Of all the spooky situations that can be found in literature, there's something especially insidious about the haunted house. Werewolves can be defeated with a silver bullet and vampires can be staked (or, more often, vampires can be dated and then broken up with over the course of a long, angsty book series). Demons can be exorcised, and Frankenstein's monsters can be met with empathy and mutual respect. But when it's your very own house that's the monster... yikes. The very idea of a haunted house turns your home sanctuary into an unending nightmare. It's freaky, it's upsetting, and it's the perfect reading material for October. So here are a few haunted house stories that'll make you scared of your own front door.
Of course, some of these houses are more aggressively haunted then others. Here you'll find apartments next to graveyards (bad idea, if you're living in a horror novel), creepy mansions, houses that are bigger on the inside than they are on the outside, and weird patches of moving mold. Some houses are fulls of ghosts, and some just seem to be straight up gross. Whatever your preferred haunting situation, check out these stories about disturbing homes for a pre-Halloween fright:
'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson's infamous Haunting of Hill House is about as classic as a haunted house story gets: four individuals arrive at a notoriously spooky house, each of them looking for something different. There's Dr. Montague, an occult scholar hoping to find spectral evidence; Theodora, his upbeat assistant; Eleanor, a young woman who already knows her fair share of poltergeists; and Luke, the supposed heir of Hill House. But the House has plans of its own, and all four visitors may not make it out alive...
'The Good House' by Tananarive Due
Angela Toussaint has returned to her grandmother's house, two years after the death of her son, Corey. She wants to unearth the truth of what happened to him. But now that she's back in the Good House, Angela is beginning to realize that there's more to this story than her own recent tragedy. Did her grandmother really have "powers" of some kind? And what exactly did she leave behind in this strange, old house?
"Stone Animals" by Kelly Link
"Stone Animals" is a weird, surreal, funny, emotionally fraught short story that begins with a family buying a house (classic) and ends with a whole lot of rabbits. There are plenty of haunted house tropes here, for sure, but the real horror is the family that slowly drifts apart as their ordinary lives start to feel less and less their own.
'White is for Witching' by Helen Oyeyemi
The Silver family is in mourning. Lily is gone, leaving behind her gentle husband Luc and her twins, Miranda and Eliot. All three are deep in grief, and even the house seems to be feeling it. It grumbles and whispers and almost seems to confuse visitors on purpose. Apples grow where they have no business growing. And young Miranda seems especially drawn to the generations of women who inhabit the walls...
'The Grip of It' by Jac Jemc
Julie and James have moved from the big city to a house in a small town. They've left behind the hustle and bustle (and James' struggles with gambling) for a simpler life. But as they settle into their new home, strange things begin to happen. Rooms within rooms decay before their eyes. The pipes are full of mold spores. Stains seem to move across the walls, and bruises appear on Julie's skin. It's a viscerally horrific haunted house tale, centered on one couple's attempt to start anew in a place that won't let go of the past.
'House of Leaves' by Mark Z. Danielewski
OK, so the idea of a house that's "bigger on the inside" doesn't sound all that scary. It actually sounds nice, from a property value perspective. But the house in House of Leaves just... keeps getting bigger. Strange hallways appear, all leading down into a dark, seemingly endless labyrinth of rooms that pulse with an evil energy. It's undoubtedly one of the most terrifying horror stories ever written, all wrapped up in a mind-boggling, experimental novel full to the brim with unreliable narrators.
'The Little Stranger' by Sarah Waters
Dr. Faraday has been called to attend a patient at Hundreds Hall, a lonely, crumbling Georgian estate. The inhabitants, a woman and her son and daughter, are struggling to maintain a dying way of life. But the more Dr. Faraday learns about this new case, and this old, old family, the more he begins to wonder whether there's something more sinister lying beneath the dusty carpets and the broken clocks of this very creepy mansion (hint: there is).
'The Graveyard Apartment' by Mariko Koike
Look, there are plenty of haunted mansions out there, and that's fine. I don't live in a mansion. But a haunted apartment is just a bit too close to home. Mariko Koike's horror masterpiece, The Graveyard Apartment, follows a young family as they move into an idyllic new home... right next to a graveyard. Naturally, this does not go well for them, and soon they find themselves sharing their apartment building with whatever it is that lurks in the basement.
'This House is Haunted' by John Boyne
In classic Gothic novel fashion, our heroine, Eliza Caine, accepts a position as a governess at a remote English estate. The only thing is that when Eliza arrives at Gaudlin Hall she finds her two young charges... and no adults. Her mysterious employers are nowhere to be seen. And that's just the beginning of this twisted take on the haunted Victorian mansion, complete with creepy kids and some truly horrifying secrets.
'The Children's Home' by Charles Lambert
Morgan Fletcher is the reclusive heir to a sprawling estate. He spends his days in study, avoiding other people and his own reflection. Until, that is, the day that two children show up, seemingly from nowhere. Morgan takes them in (he's certainly got the room). But then more children arrive. And they seem to know things — about Morgan, and the bizarre attic of his house. And then they begin to disappear. If creepy children banging around in creepy houses are your thing, then this is the book for you.
'The Elementals' by Michael McDowell
Three Victorian summer homes sit on the same split of land. Two of them are still used. One is filled with sand. That imagery right there is freaky enough, but when the McCrays and Savages come down for the summer, grieving and loss and in the midst of a messy divorce, things start to get weird. Something else is there with them... and it wants to watch them suffer.
'The Harrowing' by Alexandra Sokoloff
It's Thanksgiving break, and Baird College's Mendenhall has almost entirely emptied out. Robin is left in the creepy, hundred-year-old residence hall for a long, rainy weekend sans family. She and four other lonely students are the only ones staying at school over the holiday... but there seems to be an impossible sixth presence in the hall, and it has plans for each of them.
'The Shining' by Stephen King
And then, of course, there's the haunted house (or rather, hotel) to end all haunted houses: the Overlook Hotel. An empty hotel during the off-season? What could possibly go wrong? Jack has arrived to take care of the Overlook during the winter, bringing his wife and young son along for a season of family bonding. But as harsh weather cuts them off from the rest of the world, the "atmospheric" old building starts to take on a far more sinister look...