What comes to mind when you think of haunted houses? Growing up, whenever I heard those words, I’d immediately conjure up images of a county fair attraction. I’m sure many of you have spent time touring one of these places and know what I’m talking about—sometimes it was a walk-through event, and other times it was an actual ride. I always found a sense of comfort in those spooky attractions, and was actually more frightened by the “Funhouse”, with its mirrors, dead-ends, and a swirling tunnel at the exit…and let’s not forget that there always seemed to be a clown. Clowns belong in the haunted house, in my opinion.
Over the years my definition of a haunted house broadened, thanks to the countless films and books in the sub-genre. There are many different monsters that can live in a haunted house. Many are of the supernatural variety, but sometimes the monsters are human. Other times, the house just takes on a life of its own. The books I’ve listed here are some of my favorites in this category, and they each feature a unique spin on the classic haunted house tale. Some of these houses require an extended stay, as their horrors are gradually unleashed. Others require no more than a foot inside the door before their sinister nature takes hold. Either way, you won’t leave the same as when you entered. Whether you enjoy quiet horror that gets under your skin, or prefer a house to display its horrors loud and clear, I think you’ll find something enjoyable on this list.
Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
To me, this is one of the defining pieces of literature in the “quiet horror” realm. I saw the movie first, several years prior to reading the book. I think if this one works for you, it won’t matter which order you follow with the book vs. the film. But I typically prefer to read the book before watching the film, so I’d recommend that if you have the option. As is the case most of the time, the book is better, but the film is well done and really amps up the creep factor. (Just a note: both the book and the film are from the early 1970s). It’s unfortunate that this book didn’t get more attention upon its release, and that the author really didn’t put out more horror fiction afterward. If you like a slow burn that will get under your skin, check this one out. You can read my full review here.
Murder House by C.V. Hunt
This is the story that I’ve referred to as “Great Lakes Grit”, and I’m dying for more horror stories set in Detroit. I’d call this a bit of a mind-bender that will leave you with questions. Everyone I’ve discussed it with had different ideas regarding the answers to those questions. The atmosphere weighs heavy in this one and I was left thinking about it for days after I finished my read. Want to hear more about what I loved? Check out my review here.
House of Blood by Bryan Smith
This was my first read from this author and I was not disappointed. This book is the only one on my list that I’d consider “extreme horror”, but don’t let that put you off if you’re new to that realm of the horror world. It starts off with a group of friends in a broken down car, and not long after, the reader is introduced to the “House of Blood” and its inhabitants. Yes, there’s some gore and sex, but there’s more to the story here. I haven’t read more from Smith with regards to novels, but I’m planning to, and I’m going to bet that if you’re new to his work as well, this is a great place to start. Click here for my original review.
Remains by Andrew Cull
One of my Top Reads of 2019, and it’s still on my mind. I’ll never forget the house in this story or the emotional gut-punch that followed once I started reading. I’ve sadly not read this author’s short fiction collection, but it’s on my list, and I can only imagine the quality stories that await based on this novel. It’s frightening and deals with grief. If you’d like to know a bit more on why I loved it, you can find my full review here.
House of Skin by Jonathan Janz
This is one of my favorite books by Janz. It was actually his first novel, and it’s one of the books I credit with waking me up to the fact that haunted houses are one of my favorite horror tropes. You really can’t go wrong with any of his books. Read my full review here for more information if you’d like. To sum it up for you, this book features a memorable cast of characters and an evil abode that has a lasting effect on its inhabitants. I’m not sure if I’ve said this before, but I’m going to now: Janz writes some of the best steamy love scenes in horror. If that’s your thing, check it out based on that alone, and then be amazed when you discover everything else his writing has to offer.