To celebrate Halloween, we've put our heads together to compile a list of the 50 most terrifying fictional characters ever (metaphorically - no one has been decapitated, we promise) .


The famous monsters that inspire countless costumes at this time of year - your Draculas and your Frankensteins - are included of course, but did either of them scare their way to number 1?

They're competing with character from all sorts of novels, from the worst creations of 'chick-lit' to seemingly innocuous children's fiction cuddlies. Fear, after all, is a subjective business.

Click through the gallery below - running from 50 to one - to find out what made our top ten.

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  • 50. Ahab ('Moby Dick', Herman Melville)

    Ahab, invented by Herman Melville in his beast of a novel, Moby Dick, is as much of a terrifying monster as the whale at the centre of the novel. Obsessed, angry, and peg-legged, this captain ain't one to mess with.

  • 49. Patrick Bateman ('American Psycho', Brett Easton Ellis)

    A WASP, yes, but also a terrifying, insane serial killer, Ellis's controversial protagonist is happy to try all crimes on for size - torture and cannibalism being just a couple of them.

  • 48. Miss Havisham ('Great Expectations', Charles Dickens)

    It might be easy to see Havisham as a tragic figure. To pity her, even. Until you realise that she's intent on avenging her own unrequited love upon an innocent child, using another innocent child, and that wearing the same wedding dress for generations is both creepy and unhygienic.

  • 47. The Duchess (and her pig baby) ('Alice's Adventures In Wonderland', Lewis Carroll)

    Because there's little more frightening than a two-faced child-beater. Apart from a baby that turns into a pig.

  • 46. Becky Sharp ('Vanity Fair', William Makepeace Thackeray)

    While some would hail Sharp as a feminist icon - peerlessly clambering the Victorian social ladder to avoid the confines of her sex - she is undeniably threatening to all who dare get near her with money/transferrable skills.

  • 45. Martians ('Wat Of The Worlds', H.G.Wells)

    Being scared of deranged human beings is one thing. Brushing off the pure fear that comes with an invading extraterrestrial race is another - especially when, like giant mosquitos, they survive on the blood of others and want to kill the planet's population.

  • 44. Tyler Durden ('Fight Club', Chuck Palahnuik)

    For a while Tyler's a fun guy. But then this mysterious chap gets obsessed with destruction, nicks your girlfriend and starts making bombs. Then Tyler is definitely in the 'scary guy' bracket.

  • 43. Marisa Coulter ('Northern Lights', Philip Pullman)

    Beautiful, but deadly. Coulter not only heads up a concentration-camp-esque institution to separate children from their souls, but is described as a "cess-pit of moral filth" by a character in Pullman's trilogy. Which pretty much sums it up.

  • 42. Heathcliff ('Wuthering Heights', Emily Bronte)

    Heathcliff is scary from the start of Emily's bleak novel. Unpredictable and with an air of the wild, he identifies a little too strongly with the brutal moors in the book. However, it's the controlling egomaniac Heathcliff turns into that really freaks us out.

  • 41. Humbert Humbert ('Lolita', Vladimir Nabokov)

    Like many in this list, Humbert Humbert is shockingly able to manipulate a situation to his advantage. In this case, having a sexual relationship with 12-year-old Lolita. His actions are scary, but so is the way he lures us in as readers with his attempts to justify them.

  • 40. Little Father Time ('Jude the Obscure', Thomas Hardy)

    Forget Damian, Little Father Time is definitely more creepy. This little-known character from Hardy's most depressing novel manages to become a murderer before taking his own life, complete with unerringly mis-spelt suicide note. Plus, that name. *Shudder*

  • 39. Rannaldini ('Score!', Jilly Cooper)

    Sir Robert Rannaldini may have a knighthood, but gallant he is not. The sex pest enjoys the company of attractive teenagers in haunted abbeys, and that's before the secrets of his memoirs are released.

  • 38. Mrs Trunchbull ('Matilda', Roald Dahl)

    Miss 'The Trunchbull' Trunchbull regularly relives her competitive shot-put days on innocent children, when she's not inventing torture chambers for them. Visits to most headmistresses are unpleasant, but in this case, they could be deadly.

  • 37. Red Grant ('From Russia With Love', Ian Fleming)

    A trained murderer, well-placed in mazes, and happy to hunt down action heroes - this is the scariest of all Fleming's Bond baddies.

  • 36. Steerpike ('Gormenghast', Mervyn Peake)

    The anti-hero of Peake's dark novels, Steerpike is devoid of conscience, red-eyed and determined to achieve his wicked way without any regard for pesky obstacles, like innocent people.

  • 35. Frank ('The Wasp Factory', Iain Banks)

    Frank's narration of Banks' gripping debut is one of shamanistic ritual, murder and violence. Oh, and he's only 16.

  • 34. Honoria Waynflete ('Murder Is Easy', Agatha Christie)

    As you can probably gather by now, looks can be deceiving. So it would be wrong to just accept Honoria Waynflete as a pleasant, sweet elderly lady, and not the crazed murderer she really is.

  • 33. Lady Audley ('Lady Audley's Secret', Mary Elizabeth Brannon)

    The protagonist of this little-known Victorian thriller really have to be read to be believed. Escaping charges of bigamy, murder and arson via helpful changes of identity, Lady Audley's most terrifying attribute may be the way she almost gets away with it.

  • 32. Caliban ('The Tempest', William Shakespeare)

    Caliban may not be the most eloquent of baddies, but he is sweary, horrifying to look at and molesting nonetheless. Possibly most threatening in the way he learns to corrupt his masters, Caliban is easily influenced but ruled by his basest instincts - a dangerous mix.

  • 31. Mrs Winterson ('Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit', Jeanette Winterson)

    Winterson's portrayal of her adoptive mother may be touching and, at points, funny, but she paints a frightening woman regardless. Seemingly devoid of affection, and driven by her religion, Mrs Winterson's tough love pushes her daughter away - but not before she makes her life thoroughly miserable.

  • 30. Lady Macbeth ('Macbeth', William Shakespeare)

    Lady Macbeth is no little wifey, but instead the fearful female force behind her husband's crime. Both murderous and nagging, her famous sleepwalking scene shows her at her most deranged.

  • 29. Iofur Raknison ('Northern Lights', Philip Pullman)

    He's a talking bear, fuelled with anger for a lost throne and with the ability to slice through metal with a giant claw. When he's on your side, Iofur is super-handy, if gruff. When he's not, he's an immensely powerful bear with the scheming mind of a human.

  • 28. President Coriolanus Snow ('Hunger Games', Suzanne Collins)

    Manipulative and cruel, President Snow is a fearsome dictator as cold as his name.

  • 27. Cathy Earnshaw's ghost ('Wuthering Heights', Emily Bronte)

    Our narrator has hardly been in the creepy pile that is Wuthering Heights five minutes before the mad, grasping child ghost of Cathy Earnshaw comes and raps at his window. Terrifying.

  • 26. Bluebeard ('The Bloody Chamber', Angela Carter)

    Carter's interpretation of Bluebeard is one of the more frightening, but the fairytale character has been terrifying generations for centuries. Serial monogamists can be dubious at the best of times, but give them a secret dungeon and it's a recipe for fear.

  • 25. The Woman In Black ('The Woman In Black', Susan Hill)

    Ghosts are rarely pleasant creatures, but those which foreshadow the death of children are considerably less so.

  • 24. Cruella De Vil ('The Hundred and One Dalmations', Dodie Smith)

    She wants to kill adorable puppies for a winter coat. Enough said.

  • 23. Kevin ('We Need To Talk About Kevin', Lionel Shriver)

    Shriver's chilling novel was creepy throughout, but her crossbow-wielding, uncontrollable son has to be the scariest baby in fiction, ever.

  • 22. Jack ('Lord Of The Flies', William Golding)

    Jack is terrifying because of his weirdly militaristic control for a child, desire for punishment and love of hunting, sure. However, it's the fact that he represents the ability for human nature to become violent which is really chilling.

  • 21. Alex ('A Clockwork Orange', Anthony Burgess')

    So scary that endless Halloween costumes have been created in his image, Alex is an unleashed beast of badness, raping, murdering and stealing without any hint of remorse.

  • 20. The Landlady ('The Landlady', Roald Dahl)

    This seemingly innocent middle-aged woman is definitely too good to be true. Once you go into her immaculate B&B, there's no way you'll be getting out.

  • 19. Bill Sikes ('Oliver Twist', Charles Dickens)

    A classic Dickensian baddie, Bill Sikes is one of Victorian fiction's most vicious characters. Maiming and killing those closest to him (his girlfriend, his dog), Sikes is remorseless.

  • 18. The Gruffalo ('The Gruffalo', Julia Donaldson)

    We're serious - the Gruffalo. What's not to be scared of? He's a buffalo-grizzly bear hybrid with purple spines all over his back! See also: Filed under weirdly adorable.

  • 17. Dolores Umbridge ('Harry Potter And the Order of the Pheonix', J.K Rowling)

    What is it with middle-aged women who look like butter wouldn't melt in this list? Umbridge isn't even secretly evil. She's full-blown evil - it's just covered up behind pink, tweed and kittens, as demonstrated here in her film version, which makes it all the more sinister, really.

  • 16. White Witch ('The Chronicles Of Narnia', C. S. Lewis)

    Did anyone feel the temperature drop in here? The White Witch loves winter, and luring in children with her beautiful, charming exterior. A case of sibling rivalry gone mad, she'd rather destroy the world around her than submit to her sister.

  • 15. Annie Wilkes ('Misery', Stephen King)

    If you opened a dictionary looking for the definition of "angel of death", demented nurse Annie Wilkes' face would probably be there. She's trained in torture too.

  • 14. Arthur Boo Radley ('To Kill A Mockingbird', Harper Lee)

    Although eventually proven kind, misunderstood and indeed a life saver, Boo Radley spends most of the novel viewed through a prism of the Maycomb children's imagination. The archetypal 'local oddball', Radley - and his house - reminds us of that special ability we had as children to scare ourselves silly.

  • 13. Mary Maloney ('Lamb to the Slaughter', Roald Dahl)

    Making the only entry in the list for Murderous Pregnant Lady, and also Edible Murder Weapon, Dahl's short story has the most curiously terrifying twists in fiction.

  • 12. Mam'zelle Rougier ('Malory Towers', Enid Blyton)

    Tall, bony, and likely to have rivalries with other teachers, this is one strict schoolmistress who would consider detention a mild punishment.

  • 11. Christian Grey ('Fifty Shades Of Grey', E.L James)

    He may have warmed the loins of millions of women, but isn't there something a little, well, scary about a chap who is this much of a control freak in the bedroom? Christian also gets bonus points for selling more books than any other in British history, thus scaring the pants off academics and book snobs.

  • 10. Count Dracula ('Dracula', Bram Stoker)

    You know the tale: he's undead, he sucks blood... Dracula may be the household creepy character these days, but when Bram Stoker's novel came out at the end of the 19th century, it terrified its readers, and was one of the founding texts of the Gothic horror genre. Read it with the lights out, and you'll still get scared - even in a world of True Blood and Twilight.

  • 9. It

    Did coulrophobia exist before 1986? We're not sure, but Stephen King's It can take a good portion of the responsibility for clown phobia around the world. The biggest selling book in America when it was released, It follows seven children haunted by a fanged clown called Pennywise and remains one of the King's most famous and critically celebrated novels.

  • 8. Jack Torrance ('The Shining', Stephen King)

    Jack Torrance's descent into madness at the Overlook Hotel was memorably brought to life by Jack Nicholson (pictured) in Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation, but before that he was perhaps the terrifying character ever to emerge from Stephen King's imagination. Released in 1977, The Shining tapped into the greatest fear playing out in American society as contraception, free love and damaged soldiers back from Vietnam took their toll: the break down of the nuclear family.

  • 7. The Dementors, ('Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban', JK Rowling)

    Officially the scariest prison wards in fictional existence, the Dementors don't maim or kill physically, but instead suck souls for fuel. Reaching their victims with a scabby hand, they represent doom, misery and darkness - once you've been kissed by a Dementor, there's no going back.

  • 6. Begbie ('Trainspotting', 'Porno', Irvine Welsh)

    Surely the most terrifying psychopath in modern fiction, Francis 'Franco' Begbie stalks the pages of Irvine Welsh's greatest novels with a malevolence that makes just the thought of bumping into him in a pub send a shiver down your spine. Renton, Spud and Sickboy have to endure Begbie's violent streak because "he's a mate n aw. What kin ye dae?". Thankfully, you don't.

  • 5. The Witches ('The Witches', Roald Dahl)

    Hands up who's had a sleepless night after reading Roald Dahl's Witches? These scabby-headed harpies are wreaking their vengeance on the world, and all in secret... Of all Dahl's wicked inventions, The Witches are the worst.

  • 4. General Woundwort ('Watership Down', Richard Adams)

    Bunnies are cute, right? Erm, not if you've encountered Woundwort. It would be possible to pity this tragic rabbit - orphaned by a weasel at a young age, no less - had he not used his early experiences as justification for tyrannical warren-rule. Creepily, even when he is triumphantly overthrown, his bloodied body is never found, remaining a bogeyman for baby rabbits (and children) forever more.

  • 3. Frankenstein (Or his Monster) ('Frankenstein', Mary Shelley)

    Up there with Dracula, Frankenstein is two-fold terrifying: on one hand, he's a power-hungry academic, crazed by new-found technological advances and a desire to create beauty. On the other, he's monster who manages to overtake his master, showing how too much knowledge can be a bad thing. Either way, it's a spine-tingling novel.

  • 2. Magwitch ('Great Expectations', Charles Dickens)

    Dickens' opening scene for this great novel is daunting enough - Pip is a surviving child, hanging out in a misty graveyard. Oh but wait, there's a terrifying escapee convict coming out of the wasteland to threaten to kill him. Jolly good. Magwitch, although he eventually turns out to be good, remains a classic threatening Dickens character throughout Great Expectations. We certainly wouldn't want to encounter him on a dark night.

  • 1. Big Brother ('Nineteen-Eighty-Four', George Orwell)

    In the end, it wasn't the monsters or the vampires or even the criminally insane characters that scared us the most but a face on a screen. George Orwell's 1949 masterpiece is horrifying on two levels. First you have the political warning about a suffocating, miserable - and worst of all, plausible - totalitarian state. Then you have the man in the centre of it all, poor old Winston, whose spirit and resolve is ultimately and sadly crushed by Big Brother and The Party. From the bleakness of the Ministry of Truth to the unforgettable 'rat scene', 1984 is our pick for the scariest book ever. Might be a tricky one to turn into a Halloween costume, though.