I don’t know about you but my mind is firmly on Halloween (y’know, apart from the millions of other things we have to think and worry about) and specifically my TBR list for the run up to the spookiest day. The haunted house is my favourite horror sub-genre so I spend a lot of time looking through lists to see if I can find something new to read. But I tend to find that it is ALWAYS the same books recommended year after year. So, if you find yourself in the same boat, read on if you’re looking for something that’s not The Shining or The Haunting of Hill House.
It Will Just Be Us by Jo Kaplan
This is my new favourite haunted house novel, just getting that right out there to begin with. It follows Sam Wakefield, who has recently returned to her ancestral home – a gloomy, decaying mansion that rests on the edge of a swamp. As she tries to get to grips with the ghosts and memories that haunt the mansion, and her unravelling mother, her pregnant sister comes home too after leaving her husband. This turns out to be a catalyst for things to go downhill when the new spirit of a malevolent young boy appears and commits increasingly more disturbing acts in front of Sam.
Read my full review here for how much I FREAKIN’ ADORE THIS BOOK.
Twelve Nights at Rotter House by J.W. Ocker
This is another firm favourite for me. Felix Allsey is a paranormal travel writer who sets his sights on writing about the notorious Rotterdam Mansion. Once there he’s joined by his oldest friend, Thomas Ruth, with the pair of them keen to build bridges after something terrible shook their friendship about a year earlier. But things soon start to go wrong when the house wakes up and Felix begins to lose his grip on reality.
Ghoster by Jason Arnopp
Jason Arnopp is an absolutely fabulous writer of techy horror (I also recommend his debut The Last Days of Jack Sparks but it doesn’t fully fit the theme here). It’s the story of Kate Collins who, at the worst possible time, is ghosted by her new boyfriend, Scott. On the day she was supposed to move in with him she finds all his things are gone except for his mobile phone. From then, things just keep getting weirder and creepier.
The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman
This meta-story was one of my favourite books of last year and, while it’s not so much a haunted house as a haunted…everything. I was desperate to add it to this list so you don’t miss out. Basically, this is the novel about a story that becomes a story that becomes a story about the stories. Sounds confusing but it’s so expertly done and really, really creepy. If you like 70s horror movies and campfire tales this is for you.
Naomi’s Room by Jonathan Aycliffe
I see this pop up on some lists but not many as it seems to gradually be slipping away from consciousness. I had to add it because it’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read if not the most disturbing. What starts off as a sad but run-of-the-mill ghost story in the first half turns into something utterly demented in the second. Charles and Laura are a young, happily married couple when Charles sets off with their daughter Naomi on a Christmas Eve shopping trip to London. But, by the end of the day, Naomi is gone and days later her murdered body is discovered. But is she dead?
The House that Jack Built by Graham Masterton
I have a bit of a thing for the very specific trope of people moving into haunted houses and this book absolutely fits that bill. When Craig Bellman is attacked, he and his wife Effie leave New York for the country. But when Craig insists on buying a derelict mansion on a mountainside – despite Effie’s serious reservations – their problems are only just beginning. When a haunting kicks off Effie makes it infinitely worse by bringing in a spiritualist and soon it becomes clear that the previous owner, and builder, of the house Jack Belias is back from the dead.
Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist
This is one for colder nights and when you fancy a bit of a twist for your haunted house – how about a remote Swedish lighthouse? On a winter trip home to the island of Domarö, Anders and Cecilia take their six-year-old daughter Maja across the ice to visit the lighthouse at Gåvasten. But here Maja disappears leaving no trace. A couple of years later Anders returns to the island and learns that things there are not what they seem and secrets have been kept for a very long time.
The Haunted by Bentley Little
Bentley Little is one of my favourite horror writers though he doesn’t usually deal in ghost stories. Apart from this perfect gem which manages to be both a traditional haunted house story and his usual satirical biting wit about the state of the world. When the Perry family move to a new house everything is pretty much perfect apart from the weirdo neighbours and a weird smell in the basement. But of course, you know things are going to kick off from there as the darkness at the bottom of the basement stairs is rising.
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
John Boyne is one of my favourite writers but he’s not usually one to dabble in spook. So I was delighted to discover this historical delight. It’s 1867 when Eliza Caine arrives in Norfolk to take up her position as governess at Gaudlin Hall. But before she even arrives at the Hall her troubles with ghosts begin. With only two children to greet her, and no adults at all, Eliza is confused and alarmed but the house itself seems intent on making her new job and life as difficult as possible.
Nychtophobia by Christopher Fowler
Set in southern Spain in blazing sunshine this book proves that you don’t need a dark, gloomy mansion in the British countryside to conjure an effective gothic atmosphere. In fact, Hyperion House is flooded with light. Our hero, Callie can’t help being drawn to the dark empty rooms at the back of the house though, and becomes convinced that someone is living in there. A brilliant, well-paced mystery this is a refreshing haunted house novel.
Have you read any of these? What did you think? Drop a comment with your favourite haunted house story.