Is Thirteen (Volume One) the Scariest Horror Book Ever Written?

by JoHarrington

Viral internet marketing campaign, meme or reality? That's the question that people are asking as they stumble upon a very frightening story; and the reports about its readers.

I've been around long enough to know how these things work.

A movie causes hysteria, with calls in the press for banning it and nuns waiting outside theaters. Or a band ends up in a courtroom, because one of their songs apparently contained hidden messages.

Will people die? Will the devil really enter? Did that really cause untold horrors?

However, I've never known so much paranoia and terror to surround a book before. Yet a work of fiction is doing just that right now. Dare you read 'Thirteen'?

Buy Thirteen (Volumes One and Two)

That is if you are brave enough. They have been combined in this paperback edition, including both 'The Magic' and 'The Dare'.
Thirteen - Volumes One & Two

Thirteen Banned in Italy!

It was apparently too dangerous for Italian people to read. Some Italians would prefer to make their own mind up about that!

There was a book discarded on the airplane's seat. It can only be supposed that its reader had left it there on purpose. Too afraid to take it with him or her, as they disembarked.

The man who picked it up was no ordinary passenger. He was Silvio Berlusconi, then Prime Minister of Italy. He opened the book and began to read.

When the plane touched down, he did something which hasn't been done since World War Two; and caused outrage when it happened in 2010.

He banned a piece of literature in Italy.  The prohibited tome was the one that he had read on the airplane. It was called Thirteen (Volume One).

Berlusconi Read Thirteen (then BANNED it!)

Watch the press conference about the book banning. Note also the protesters not wanting this to happen to Italy.

... Or Did He?

I have to admit that I have reservations. Call me a naturally cynical person; and note that I have no Italian. I was relying on the sub-titles to make sense of it all.

Image: Promo for 13Did Thirteen (Volume One) really become prohibited reading in noble Italia? 

I didn't hear the name of the collection mentioned once in those press conference snippets.  They could have been discussing any horror book - like Berlusconi's accountant records; or his little, black book of dates.

Being cursed (or blessed) with an instinct which wants to find the source of everything, I set out in pursuit of this story.

The original footage came from the publishers of Thirteen itself.  Well they would be the first people to know if their publication had been banned!  But it would also be a marketing boon for them.  Was this a case of clever editing?  Or a real life capturing of an unbelievable decision on the part of a world leader?

It wouldn't be the first time that censorship has been an issue in Italy, but usually that involves the news or visual media, like movies and television shows.  Never a book. That has scary precedents beyond any content.

Yet I couldn't find a single other news report, in English, about this.  And I did note that, if Thirteen is banned in Italy, then Amazon haven't taken a blind bit of notice!

Update!   Fellow Wizzley author Sam has done some digging.  She's a clever lady with many more languages than I have, and she watched the video with the same reservations. Then she went hunting.

It seems that the press conference shown in the Thirteen video actually came from something entirely different. 

On March 12th 2010, there was an electoral furor erupting around Berlusconi's political party.  One of his officials had failed to register the candidates for the next election; so his leader was trying to change Italian law in order to enter his people in the ballot.

The footage is from a press conference pertaining to that, with sub-titles making it look like it's about Thirteen.  In the meantime, Sam found, as I had, absolutely no evidence that the book has been banned in Italy.

Nice work, Sam, and thank you so much for confirming our suspicions and tracking down the source.  Though I have to admit that the marketing here, on the part of Thirteen's publishers, was absolutely genius!

Should Any Country Ban Thirteen?

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No, because...
Joao on 06/10/2013

Its spudiest thing I've ever read and done its fake and also its fake that Italy banned it if you google it there are no registers of that and the video they were just talking about earthquakes -,-'

Buy the Hardcopy Versions of Thirteen Volume 1 and 2

Each book contains hundreds of pages of horror stories. But each also has a very controversial, terrifying tale, which are causing waves.
ThirteenThirteen - Volume Two

The Magic: A Story Which is All About YOU!

Horror writers love to pen their tales in the first person. It draws the reader it. But none of them tried ANYTHING like THIS before!

You may be forgiven by now for wondering what all of the fuss is about. How can a fiction book be quite so bad?  Particularly one which isn't about morality, politics or revolution.

Thirteen (Volume One) opens with a story by Darran York entitled The Magic.  Never since Death Note has one story contained so many terrifying instructions.

It's genius is in the fact that it's only two pages long.  It's only the opening to an anthology of 113 stories, which have been culled from the editions of Thirteen - a horror short story magazine published in Britain.

What could go so badly wrong in just two pages?  What could be so utterly terrifying, as to cause such a fuss across cyberspace?

There was only one way to find out.  Against the better judgement of my family (my mother seriously tried to talk me out of this), I read The Magic

The horror genre is meant to be scary or disturbing. But it can also be humorous and cathartic. Do you have what it takes to write like Stephen King?

A Witch Reads The Magic from Thirteen (Volume One)

There's a saying in Wicca - To Know, To Dare, To Will, To Keep Silent. In the spirit of all but the last part, I followed the instructions.

Before I tell you about my experiences here, you should know that I'm a Wiccan High Priestess.

Dealing with shadowy things from beyond the veil is practically my spiritual job description!  I'm the person who those confronted with bizarre and terrifying happenings call upon.

Accordingly, I've spent the past twenty-five years training for doing things exactly like this, safe in the knowledge that I could (hopefully!) survive any fall-out.

So I read it at Samhain, which is traditionally when that veil is wide open.  Go me.

I'm not going to give away any spoilers, because if you have got what it takes to read this, then you have to go in blind.  The impact would otherwise be lost.

What I can say is that the story contains a list of instructions, which you have to follow precisely.  One of those demands that you are alone and unlikely to be interrupted by human company for the duration of the reading experience.  I wasn't.  I had my mother in the room.

After downloading the Thirteen eBook and reading to that, I stopped dead.  This raised questions from a maternal quarter, which also led to her learning what her (adult!) daughter was engaged in doing.

"But why are you reading it then?!"  She asked, alarmed. 

"You mean that you don't want to?  After hype like that?"  I smirked back.  She seemed to take a long time to leave, perhaps reluctant to let her baby girl loose with such demonic literary forces.  But there wasn't a lot she could do, when said baby girl is forty.

Finally alone, I returned to my eReader.  Something startling had occurred in the meantime. Without any of us touching it, the pages had flicked forward.  It was now showing the story on page sixteen, well beyond the opening tale. 

I assumed that my mother had done it in a vague attempt to discover what I was reading.  When I confronted her with this later, she denied all knowledge.  She pointed out, quite reasonably, that she doesn't even know how to operate my eReader.


Image:  Slide from a book promo for Thirteen
Image: Slide from a book promo for Thirteen

Like everyone trying to review this story, I've run up against the fact that you can tell little about it without ruining it for potential readers. 

Should I be warning you against reading it?  I have to hesitate here, because so much of my own morality rails against telling anyone not to read something.  Burning or banning books is the first step towards tyranny.  Read everything.

But I will say that there will be people out there who will immediately regret that advice in this case.

I've read reports from those who genuinely did rush to their nearest place of spiritual worship.  They felt that they needed the protection.

As for me, I AM my nearest place of religious protection.  My deities aren't the sort to hold your hand.  They're just on standby to ensure that I learned all appropriate lessons!  So yes, Christians will have the edge on the terror here.

I read it.  I followed every instruction to the letter.  I let my imagination run wild. 

Soon afterwards, I was revisited by my mother, checking that I was ok.  I did the only appropriate thing here.  I hugged her.

Download Thirteen (Volumes 1 and 2) on Kindle

These horror short story collections have a lot of hype around 'The Magic' and 'The Dare'. But there's much more to them besides.
ThirteenThirteen - Volumes One and TwoThirteen Volumes One & Two
Updated: 11/09/2012, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 06/11/2013

Not a fan then? :) I think it's one of those endings which you either feel or don't, but I thought the narrative device was refreshing.

Joao on 06/10/2013

Don't waste your time and money on this shit seriously its not worth it at all its just totally bullshit -,-'

JoHarrington on 11/09/2012

Thanks, I will. <3

Sam on 11/09/2012

No time for that, so you go with it!

JoHarrington on 11/09/2012

Does it? Wow! Nice one! I'd better make sure that the information is right then!

The day that I was writing, we had three of us hunting through our friends lists for any Italians or Italian speakers. One of my friends did have someone who confirmed the subtitles at least, so I ran with it.

Time to update! Thanks again for all of your hard work. <3 Are you sure that you don't want to write that follow up article? I feel mean stealing it!

Sam on 11/09/2012

No, not at all feel free to use it ;-) BTW congratulations, when you put Berlusconi + banned book or + thirteen into Google your article shows up on the first page of Google ;-)

JoHarrington on 11/09/2012

Date - LOL Now that is a genius sleight of hand! We're always misreading such formating across the Atlantic.

JoHarrington on 11/09/2012

Yes! I so called it! It's an extremely clever marketing ploy though, particularly since it's just one in a series of really well constructed mini features. I did think it suspicious though, because I know that my lot would have been up in arms at any book being banned.

Thank you so much for the research. Do you mind if I up-date the main article with this information?

Sam on 11/09/2012

And just noticed the video title states "In October 2010 ..." but the date embedded in the video is 10/03/2010 meaning 3rd March, easy mistake to make if you don't know about different time formats used in different countries ;-)

Sam on 11/09/2012

Ok, I wasted a few hours doing a thorough internet research and here is what I found out:

The video is from a press conference Berlusconi gave 10th March 2010 that had nothing to do with any book see If you look at the photo you see a scene that also appears in the video.

The sub-titles in the video are wrong, nobody in it talks about a book, even my Italian is good enough to understand that.

Currently there seem to be no books that are banned in Italy, see

So yes, it seems that it is a marketing plot / lie to get sales figures up ;-(

As for the story, yes I read it, really not scary in my opinion ...

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