13 Horror Novels By Women To Terrify You This Fall
Every October, readers flock to the horror section of their local bookstores and libraries in search of spooky stories about ghosts, witches, goblins, and all those delightfully devilish things that go bump in the night. During this year's survey of the scariest stories literature has to offer, make sure to pay special attention to these terrifying novels written by women. It might seem like men dominate genre, but these Dames of Darkness know a thing or two about frightening fiction.
When you think of horror, what authors come to mind? Chances are, you immediately recall names like Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft, and Joe Hill, and who can blame you? These horror legends and their scary stories — It, The Call of Cthulhu, Heart-Shaped Box — are essential reading for anyone interested in spine tingling fiction.
Despite the male dominance of the genre, however, women have actually played a crucial role in shaping the world of horror novels. Aside from being the novel that established the science-fiction genre, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is considered to be one of the very best horror stories of all time. Daphne du Maurier is best known for her chilling novel Rebecca, but her story "The Birds" inspired Alfred Hitchcock's terrifying film by the same name. Even today, authors like Gillian Flynn and Ottessa Moshfegh can tell a tale so spooky, it will make you want to sleep with the lights one.
Maybe it is years of living in a world that is often dangerous for girls, maybe it is just the wicked ways women think. Whatever the case may be, trust me when I say: women know how to write horror. Here are 13 of the scariest novels written by women to prove it:
'The Haunting of Hill House' by Shirley Jackson
From "The Lottery" to We Have Always Lived in the Castle, it's almost impossible to choose Shirley Jackson's scariest story. When it comes to Halloween reading, however, nothing beats The Haunting of Hill House. A truly terrifying haunted house story, it follows four individuals — a doctor-slash- expert in the occult, his assistant, the heir of the estate, and a young woman familiar with the otherworldly — all of whom try to survive a stay in Hill House, a infamous property haunted by a dark past.
'Bødy' by Asa Nonami
In her collection of horror stories, Asa Nonami proves you don't have to go outside of yourself to get scared. Bødy explores the many terrifying ways appearance, vanity, self-esteem, and body image can control our lives. Dark, twisty, and psychologically thrilling, these stories will make you squirm in your own skin.
'Fever Dream' by Samantha Schweblin
Sit back, relax, and watch nightmares come to life in Samanta Schweblin's eerie page-turner, Fever Dream. In a rural hospital in the Argentinian countryside, a dying woman and a young boy who isn't her son recount the chilling series of events that brought them together while they wait for the inevitable to arrive: death. A thrilling story about fear and uncertainty, "unsettled" doesn't even begin to cover the way this book will make you feel.
'The Witching Hour' by Anne Rice
While many people know her for her bloody tales in The Vampire Chronicles, Anne Rice's series about a family of haunted, murdering, incestuous witches is more terrifying than any vamp. The Witching Hour, the first in the Lives of the Mayfair Witches, traces the history of a family of powerful of dangerous witches in New Orleans that is haunted by something even more wicked than the women themselves. Featuring mysterious ancient societies, unimaginable betrayal, unthinkable violence, and the devil itself, every page of this dense dark fantasy will send chills down your spine.
'Dark Places' by Gillian Flynn
Gillian Flynn became a household name with the publication of Gone Girl, but before she introduced the world to the twisted love story of Nick and Amy, she created another terrifying tale about murder, mystery, and satanic worship. After young Libby witnessed the murder of her mother and two sisters in their rural farm house, she testifies against her teenage brother who is sent to prison for the crime. Twenty-five years later, however, Libby is drawn back into her family's tragedy when amateur investigators offer to pay her to help prove her brother's innocence. Switching from present investigation and the past in the days leading up to the massacre, Dark Places is an atmospheric thriller that will keep you up all night. If ghost stories are more your thing, check out Flynn's novella, The Grownup.
'The Woman in Black' by Susan Hill
When it comes to terrifying tales, nothing really beats a ghost story, especially not one as expertly executed as Susan Hill's The Woman in Black. When Arthur Kipps is called to the far-off town of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of his clients, he expects nothing short of a routine business trip. Not long after he arrives to the Eel Marsh House, however, Arthur begins to notice things aren't quite right when he starts to hear and see things that couldn't possibly be there. Eerie and unsettling, The Woman in Black is the kind of classic ghost story that will make you want to sleep with the lights on.
'Broken Monsters' by Lauren Beukes
Lauren Beukes may not write traditional horror novels, but her eerie stories still send chills down the spine. In Broken Monsters, Detroit detective Gabriella Versado is called to the scene of a horrific murder: a young boy has been killed and fused together with a deer. As she struggles to solve the bizarre case and put an end to the disturbing tableaus, her daughter flirts with danger, a journalist pushed past the boundary of ethics to get the story, and a homeless man fights desperately to keep his loved ones safe. A genre-bending novel filled visions of a nightmarish future, you can't read Broken Monsters without experiencing a few bad dreams of your own.
'Get in Trouble' by Kelly Link
In her most recent collection of dark fiction, Kelly Link spins bewitching stories about magical houses, ghost hunting, zombie boyfriends, Ouija boards, and so much more. Get in Trouble may not contain traditional horror stories, but each tall tale brims with equal parts imagination and unease. You won't be able to stop thinking about this haunting collection long after you've put it down.
'The Hidden People' by Alison Littlewood
When his young cousin, Lizzie, is killed by her husband, Albie Mirralls suspects there is more to the murder than meets the eye. He arrives in her small village to investigate the crime and bring the murderer to justice, only to find that the townspeople are all too eager to protect the man responsible for Lizzie's death. In this town, there are greater forces at work than reason and justice: Fear, suspicion, and the supernatural lurk around every corner. A lush and atmospheric tale, The Hidden People will leave you with goosebumps.
'Eileen' by Ottessa Moshfegh
Otessa Moshfegh may have started to write this PEN/Hemmingway novel as a joke, but the chilling result is more likely to give you goosebumps over the giggles. Eileen is an unhappy, young woman who begrudgingly splits her time between caring for her alcoholic father and her work as a secretary at a boys' prison. Aside from the sexy guard she stalks and her penchant for stealing, Eileen has little much else happening in her life — that is, until the new counselor, Rebecca, arrives at the prison and draws Eileen into her dark and twisted life. A sinister story with plenty of surprising twists, Eileen will leave you haunted.
'The Children' by Carolina Sanín
If The Shining proved anything to us, it's that kids can be downright creepy. Just ask Laura Romero, a young woman haunted by a mysterious young boy who appears outside of her apartment one night, helpless and alone. After deciding to take him in, it isn't long before Laura realizes their blossoming relationship might have violent connections to the past. Eerie and uncertain, The Children is an unusual novel that will spook you to the core.
'My Soul to Keep' by Tananarive Due
Relationships can be a nightmare — especially when your other half is part of a murderous immortal brethren. That's what Jessica is forced to deal with when her husband, David, confesses that he traded his humanity for life everlasting over four centuries ago. Now, he wants her and their daughter to do the same. An addictive thriller that will have you frantically flipping pages, My Soul to Keep is a must-read for fans of female-driven horror.
'Asylum' by Madeleine Roux
The first in her frightening YA series by the same name, Madeleine Roux's Asylum is the kind of story that will keep you up at night. Dan is thrilled to be a part of New Hampshire College's Prep program — that is, until he arrives on campus to find that his summer housing is a former psych hospital. As he and his friends adjust to life in their new home, they discover dark secrets and dangerous truths lay just below the surface. Filled with found photographs of real asylums, this horror novel is scary enough to frighten teens and adults alike.