The Quick 10: 10 Unexpected Horror Writers

If you've been reading the Quick 10s for a while, you know that I have a fascination with horror movies and Halloween and all things creepy. So when I saw The Book of Lists: Horror, it seemed like a no-brainer to add it to my ever-growing collection of trivia books. Scary stuff plus lists?! C'mon! I'll no doubt share more of these lists as we get closer to Halloween (only 93 days, you know), but for now, here's one to tide you over at least until Fall gets here.

winston1. Winston Churchill. Yep, before he was a politician and world leader, Winston Churchill was a writer and journalist. Man Overboard was published in the Harnsworth Journal in the late 1890s, when Churchill was in his 20s. An example of his writing: "A startled brain suggested the word 'Help!' and he bawled this out lustily and with frantic effort six or seven times without stopping. Then he listened."
You can read the whole thing here, if you like - it's not very long.
2. John Lennon. Beatles fans probably already know this. Lennon penned several books of short stories and poems and musings, and in his first, In His Own Write, there's a little number called "No Flies on Frank." Frank murders his wife and then wonders why she is covered in flies and he isn't. Then he delivers the corpse to his mother-in-law and laments that she didn't invite him in for tea.

3. Truman Capote. Of course he wrote In Cold Blood, which was horrific due to the fact that those events actually occurred. But Capote also wrote horror fiction on at least one occasion. "Miriam" is a short story about a woman who is pestered by a little girl who shares her name. The girl keeps popping up at strange times, making larger and larger demands and eventually announces that she is moving in. There's no gore, but the story is more than a little chilling, nonetheless. It's another quick read if you're looking to kill some time.

4. F. Scott Fitzgerald. If you saw the recent movie with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett you might not consider The Curious Case of Benjamin Button to be scary, exactly. But the original short story definitely has some supernatural elements to it that make the reader stop and wonder exactly how Mr. Button got into his peculiar state.

5. Edith Wharton. She's usually known for her depressing tales, not her scary ones - The House and Mirth, Ethan Frome and The Age of Innocence among them. But Wharton also had a taste for the macabre, which she revealed in several stories: "Afterwards," "The Triumph of the Night" and "The Ghost-Feeler" are just a few. What's more, Wharton believed in the supernatural and refused to sleep in a room with books of ghost stories and destroyed any that entered her house.

tennessee6. Tennessee Williams. "Desire and the Black Masseur" is so chilling that a horror anthologist has called it the most terrifying tale he has ever read. We know Williams has a bit of a dark side anyway, based on his other works, but this one with masochistic overtones is downright disturbing. A man becomes goes to a masseur on a regular basis to get a massage, and every time he goes, the massage gets more intense, almost painful. You can probably see where this is going"¦ let's just say the man would have loved Annie Wilkes from Misery.
7. John Steinbeck. You're going to think I'm making this up, but it's the truth: Steinbeck, the same man who brought us The Grapes of Wrath, East of Eden and Of Mice and Men wrote a horror story about"¦ bubble gum. I'm dead serious. "An Affair at 7 Rue de M-" is about a writer who is distracted by his son constantly chomping on bubble gum. But it turns out that young John can't stop chewing on the gum "“ no matter what he does to get rid of it, the gum finds its way back into his mouth. The father and son duo do everything they can to destroy it, but nothing works"¦ until the father places the wad of goo under a bell jar and cements it to a table. It takes a week, but the gum finally "dies."

8. Paul Gallico. He was probably best known for the movie based on one his novels "“ The Poseidon Adventure, but he was quite a prolific man. I guess with 41 books, lots of short stories, twenty movies, twelve T.V. movies, and one T.V. series, it's probably not too shocking that at least one horror story slipped in. "The Terrible Story" is about a man who hates people, but loves his computer. I mean, loves his computer. As the HAL 9000 and T2 have taught us, it's best not to trust machines too much...

9. Raymond Chandler. As the man who brought us private eye Philip Marlowe, maybe it's not that much of a surprise that Chandler's "The Bronze Door" also involves an investigator, but unlike the Marlowe stories, this tale takes a supernatural twist: anyone who walks through the Bronze Door is never seen again.

10. Evelyn Waugh. You likely know him for 1945's Brideshead Revisited, one of Time magazine's 100 "All-Time" novels. "The Man Who Liked Dickens." I won't totally spoil the story for you, in case you want to check it out sometime, but it comes down to Dickens or death. It inspired Waugh's full-length tale A Handful of Dust.

Do you have a favorite chilling tale? Do share - I'm getting in the mood for the macabre!

10 Sweet Facts About Candy Canes

The sweet and striped shepherd’s hooks can be found just about everywhere during the holiday season. It's time you learned a thing or two (or 10) about them.


While the origins of the candy cane are a bit murky, legend has it that they first appeared in hooked form around 1670. Candy sticks themselves were pretty common, but they really took shape when the choirmaster at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany got the bright idea of twisting them to look like shepherd’s hooks. He then handed them out to kids during church services to keep them quiet.


It’s no surprise, then, that it was a German immigrant who introduced the custom to America. The first reference we can find to the tradition stateside is 1847, when August Imgard of Wooster, Ohio, decked his home out with the sugary fare.


Candy canes without the red don’t seem nearly as cheery, do they? But that’s how they were once made: all white. We’re not really sure who or exactly when the scarlet stripe was added, but we do know that images on cards before the 1900s show snow white canes.


Most candy canes are around five inches long, containing only about 50 calories and no fat or cholesterol.


The world’s largest candy cane was built by Geneva, Illinois chef Alain Roby in 2012.  It was 51 feet long, required about 900 pounds of sugar, and was eventually smashed up with a hammer so people could take home a piece.


Fifty-four percent of kids suck on candy canes, compared to the 24 percent who just go right for the big crunch. As you may have been able to guess, of those surveyed, boys were nearly twice as likely to be crunchers.


According to the National Confectioners Association, about 1.2 billion candy canes are made annually, and 90 percent of those are sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Which honestly begs the question: Who’s buying the 10 percent in the off season?


Bobs (that’s right; no apostrophe) Candies was the first company to really hang its hat on the sweet, striped hook. Lt. Bob McCormack began making candy canes for his kids in the 1920s, and they were such a hit he decided to start mass-producing them. With the help of his brother-in-law, a Catholic priest named Gregory Harding Keller (and his invention, the Keller Machine), McCormack was eventually able to churn out millions of candy canes a day.


December 26 is National Candy Cane Day. Go figure.


Here’s how they make candy canes at Disneyland—it’s a painstaking (and beautiful) technique.

10 Actors Who Hated Their Own Films

1. Sylvester Stallone, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Sly doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to his film career. Despite co-starring with the delightful Estelle Getty as the titular violence-prone mother, Stallone knows just how bad the film was:

"I made some truly awful movies. Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot was the worst. If you ever want someone to confess to murder, just make him or her sit through that film. They will confess to anything after 15 minutes."

2. Alec Guinness, Star Wars.

By the time he played Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1977’s Star Wars: A New Hope, Guinness had already appeared in cinematic classics like The Bridge on the River Kwai, Great Expectations and Lawrence of Arabia. During production, Guinness is reported to have said the following:

"Apart from the money, I regret having embarked on the film. I like them well enough, but it's not an acting job, the dialogue - which is lamentable - keeps being changed and only slightly improved, and I find myself old and out of touch with the young."

The insane amount of fame he won for the role as the wise old Jedi master took him somewhat by surprise and, ultimately, annoyed him. In his autobiography A Positively Final Appearance: A Journal, Guinness recalls a time he encountered an autograph-seeking fan who boasted to him about having watched Star Wars more than 100 times. In response, Guinness agreed to provide the boy an autograph under the condition that he promise never to watch the film again.

3. Bob Hoskins, Super Mario Brothers. He was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?. As far as I’m concerned, Bob Hoskins is forgiven for Super Mario Bros. Hoskins, though, doesn’t seem to be able to forgive himself. Last year the Guardian spoke with the veteran actor about his career and he summed up his feelings rather succinctly:

What is the worst job you've done?
Super Mario Brothers.

What has been your biggest disappointment?
Super Mario Brothers.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?
I wouldn't do Super Mario Brothers.

4. George Clooney, Batman & Robin. Sure, Batman & Robin made money. But by every other imaginable measure, the film was a complete failure, and a nightmare to the vast majority of the Caped Crusader’s most fervent fanatics. Star George Clooney recognized what a stinker he helped create and once plainly stated, “I think we might have killed the franchise.”

5. David Cross, Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked. When actors have a movie out, it's customary that they publicize the film by saying nice things about it. Earlier this year David Cross took a different approach. When it came to describing his new film Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked, the veteran comedian — better known for Mr. Show and Arrested Development — went on Conan and called the film a “big commercial for Carnival Cruise Lines” and told people not to go see it.

6. Katherine Heigl, Knocked Up. Judd Apatow’s unplanned pregnancy comedy was a huge hit and helped cement her status as a bankable film actress. After the film’s release, however, Heigl didn’t have all good things to say. In fact, what she specifically said about it was that the film was:

"…A little sexist. It paints the women as shrews, as humorless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.”

7. Charlize Theron, Reindeer Games. The 2000 action film Reindeer Games starred Ben Affleck, Gary Sinese and Charlize Theron and was directed by John Frankenheimer. But it all somehow failed to come together. In the end the film lost a lot of money and compiled a wealth of negative reviews – including one from its star actress who simply said, “Reindeer Games was not a good movie.”

8. Mark Wahlberg, The Happening. Mark Wahlberg doesn’t exactly seem like a guy who lives his life afraid of trees. But that is the odd position M. Night Shyamalan’s 2008 film The Happening put him in. Wahlberg, as it turns out, doesn’t look back too fondly on the film. He went on record during a press conference for The Fighter when he described a conversation with a fellow actor:

"We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … alright “The Happening.” F*** it. It is what it is. F***ing trees, man. The plants. F*** it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook."

9. John Cusack, Better Off Dead. John Cusack reportedly hated his cult 80s comedy so much that he walked out of the screening and later told the film’s director Steve Holland that Better Off Dead was "the worst thing I have ever seen" and he would "never trust you as a director again."

10 Christopher Plummer, The Sound of Music. The Sound of Music is considered a classic and has delighted many generations of fans. But the film's own lead actor, Christopher Plummer, didn't always sing its praises. Mr. Von Trapp himself declined to participate in a 2005 film reunion and, according to one acquaintance, has referred to the film as The Sound of Mucus.



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