By Melanie Moyer.
Haunted houses are a staple of any good ghost story, so it’s hardly a surprise that some of the scariest books ever to be penned on paper are all about haunted houses. From crumbling gothic mansions to ghost infested suburban homes and houses with evil minds of their own, if you’re looking for a spooky thrill or two we’ve compiled a list of the ten best haunted house novels ever written.
There’s no place like home, sweet home, even if it does suffer from one too many bumps in the night.
1. Haunted by James Herbert
Haunted kicks off James Herbert’s best-selling David Ash series. The story follows a paranormal investigator who doesn’t believe in ghosts. That is, until he finds himself trapped within a ghoulish nightmare. Ash is tasked with spending three nights in Edbrook House and, while there, is subject to some terrifying games. Like all good horror, this one also delves deep into the protagonist’s psyche to get at the root of their fears and all the baggage beneath the surface.
2. The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff
The Harrowing is a fairly recent addition to the horror world. It was the debut release in 2006 for the Alexandra Sokoloff who had previously made her mark in screenwriting. With its unique premise book follows the lives of five college students with troubled home lives who elect to remain at school during their Thanksgiving break. Like all teenagers in horror stories, they decide to take a crack at a Ouija board and, as a result, learn that they are not alone.
3. Coldheart Canyon by Clive Barker
Coldheart Canyon has a fairly in depth premise setting up for some incredibly unsettling narrative. Todd Pickett, a failing movie star, has an accident while undergoing plastic surgery. His agent sends him to an old mansion in Coldheart Canyon to recover and hide his disfigurement from the press. However, it turns out the home formally belonged to a Romanian immigrant named Katya Lupi who invited something sinister into the home when she brought with her an artifact with connections to a 2000-year-old curse.
4. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
Though Sarah Waters made a name for herself in lesbian and gay fiction, this departure from her usual work isn’t an unwelcome addition. The Little Stranger focuses on a rural doctor who comes into friendship with a formally rich family in their withering mansion. As stress and interpersonal drama escalate, terrifying events begin to take place that may hint at something more sinister going on in the old mansion.
5. Hell House by Richard Matheson
For horror fans that are looking for blood, guts and sex Hell House is a full throttle scare fest packing suspense and gore into the classic ghost story motif. In an attempt to prove the existence of life after death, a dying millionaire hires Dr. Lionel Barrett a physicist and two mediums and sends them to the abandoned Belasco House to discover the truth. During the course of the night, it doesn’t take long for Barrett and his small team to find out why locals refer to Belasco as Hell House.
6. The Secret of Crickley Hall by James Herbert
Making his second appearance on this list, James Herbert’s The Secret of Crickley Hall follows the typical haunted house tropes of mystery and slow creeping terror. On the anniversary of their son’s disappearance, Gabe and Eve Calleigh relocate from London to the countryside to escape the terrible memories that plague them. Moving into the abandoned and forbidding Crickley Hall, it’s not long before the couple notice strange happenings in their new home. As the tragic history of Crickley Hall is uncovered, so does the impending danger that the Calleigh family face the longer they stay in the haunted house.
7. The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson
The Amityville Horror is a unique addition to this list because it’s not a fiction novel (well, depending on who you ask). The book is a collected account of what was experienced in America’s most famous haunted house in Amityville, New York. After a gruesome murder of the entire DeFeo family by their deranged son left the house up for grabs, the Lutz’s family moved in and what they discovered was a series of dangerous and horrifying incidents brought on by the house’s dark past.
8. The Shining by Stephen King
Nobody does horror like Stephen King, and in The Shining we have King’s most famous work of his career. The novel, like much of his work, is pseudo-biographical in nature as he tells the story of a middle-aged writer dealing with alcoholism. Where the plot deviates from King’s life, however, is when the disgraced writer moves his family up to Boulder, Colorado for the winter to serve as the winter caretaker of the old Overlook Hotel during its off season. The result is a creepy blend of psychological twists and supernatural interference in the family’s already deteriorating relationship.
9. The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
Now it’s time to take things way back and go with some classic horror. The Turn of the Screw has long been a favorite of horror lovers and literary critics thanks to its ambiguous nature. It tells the story of a governess contracted to work for a family in a rural village in England. However, things begin to take a turn for the strange and terrifying when she comes to believe there is something evil in the home. Like many great traditional horror stories, it’s in epistolary format, in the form of a manuscript about the story.
10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House is considered by many to be among the greatest horror stories to come out of the 20th century. Shirley Jackson is known for her philosophical arguments on the use of terror in spooky stories, over horror, and exploits it in this novel. It tells the story of a group of strangers brought together as volunteers for a paranormal investigation of Hill House, a looming mansion on the edge of rural town. Locals refuse to go near the house and even the housekeepers never stay after dark. Jackson blends the psychological with the supernatural in the hints of a dark presence in the house to create a truly creepy story.
Read more on The Horror
You may also enjoy these stories: