by S.J. Bolton.  As if snakes weren’t terrifying enough, a psychopath is using snakes to harm and kill people. A fast paced thriller featuring a female lead.

  3. Cujo by Stephen King.  I promise you this is one of two times Stephen King appears this month on any of my lists.  I try to stay away from his work because it’s just so obvious.   But there isn’t a better horror story out there about a dog.  It doesn’t exist… and if it does… let me know. (Werewolves don’t count.)

  4. The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston. Don’t be turned off by the title, this book reads like a novel and is terrifying mostly because it’s a true story.  If you had a moment of panic at last year’s Ebola outbreak, or a general fear of germs, this book will keep you buying hand sanitizer and stop you from shaking hands.

  5. Mirror by Graham Masterton.  Remember that scene in Phantom of the Opera where Christine looks in a mirror and The Phantom looks out?  Take that scene, make the mirror demonic and have it sold at the Opera House Auction.  Even if you don’t have catoptrophoia this one may keep you avoiding eye contact with the mirror when you use the bathroom at night.

  6. The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum.  This novel is so terrifying Amazon gives a disclaimer stating: “recommended for regular readers of horror novels.”  It’s a based on a true story about a teenage girl held captive and tortured.  This will permanently make you afraid the human race.

  7. Coma by Robin Cook.  This one can fall into latrophobia or nosocomephobia (the fear of hospitals).  While technically a medical thriller it explores the exploitation of organ donation and transplanting.  I read (and watched) this one in high school and my mom and I still say the word “coma” with raised eyebrows and an odd accent.

  8. The Doll Collection by Ellen Datlow.   This collection has dolls of all types and sizes and will have you turning your daughters doll to face the wall.

  9. The Haunting of Ashburn House by Darcy Coates.  A super creepy haunted house book with a surprise ending.  If you live in a rural area read this one on a beach vacation.  Bonus: it’s free if you have kindle unlimited.

  10. The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliot.  I’ve know many a lovely clown in my lifetime (Baggy Genes I’m looking at you), but JJ is not one of them.  Psychotic clowns initiate Jamie into world a world of horror and violence. (As a fun note – spell check labeled “psychotic clowns initiate” as a cliche.  As if you didn’t have enough reason to be scared.)


About Kaitey Moore 40 Articles
Kaitlin Moore Morley is passionate about storytelling, the kind of our imagination and the kind of our experiences. She works as a hospital chaplain where she collects love stories and as a pastor where she collect biblical narrative. She holds an undergraduate in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in England and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. She lives in Evansville, Indiana in an old (very cold) Victorian house with her husband, Darren and their dog Olga.

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