Haunted reads for haunted house lovers
October 19, 2017
Doesn’t every city or town have a big old house that’s rumored to be haunted? As a kid, maybe you crept up to it, knocked on the door on a dare, and took off with your heart beating even faster than your feet hit the ground.
As an adult, you might have a different view of that house. Like, “Hmm … I wonder if I can get a deal on it?”
We don’t recommend buying a haunted house, seeing as supernatural horrors can result in unexpected repair bills. But it can be fun to revisit that childhood thrill. You can do it without trespassing too: just curl up on the couch with a haunted house novel.
Here are six of our favorites to choose from.
1. The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
When the publisher Penguin asked famed filmmaker Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) to curate a collection of horror tales, he put this classic of psychological terror on his list. Written nearly 60 years ago, it’s still widely considered to be the best haunted house story ever written. It’s the original “put some ghost hunters in a creepy old mansion to conduct paranormal experiments and watch as everyone gets more than they bargained for” story. The book has been adapted to the screen as The Haunting twice, in 1963 and 1999. Warning: Avoid the 1999 take with Catherine Zeta-Jones.
2. Hell House, by Richard Matheson
In the Hill House tradition, this 1999 novel has a physicist and two mediums investigating a Maine town’s most mysterious house: a Gothic mansion sealed in 1949 after hosting a decade of “drug addiction and debauchery.” Stephen King has this to say about the twisted story: “Hell House is the scariest haunted house novel ever written. It looms over the rest the way mountains loom over the foothills.” Enough said. Warning: You’ll be up past midnight finishing this.
3. The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters
Want something a bit more subtle? Sarah Waters’s 2009 page-turner was a Man Booker Prize finalist. Set in post–World War II England, it’s a work of historical fiction that features crumbling 18th–century “Hundreds Hall,” home to the Ayres family for more than 200 years. Their way of life is dying, but their eccentricities are alive and well. The story is narrated by a country doctor who makes a house call and gets drawn into the family — and a psychological/supernatural drama. Warning: Ambiguous ending that you’ll love or hate.
4. The Castle, by Franz Kafka
Considered an important work of modern literature, The Castle gives us “K.,” a stranger seeking access to a forbidding castle that dominates a remote village. The inhabitants of the castle? Bureaucrats. K. is trying to clear up an error, and it’s an incomprehensible nightmare as only Kafka can write one. Poor K. At least he gets to hook up with a barmaid. When Kafka began the book in 1922, he was suffering from tuberculosis, and he died before finishing. In fact, the book ends mid-sentence … just as Kafka left it. Many consider it the perfect ending to a surreal, maddening story. Warning: Kafkaesque.
5. Coldheart Canyon, by Clive Barker
Put this Hollywood tale on your guilty pleasure list. Clive Barker is well known as a horror writer, but 2009’s Coldheart Canyon isn’t his typical fare. An aging actor undergoes extensive cosmetic surgery and retreats to an abandoned “pleasure palace” in a hidden corner of the city. In the 1920s, it’s said, the estate hosted wild parties for A-listers. There was supposedly a door that opened to another world where nothing was forbidden. Nothing! Now our actor friend wants the heck out, but guess what: it’s not that easy. Barker is also a producer, screenwriter, director, and Beverly Hills resident, so his merciless take on Hollywood is well-informed. Warning: Sex.
6. House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski
One reviewer describes this best-selling 2000 debut novel as “more like a puzzle box than a book” because of its typographical chaos and extensive footnotes. The experimental approach won international acclaim, but there’s a classic haunted house at the center of it all. The Navidson family returns from a trip and finds that their house has gone haywire. There are doors where there weren’t any before, secret passageways, new staircases leading nowhere. And the house seems to be emitting a low growl… Warning: You may never look at your closet the same way again.
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Horror not your thing? We have some other, more practical reading material for you: a collection of essential DIY books for homeowners.