Great. I have to be the first person to disagree with J.K. Rowling–and possibly with everyone who read Deathly Hallows’ Bathilda Bagshot chapter at four o’clock in the morning after a midnight release party… oh, wait, I did that, too. That was terrifying.
But I well remember being afraid to read Chamber of Secrets in anything but the broadest of daylight. Ah, Chamber of Secrets. How do I fear thee? Let me count the ways:
- It’s more or less a murder mystery with a psychopath at its center
- Said psychopath likes to leave creepy messages on stone walls in finger-painted rooster blood
- There’s cold, hungry, murderous, disembodied whispering that only our hero can hear
- People and cats are getting Petrified
- There are snakes. And Harry discovers he has a Dark wizard’s gift in being able to talk to said snakes.
- There’s the Slytherin common room, which is decorated with greenish light and skulls. (Such a happy student environment.)
- There are SPIDERS THE SIZE OF HORSES. If there were nothing else scary in this book, that would be enough. Seriously. Picture one of those in your back yard. I double-dog dare you.
- There’s the tale of a girl who was murdered in a bathroom
- There’s a lot of ghosts having a Deathday Party and a Headless Hunt… okay, maybe that’s more funny than spooky. Depends on what time of day you read it, and how alone you are in the house at that point, perhaps.
- There’s a case of Dark wizard possession (kind of like demon possession, but with wands and without levitation)
- Last but not least, there’s the Chamber itself, which involves hissing at a carven snake by flickering candlelight, taking a slide down dark water pipes to an unknown destination, the ubiquitous Voldemort, and this guy:
…who can kill you with his eyes before he eats you with those fangs.
Not to mention that Harry has to spend his twelfth birthday pretending he doesn’t exist. Which concept, while it won’t jump out at you and yell “Boo!”, is pretty horrific if you think about it.
Now, if you enjoy the sort of fright you get from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets… I’m going to have a hard time helping you, because I am too chicken to read very many spooky books. If you haven’t read the sequel to Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, however–A Wind in the Door–I recommend it. Rips in the cosmos. Multiple impersonators of the mean school principal, competing with the real guy for control over you. A snake and a tall, dark-cloaked being as Teachers, and a scale-and-eye-covered monster as a companion. X-ing. Lots of time in the dark. As with Harry, there’s some sorrow and love mixed together, providing a way out of the darkness–if the characters can will themselves to take it.