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Weird History The Scariest 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' That Terrified You As A Child  

Jordan Breeding
161 votes 47 voters 2.3k views

List Rules Vote up the scariest choose-your-own-adventure books; vote down the ones that weren't too spooky.

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For '80s and '90s kids suffering in a pre-Xbox world, Choose Your Own Adventure books were godsends. The best Choose Your Own Adventure books made readers feel like they had real agency to meaningfully impact the story and lives of their favorite characters. And although many of those books were delightful, the series was also crammed with terrifying and legitimately scary adventures.

Choose Your Own Adventures were ostensibly written for middle school kids, but several included themes well beyond the scope of an average seventh grader's mental capacity. Deciding how to best survive the Holocaust or whether or not to join terrorists in a bid to end the planet are weightier decisions than the usual middle school dilemma of deciding between chocolate and strawberry milk.

'Shadow Of The Swastika... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Scariest 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' That Terrified You As A Child
Photo:  Doug Wilhelm

Look, kids need to learn about the horrors of the Holocaust. It's probably a little less important that they live through it, though. It's more than a little unnerving to put children in charge of a Jewish family about to be murdered by Nazis. One false step could mean death for an entire family. Shadow of the Swastika really presses the limits of what's acceptable. 

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'Hostage!' Encourages ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Scariest 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' That Terrified You As A Child
Photo:  Edward Packer

Being kidnapped by a vicious drug cartel is terrifying enough on its own, but choosing to join them in their quest to end all human life? That's next level. Hostage! lets young readers indulge in their rebellious fantasies. Instead of thwarting the terrorists, you can actually attend a special terrorist school. Depending on what you choose, your character can take classes on bomb-building and eventually assist in unleashing a virus that kills everybody on the planet. Happy choosing!

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'Gunfire At Gettysburg'... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Scariest 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' That Terrified You As A Child
Photo:  Doug Wilhelm

It would appear that Gunfire at Gettysburg author Doug Wilhelm is just a tad bit racist. The big dilemma in the book is whether you should help end slavery, or take pity on the rebels who are just defending their homeland. No matter what, you get conscripted into the Confederate army. If you try to do things like free enslaved people, you actually lose and get a bad ending. Eventually you and the Confederates lose the war, but the character still pines away for what could have been if only slavery remained legal.

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'Behind The Wheel' For... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Scariest 'Choose Your Own Adventure Books' That Terrified You As A Child
Photo:  R.A. Montgomery

When Behind the Wheel begins, readers probably expect a fairly straightforward adventure tale about racing a cool car across Europe. Then halfway into page one, our protagonist sees a bloody, massacred mechanic working on a car. The walking corpse tells readers that they were in a car crash and, in fact, the dead guy is the same person as the main character! It's like Sixth Sense if the kid saw dead versions of himself. Eventually, you get to the road race, but the whole time you're driving, voices in your head tell you the other racers are plotting your murder. One of the "happy" endings involves selling your car and working for the UN, but it's hard to be excited about working in global politics.

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