How many horror novels have you read that affected your dreams? Did they keep you awake at night and leave you with an overwhelming sense of dread the next day? Jack Ketchum’s The Girl Next Door (available now) might be the most frightening horror novel of all-time, and it isn’t because a monster is hiding in the closet.
This time, the monster is us.
In no other horror novel does a novel take us so deep into the darkness of the human soul (though Stephen King’s novella Apt Pupil from Different Seasons comes close).
Based on a real life tale of abuse, torture, and murder, which Ketchum discovered in Jay Robert Nash’s Bloodletters and Badmen, The Girl Next Door is nothing short of a horrific traffic accident that you can’t look away from.
While the story is told through the eyes of a young boy named David, the tale ultimately follows Meg and her younger sister, Susan, orphaned by a car crash which killed both parents and left Susan temporarily confined by leg braces. The two sisters move in with their relative, Ruth, and her sons, who live next door to David.
But something is wrong with Ruth. Continuously ravaged by headaches, she spirals into psychosis. Her impressionable children follow her down into madness as Meg and Susan become the targets for their torture and abuse.
Some of the scenes in The Girl Next Door made me so uncomfortable that I found myself looking away from my Kindle screen to compose myself.
What makes Ketchum’s novel such as masterpiece is its believability and immersion. Ketchum is a master storyteller so it should come as no surprise that he told a gripping tale. But this is a case where Ketchum outdid himself, creating a story so unforgettable that it will forever stand as a horror classic.
The Girl Next Door is the scariest story I’ve ever read. I’m forty-seven, and I don’t scare easy. This story scared the hell out of me.