The Anthropological Writer
Stephen King is unarguably the best horror writer of all time. With his first horror novel in 1976 (Carrie), he has catapulted himself as the King of horror. His surname suits him well. What makes King so compelling of a writer is the psychological and social aspects of humanity that he interweaves into his stories. Many of his books touch upon the big philosophical problems and human weaknesses that everyone of us as human beings experiences on a perpetual basis. For example, Carrie is a novel about a teenage social outcast who consistently gets bullied. The novel “It” is about darkness that preys upon our greatest fears. Lastly, “Needful Things” is about the depravity and intrinsic wickedness that each one of us is capable of if we do not practice self awareness. These are just a few examples, but they do reveal why King is such a phenomenal writer.
The Eclectic Writer
Ray Bradbury places second on my list of the top five horror writers of all time. In my opinion, Mr. Bradbury does not get the credit he deserves. He is a very eclectic writer that weaves the element of horror into a variety of other genres such as mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. When I was a child, I watched the Ray Bradbury Theater and was enthralled and captivated by the stories. Although there were 65 episodes over a span of six seasons, this series was one of the best I have ever seen. These shows revealed the breadth of Ray Bradbury’s brilliant imagination. No other writer, including Stephen King himself, comes close to covering the multidimensionality of horror as does Ray Bradbury.
Edgar Allan Poe
The Romantic Writer
No top five lists would be complete without Edgar Allan Poe. Poe was simply brilliant and was also one of the pioneers of the American horror genre. He was one of the writers in the era of Romanticism and interweaved this theme throughout all of his writings whether they were short stories or poems. The elements of Romanticism involve beauty, love, emotions, the metaphysical and the supernatural. No other writer in history captures both the dual emotions of love and fear the way that Edgar Allan Poe does. One of my favorite stories as a child that was turned into a movie starring Martin Landau was “The Fall of the House of Usher”. The story is both creepy and existential, which is why I think Poe is one of the best horror writers of all time.
Robert Lewis Stine
The Children’s Writer
R. L. Stine has been referred to as the Stephen King of children’s literature. At first these might seem like a paradox, but Stein does an excellent job of combining these two genres and creating spooky themes that will send chills down your spine even as an adult. Although the Goosebumps series were written when I was an older teenager and young adult, my love of the horror genre compelled me to indulge myself in the books, television series, and movies. Also, it doesn’t hurt that R. L. Stine hails from my home state of Ohio. Go Buckeyes!
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
The Cosmic Writer
The final individual on my list of the top five writers of all time is H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft is a legend. Unfortunately, although he was not a popular writer during the time that he was alive, afterwards, he gained a considerable following after his untimely death. Lovecraft’s writings are centered upon man’s place in a vast chaotic universe in which he has no divine intervention or comprehension of the supernatural. This leaves him feeling empty, aimless, and frightened. Lovecraft combines teleological, philosophical, and cosmic elements to write what I consider to be some of the best horror literature ever written.
In summary, these are who I believe to be the top five horror writers of all time. I have chosen these individuals based upon originality, uniqueness, and contribution to American horror culture. Of course, this is subjective and only my opinion, but no one who loves the horror genre cannot doubt the impact that these writers have had on our culture.
Stephen A Brown (author) on August 14, 2020:
Thanks for the recommendation Moral Man, I will check this movie out. It sounds interesting.
Moral Man on August 10, 2020:
One of the scariest novels and horror movies is The Sentinel, by author Jeffrey Konvitz. The movie has many famous stars in it such as Burgess Meredith and Chris Sarandon.
The action takes place in Brooklyn, New York. A renegade group of Catholic priests are conducting a controversial experiment and holding a horrifying secret. The gateway to hell is located in an apartment in Brooklyn, and these renegade priests are locating people who have attempted suicide and have them guard the gateway to hell to prevent the damned from leaving hell and entering this world of the living. In other words, a guardian or Sentinel is chosen by these priests. At the current time, the Sentinel is an old, hideous, blind priest with milky eyes who sits on the 5th floor apartment. This old priest will soon die and the next sentinel on the list is a pretty woman named Alison Parker.
Alison Parker attempted suicide because she walked in on her father with two hookers. This experience so trumatized her she cut her wrists. Her father recently died. She moves into the apartment and strange, disturbing events happen. Footsteps are heard above and the chandeliers move. She discovers her dead father in the apartment and stabs him.
She also meets a whole assembly of bizarre people in the apartment. She is toldvthat no one except the blind old priest is living in the apartment. Its later revealed that all these bizarre people are really dead people who have entered the apartment from the gateway to hell, and they try to drive her to insanity so she committs suicide. They want her to committ suicide so there wouldnt be an sentinels guarding the gates of hell. They want to leave hell and enter the world of the living and the sentinel's task is to stop this from happening. The old blind priest comes to the rescue at the end and drives the damned back into hell, then he dies, and immediately Alison Parker becomes the next Sentinel, her eyes blinded and milky eyed. She will stand and watch until she dies and someone else takes her place, someone else who has attempted suicide. It seems that one of the themes of this novel and movie is that anyone attempting suicide and surviving it has to atone for this sin by becoming a Sentinel for the rest of his or her life.
Pictures of the hideous, blind old priest are extremely scary, and this is the good guy! In the movie, actor John Carradine plays the old, blind priest with wrinkled skin, greyish hair, and milky white eyes, a truly horrifying sight. Anything with the supernatural, the Devil, demons, and hell is scary, and The Sentinel is one of the scariest of all.
Stephen A Brown (author) on October 05, 2019:
Very interesting. I have never seen the movie Legion, but will be sure to check it out. It sounds like it has many existential elements in it. Thanks for responding.
Moral Man on September 29, 2019:
One of the best horror novels in my opinion is Legion, by author William Peter Blatty, which was made into a movie, Exorcist 3-Legion. This is really a sequel to The Exorcist . The novel Legion and the movie based on it is unique in that addresses all three categories of evil, Moral evil, Natural evil, and Supernatural evil. No other horror novel that Im aware of has accomplished this. It addresses human cruelty and evil, it addresses demonic possession, and it addresses the cruelties and horrors of Nature such as cancer and meningitus.
Stephen A Brown (author) on September 22, 2019:
Thanks for your ample response Moral Man. It really seems like you know your stuff when it comes to the horror genre. I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Moral Man on September 21, 2019:
This list of horror writers is a good list. Authors Stephen King and Ray Bradbury stand out as the best. Stephen King's Carrie and The Shining are two of the most compelling horror novels which were put to the screen by movie directors Brian Depalma and Stanley Kubrick.
Author Ray Bradbury wrote intriguing fantasy and science fiction stories. The Illustrated Man is one of his best and most profound stories. The concept of having a device that can project an African landscape into one's living room is futuristic virtual reality. Thats a great fantastic concept. Imagine being able to transform a bleak, boring house into an African savanna or being able to transform it into any place you like.
Authors William Peter Blatty, Jay Anson, Dean Koontz, Bentley Little, John Saul, and Thomas Tryon are all talented. Blatty wrote The Exorcist and Legion which focuses on demonic possession. Jay Anson wrote about haunted houses such as The Amityville Horror and the not as well known 666. In the novel 666, a mysterious and sinister house appears and entraps its victims. The house glows red and is run by the Devil himself. In one edition of this novel, theres an artwork illustration of Satan holding a man and a woman captive. This version of Satan is half man and half beast, a 9 foot tall biped with hairy legs, and a scaly reptile like upper body with greenish skin, and instead of horns on top of his head, this Satan has antlers on top of its head like a deer. The artist is unknown, but its a very scary picture.
Dean Koontz has produced many novels as well. Two noteworthy titles are Night Chills and The Servants of Twilight. In The Servants of Twilight, a doomsday cult is out to kill a 6 year old boy who they believe is the Antichrist. Its harrowing and filled with action and suspense. In one hardcover edition of this book, there is a drawing of the Devil or a demon crouching over a woman as she lays sleeping. Its shaped like a humanoid with a very evil, scary appearance.
Stephen A Brown (author) on September 18, 2019:
Thank you Lorna. I am glad you found it to be interesting. Edgar Allan Poe is a true literary genius, and I hope to write more about him in the future.
Lorna Lamon on September 18, 2019:
I have always been a big fan of Edgar Allen Poe and he certainly embraces the essence of horror in both his poem and stories. I'm so glad he made it as one of the top 5 and I enjoyed this interesting and informative article.
Stephen A Brown (author) on September 17, 2019:
Thanks for responding Jodah. Yes, the classic writers are some of my favorites.
These are some of the giants that modern writers get their inspiration from.
John Hansen from Queensland Australia on September 17, 2019:
Am interesting article, and although there are many good writers of horror, it is hard to argue against these. Some, like Mary Shelley (Frankenstein) and Robert Louis Stephenson (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) only wrote one or two in that genre.