Batman has had many different types of adventures in the 80 years (and counting) he’s been patrolling Gotham City, and that stands to reason, as arguably, there is no comic book character who can transcend more genres than The Caped Crusader. Whether he’s in a crime-driven noir tale, a sci-fi superhero fantasy or a supernatural horror story, the Dark Knight can seemingly fit into any style of narrative a writer chooses for him. With Halloween just around the corner, Bat-fans with a penchant for the somewhat spooky to the downright macabre might want to check out The 10 Scariest Batman Stories Ever.
10 Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Special - Ghosts
A twisted version of Charles Dicken's classic, A Christmas Carol, Ghosts was third in a series of Halloween one-shots (collected in the Batman: Haunted Knight Trade paperback) from Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, the team behind Batman: The Long Halloween. With a food-poisoned Bruce Wayne as standing in for Ebeneezer Scrooge, the 3 titular ghosts of Halloween Past, Present, and Future visit Batman to show him the folly of neglecting his life as Bruce Wayne. Although not particularly spooky or scary, the eerie juxtaposition of Christmas with Halloween is well done and entertaining, as is the mirroring of Dicken's characters with those from the Bat-mythos.
9 Detective Comics Annual #2 (Vol. 1)
A peek into Bruce Wayne’s training in the art of detection, the story unfolds in the Deep South, where a series of murders committed by a white-hooded perpetrator have taken place. Under the tutelage of noted detective Harvey Harris, a raw and angry Bruce Wayne eventually finds the mastermind behind the crimes but lacks the evidence necessary to bring him to justice. Worse, Bruce’s mentor is killed through the course of the investigation. To keep the mastermind in his own prison of personal guilt, Wayne visits him every year, reminding him of the death of Harris, whom he also considered a friend.
Although the story lacks any supernatural elements, it highlights Batman’s obsessive nature and scarily casts him as a ghoulish personal demon, tormenting a recalcitrant but remorseful man for years!
8 The Spectre #51 (Vol. 3)
One of the creepiest stories related to the Dark Knight and his world doesn't even take place in his own title, or to him. In The Spectre #51, Batman visits New York City hunting for the recently escaped Joker, but unfortunately for the Clown Prince of Crime, the Spectre has found him first. As the embodiment of God's wrath on Earth, the Spectre wishes to kill the Joker, but he finds an unlikely advocate in his arch-nemesis, Batman. Opting to allow the Joker to feel the guilt of his crimes rather than end his life, the issue ends with a hauntingly justifiable image of the Joker collapsing under the weight of his own sins.
7 Arkham Asylum: Living Hell
By all accounts, one of the scariest places in Gotham City is Arkham Asylum. Aside from its gothic exterior and history of secret occult activity, it houses the worst of the city’s criminal psychopaths. In Arkham Asylum: Living Hell, Warren White gets sent here for a white-collar crime by copping an insanity plea. Through the course of the story, White is subjected to the horrors the other inmates inflict upon him, including a murder attempt by Jane Doe and an encounter with Etrigan, the Demon. White’s steady descent from a suit-wearing fraudster to a deformed arch-criminal is both sad and sinister to behold and adds an air of creepiness to an already creepy story.
6 Batman: The Black Mirror
Delving into the mind of a psychopathic serial killer is an unpleasant thought to say the least, and there are instances in Batman: The Black Mirror that are legitimately skin-crawling. Tracing the motivations and methods of James Gordon Jr., son of the commissioner and a known psychopath, as he lures his sister and father into a murderous trap is downright chilling, and provides a masterful challenge for Dick Grayson’s Batman. Scott Snyder’s powerful and expertly written arc is arguably his best work on Batman, (perhaps even trumping fan-favorites like Dark Knights: Metal and Death of the Family) and is a masterpiece of the true-crime genre in a comic book format that will set any reader’s hairs on end.
5 Batman: Red Rain (Batman & Dracula Trilogy)
Batman shares some qualities traditionally associated with vampires: they both come out at night and are inextricably linked to bats. In the Elseworlds tale Batman: Red Rain, the association becomes tangible, as Bruce Wayne is turned into a vampire to fight Dracula, who has set his sights on transforming Gotham into his kingdom of the undead. Aside from facing the King of Vampires, Batman must also contend with his growing bloodlust, which is threatening to eat away at his very soul. Followed by two sequels, Red Rain is illustrated by Kelly Jones, whose sharp and jagged style is simultaneously sensual and terrifying- matching the core themes of the story perfectly.
4 Dark Knight, Dark City
Part of what contributes to the eerie mystique surrounding the Dark Knight is the city he operates in: Gotham is very much a dark and dreary landscape, replete with creepy gothic architecture and a shadowy history. This history is exposed in Dark Knight, Dark City, where it is revealed that through the occult practices of the early settlers of Gotham, the demon Barbathos was summoned and contained in the heart of the settlement, causing his evil influence to shape the character of the city that grew around it. These revelations come to light through a spooky yet entertaining mystery that involves the Riddler attempting to gain the demon’s power by sacrificing Batman to it.
3 Batman: The Cult
Batman’s greatest weapon is not his considerable fighting prowess or his arsenal of gadgets, but his indomitable will, which has allowed him to conquer everything from rogue Kryptonian Supermen to career-ending injuries. But long before Bane broke the bat, Batman suffered a complete physical, emotional and psychological breakdown at the hands of Deacon Blackfire in Batman: The Cult. Captured and tortured to his breaking point, Batman becomes a member of Blackfire’s cult, who aims to take over Gotham and install Blackfire as its quasi-religious leader. Illustrated by famed horror comics artist Bernie Wrightson, horrifically visceral images of a Gotham under siege underscore the psychological trauma experienced by Batman as he wrestles with the effects of his torture...and the ambiguous nature of Blackfire as a human or (personal) demon.
2 Gothic: A Romance
Set in Batman's early career, Gothic: A Romance starts as a murder mystery involving a mob-related serial killer until it reveals itself as a supernatural thriller. Grant Morrison introduces the primary antagonist as Mr. Whisper, the former Headmaster of an all-boys school that Bruce Wayne attended, who was murdered by the mob years ago for his involvement in a series of child disappearances. When Batman is drawn into the case, he discovers Whisper’s true identity as a centuries-old monk who sold his soul to the devil and has plans to destroy Gotham City to release himself from that bargain. A bone-chilling tale with a diabolical twist ending, Gothic offers many unsettling moments in its narrative that are truly unnerving. (Don’t look in the principal’s waste bin.)
1 Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth
Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth depicts what literally happens when the ‘figurative’ inmates overtake the asylum. Challenging Batman to escape the asylum before they kill their hostages and hunt him down, the inmates inadvertently force the Dark Knight to confront his inner demons. Laden with literary and psychological subtext, the graphic novel challenges the notion that a man who dresses up as a bat to fight crime can be considered sane, while disturbingly delving into the history of psychosis that affected the founder of the asylum, Amadeus Arkham. Dave McKean's art is stunningly beautiful and borders on the abstract, leaving the reader to interpret its dark and shady nuances for themselves. A sprinkling of supernatural elements to the plot contributes to the overall uneasy mood of the tale, making it one to send shivers up and down your spine.