If I had to pick one of my favorite things about scary movies, it would be the haunted house. This can be in a book, film or video game. There is nothing creepier than being chased by something that you can’t see. Whether it’s a huge hotel or apartment building, a creaky old mansion, or an unassuming suburban home, haunted houses are scary because they make us feel like we’ve been invaded and violated. Even in a hotel, there is an expectation that you will be safe and secure. This is even more true in the apartment or house that you live in, because you live there. There should be a lot of monsters outside. That sense of security is broken in haunted house books, because the monsters are in the same room as you, making you less safe.
There’s also the fact that hauntings in books often happen because of or because of problems in the home. This makes the home even more unstable and ruins any sense of safety or protection. It was even in Gothic romances, which are the source of the modern “haunting” story, that the home was turned upside down and thrown out of whack. So their descendants get it right. Check out Sarah Smeltzer’s post on women and hauntings if that’s something you’re interested in.
A scary thing to do is look out your window and see something staring back at you. That’s not fun, is it? That will always be worse. The good news is that there are a lot of other writers who agree with you! When it comes to books about haunted houses, we have a lot of scary stories to add to our shelves.
“Classic” Haunted House Books
A lot of these books aren’t really “classic,” but they’re part of the lineage of modern haunted house books and aren’t as well known as they should be.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
I think most of you have seen or read some version of this creepy Henry James short story about a young governess and her two beautiful but strange charges. Whether you’ve read the original text or seen one of the film adaptations, I think you know about it. A “classic” is a book about a haunted house that has been read many times. Also, Turn of the Screw seems to be the inspiration for the second season of The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix (The Haunting of Bly Housenow, technically). You can read up on it while we wait for 2020.
Hell House by Richard Matheson
I can’t leave Hell House off this list, but I also can’t include it without telling you to be careful. Matheson’s book about a haunted house came out in 1971. It was part of the horror publishing of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s very sexual, very graphic, and doesn’t have any modern feelings because it was written a long time ago. As a result, many people find it rough, or even offensive. But that doesn’t change the fact that it is an important part of the history of haunted house books. The house’s owner invites a psychiatrist and two psychics into the house to look into whether or not there is an afterlife. What could happen? (Also.)
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Is this book okay? There were a lot of clouds in the sky, which is what I thought. My favorite queer icon was Theodora. At 30,000 feet in the air, I didn’t expect to be truly scared. That was a good thing, because at least I could be sure that the plane wasn’t haunted. If you’ve only seen the Netflix version, pick up a copy of Jackson’s original novel and read it. It’s a lot more interesting than the Netflix version. Hill House is scary in both text and film, as it torments the main character, Eleanor, and everyone else who lives there.
The House Next Door by Anne River Siddons
If you want to live in a haunted house, it doesn’t have to be old and dark. Siddons’s book, The House Next Door, is about a beautiful new house, but it’s not told from the point of view of the people who live there. Instead, it’s told from the point of view of the neighbors, Colquitt and Walter Kennedy. They see the accidents and tragedies that happen around the new house and to its people.
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
Burnt Offerings doesn’t get a lot of attention these days. When people talk about Marasco’s book, they usually talk about how the book influenced Stephen King’s The Shining. But Marasco’s book came out before all of the big haunted house books of the late 20th century, including not just King’s book but also The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson. It deserves to be called the “ultimate text for haunted houses of the late 20th century.” They accept an offer to rent a mansion in upstate New York from Ben and Marian Rolfe for a very low price. The only problem is that they have to cook for the mysterious, elderly Mrs. Allardyce who lives in a separate wing of the house and is never seen. (I’m sure it will be fine. Really.)
On a side note, the cover of this reissue of Valancourt is beautiful.
The Shining by Stephen King
It would be hard to make a list of “haunted house” books without including “The Shining,” which is a book about a haunted house or hotel. An old hotel that is haunted is even more scary because it’s so big and spread out. A house haunting doesn’t have the same level of intimacy as a house haunting. There are just so many places for scary things to hide. They get snowed in at the huge Overlook Hotel, and things start to go awry.
Haunted House Books for Adults
There are a lot of “classic” haunted house books that are pretty white. It’s not a great thing, but it’s not a surprise. A good thing is that the haunted house never dies, and the modern horror genre has a lot more different kinds of things that can live inside. You might recognize two of these books from my list of horror written by people of color. They’re both great examples of the haunted house plot, so I couldn’t leave them off this list.
The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
This book is said to be scary. The synopsis is ominous enough, but the book itself is said to be just as scary. Tweet me if you finish it before I do. Music City Salvage owner Dahlia is going to the Withrow estate, where the owner, Augusta, has decided to sell the salvage rights. Dahlia is going there because her father wants her to go with him. It looks like a fairly simple job. Until Dahlia and her crew find a body on the property, Augusta won’t answer their calls, and a violent storm shuts down all of the roads and power to the property. Leaving them behind, but not alone,
The Forgotten Child by Melissa Erin Jackson
Readers, this book comes with a warning from the author because it talks about sexual assault. If Riley Thomas weren’t a medium, she would be very happy not to be one. When she was a child, she had a freak accident that involved a bad spirit and the Ouija board, which is a favorite of teens who are afraid of scary things. As long as she doesn’t go on a paranormal investigation of the Jordanville Ranch. There may be no choice but to use Riley’s skills to talk to the ghosts of the ranch. The spirit of a child, as well as someone who wants to keep the ranch owner’s secrets hidden by any means, may force her to do so.
Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
Lucas Graham, a crime writer, has a lot of problems in his life. Both his marriage and his job are in trouble, and he needs a chance to change things. Jeffrey Halcomb, a convicted cult leader, comes on stage. Lucas, who has been given access to the notorious Halcomb, decides to start his research in the place where the story began: a farm house on the coast of Washington State. But the history he has come to learn about is dark, and it moves. This book (and really anything Ahlborn has written) is a favorite of the horror community, so you should add it to your list.
The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike
Before this list, I talked a little about “The Graveyard Apartment.” It was on that list, too, so I couldn’t leave it off. a haunted hotel is scarier than a haunted house, and maybe even scarier than a haunted house. A whole apartment block that is haunted. They move into a new apartment building with their daughter in the book The Graveyard Apartment. A young couple who have a dark secret live there. The other tenants start to leave one by one as the building is terrorized. Finally, the couple is the only one left in the building. With me now, say, “Yikes.”
The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero
Isn’t that cover beautiful? It’s fun to be scared by these eyes. Cantero is one of those authors who keeps popping up on my radar, mostly because of his eerie, Scooby-Doo-like book Meddling Kids (oh yeah). But I also want to read The Supernatural Enhancements, which is about a haunted house. Meddling Kids is on my “to read” list. When A. learns that he has been given a huge house in the Virginian woods, it’s both surprising and suspicious. Sure enough, he and his friend Niamh learn very quickly that there is more to Axton House than meets the eye, which isn’t good for them. It has a dark history that is full of hidden things. To get my hands on this book, apparently it’s a mixed-media book, which is right up my alley. I’m so excited!