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If scaring yourself almost to death is your Halloween tradition, forget "Nightmare on Elm Street."

Pick up a book instead.

No matter how many gory movies they make, nothing that appears on screen can possibly compare to what runs through your own imagination.

"I think when reading a book you visualize in your own mind things much more horrible than anything you could see on the big screen," says Tony Timpore, editor of the horror magazine Fangoria.

When you really think about it, a scary film usually doesn't stay with you long after it's over. But a good scary book can give you the creeps for a lifetime.

"If you read a book and several months later you can still remember the plot and maybe still have a nightmare or two over it, that's a good horror book," says Sean Dougherty, inventory manager at a Borders store in Philadelphia.

Even horror writers can be scared by a good book. Horror Writers Association publicity chairman Ronald Busbee writes horror stories under the name Ronald James. He says horror books don't have to be extreme or weird to scare people. "A good horror book takes you into a world that's more imaginary than real but it's still feasible. Besides scaring you, horror should entertain and be enjoyable rather than be just be shocking and repellent."

With the help of these and other experts, we assembled a book list for Scary Lit 101. Read 'em and get creeped out.

Andrews, V.C.: "Flowers in the Attic"

Barker, Clive: "The Books of Blood" series

Bloch, Robert: "Psycho" and "American Gothic"

Brite, Poppy Z.: "Exquisite Corpse," "Love in Vein," "Lost Souls," "Wormwood"

Campbell, Ramsey: "The Doll Who Ate His Mother"

Collins, Nancy: titles in the "Sunglasses" series and "Midnight Blue"

Cooney, Caroline: "Vampire's Promise," "Cheerleader," "Last Dance"

Cusick, Richie T.: "Summer of Secrets"

Duncan, Lois: "Killing Mr. Griffin," "Summer of Fear," "They Never Came Home"

Farris, John: "The Fury"

Gelb, Jeff, and Garrett, Michael: "Hottest Blood" series

Gorman, Ed: "Cage of Night"

Harris, Thomas: "Silence of the Lambs" and "Red Dragon"

Hutson, Shaun: "Slugs"

King, Stephen: "The Shining" and "The Green Mile"

Koontz, Dean: "Phantoms," "Watchers," "Twilight Eyes," "Hideaway"

Lovecraft, H.P.: "The Shadow Over Innsmouth," "At the Mountains of Madness" Lumley, Brian: "Blood Brothers," "House of Doors"

"Mammoth Book of Frankenstein," "Mammoth Book of Vampires," "Mammoth Book of Ghosts" (anthologies)

Matheson, Richard: "I Am Legend"

McCammon, Robert; "Swan Song"

Nixon, Joan Lowery: "The Weekend Was Murder," "The Other Side of the Dark" "Oxford Book of Gothic Tales," "Oxford Book of Scary Tales," "Oxford Book of the Supernatural" (anthologies)

Pike, Christopher: "The Last Vampire" series, "The Cold One," "Ancient Evil"

Poe, Edgar Allan: "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat" (short stories)

"Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," "More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark," "Scary Stories Three: More Tales to Chill Your Bones," edited by Alvin Schwartz

Smith, L.J.: "Night World"

Straub, Peter: "Ghost Story"

-- Knight-Ridder

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