Hello and welcome to my first Blood-Tinted Glasses article!
In this horror retrospective, I’m going to take a look back at books, movies, and television shows that scared me when I was younger, and see if those terrifying things still have the fear factor today.
Some of these may come from decades ago, some a few years back.
Hopefully, a lot of you will have fond memories of the horrors I’m going to look back on. If not, then it would be cool to think I’m introducing you to new terrors.
So, here we go.
Time to put on my Blood-Tinted Glasses and travel back in time to the mid-eighties to talk about the horrors of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks.
Back in 1982, Steve Jackson and Sir Ian Livingstone released The Warlock of Firetop Mountain.
Armed with a copy of this book, two dice, and a pencil, many kids discovered the joys of these adventures in which the reader was the hero. They decided which path to take and which monsters to fight, all in the hope of reaching the heroic end.
Warlock was my introduction to the world of role-playing games. Without that book, I wouldn’t have discovered D&D, Call of Cthulhu, or Kult, and I reckon I wouldn’t be the same horror head I am today.
Yep, I owe Warlock a lot.
However, it was Citadel of Chaos that gave me nightmares.
You know what scares me? The answer is very simple: Monsters.
Monsters are a vital ingredient of horror. They come in all shapes and sizes, but all have the same mission, which usually means really bad news for us.
Yeah, psychos and slashers are cool to read about or watch, but I’ll take something from another dimension or the bowels of hell any day.
Citadel of Chaos has one monster that ranks as one of my all time favourites: The Ganjees.
Back in1982, those things scared the life out of me. They killed me several times, before I got my choices right and managed to get past them.
That means I had to look at this picture more times than I would have liked!
These evil spirits were extremely tricky to get past, and very scary. Looking at that picture still gives me goosebumps! In my opinion, The Ganjees hammered it home that horror can be found in any genre.
Next came the classic FF book, Deathtrap Dungeon. This game book was one of the most difficult of the original series. To this day. It remains one of my favourite books of all time. It has an amazing story and is very hard to complete without dying horribly.
It also has the Mirror Demon.
Although the encounter with the Mirror Demon is fleeting, that illustration burned itself into my brain. It’s absolutely fantastic, and utterly terrifying.
However, the best and biggest horror was to come.
House of Hell, published in 1984, was the one that pushed teenage me to my limits.
Unlike other books in the series, House of Hell took place in the ‘real’ world. This made it even scarier.
In a plot that would make a brilliant horror movie, House of Hell lives up to its name. Filled with ghosts, vampires. zombies, and devil-worshipping cultists, this book scared the bejesus out of me!
Oh yes, I forgot to mention the blood-curdling illustrations.
Yeah, that one gave me nightmares!
Not only was House of Hell very frightening, it was also a very hard Fighting Fantasy book to complete. So many terrors and gruesome deaths awaited me. I remember feeling very proud when I actually managed to finish it, and more than a little relieved!
Going back and rereading parts of these books has really made me want to play them again. I think my son is now at an age where we could read them together. I reckon he’d love that, and so would I.
These books were a huge part of my childhood. They introduced me to new worlds of fantasy, and also to horror. I mean, those illustrations are still scary in 2022!
For me, these books pass the Blood-Tinted Glasses test. They still rock.
If you’ve read any of these books, I’d love to hear what you think of them. Did The Ganges scare you witless?
If you haven’t played any, then please go check them out. They’re still available from all good bookshops and online.
Many thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed my reminiscing. Next time, I’ll be talking about my first ‘real’ horror novel and my favourite books by an author who is one of the best at scares.
Until then, be safe, happy, and read horror!
Simon Paul Wilson
Simon Paul Wilson is a U.K. based writer of horror and science fiction.
He is currently writing a cyberpunk horror trilogy, the first of which is GhostCityGirl and was published by Not A Pipe publishing in 2020.
Click this link for more info: Ghost City Girl
There now follows a list of writers who have influenced his reading tastes and writing style:
James Herbert. Stephen King, Shaun Hutson, Clive Barker, China Mieville, Haruki Murakami, Carlton Mellick III, Brian Keene, and Adam Nevill.
Simon lives somewhere in the middle of England with his wonderful family. He likes to listen to post-rock and progressive rock at loud volumes. He also plays a mean air bass.
Follow him on Twitter: @spwzen
Loved these books back in the day. Haven’t read House of Hell (sadly), but the ones I have read were great. I still keep my eye out for them for my kids, but they’re hard to find (on the cheap :-)) Forty years on and the maze in The Warlock of Firetop Mountain still bugs me.