Evil children to scare you this Halloween
For centuries, literature has had a particular affinity for evil children: the nefarious twin, the killer in the making, the unsettling loner. To celebrate Halloween, we’ve rounded up the 20 evil children who give us the most chills, many of whom have been brought to life in equally disturbing cinematic adaptations. Read on to check out our favorites.
Draco Malfoy in Harry Potter
Harry Potter’s Slytherin rival gets a little less evil as he goes along, but there’s no denying that he plays the role of unwitting accomplice and Hogwarts saboteur pretty reliably in the first few installments of J.K. Rowling’s wizardry series.
Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin
Lionel Shriver’s harrowing novel is told from the perspective of Eva, the mother of a teenager who’s just committed a deadly mass school shooting. In letters to her husband, she uncovers her son’s frighteningly off-kilter behavior — which culminates in tragedy.
Rhoda Penmark in The Bad Seed
In this chilling portrait of a budding sociopath, young Rhoda Penmark is introduced as a serial killer in the making. The book, like Kevin, observes the fallout from the mother’s point of view, and asks unnerving questions about nature versus nurture.
Frank Cauldhame in The Wasp Factory
The destabilizing first-person narration of The Wasp Factory is just unsettling enough to fool you. Teenager Frank Cauldhame describes his childhood, in all its disturbing detail, before finally landing on the big reveal: He was a murderer before the age of 10.
Angelo Saint in Wicked Angel
They call young Angelo Saint a “textbook psychopath” in Taylor Caldwell’s suspenseful Wicked Angel. The 1965 novel explores the life of a boy spoiled rotten and the extreme lengths he’ll go to in order to remain the center of attention.
Patrick in It
In the original novel of Stephen King’s oft-adapted smash, Patrick initially shows warning signs — keeping dead flies in his pencil box, groping female students — before his worldview, of being the only real human being on Earth, comes into focus and leads to devastating consequences.
Damien in The Omen
The infamous horror franchise launched by David Seltzer centers on Damien Thorn, better known as the son of Satan. Among other things, it serves as a reminder that you might want to do your homework before adopting a baby of an unknown background. In this case, Robert and Katherine Thorn get stuck with the antichrist.
Ben in The Fifth Child
A family of four children is rocked when mom, Harriet, becomes pregnant with a fifth. The difficulties of carrying Ben to term are nothing compared to the havoc he wreaks on the whole family as he comes of age.
Amma in Sharp Objects
Thirteen-year-old Amma lives a deceptive double-life in Gillian Flynn’s acclaimed 2006 thriller (soon to be an HBO series). She’s a charming southern girl to her family, but plays mean girl to those in the town around them — terrorizing those she attempts to rule.
Pinkie Brown in Brighton Rock
Rising gangster Pinkie is the teenage leader of Brighton Rock’s primary mob. He emerges as someone both merciless and obsessive, a killer with deeply dysfunctional conceptions of human connection and sexuality.
Jacob in Defending Jacob
While some of the children on this list are explored from their mothers’ perspective, here’s an example where a father must come to grips with the possibility that his son is a murderer. The book revels in uncertainty, only dropping clues of Jacob’s homicidal behavior as his dad becomes increasingly wracked with guilt and confusion.
Jacob Reiser in Before and After
The lives of the Reiser family are forever transformed when 17-year-old Jacob is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Like Defending Jacob — which even shares the same name for its evil child — the book is ambiguous, digging into family dynamics when one member is revealed to be a potential killer.
Tom Ripley in The Boy Who Followed Ripley
Patricia Highsmith’s multi-book examination of young criminal Tom Ripley is arguably at its most disturbing — and nefarious — in The Boy Who Followed Ripley. It’s the last book in the series in which he commits murder, and more importantly, the one where he admits to not feeling much guilt for his killings.
Josephine in Crooked House
Agatha Christie presents in detective novel Crooked House Josephine, a 12-year-old with an unhealthy obsession with detective stories. Over the course of the book, it’s discovered, in typically delicious fashion for the author, that she killed her own grandfather because — wait for it — he wouldn’t pay for her ballet lessons.
Holland in The Other
This influential, thoroughly terrifying horror novel is set in the ‘30s and centers on a pair of identical twins. One, Holland, perfectly fits the mold of the “evil twin.” Whenever he’s around, trouble follows.
Pandora and Marmaduke in Who Was Oswald Fish?
Prankster twins Pandora and Marmaduke may be just nine years old, but in A.N. Wilson’s darkly comic novel, their precociousness turns repulsive — causing, ultimately, both a suicide and a murder. (Pictured: Author A.N. Wilson)
Veda in Mildred Pierce
Veda has been realized in films several times since James M. Cain’s 1941 hardboiled novel was published. We trace Veda from early childhood to her maturation into a woman — a journey that takes her from irritating and scheming to vindictive and monstrous. Her villainy sneaks up on you.
Merricat Blackwood in We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Shirley Jackson’s 1962 mystery begins with three members of the Blackwood family isolated in their small village after a tragedy had occurred years earlier. Gradually, young Merricat becomes obsessive and paranoid — leading to questions about what she might have been capable of before.
Joffrey Baratheon in Game of Thrones
The utterly maddening Joffrey Baratheon, a kid who briefly ascends to King of Westeros after his “father” unexpectedly dies, is one of the more recognizable names here. Shameless, snickering, and uncompromising, he’s a standout villain in a series full of them.
The kids of Children of the Corn
Stephen King’s infamous short story doesn’t have one evil “child,” per se, but rather an ensemble of young kids banded together in a fanatical religious cult. Every passerby and adult in their town of Gatlin, Nebraska, is to be sacrificed in the cornfield.