Halloween is fast approaching, and what better way to celebrate the year’s spookiest holiday than reading some of the greatest horror novels of all time?
Sit back, relax (or not), and let us take you on a journey throughout the ages to reacquaint you with the scariest novels from the last few decades.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818)
One of the most powerful novels of the Gothic period, Frankenstein explores scientific exploration and religion. You’ll be awed by Victor Frankenstein and his abandonment of morality and social convention as he creates a living monstrosity from old body parts. Murder and guilt play a huge part in this tale of a man trying to play God, making this an exciting read no matter what time period you’re in.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897)
Considered THE vampire novel of all time, it follows the character of the vampire Count Dracula and his attempt to move from Transylvania to England to find new blood and spread the undead curse. Join Professor Abraham Van Helsing and his group of helpers as they attempt to bring down the bloodsucking mythical being.
Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898)
Combine psychological horror, ghosts, and madness in this “perfect” ghost story novella. Follow a young governess as she cares for a man’s nephew and niece after the death of their parents, and try to unravel the dark secret of the country house, Bly.
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
A finalist for the National Book Award and regarded as one of the best literary ghost stories published during the twentieth century, the novel is about Hill House, an eighty-year-old mansion, and four main characters who have experienced paranormal events in the past. After renting the house for the summer, the four experience unseen spirits and terrifying sounds that they are either real—or the product of their imaginations.
William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist (1971)
Inspired by a 1949 case of demonic possession and exorcism, The Exorcist centers around the possession of twelve-year-old Regan MacNeil, the daughter of a famous actress. Look out for poltergeist-like disturbances, violence, and diabolical personalities. If you’ve watched the movie (who can forget the terrifying head twist?), you should be warned: The book is much scarier.
Stephen King’s It (1986)
Remember that horrifying clown that is the stuff of life ruining nightmares? Yes, well—he’s from Stephen King’s novel, It. You’d have to have nerves and sweat ducts of steel to withstand the story of seven children as they are terrorized by a creature that takes the form of the fears and phobias of its victims. “It” usually appears in the form of a clown in order to attack its prey of choice—young children—and is truly one of literature’s most terrifying monsters.
Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves (2000)
The format and structure of this novel may be unconventional, comprised mostly of footnotes and articles, but that is what adds horror to the story. Picture a normal family of four, coming back from a trip to realize a change in their home. Doors begin to inexplicably sprout where blank walls used to be, and long hallways to nowhere are continually formed on the daily. After some research, it is discovered that the internal measurements of the house are somehow larger than the external measurements—creepy, right? Don’t miss out on this tale of psychological horror, madness, and utter claustrophobia.
Brian Keene’s The Rising
Winner of the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2003, The Rising is the first book in a series of zombie-themed horror novels that starts off in the aftermath of a particle accelerator experiment. Keep in mind that these aren’t your average zombies, though—animals and even insects are infected by the plague.
Joe Hill’s The Heart-Shaped Box (2007)
It’s not surprising that Joe Hill, the son of horror master Stephen King, would churn out a terrifying bestseller and critically acclaimed horror novel. This creepy tale—about a musician who buys a dead man’s suit and is subsequently possessed and haunted—is the perfect contemporary horror novel for fans of spine-tingling thrills and chills.
We hope you enjoyed the list we put together! If you’ve read any of them, let us know what you think, and as always, we’re happy to hear recommendations from our readers.