Despite having been used in the horror genre for centuries, haunted houses remain a fascination of mine. The Conjuring and Insidious are just two horror franchises that utilize this trope... and have earned tons of money while doing so. For me, the haunted house's appeal lies in how sinister and stifling it is to be unsafe in the very place, your home in most cases, that's supposed to keep you safe.
Today, Clare and I have collected five-five haunted house novels we immensely enjoyed and would recommend - both to long-time fans of the trope and to those who want to dip their toes into haunted house stories.
*titles either link to goodreads or to reviews*
Vera's Top Five
THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER by Jonathan Janz
The Siren and the Specter is my underrated fave of 2018, and I'll never stop screaming about it. The novel follows David Caine, a popular debunker, who agrees to spend a month in the Alexander House, aka the most haunted house in Virginia. Not believing in ghosts, he doesn't expect anything extraordinary to occur, but oh boy, he will be scared shitless in no time! Fantastic characters plus the creepiness and twists I did NOT see coming made this one a hell of a ride. Highly recommended.
THE GROWNUP by Gillian Flynn
I doubt I have to introduce Gillian Flynn to any of you, which is part of the reason why The Grownup nearly didn't make it onto my list. The other reason is that you'll be asking yourselves for more than half of the story if this simply a thriller or if there is something supernatural going on there. Usually our main character has an easy time making her clients happy as a (fake) psychic - she tells them all the sweet lies they want to hear. However her newest client, a woman named Susan who is convinced her house is haunted, proves to be harder to crack than expected.
THE SHINING by Stephen King
Can any haunted house list be complete without The Shining!? Doubtful. Jack, the new off-season caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, arrives with plans to spend a quiet winter in the hotel with his son and wife, with little work to do. However, the Overlook is far from the peaceful place they expected - Danny, the son, is haunted by various apparitions from the get-go and it doesn't take long for Wendy and Jack to also start seeing things, and for him to start going back to his old ways...
THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St. James
If there is a trope creepier than haunted house it's haunted boarding school, especially when the students have no way of leaving, which is the case in The Broken Girls. Taking place in both past and present, the novel follows a group of girls living in the Idlewild Hall of the past, and a journalist in present day who is trying to uncover the mysteries of the old school. Full of surprises, small town secrets and a creepy ghost, The Broken Girls proved to be an edge-of-your seat novel I could hardly put down.
THE DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL by Katie Alender
I left the best for last, because I really, and I mean really, want y'all to pick this title up. The Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall takes place in the former asylum nicknamed Hysteria Hall that Delia inherits from her late-aunt. Sounds pretty cool at first, the property being vast and all, however, Delia will have to find out the hard way just how haunted a place like this can be...
Clare's Top Five:
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD by Kendare Blake
This book made me fall in love with Blake's writing. This feels claustrophobic and scary and just brilliantly written. It's been a really long time since I last read it (and actually I'd love to re-read it soon) but it has always stood out in my mind as one of the best haunted house stories - and one of the best scary stories I've read. Plus Anna is such a unique and brilliant character!
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE by Shirley Jackson
Will I ever shut up about this book or the tv series? That's a hard no. The book was the second Shirley Jackson novel I ever read and I loved it. The house is its own character and I seriously doubted the sanity of literally every character and also myself at times. What is real? I don't even know any more but OMG this book is good.
THE TURN OF THE SCREW by Henry James
My absolute favourite book to recommend and then discuss with people because everyones' interpretation is so different. This is genuinely spooky and its a super short read so its easy to fit in this Halloween. And hey if you read it, please please tell me what you think the truth was. My truth will always be that I believe her but I love hearing reasoning for any side!
THE HAUNTING OF MADDY-CLARE by Simone St. James
St. James is fully the queen of ghost stories for me - but this is her first and a good one to kick off with. She does a really good job of making you feel sympathy for the ghost and root for her a little and then five seconds later you'll be holding your breath in fear. The scenes with Sarah investigating the haunting are fully brilliant plus you get a great romance thrown in to relieve the tension!
MEDDLING KIDS by Edgar Cantero
Kinda stretching the line here in terms of what's haunting the house. But for me a haunted house story is always more about the house and the atmosphere and this has that in spades. I only recently read this - drawn in by the promise of Scooby Doo but for adults - and rewarded with something completely unique and a little brilliant. Not a conventional haunted house but still a great one!
Do you like the haunted house trope? What's your favorite horror or thriller trope? Least favorite? Don't forget to leave a link to your TTTs and you can still
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