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8 of the Best Haunted House Stories To Make You Shiver

Danika Ellis

Associate Editor

Danika spends most of her time talking about queer women books at the Lesbrary. Blog: The Lesbrary Twitter: @DanikaEllis

The House of Last Resort by Christopher Golden

The beautiful hilltop town of Becchina is crumbling, but its mayor has taken drastic measures to rebuild—selling abandoned homes to anyone in the world for a single Euro. It’s a no-brainer for American couple Tommy and Kate Puglisi. Soon after they move in, they learn that the home was owned for generations by the Church, but the real secret is unlocked when they finally learn what the priests were doing in this house…and how many people died in the strange chapel inside.

Home is supposed to be the safest place we can go. It’s where we’re most vulnerable, where we lay our heads to sleep each night. The outside world can be scary, which is why we lock our doors and build walls and fences to keep it out. It’s precisely because of that sense of safety, though, that the sound of a footstep in the hall when you thought you were home alone is such a blood-chilling experience. The best haunted house stories mutate the safety and comfort of the domestic into something grotesque.

Haunted house books cover a wide range of styles and moods. Many are atmospheric gothics, slowly building up the setting until you’re completely absorbed. They’re usually light on gore and jump scares, but they make up for it with a sense of unease that creeps into your bones and refuses to leave. Others use the haunting as a metaphor for real-life horrors, like colonialism. And some haunted house stories weave in humor, luring you into a false sense of security before they deliver the final horrific reveal.

Whether you want to brush up on the classics or see what’s new in this subgenre, I have the perfect haunted house story recommendation for you! Don’t blame me if you start hearing strange sounds at night or begin to notice something moving out of the corner of your eye. You can always store these books in the freezer if you need a break.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson book cover

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

You can’t talk about haunted house stories without mentioning The Haunting of Hill House. This creepy gothic horror story is a classic for a reason. Shirley Jackson is the master of making the domestic world feel unsettling. The four characters — Dr. Montague, Eleanor, Theodora, and Luke — stay in Hill House to try to find evidence of a haunting, but the house soon affects them in ways they weren’t prepared for, leading to an unforgettable conclusion.

a haunting on the hill book cover

A Haunting on the Hill by Elizabeth Hand

If you love The Haunting of Hill House, you have to pick up its official sequel, published in 2023: A Haunting On the Hill. In this story, a new group of characters arrive at Hill House decades after the events of the first book. They’re in this dilapidated mansion to rehearse Holly’s play, but the actors butt heads over their roles, including Holly’s girlfriend. Soon, their interpersonal conflicts are nothing compared to the plans the house has for them. Elizabeth Hand does a great job of capturing the mood and style of the original in this new take on one of the most infamous haunted houses in literary history.

the cover of The Shining

The Shining by Stephen King

Another classic haunted house story, The Shining, follows a writer and his family as they stay at the Overlook Hotel in the off-season. Jack Torrence has plenty of time to work on his novel while serving as caretaker of the hotel. This could even be an opportunity to repair his relationship with his wife and young son. As they are snowed in, though, the claustrophobia and the supernatural forces that haunt the hotel make for a deadly combination.

cover of The Good House by Tananarive Due, featuring a scary house with a scary tree behind it

The Good House by Tananarive Due

There are plenty of modern haunted house stories that give the classics a run for their money, starting with The Good House. When Angela lived in her grandmother’s house for a summer years ago, a tragedy upended her world. Now, she’s ready to return and face her past, but she finds that her hometown has been wracked with tragedies since she has been gone. Angela discovers that something awoke in the house that summer, and she is determined to solve the puzzle of how to end this cycle for good.

Book cover of Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones is one of the best horror authors writing today, known for The Only Good Indians and the Indian Lake Trilogy, but he also has written an unsettling haunted house novella! In Mapping the Interior, a 15-year-old boy sees the ghost of his father in his home. He races to follow the figure, but he soon finds himself lost. He spends the next few nights trying to map the strange dimensions of this house, but when his obsession puts his little brother in danger, he’ll risk everything to save him.

the cover of She Is a Haunting

She is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

Jade is spending the summer in Vietnam with her estranged father. All she has to do is seem like the perfect (straight) Vietnamese American daughter so she can leave with the college money he promised. But as she spends more time at the French colonial house her father is renovating, she becomes more certain that the house hates them. Jade teams up with a delinquent girl to prove to her family that this house will destroy them if they let it.

cover of How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix; image of a house at night with a light on in the front door

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

If you’re looking for a haunted house story that blends horror and humor, Grady Hendrix is the author for you. Louise and Mark are siblings forced to work together to sell their family home after their parents die. The house will take some time to fix up because it’s crammed full of their parents’ things…including their mother’s extensive doll and puppet collection. Unsurprisingly, the creepy puppet house is haunted, and it doesn’t want to be sold.

Book cover of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

A new classic in the haunted house stories subgenre is Mexican Gothic. When Noemí receives a letter from her cousin begging for help, she sets off to the Mexican countryside to save her cousin from her life with her new husband. There, she finds her cousin’s husband’s family is menacing, her cousin is mysteriously ill, and Noemí has violent dreams while at their estate. As she investigates, she finds a dark history of how this family accumulated their wealth. As the title suggests, this is a gothic horror story that slowly builds unease until the reader feels the same claustrophobic terror that Noemí does.

This is only a small selection of the diverse array of haunted house stories out there, from creepy gothics to truly terrifying horror novels. If you can’t get enough haunted house stories, you should also check out:

QUIZ: Which Literary Haunted House Would You Haunt?

What Haunts Us: The Haunted House as a Metaphor

30 Haunted House Books That Will Give You The Creeps