Chilling Crime Fiction Focused on Children and Their Families

Chilling Crime Fiction Focused on Children and FamiliesEvil kids are number one in the trifecta of shit I can’t handle (followed closely by demons and aliens, and no, they’re not mutually exclusive). I’m convinced that there are several reasons why we (because I know I’m not alone in this disturbia) find evil children scarier than evil adults:

1) We expect children to be innocent, good, and sweet, even though they are not. It’s our oxytocin talking here.

2) We expect children to depend on adults, so when they act of their own accord, especially to our detriment, it’s both shocking and unsettling.

3) In the case of one’s own biological children being evil…well, you just never want to think about the myriad ways in which the parasite you’re growing in your womb could turn against you. It’s like your own body betraying you.

This evil kid trope is ubiquitous onscreen, from classics like The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby to more recent debuts like Orphan, mother!, or even small-screen sensations like Stranger Things and The Haunting of Hill House. Or, God forbid, the scariest movie of all time, Robert Eggers’ The Witch. It should come as no surprise that evil children, pregnancies, and the crimes involving them are just as present in books. Here are six favorites—yes, I said I can’t handle them, but that doesn’t mean I won’t try.


Mary Kay McBrayer is the author of America’s First Female Serial Killer: Jane Toppan and the Making of a Monster. You can find her short works at Oxford American, Narratively, Mental Floss, and FANGORIA, among other publications. She co-hosts Everything Trying to Kill You, the comedy podcast that analyzes your favorite horror movies from the perspectives of women of color. Follow Mary Kay McBrayer on Instagram and Twitter, or check out her author site here.