Even if you don't recognize his name, you're probably familiar with his work. Paving the way for (and inspiring) the likes of Stephen King and Anne Rice, Richard Matheson wrote some of the most resounding works of science fiction, fantasy and horror published in the second half of the 20th century.
Matheson's oeuvre includes I Am Legend (which has been adapted for film three times since its 1954 publication, notably The Omega Man in 1971 and Will Smith's 2007 loose adaptation); A Stir of Echoes (made into the 1999 Kevin Bacon film); Bid Time Return (which inspired the 1980 Christopher Reeve film Somewhere in Time); and What Dreams May Come (which was adapted for the 1998 Robin Williams tear-jerker)—among many, many others.
Remember that old episode of The Twilight Zone in which a young William Shatner plays an airplane passenger who freaks out when he sees some sort of creature out on the wing, mid-flight? That memorable (downright terrifying to young girls who happened upon it at the tender age of 8) episode was called "Nightmare at 20,000 feet," and Matheson wrote it.
My personal favorite is his short story called "Prey," in which a young woman is viciously stalked by a Zuni doll that's come to life. (Warning: Do not read it right before bed or if there's even a 10% chance of a thunderstorm.)
Sadly, Matheson passed away on Sunday at the age of 87. Lucky for us, though, he's left plenty behind that will surely entertain, inspire and spook generations to come.