As the leaves curl and fall from the trees and the night creeps upon the day earlier and earlier, it is time to curl up in a chair with a blanket (and maybe a glass of wine) and read a tale or two of horror. Make sure the doors are locked and the windows firmly closed. And that creaking sound upstairs? That’s just the pipes of the central heating. Probably.
From this week until the week of Halloween, I will be giving a few horror novel recommendations to get you in the spirit (ghost) of the holiday: a season of horror, if you will. Some you will likely have heard of but hopefully there are some you haven’t. So, without further ado, here are five of the best haunted house novels to read this Halloween!
The Elementals by Michael McDowell
After the bizarre funeral of matriarch Marian Savage, the two branches of the family decide to go on a little trip to their summer homes; a little cove in a place called Beldame on the Alabama coast where they spent many summers as children.
When they arrive, they notice that one of the three houses is slowly being consumed by a sand dune that reaches right up to the windows of the second floor. As the sand gathers, the family begin to realise that there might be something inside that house. Something from the family’s ancient past. Something inhuman.
Hell House by Richard Matheson
Four brave (and/or mad) people—Dr. Lionel Barrett, a physicist with a passion for parapsychology; his wife; Florence Tanner, a mental medium; and Benjamin Franklin Fischer, a physical medium who has abandoned his talents—are hired by a millionaire to investigate the question of life after death in the most haunted house in the world. The house is so haunted, in fact, that Benjamin was the lone survivor from a previous, unsuccessful exploration. The investigators get on with their research but strange things begin to happen around them: visions, apparitions and the like. Cracks appear in their relationships and their sanity as their little investigation spirals out of control.
Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn
A has-been true-crime writer, Lucas Graham, and his daughter move into a house that was once the scene of a grizzly, ritualistic murder. He holds onto the hope that the notoriously silent convicted murderer of the crime might grant him an interview and he can turn the fortunes of his family around (and win his wife back) by using the interview in what he hopes will be a bestselling true-crime book.
As Lucas’ relationship with his daughter becomes strained, both of them distancing themselves from each other, they both begin to see things that cannot possibly exist. And yet, they cannot shake the feeling that they might not be alone in the house.
You can read my full review here.
An English Ghost Story by Kim Newman
The Naremores, like many clueless characters in traditional ghost stories, decide to move from the city to a quaint little patch of the British countryside: The Hollow, a beautiful country home in Somerset and once home to a successful novelist. What could possibly go wrong in this idyllic setting?
It all starts so well with the house seeming to bring the family a sense of peace and harmony, but as they regress into their old ways, the house (and its ghosts) turns against them, transforming their dream home into a labyrinthine nightmare and the Naremores soon realise you cannot run from your problems.
Slade House by David Mitchell
In typical Mitchell fashion, the story of Slade House spans over three decades and features multiple narratives from many walks of life that twist and weave and converge at various points. It begins with an invitation to attend a recital at the lovely Slade House. Only Slade House is not at all lovely. Abandon all hope ye who enter through the small black iron door, you may never return.