At Arcana 29, held in October 1999, we polled convention members on their picks for the "top 10" horror authors and movies of the 20th century. Granted, it might have been a bit premature (the movie "End of Days" had not been released yet, ha ha) but it's a pretty good list of good stuff for horror fans to savor. I've listed the choices of Arcana 29 guest of honor Ramsey Campbell below.

Nineteen convention members responded. Not a big sampling, but it does represent about a third of the attendees, and the Arcana convention has a group with a good knowledge of the field. The full ballot procedure and rules can be found below. Many thanks to Donna M. Thorson for the crunching of numbers!

What do the "points" mean? Respondents were asked to rank 10 choices with the best being number one. When we tallied the results we reversed the ranking so that "number one" picks got 10 points, "number two" got 9 points, and so forth. (Not every respondent bothered to read the instructions, we found, but we think the top-ranked results came out O.K.)

The Arcana Top Ten
20th Century Horror Authors

1. H.P. Lovecraft - 108 points
2. Stephen King - 98 points
3. Algernon Blackwood - 67 points
4. Arthur Machen - 64 points
5. M.R. James - 47 points
6. Robert Bloch, Shirley Jackson (tie) - 43 points
7. Ramsey Campbell - 41 points
8. Clark Ashton Smith - 40 points
9. William Hope Hodgson - 39 points
10. Fritz Leiber - 34 points

Runners - up:

11. Richard Matheson - 25 points
12. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro - 23 points
13. E.F. Benson, Tanith Lee (tie) - 20 points
14. Anne Rice - 19 points
15. Thomas Harris - 17 points
16. Robert Aickman, Clive Barker (tie) - 14 points
17. Harlan Ellison, Karl Edward Wagner (tie) - 13 points
18. Charles Beaumont - 11 points

Authors who had at least two votes but 10 or fewer points: Ray Bradbury (10), Dennis Etchison (8), Peter Straub (8), Poppy Z. Brite (3). Kathe Koja had one 10-point vote.

Other authors mentioned, in no particular order: Franz Kafka, Thomas Tessier, Pamela Keesey, Jane Yolen, James Farber, Eddy C. Bertin, Russell Kirk, Dean Koontz, H.R. Wakefield, Bram Stoker, Brian Lumley, John Camp (John Sandford), Neil Simon ("short stories"), Dan Simmons, Ted Klein, Robert E. Howard, Basil Copper, Manly Wade Wellman, Flannery O'Connor, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Theodore Sturgeon, Thomas Ligotti.

Unqualified mention: Mary Shelley (wrong century, but credit given for creative cheating).

Back to top

The Arcana Top Ten
20th Century Horror Movies

1. The Exorcist - 43 points
2. Bride of Frankenstein - 41 points
3. King Kong, Halloween (tie) - 39 points
4. Psycho, Alien (tie) - 35 points
5. The Haunting - 31 points
6. Dracula (1931 version specified) - 28 points
7. Frankenstein (1931 version specified) - 27 points
8. Night of the Living Dead - 26 points
9. The Omen - 23 points
10. Island of Lost Souls - 21 points

Runners - up:

11. The Mummy (1932 version specified), The Birds (tie) - 17 points
12. Vampyr - 16 points
13. John Carpenter's The Thing - 15 points
14. Dead of Night, Cat People, M, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (tie) - 14 points
15. The Blair Witch Project - 13 points
16. Repulsion - 11 points

Movies which had two or more votes and 10 points or less: Carrie (2 votes, 10 points), Freaks (2 votes, 10 points), Creepshow (2 votes, 8 points), The Sixth Sense (3 votes, 7 points), Re-Animator (2 votes, 7 points), Godzilla (1954 version definitely specified, 2 votes, 6 points), Silence of the Lambs (2 votes, 4 points, Academy Award notwithstanding).

Movies with one 10-point vote: Diabolique, Phantasm, Jacob's Ladder.

Other movies mentioned, in no particular order: Wait Until Dark, Frenzy, Legend of Hell House, The Wicker Man, Don't Look Now, Interview With the Vampire, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, The Shining, Dracula (1974), The Phantom of the Opera, London After Midnight, The Mind of Mr. Soames, Near Dark, Nightbreed, An American Werewolf in London, Blade Runner...

The Thing (1951), The Hunger, Wolfen, Parents, Taxi Driver, The Hitcher, The Stand, Lost Highway, Them, Dawn of the Dead, Curse of the Demon, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1932), Herbert West Re-Animator, Terminator II, Night of the Hunter, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Black Cat, Horror of Dracula, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Howling, Hellraiser, Pumpkinhead, I Walked With a Zombie.

(Original or remake? Many voters did not specify which. When they did, I show the release date of the movie specified. Otherwise, it's anyone's guess whether they were voting for, say, the original "The Haunting" or the 1999 remake - well, bad example, but you know what I mean.)

Back to top

Here are the choices of our guest of honor, Ramsey Campbell. Ramsey chose to list his favorites in no particular ranking; I've arranged them in alphabetical order. He discussed these in detail in the course of a panel discussion, but here are the bare bones (so to speak):

Ramsey Campbell's
Top Ten 20th Century Horror Authors

Robert Aickman
Algernon Blackwood
Dennis Etchison
William Hope Hodgson
Shirley Jackson
M.R. James
Fritz Leiber
Thomas Ligotti
H.P. Lovecraft
Arthur Machen

Ramsey Campbell's
Top Ten 20th Century Horror Movies

The Blair Witch Project (1999)
Curse of the Demon (1958)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1932)
Island of Lost Souls (1933)
King Kong (1933)
Lost Highway (1997)
Psycho (1960)
Repulsion (1965)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Vampyr (1932)

Back to top

How it got done:

Ballots were made available to all Arcana 29 attendees at convention registration in October, 1999, and collected via ballot boxes for 24 hours after registration commenced. We asked voters to list authors and films "in order of preference, with '1.' being the best." (Not all voters followed that rule.) They were also asked to limit their movie picks to theatrical releases (not all followed that rule, either). Results were anonymous but voters were asked to sign ballots to avoid "ballot box stuffing." Nineteen people responded, mentioning 52 authors and 76 movies. Most, but not all, ballots were filled out completely.

Pollster/page editor - David Christenson -

Back to top