I’d hoped to avoid Halloween and horror stories… The Exorcist - Don't go into the attic - horror stories by Charles Harris

But I just got sucked in. It must be all the skeletons, zombies and pumpkin lanterns around here.

I started thinking about what horrifies people and how there’s a single sentence that sums up every horror novel, movie or play ever produced.

It’s: Don’t go into the attic!

All horror stories start with someone ordinary (or occasionally extraordinary). There’s a bumping noise in the attic above their heads. We know they shouldn’t go up there, but they do…

And there the monster is waiting for them. Sometimes supernatural, sometimes not.

In some books and movies it really is an attic. For example, in William Peter Blatty’s novel The Exorcist (and the movie made from it) Chris MacNeill starts to hear those noises above her head and goes to investigate.

And the monster is a demon who possesses her daughter.

More usually in horror stories, the attic is something else – a place, a job, a time…

In the movie Seven, written by Andrew Kevin Walker, the “attic” is a murder investigation.

Early on, each of the two detectives is warned not to get involved. Despite this, they actively choose to take the case on and now the sentence becomes:

Don’t go into this series of murders based on the seven deadly sins!

In this story, the monster – “John Doe” – is not supernatural but a real, if terrifyingly clever and screwed-up human being.

Here are some other variations from my favourite horror books and movies. Tell me if you recognise them and add your own, in the comments below:

Don’t go into the sea.

Don’t drink that stuff that’s going to make your dark self appear.

Don’t go into that apparently empty abandoned spaceship.

Don’t lock your portrait in the attic.

Don’t kill the king, just because your wife tells you to.

Don’t go to the prom.

Don’t set out to swim your way back home.

Don’t eat the strawberry pie.

Did you get them all? Sleep well…