I came late to the best horror audiobooks. Part of my upbringing made me too scared of horror to find it appealing. Now, let me explain that, before you start thinking I was raised in a horror house, or had a traumatic childhood. None of that.
I was raised in a small village, where evil-eye and ghost tales were told with almost the same certainty most people use to talk about science. People laugh about it, and dismiss it, but at the end of the day, they also believe those unlikely tales to be true.
One of the most famous ghost stories going around in my family is the one where my grandfather, coming home at the late hours of a pitch dark night—there were no street lamps at the time—had an encounter with a spirit. My grandfather and the spirit got into a verbal fight, which ended when my grandfather—in fear—farted the spirit away. I wish I was joking.
But there are many more of these stories, with less comical elements, and while my rational nature wants to dismiss them as just figments of imagination, probably aided by other types of (liquid) spirits, and lack of knowledge of the basic laws of physics, some of them are too incredible not to believe in.
As much as possible, I try to stay away from things which keep me awake at night; I’m not a fan of horror movies in general, but paranormal movies are a no-no.
I found out, however, that while I can’t watch horror, I can read it, and I actually enjoy it. I can better control my imagination when I’m being described things (even pretty scary things), than when I’m actually being shown those scary things (and, let’s face it, the scariest part of horror movies is the soundtrack, which always keeps me on edge).
I’ve started getting into the horror genre through books, and the best horror audiobooks are a fantastic in-between: they still allow me to get a little bit scared, but not so scared that I get night terrors.
The Best Horror Audiobooks
Now that Halloween is gone for this year (although we might debate that the whole of 2020 was a horror show in itself) maybe now is the best time to immerse yourself into some of the best horror audiobooks out there. Here is a list we have enjoyed, old and new, and we hope you will too.
The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher, Narrated by Hillary Huber
What are the worst things you can discover when you agree to clear out the house of a deceased family member? This is exactly what you are invited to find out in this book.
Mouse agrees to clear out her grandmother’s house after her passing, but things start going south after she bumps into her step-grandfather’s journal, which at first seems to contain senseless ramblings, but quickly end up making terrible sense to Mouse.
All alone with her dog, Mouse finds she has to take these horrors head on.
When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole, Narrated by Susan Dalian & Jay Aeseng
I know this is not horror per se, but a thriller, but this booked scared the hell out of me because it feels so real. Honestly, almost up until the end, none of what was being told seemed exaggerated, or fictional.
More than scare me, it made me angry, but I absolutely loved it, and even wished my bike rides to and from work were longer, so I could listen just a little more.
I don’t want to spoil this book for anyone, but it is a story about the horrors of gentrification. That’s really all you should know before starting it.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, Narrated by Shaun Taylor-Corbett
The way animals and revenge are intertwined in this story, it really made me think of Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, which I read for a book club this year and loved.
This book follows the story of four American Indian men who, ten years prior, had gotten carried away on the last day of hunting. Now those terrible past events, and their own culture and traditions, come back to haunt them.
The narrator, Shaun Taylor-Corbett is, like the author, also Blackfeet.
Red Pill by Hari Kunzru, Narrated by the Author
If imposter syndrome was a book, this would be it.
The narrator of this book receives a prestigious writing fellowship, but when he arrives in Germany, he realises he can’t write anymore (if this is not any writer’s nightmare, I don’t know what is).
Unable to do much more than going on walks and watching a violent cop show on TV, he starts doubting the value of his writing and achievements.
The story ends up focusing on the mental struggle of being able to identify what is real and what is not.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Narrated by Frankie Corzo
Did this book give me The Haunting Of Hill House vibes throughout? Yes.
It reads so well; the main character, Noemí, is very interesting, and the book even includes a family with a tragic past, and a house on top of a misty hill. Noemí is clever, and self-assured, and a bit cheeky.
This story starts with a letter that Catalina, Noemí’s cousin, has sent to Noemí’s father, claiming that she is being poisoned.
Noemí hasn’t seen Catalina since she married Virgil and moved to High House, so at the request of her father, she travels there to try and figure out if Catalina needs psychiatric help. But weird things start happening, and the true mystery surrounding the house is probably far from anything you can imagine.
Leave The World Behind by Rumaan Alam, Narrated by Marin Ireland
This is Alam’s third novel, a vacation gone to horror, which discusses race, class, and parenthood.
Amanda, Clay, and their teenage kids go on a family vacation into a remote place in Long Island, but, as they are about to get settled in the luxurious house they had rented, an older Black couple claiming to own the house comes knocking at their door: a sudden blackout has swept the city, they tell them.
Without any access to the news, the couple doesn’t know what to believe, whom to trust, or what exactly happened in New York.
The Year Of The Witching by Alexis Henderson, Narrated by Brianna Colette
For those looking for witch stories, this is a perfect listen.
Immanuelle does everything she can to conform to the values of the place she lives in, a way to make-up for the unruly life her mother chose to live.
When she accidentally ends up in the forbidden Darkwood of the land’s prophet, Bethel, where four witches were first chased and killed, she finds her mother’s diary, and she starts understanding that the church she has placed so much trust in, might be very different from what she always believed it to be.
Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth, Narrated by Xe Sands
Gothic, academia, sapphic romance. Need I say more?
At the Bookhants School For Girls, Flo and Clara meet each other, and they are both obsessed with the writer Mary McLane, best known for her scandalous memoir. They decide to create their own private book club, and name it The Plain Bad Heroines Society.
The school closes its doors five years after the bodies of Flo and Clara are found next to a copy of McLane’s memoir, and after three more people mysteriously die at the school.
Over a century later, Merritt Emmons writes a bestselling book about the institution, and the school opens their doors once more, to give way to the film adaptation.
Past and present intertwine, and strange things start happening at Bookhants again, proving that some places are better left untouched.
The Elementals by Michael McDowell, Narrated by R.C. Bray
If you can’t get enough of horror centred around weird houses and family secrets, this is the book for you.
When the McCrays and the Savages, two families connected by marriage, come to Beldame hoping to have a rest after a funeral and a divorce, strange things start happening.
They came to the place to spend time on their own, but they are certainly not alone.
The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Narrated by Bernadette Dunne
Although I haven’t yet listened to this book in audio, I was assured that it is very, very scary.
Shirley Jackson is amazing at writing stories with unexpected elements. In The Haunting Of Hill House, a group of people move into Hill House to try and figure out the weird events that have taken place there across the years.
Four strangers, a house with its own will, it is brilliantly written.
You can’t go wrong with Shirley Jackson.
The Good House by Tananarive Due, Narrated by Robin Miles
Angela Toussaint has lost her son to suicide, and she is trying to rebuild her law practice.
When Angela returns to the family home, looking for clues that might shed some light on her son’s suicide, she comes across a strange violent force which is acting upon the locals.
Harvest Home by Thomas Tyron, Narrated by Jonathan Yen
You could go with any horror novel written by Thomas Tyron and still get it right but, personally, I think Harvest Home is the one with the best audio narration.
In this horror novel a family moves into Cornwall Combe, an isolated village in Connecticut.
The village seems to have stopped in time; with various festivals centred in the harvesting of corn, they have renounced any modern tools for their agriculture, and keep little contact with the rest of the world.
To the Constantine family, Cornwall Combe seems like the perfect place to have a home, but they are soon proven wrong.
Wonderland by Zoje Stage, Narrated by Xe Sands
The Bennetts leave New York and move to a rural farmhouse. Life there seems promising: plenty of room in the house, in a place which is still close enough to the urban area.
But the woods surrounding the house hide secrets deep within, and the family dream very quickly turns into the most unsettling of nightmares.
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand, Narrated by Lauren Ezzo
On the island of Sawkill Rock, girls have been disappearing for decades, and no one has dared fight the evil who’s been taking them up, until now.
Marion, Zoey, and Val form a diverse group, and their personal stories are as intriguing as the outside world bringing them together.
This is a very atmospheric book, and Lauren Ezzo’s narration is a wonder.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver, Narrated by Jeremy Northam
The year is 1937. John is poor and alone, and war is building up.
When he is given a chance to join an Arctic expedition, John takes it and embarks, filled with high hopes, amongst a crew of men and huskies.
Soon the dark claims the land, and when John’s companions are forced to leave one at a time, he is faced with a tough decision. As leaving becomes more and more difficult, John realises that in that remote place, other things besides himself, are lurking in the darkness.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu, Narrated by Kirsten Potter
This is another horror story where people start disappearing, this time from the mountains. The twist, though, and what is assured to give you a few sleepless nights, is that it is based upon true events.
The Donner Party was a group of pioneers who migrated to California. During their trip, an almost unbelievable set of things went wrong, and they ended up stranded, in the winter, in the Sierra Nevada. Cannibalism ensues.
Katsu gives this real story a darker twist, and the audiobook is *chef’s kiss*. (Did I really need to add a culinary meme to a story which involves cannibalism? Absolutely.)
The Shining by Stephen King, Narrated by Campbell Scott
I really needed to include some obvious ones in this list, because they’re obvious for a reason: they’re good.
For those who somehow have missed what the plot of this book is about across the many adaptations it has had, it tells the story of Jack Torrence, who finds a perfect excuse for a fresh start with his wife and kid when he takes in a new position at the Overlook Hotel.
The hotel becomes closed off from the rest of the world as the winter settles in, and although unsettling things begin to happen, Torrence’s 5-year-old seems to be the only one noticing. But not for long.
Although I, personally, didn’t find the book terrifying, the audiobook does manage to be quite chilling.
Psycho by Robert Bloch, Narrated by Richard Powers
Hotels don’t necessarily need to be remote to be scary, and this is proven in Psycho.
Mary Crane is lost and desperately in need of rest. The neon sign of a hotel has never seemed so inviting, so when the Bates Motel comes into view, Mary is relieved at the prospect of a bed to lay on.
The manager of the motel is a bit odd, but the world is filled with odd people, and although the motel isn’t luxurious, it is enough to help her feel a little better. But someone is paying attention to her, more closely than she knows.
This is the novel which inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s film, and it’s very thrilling in audio too.
More of the Best Horror Audiobooks
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