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There’s no better time to get your spooky read on than during the spooky season itself. Whether you’re looking for a scary book that will keep you up all night or an eerie read that will send chills down your spine, this list has it all. From gothic horror to the haunted house trope to sci-fi horror to psychological thriller and so much more! I have put together a collection of creepy books that will have you switching on the TV and turning on the lights before you go to bed.
Looking for more spooky reads? Check out this collection of 31 creepy books to read during October and pair it with this spooky playlist for a spooktacular time.
The Elementals by Michael McDowell
“Savage mothers eat their children!”
Death has a way of bringing people together. In the aftermath of matriarch Marian Savage’s passing, the Savage and McCray families head south to their revered vacation spot for the summer: Beldame. Beldame comprises three identical Victorian mansions on a sandspit in the Gulf of Mexico. One house belongs to the McCray’s, the other to the Savage’s and the third stands desolate as it’s steadily devoured by the sand dunes. But it’s far from empty. And the McCray and Savage’s are about to learn that some things are better left undisturbed.
Once the sun sets and high tide arrives, their little vacation oasis becomes cut off from the mainland. A charming feature if you’re vacationing in a popular and populated area. For the two families however, it may be the difference between life and death.
If you’re looking for a slow-burn horror novel that sends chills down your spine, Michael McDowell’s southern gothic delivers. To amplify the eerie atmosphere McDowell brings to life in the pages of The Elementals, I would definitely recommend reading this once night falls. But only if you’re someone who is not scared easily.
“I suppose sooner or later in the life of everyone comes a moment of trial. We all of us have our particular devil who rides us and torments us, and we must give battle in the end.”
While in Monte Carlo working as a lady’s maid, a young girl of twenty years or so is swept off her feet by the dashing and mysterious widower Maxim de Winter. As their whirlwind romance comes to a close, Maxim realizes he’s not ready for it to end.
Now, as the new Mrs. Maxim de Winter, our fresh-eyed narrator is excited for what the future holds. It is only when she arrives at his massive country estate that she realizes how large a shadow the late Mrs. Maxim de Winter has cast over Manderley and its inhabitants.
Shrouded in lies and deception, Manderley becomes a prison . . . with Rebecca de Winter as its warden. An ominous and haunting gothic read that will send you running the other way whenever Mrs. Danvers is near.
“We only have one rule here, really,” she said. “To respect one another—and the house, of course. I find that if respect is in place, everything else falls into line.”
A tragic accident leaves Margot orphaned and homeless. Placed into a group home, Margot never expects to be taken in by strangers. That all changes three weeks later when she is whisked away to Copeland Hall, a remote country estate far removed from civilization. Margot soon realizes the motives behind the Sutton’s seemingly altruistic actions have to do with their daughter Agatha. Suffering from a mysterious sickness that leaves Agatha almost catatonic, the Sutton’s ask Margot to spend time with her . . . be a companion.
Alone and cut off from the world, Margot is no longer sure whether she can trust her own mind as she navigates these mysterious and foreboding grounds.
If you’re looking for creepy books that will unsettle you, Katie Alender’s The Companion will do all that and more. Being secluded in the countryside is the perfect location for disturbing events to occur and add in a wealthy family and you got yourself the makings of a nightmarish story. If you like a little romance with your horror, Alender does not disappoint. Alender adds just enough to give it a little oomph but ensures that it does not take centerstage. The focus is more on Margot and Agatha’s story.
“Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.”
It’s the first of many . . . At least, that’s what the author would have you believe. When a young couple goes on a road trip to the boyfriend’s parents secluded farmhouse, weird and inexplicable things begin to occur that leave the reader feeling unsettled and anxious for what’s to come.
Throughout the ride, the girlfriend, who also happens to be the narrator, ruminates about their relationship and expresses that she’s “thinking of ending things” with Jake. Things take an odd turn once they get to the farmhouse, especially in terms of Jake’s mental state. It’s when they leave his parents house that things grow more and more foreboding.
I wouldn’t necessarily call this horror, but it’s deeply unsettling and paranoia-inducing. The remote and wintry atmosphere sets the stage for this psychological thriller and is further accentuated by the unusual ramblings and disturbing sequence of events.
“Every house has a story. Ours is a ghost story. It’s also a lie. And now that yet another person has died within these walls, it’s finally time to tell the truth.”
Ewan and Jessica Holt were looking for their forever home when they found Baneberry Hall, a sprawling Victorian estate with a morbid history. Three weeks passed before the Holt’s fled in the night, never to return again. Baneberry Hall would soon become known as the House of Horrors in the wake of Ewan Holt’s haunting recounting of the events that transpired over their short stay.
Maggie Holt was only 5-years-old at the time. Though she has long since forgotten those three weeks, the world has not. Twenty-five years later, Maggie learns she has inherited Baneberry Hall upon her father’s passing. Maggie returns in hopes of renovating it before putting the house on the market . . . Except things don’t go as planned.
This may not keep you from falling asleep, but it has an eerie quality similar to The Haunting of Hill House. If you love the show, I definitely would suggest giving this book a go!
“No one looks too closely at a librarian. People are afraid of going blind from the glare of ssss-ssso much compressed wisdom.”
How does one describe NOS4A2? Well, I suppose I’ll take a stab at it.
Victoria “Brat” McQueen has a unique gift that lets her find lost objects. With her Raleigh Tuff Burner bike, she rides across a rickety bridge that takes her wherever she needs to go within seconds. One day, Vic goes looking for trouble and finds it in the form of Charles Talent Manx.
Manx has a special affinity towards children. One that ends with him taking children on rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 license plate. With his Wraith, Manx is able to travel from the real world to the terrifying fantasyland known as Christmasland, an amusement park with deadly games and even deadlier inhabitants.
When Vic manages to get Manx locked behind bars, things take a turn for the better. That is, until Manx escapes and sets his sights on Vic’s son Wayne. When Vic learns that Manx has Wayne, she will go to the ends of the earth to bring him back home. No matter the cost.
If you’re a fan of Doctor Sleep, I would definitely recommend reading NOS4A2 as it has many similarities to Stephen King’s story.
The Silence of the Lambs meets Mindhunter in this chilling psychological thriller about two teens who are recruited by the FBI to interview teen serial killers.
Emma Lewis witnessed true evil at the hands of serial killer Daniel Huxton. Although she escaped and led the police force right back to Huxton’s doorstep, Emma has never forgiven herself for leaving the two girls behind which is ultimately what pushes her to accept FBI agents Cooper’s proposal.
What the agent failed to tell Emma and her partner Travis Bell is the fact that they’d need to speak with a certain teen serial killer who seems to know quite a bit about a current serial killer known as The Butcher.
Emma eventually meets with the 19-year-old serial killer Simon Gutmunsson. Highly intelligent and alarmingly observant, Simon develops a keen interest in Emma and finds himself looking forward to their conversations. Thrust in a cat-and-mouse game, Emma and Travis must work against the clock before it’s too late.
If you’re someone who gets squeamish over blood, guts and gore, you may want to proceed with caution or rethink reading this macabre thriller.
Shirley Jackson was a master of her craft which showed across her work, especially novels like The Haunting of Hill House and short stories like “The Lottery.”
While putting together this list, I suddenly remembered a certain short story that I had read back in 2018. At first, I thought it was called The Summer Children which was incorrect (The Summer Children is, in fact, a thriller about a string of murders that leave children orphans). It took a few more minutes of sleuthing before I realized it was called “The Summer People.” With Halloween right around the corner, I will most certainly have to do a reread because this story gave me chills the first time.
With that in mind, you should check out this collection of short stories by Shirley Jackson because they are sure to get under your skin in the most chilling way. From “The Summer People” to “The Possibility of Evil” and so much more, you can’t go wrong with Shirley Jackson during the spooky season.
“No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality.”
The Haunting of Hill House opens up with Dr. John Montague, a professor who wants to conduct a scientific investigation in a haunted house to collect evidence that the paranormal is real. He invites Eleanor Vance, Theodora and Luke Sanderson to join him for various reasons: Eleanor because of a paranormal event she experienced during her childhood, Theo because of her psychic gift and Luke because he is the future heir of the infamous Hill House.
From the seemingly endless number of doors that lead to a seemingly endless number of rooms to the small oddities in the construction of the mansion and you have yourself one whacked house.
What makes this novel truly frightening is the switch in Eleanor’s mindset over the course of the story as the house creeps its way into her psyche and separates Nell from the group. Now, if you haven’t seen the show, I definitely recommend watching that, especially with the upcoming release of the second season on Netflix!
“What you read will taste so bad at times, you’ll want to spit it out, but you’ll swallow these words and they will become part of you, part of your gut, and you will hurt because of them.”
Lowen Ashleigh is on the brink of financial ruin when she is offered a deal that is too good to be true. Jeremy Crawford hired Lowen to complete the final books of a successful series his injured wife Verity is unable to finish.
To successfully do so, Lowen goes to the Crawford home to look through Verity’s notes and outlines except she finds something unexpected, Verity’s unfinished autobiography. Containing disturbing admissions and unsettling thoughts, Lowen becomes wary of Verity and questions whether she truly is injured… or if it’s all an act.
If you’re looking to be spooked while still being able to fall asleep at night, I would definitely recommend Verity. The way Colleen Hoover goes about making the reader question their sanity just as much as Lowen is absolutely amazing. For all you know, the entire Crawford family can be behind Lowen’s slippery grasp on her sanity.
You need to read this masterpiece. It’s a psychological-gripping mindf*ck of epic proportions.
House of Leaves is a behemoth in the physical sense and the figurative sense. With a staggering 750 pages, this book consists of a unique use of language and creative layouts that will have you twisting the book in every which way. From Danielewski’s interesting use of color to his unusual sentence structures and patterns to the sprinkling of long rants, poems and so much, you will certainly be impressed. The question is, will you be able to finish it?
With its huge cult following, this book has amassed quite the notoriety. Still, there is much controversy whether this is a work of art or simply a confused jumbled mess of epic proportions. That’s up for you to decide. A few reviewers have said there is no in between when it comes to House of Leaves. You’ll either love it or hate it.
“A man may be accused of cowardice for fleeing away from all manner of physical dangers but when things supernatural, insubstantial and inexplicable threaten not only his safety and well-being but his sanity, his innermost soul, then retreat is not a sign of weakness but the most prudent course.”
In the wake of a client’s passing, Arthur Kippis is sent out to the dreary town of Crythin Gifford to settle the affairs of Mrs. Alice Drablow. This takes him to Eel Marsh House, Drablow’s estate. Secluded and set apart from civilization, Arthur thinks nothing of the location and believes it will be just like any other job. Of course, once he learns that the path to Eel Marsh House becomes untraversable with the rising tide, he becomes more wary, especially after the haunting sounds and disturbing figment of a malevolent-looking woman dressed in black.
If you’re looking for a chilling story that will leave you sleeping under the comforting glow of a light, The Woman in Black will undoubtedly submerge you into its sinister pages. You may not sleep a wink if you choose to read this right before bed.
“It’s better to face madness with a plan than to sit still and let it take you in pieces.”
In this post-apocalyptic world, there’s something out. Something that drives people to commit unimaginable acts of violence when seen. Now, opening your eyes is a death sentence.
Malorie has just confirmed she‘s pregnant when reports come in that people are killing themselves. With the rising death toll and increasingly dangerous terrain, Malorie and her sister Shannon bunker down in the safety of their home. It’s when Malorie finds her sister dead that she leaves to find sanctuary elsewhere.
Five years later and only a few survivors remain. Malorie knows there’s only one way to save her children, but all it takes is one slip of a blindfold for their world to come crumbling down.
Bird Box might not stop you from falling asleep, but it will most certainly leave you swimming in a pool of fear of what could be if the world was ever truly plagued by these unseen forces.
“Madness is always a wonderful excuse, don’t you think? For doing terrible things to other people.”
West Hall, Vermont is a place where people go missing without explanation. This remote town has its fair share of mystery and one of its most notorious legends goes all the way back to the winter of 1908. The story goes that after the tragic death of her daughter Gertie, Sara Harrison Shea was found dead beside her husband’s body in the field behind their house. Yet, the locals say they saw Sara roaming the streets postmortem.
Fast forward to the present and we have nineteen-year-old Ruthie and her younger sister Fawn, who are left to fend for themselves after their mother Alice’s sudden disappearance. Searching for clues that will lead them to Alice, they accidentally unearth some disturbing evidence that suggests their mom has been hiding something.
If you loved the chilling tale of Stephen King’s Pet Sematary, you should open up The Winter People. The ominous atmospheric presence mixed with the eerie overarching feeling that something sinister is bound to happen will have you sliding your feet under the safety of your blanket and checking your closets for any unwelcome visitors.
Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell by Nathan Ballingrud
“She learned that there was an animal living inside her, something that celebrated when nature did its work upon the weak. She came to value that animal.”
In this captivating collection of short stories, Nathan Ballingrud delivers the perfect set of tales in the utmost disturbing fashion. The collection consists of five previously published short stories along with a new one: “The Atlas of Hell,” “The Butcher’s Table,” “The Diabolist,” “The Maw,” “Skullpocket,” and “The Visible Filth.”
From the grotesque and vivid imagery Ballingrud weaves through his tales to his excellent storytelling that leaves you peeking from behind your fingers, you just can’t go wrong with Ballingrud’s horrifyingly creative stories.
“The world might indeed be a cursed circle; the snake swallowed its tail and there could be no end, only an eternal ruination and endless devouring.”
Noemí Taboad is sent to the High Place, a secluded mansion in the Mexican countryside, to check on her newlywed cousin Catalina after receiving a disturbingly odd message regarding her wellbeing. Uncertain of what to expect, Noemí is weary of what she will find in the eerie estate.
Upon her arrival, Noemí receives a frosty welcome from Catalina’s husband Virgril along with the rest of the Doyle clan and their staff. Still, Noemí refuses to be intimidated by the unusual family or their sinister home. Plagued by ghostly apparitions, bouts of sleepwalking, troubling dreams and odd encounters with the occupants of the house, Noemí must keep her wits about her before it’s too late.
Lovecraft meets Rebecca in this chilling gothic horror novel set in 1950s Mexico. If you’re looking for a slowburn horror that will shock you with its grotesque imagery and prose, you should check out Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic.
“Isn’t it just another so-called haunted house?” “I’m afraid it isn’t. It’s the Mount Everest of haunted houses.”
Hell House parallels Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House in the sense that four guests are invited to spend a couple nights in a haunted house to investigate any paranormal disturbances. In return, they will be paid handsomely, at a whopping $100,000 per person. However, rather than the creeping cryptic dread that Hill House brings, Hell House is more overt in its displays of the paranormal in terms of possessions and demonic presences.
Depending on your horror tolerance, this book can go one of two ways: Either you’ll breeze through with a few chills and shocks or you’ll come out the other side fearing demonic entities and all that jazz. If you’re looking for some creepy books that will keep you from sleeping, you should add this to your TBR list.