Nightlight Horror: 5 Terrifying Tales of Childhood

Big publication news! Last month, my horror story, “Find Me, Mommy,” appeared in the gorgeous double issue of LampLight. As always, the LampLight cover art is amazing, and with awesome stories by fellow writers including JS Breukelaar, Tim Deal, Gene O’Neill, and more, this issue is a perfectly glorious tome.

LampLight Double IssueThis marks my second appearance in LampLight—after my body horror tale, “The Clawfoot Requiem,” debuted in the March issue last year—and needless to say, it is such a tremendous honor. LampLight is one of the very coolest horror fiction publications out there, and I’ve been a huge fan for years, so to work with editor Jacob Haddon for a second time is just too awesome. I’m so thrilled “Find Me, Mommy,” which is one of my darker tales, found a fantastic home.

A flash piece clocking in at just under 1,000 words, “Find Me, Mommy” follows a mother whose little girl Emma Jo plays hide-and-seek. However, Emma Jo is so good at the game that she can slip into the shadowy places of the world nobody else can see. In that darkness, there’s something waiting for Emma Jo, and soon, her mother must find a way to bring her daughter back again or lose her forever.

So you know. Normal childhood stuff.

Speaking of childhood… For me, there is little scarier than the uncertainty of these so-called formative years. No matter what the truisms try to tell us about youth being a wondrous time of innocence and joy, let’s face it: being a kid is terrifying. Heck, being an adult is pretty scary too, but still, nothing can compare to the dread of childhood. There’s this big world out there and a far bigger universe, and you’re just so small, and because of that, everybody’s constantly steamrolling you, all in the name of protecting you. If that’s not ready-made for horror, then nothing is.

Starting when I was a young tyke myself—I was around eight years old when I began actively seeking out horror fiction—I’ve discovered a few particularly terrifying stories about childhood that got lodged under my skin and stayed there. So in honor of the release of “Find Me, Mommy,” here are my favorite tales of childhood terror, the ones that always give me goosebumps. *shudders*

“The Professor’s Teddy Bear” by Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon was a master at mind-bending fiction, and nowhere is that prowess as unabashedly on display as in this gloriously odd yarn about a little boy and his parasitic monster teddy bear. “The Professor’s Teddy Bear” is almost difficult to explain, in particular if you want to describe something and not sound like an outright crazy person. Time shifts, a child laughs, and a teddy bear quaffs blood like wine. All this and more! Seriously. Find this tale. Read it. Even if you’ve already read it, read it again. This is weird fiction at its most unabashedly brilliant.
Pick up a copy of “The Professor’s Teddy Bear” here.

“Graveyard Shift” by Richard Matheson
There are very few stories that I can pinpoint as the genesis of my life as a horror writer, but Richard Matheson’s sucker-punching “Graveyard Shift” is one of those life-changing works. I could pontificate about this tale over and over (and to be honest, I kind of already have), but it bears repeating here. This is also a rather appropriate tale to reread in May. After all, Mother’s Day was less than a week ago, and if you think your mother was bad, then check out the matriarch in this tale, who would, um, to say the least never earn any awards for her parenting skills.
Pick up a copy of “Graveyard Shift” here.

“The Boogeyman” by Stephen King
“Children of the Corn” might be the obvious pick from the King oeuvre, but in my mind, nothing beats “The Boogeyman” when it comes to creepy children stories. It’s always cool to see an author take something as familiar—and arguably even hackneyed—as the Boogeyman and make it decidedly their own. That’s what King does here, and the result is a story that is tragic and haunting and everything a good horror story should be.
Pick up a copy of “The Boogeyman” here.

“The Small Assassin” by Ray Bradbury
There are evil children, and then there are dyed-in-the-womb evil children. Bradbury takes diabolical kids to the max with this tale of a mother who knows something’s very wrong with her newborn son—and a newborn ready to unravel his family’s life at every creeping turn. Not one for the faint of heart, and a story that nobody but Bradbury could write. I read it as part of The October Country, which is my all-time favorite single author collection of horror stories. But in whatever book you locate “The Small Assassin”—it’s also available in Dark Carnival and The Stories of Ray Bradbury—just find it and read it. There’s nothing quite like it.
Pick up a copy of “The Small Assassin” here.

“The Scritch” by Brooke Warra
This story marks a first on my blog. “The Scritch” has yet to make its official debut in the world, but I was fortunate enough to read an early draft of Brooke Warra’s forthcoming tale of childhood loss and terror. You might think this is a strange choice since it’s not available, or heck, outright nepotism since I know Brooke personally (we worked together on A Shadow of Autumn after all). But I promise you “The Scritch” is on this list because I can’t get it out of my mind. This is the type of story that lingers, brimming around the edges of your waking hours and seeping into your nightmares. The tale follows a little girl who lost her sister down a well and will stop at nothing to pull her—or something else—out again. As soon as I finished reading it, I could think only one thing: wow, I wish I’d written that story. And in my authorial world, there is no higher compliment.
Keep up with Brooke’s Facebook author page here.

Happy reading!