The Scariest Book He Ever Wrote?: Pet Sematary by Stephen King

petI’ve seen Pet Sematary called Stephen King’s scariest book EVER a million times lately. Since I’m on a life long quest to read everything Stephen King, I knew I had to grab what was 1. A classic King book, and 2. The scariest one. The last Stephen King I read was Salem’s Lot in October, so it was definitely time.

Louis Creed moves his family to …you guessed it: a small town in Maine, where he gets a job at the University. The Creeds buy an old house with friendly, across the road neighbors: Jud and Norma Crandall. But the road is a menace just waiting to strike, Jud warns Louis and his family. He tells them to always keep an eye on little Ellie and Gage.

This whole scene with the road and the dangers it presents, even the job at the university, is all based on Stephen King’s actual life, and a close call he had with his son while they were there. If that doesn’t make this book just a little terrifying, I don’t know what to tell you.

The happy family settles into their new home, but on Louis’s first day on the job, a student is rushed into the infirmary after being hit by a car, and dies in the office. Not the best first day (or any day). Louis is haunted by the memory of Victor Pascow dying on his watch, and it sets the tone for all the scary, morbid things that follow.

As it happens, Jud was right, and the road is populated by giant 16 wheelers all day, every day. Let’s just be real here, I don’t even like driving next to one of those things, let alone having them speed by my house all the time. Anyway, the family cat, Churchill, is the first to fall victim to the road, and Louis has his first burial in DUN DUN DUN The Pet Sematary.

All I’ll say is, nothing good comes of it, and, as Jud puts it: “Sometimes dead is better.

The fact that Stephen King notes in his introduction that he felt like this is the book in which he crossed the line, the one he was convinced no one would publish, told me something right off the bat. That it was inspired by a real house and real events, should tell you a lot more. Pet Sematary is one of the best for a reason: it’s a well told, page turning scary story.

I finished this one at midnight, and while I don’t recommend that, I think any King fan who hasn’t read this one yet should get in on the zombie cats, the small Maine town, and some great story telling.

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  1. I read this so long ago and the only thing I remember about it was how terrifying it was! I can’t believe it was based somewhat on reality. I didn’t read another Stephen King for a long time after this one and, even now, like to stick to his thriller (plus, 11/22/63…by far my favorite of his) rather than horror.

    1. I loved 11/22/63! I’m constantly recommending it to people even now. (and getting shot down because, 800 pages). I just bought The Green Mile because I’ve heard that’s more narrative than horror, too!

  2. Every single time I read a King novel, I swear to myself that I will never read another and simultaneously that I will everything he wrote. He’s that good, but also, that scary.

  3. I have read a lot of Mr King, but not this one. I remember when I was reading Cujo (a very long time ago) having to put it down because I was so scared, even during the day.

  4. I’m going to take your word that this is his scariest work. I’ve read a fair amount of King, but only one of his horror novels and that was “Salem’s Lot.” I have never been so scared in my entire life!

    That being said, I would say that “Pet Sematary” definitely has the potential to be even more terrifying for me. While I’m not a fan of the undead in general, I think zombies are slightly more frightening than vampires…and kitty zombies would just be too much for me!

  5. Yeah if you’re not into the whole undead thing, I definitely wouldn’t recommend this one! I LOVE Salem’s Lot! It was the perfect scary/Halloweeny read.