Halloween Special: The Scariest Characters in Fiction
By Maddy Marshall
Bloodthirsty rabbits, a worm-eaten face, and a head that can turn 180 degrees on its axis . . .
That’s right, it’s almost time for Halloween! This week the Hodderscape team are reflecting on the all-too-scary fictional characters that they find truly terrifying:
General Woundwort from Watership Down
It’s definitely a combination of memories of both the book and the film, but General Woundwort from Watership Down has to be the most scary character from my childhood. The nasty combination of malevolence, control, and inflexibility (plus – and this is definitely down to the film – the drooling) makes him a truly terrifying character.
– Alice, Marketing
The Grand High Witch from The Witches by Roald Dahl
As a child I was absolutely terrified by the Grand High Witch in The Witches by Roald Dahl. I have a very clear memory of reading about the decaying face that was hiding beneath the mask and then turning the page to discover Quentin Blake’s illustration which made me jump out of my skin! I found the witches terrifying, not only because they were able to disguise themselves so easily but also because our protagonist is trapped in a room with them and at risk of being discovered (which he eventually is – and then turned into a mouse!) This is an incredible dark fantasy, where the witches plot to turn children into mice, so that their parents will then inadvertently kill them. This story frightened me so much and gave me many a nightmare.
– Maddy, Marketing
‘The face of hers was the most frightful and frightening thing I have ever seen. Just looking at it gave me the shakes all over. It was so crumpled and wizened, so shrunken and shriveled, it looked as though it had been pickled with vinegar. It was a fearsome and ghastly sight. There was something terribly wrong with it, something foul and putrid and decayed. It seemed quite literally to be rotting away at the edges, and in the middle of the face, around the mouth and cheeks, I could see the skin all cankered and worm-eaten, as though maggots were working away in there.’
The Diabolical Entity in The Exorcist
Who will ever be able to establish if William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist is the scariest book ever written? After all, it is a book you will only ever read once, at a single sitting. Afterwards you’ll suffer a sleepless night and vow never to open it again. From what I recall it’s a little unfair to call the young possessed girl, Regan MacNeil, the scariest character in fiction – it’s the entity inside her and what it’s doing to her that is horrifying: the voices that come from her mouth, the way it makes her skull turn 180 degrees on its axis… Read it (once) if you dare.
Feathers McGraw in The Wrong Trousers
One of the villains I found the creepiest was Feathers McGraw, the penguin from the Wallace and Gromit film ‘The Wrong Trousers’. He’s quite a bit cuter than some of the other picks on the list, and I think my child self felt very betrayed that something that seemed so cuddly could turn out to be so sinister.
– Lydia, Design
Pennywise in IT
For as long as I can remember, and much to the amusement of my parents, I have been petrified of clowns. I suspect this started either with the horror incarnate that was Ronald McDonald in the nineties, or a very strange local clown back home who shall remain nameless, and who inevitably materialised at some point during almost every birthday party I attended throughout my childhood. Clowns are also the reason I haven’t quite gotten around to reading IT yet, despite being a huge Stephen King fan and having devoured a good chunk of his backlist. These days I feel very lucky to work for Hodder, but find I am exposed to IT’s famously horrifying incarnation, Pennywise, with alarming regularity – there is a Pennywise Funko Pop LURKING somewhere beneath my desk as I type – and can confirm that exposure to one’s fears doesn’t always help to lessen them. Clowns are still absolutely terrifying and the book character that frightens me the most is, of course, Pennywise.
– Kate, Publicity
Do you agree that these are most terrifying characters in fiction? Comment below, and tell us which character sends shivers down your spine.