’Tis the season to let out your inner scaredy cat and indulge in hair-raising horror stories, especially the ones set in creepy houses that will have your spidey senses tingling with fearful anticipation. The haunted house trope is one of the most common and popular tropes in the horror genre and one of my favorites! Who does not want to read about old, spooky-looking houses, with mysteriously banging windows and doors, stairs that creak at odd times for no reason, drafty rooms with an unpleasant odor – and best or should I say worst of all – the eerie apparition that seems to follow the inhabitants everywhere.
Best Haunted House Horror Books!
If you want to read about houses that love to frighten their occupants from the comfort of your own safe house, here are some books that will satisfy your horror adrenaline rush!
1. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
One of the best-haunted house books to come out of the last century. Jackson leads us to the titular Hill House, which is believed to be haunted. Aiming to find proof of the supernatural, Dr. John Montague, an investigator of all things supernatural, decides to conduct an experiment. With the permission of the young heir to Hill House, Luke Sanderson, he invites two others, Eleanor Vance and Theodora, to stay at Hill House for a summer.
The four of them stay in the enormous mansion and are immediately affected by seemingly paranormal events such as unexplained noises in the night, strange writings on the wall, and ghostly apparitions roaming the halls at night. Jackson makes the readers question if the events are indeed the work of the supernatural or detailed episodes of group hallucinations owing to cabin fever. Not knowing if it is a psychological or ghostly element elevates this novel’s horror quotient, proving that it deserves all the praise and adulation it has received. You can get the book here! 📖
2. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
Horror houses are scary enough when they’re fictional, but the terror is off the charts when they are allegedly said to be real, like the Amityville house. Generally speaking, houses that have deaths, especially mass murders committed, are not something that I would consider inhabitable, no matter how much it seems to be desirable outwardly. Unfortunately for the Lutzes, they had to find out why one must never buy a house where a mass murder occurred.
George and Kathy Lutz bought the beautiful Dutch Colonial house at 112 Ocean Avenue, their dream house, for a very affordable price. Little did they envision that they would be leaving the house within four weeks. The house was everything that a respectable horror house aspires to be– self-opening windows and doors, disgusting odors at random places, unusual temperatures, things that go bump in the night, scary voices telling people to get out, sinister apparitions, rotating crosses and things on the wall that have no business being there. With this list of things that would scare the living daylights of any sane people, it is with great astonishment that I wonder how the Lutzes escaped the mansion’s clutches sane enough to tell their story. You can get the book here! 📖
3. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Faraday, a doctor living in the English countryside, gets involved with his neighbors, the once-affluent Ayres family, and their formerly grand estate, The Hundreds Hall. Soon, there are mysterious occurrences that cannot be easily explained away, like a once gentle dog turning violent, sudden fires erupting in rooms without any flammable materials, strange sounds and childish scribbles on the walls, rooms locking by themselves with an unwitting person inside, and so on.
At first, it looks like the work of someone not mentally well, but then more and more unexplainable events occur, and things turn determinedly dark. Is it the work of human hands or the work of long-dead family members in ghostly form? There are so many questions, but the open-endedness of this book feel like the author wants us to make our own conclusions. A slow burn that steadily amps up the sense of unease, this is the kind of underrated book that should be read for its atmosphere alone. You can get the book here! 📖
4. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a master of many genres, but his fantasy horror novels are some of his best works. Coraline, the eponymous heroine, and her parents move into a new house. The bored and adventurous Coraline decides to explore her new house and its surroundings and happens upon a strange door that leads to a parallel universe. This universe is similar to hers; she finds her parents here, but they are not hers. They are a version of them, called the “Other Mother” and “Other Father,” the difference being they have buttons in place of eyes.
Back in her world, her parents go missing, so with the aid of a talking cat, she has to go back to the Other World to find her real parents. Two possibilities can come from this brave but ill-heeded adventure– either she returns safely with her parents and eyes intact or stays there forever with the terrifying “Other Parents” and buttons replacing her eyes. Hopefully, the plucky, young heroine makes it out of the nightmarish situation she has found herself in in one piece. You can get the book here! 📖
5. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Large manors in the countryside are a breeding ground for ghosts, and I would not want to live in one, especially after all the horror novels I have read. An unnamed governess is tasked with caring for her employer’s recently orphaned nephew and niece at a manor in Bly, Essex. The children, Miles and Flora, are reticent, and two shadowy figures are always around the children, and something is unnerving about them.
The governess discovers the truth about her predecessor and another past employee and connects the dots with the shadowy figures. She needs to save the children or risk them getting possessed or worse. What will be the conclusion of this? Will the ghosts prevail or the governess? The brevity of this novella belies its fearsome quotient, proving that it is a classic for a reason. You can get the book here! 📖
6. Hell House by Richard Matheson
Fictional novels will have us believing that buildings have a certain sentience to them now; this can be a good kind of sentience, like Hogwarts Castle, or the vicious kind, like in Hell House. Once again, a group of people congregate to determine the veracity of a haunted house. This time, a physicist interested in parapsychology, his wife, and two mediums attempt to research if there is life after death at the Belasco House, touted to be the most haunted house in the world.
The house plays the inmates against each other by subconsciously influencing them and playing on their innermost desires. The week seems unbearably long, and before the end of it, their sanity and lives come into question. Is a mere house capable of causing physical and mental harm to the people who enter it? Maybe it would be better to leave houses that are said to be haunted to themselves, and it would be better for everybody– the house and its unwitting victims. You can get the book here! 📖
7. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
What is worse than a sentient house with ghosts in it? A sentient house with ghosts that are violently racist towards people of color. The racist house belongs to the protagonist, Miranda’s mom, and is inherited through the matrilineal line. All the women in her family have mysteriously disappeared, including her mom, Lily. Following Lily’s disappearance, Miranda changes in a way that panics her twin brother Eliot and father Luc.
Several people of color enter the house and are targeted in the worst way by the house. Miranda is also not left alone as she begins to lose sense of her own identity and begins to transition by accumulating the personalities of her maternal side. The house has a weird way of hanging onto the remnants of Miranda’s family’s women. This book has three narrators: the twin brother and the house as first-person narrators and Miranda from a third-person point-of-view. A different take on the sentient horror house trope by introducing racial discussions, the true horror of our world! You can get the book here! 📖
8. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno Garcia
A young Mexican woman, Noemi, receives a letter from her cousin who claims her husband is trying to kill her. An interracial marriage in the 1950s is very uncommon and, therefore, raises the question of whether this is a racially propagated incident or there is more to this story than meets the eye. Noemi meets her cousin’s in-laws, the Doyle family, a mysterious, inbred family with a creepy patriarch that puts the Addams family to shame. And why are there mushrooms growing on the walls of their family home?
For a book that is said to be centered around the haunted house trope, I found the family living in it to be more menacing than said house, which is merely used as a conduit for the family to conduct their nefarious activities. An intriguing and original take on this trope, it is a worthwhile read with racist and colonial undertones. You can get the book here! 📖
9. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas
Another haunted house and another set of people visiting it to find its truth, this time inviting four famous horror fiction writers for a one-night stay at Kill Creek. This is for an internet promotion that will be live-streamed to millions. The house has a very troubled history, and a bricked-off room is the root cause of all its incidents.
After the livestream, the authors tried to go back to their lives and write their books, but their lives were never the same. They are haunted by the extended outreach of the house, which demands them to tell its story. The authors reunite precisely a year later at the scene of their misery, and it is a race for survival. Which is strongest? The house’s need for its story to be told or the authors’ will to survive? I have always believed that all houses have a story to tell but never realized that it would lead to such nightmarish consequences! You can get the book here! 📖
10. Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
Are you tired of the rambling English countryside and their manor-residing ghosts? Try a new setting for change, like the Heian-era mansion in Japan, this time filled with Japanese ghosts, also known as Yokai. A horror-loving bride wants a horror-themed venue for her wedding, and she and her friends find the perfect one in Japan. A house where a bride has been buried alive, waiting for her bridegroom, and many women are buried soon after to give her company.
Exalted on finding the perfect venue for the wedding with a trip to Japan as a bonus, the five friends, including the to-be-weds, set on their journey. Except when you search for danger at a place claimed to be haunted, you might find yourself getting exactly what you wished for but may not like it as much as you intended to, which is putting it rather mildly. It’s a short read, perfect for readers with short attention spans who need that dose of terror instantly instead of sludging through 400 pages of exposition. You can get the book here! 📖
I am a scaredy cat who loves horror, so I love to indulge in horror where it is safely contained, such as in books and movies. Haunted houses and their things that go bump in the night don’t scare me…. much, as long they are fictional, and I can close the pages whenever I get overwhelmed. I have curated this list for my fellow fainthearted horror enthusiast readers, with books that are scary enough to scratch the itch but not too scary as to DNF them! Have fun reading!
An architect who loves to write. Her favorite past-time fluctuates between reading books and writing about what she reads. Her favorite habitats are libraries, bookstores, and old buildings, in that order. She dreams of becoming an author one day, provided she gets over a pesky affliction called procrastination.