As a kid, I absolutely loved the Scooby-Doo cartoons. They were scary, but not too scary. There was lots of creepy stuff, but the monster always turned out to be just a guy in a costume, and everyone was fine in the end. It was silly and funny. There was a really smart girl who wore glasses. The color scheme was groovy. There were a lot of sandwiches. What’s not to love?
As I got a little older, I started liking scary stories that were a little darker (that’s another blog post entirely), but I never lost my love of Scooby-Doo. So I was pretty stoked when I heard about the book Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero. What if the kids from Scooby-Doo had PTSD from all the mysteries they solved, and they grew up to be very damaged adults? The names are different, and the dog is a Weimaraner instead of a Great Dane, but that’s pretty much what’s happening here.
This book falls into the category of humorous horror, which is a great place to dip your toe into scary stories without getting too terrified. Meddling Kids is a little different from most books in the genre, because it has some genuine thrills. Most humorous horror books are more humor than horror, though. Many focus on silly or inept monsters, or they take a satirical view of evil-doers.
Here are some more humorous horror novels to whet your appetite!
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
The surviving members of the Blyton Hills Summer Detective Club (shout out to Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!) decide they must return to Blyton Hills to confront the trauma of their past and solve a cold case. The author does some unusual things with language and format, which can be a bit jarring at first, but once I got used to it, I hardly noticed it anymore and just enjoyed the story. There is just enough nostalgia to be fun, but not so much that it becomes annoying. Mild spoiler alert: The dog makes it out okay.
The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove by Christopher Moore
Moore’s books are satirical and laugh-out-loud funny. I once got some very dirty looks in a Borders bookstore when I could not control my giggles while reading one of his Vampire Love Stories books. In this one, a town dulled by anti-depressants gets switched to placebos, and their sudden lust for life awakens a sea monster. This modern take on Godzilla and satire of our medication-obsessed culture gets pretty bawdy, but what else would you expect from a book with “lust lizard” in the title?
The Devil’s Detective by Simon Kurt Unsworth
If you like a good police procedural, but you feel like they’re all starting to run together, here’s one that stands out from the crowd. There’s been a murder in Hell, and the devil has charged Thomas Fool with finding the culprit. In this world, Hell takes the form of a really unpleasant city, complete with terrible public transit. The writing is witty and compelling, and the hardboiled horror mash-up combo is delightfully new.
The Gates by John Connolly
Eleven-year-old Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to “show some initiative” when they decide to go trick-or-treating early, but they accidentally stumble on a ritual taking place at 666 Crowley Avenue, which opens a portal to the gates of Hell. Some nasty creatures come through, but Samuel can’t get anyone to listen because they all just write him off as a small boy with an overactive imagination. Connolly, who has quite the imagination himself, combines science and fantasy in this offbeat and funny novel.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink
This book is based on the podcast of the same name about a weird town where the mundane mixes with the supernatural. In the book, perpetually-nineteen-year-old pawn shop owner Jackie and PTA-mom-to-a-shape-shifter Diane find themselves embroiled in a quest to find a mysterious city. In the course of their journey, they end up at the library, considered one of the most dangerous places in town because the librarians have toxic blood. If you enjoy the wacky, small-town hijinks of Twin Peaks, this book will be right up your alley.
Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix
If a horror novel and an IKEA catalog somehow had a baby, it would be this book. Employees of a furniture superstore decide to spend the night in the store to catch whoever is vandalizing the merchandise. But it turns out the culprits are the ghosts of dead prisoners from the old penitentiary that used to stand on the site of the new store. Anyone who has ever worked retail or gotten lost in an IKEA store will appreciate this horror lampoon.
John Dies at the End by David Wong
Originally published as an online serial, this novel follows the misadventures of David and John, who both (one on purpose and one accidentally) ingest a “drug” called Soy Sauce, which creates a portal to a nightmare realm through which monsters can enter the human world. The two slackers employ their vast video game knowledge to try to save the world. One reviewer said Wong strikes “a balance between hilarity, horror, and surrealism,” and another quipped, “Lowbrow, absurdist horror/comedy that works—a difficult trick to pull off.”