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Featured Haunted Places Horror Mystery and Lore

Walking Sam – Urban Legend

Near the Black Hills of South Dakota sits one of the largest Indian reservations in the country: the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Home to the Oglala Lakota tribe, Pine Ridge has a long history of trauma. It’s the site where hundreds of Lakota Indians were killed during the Wounded Knee Massacre, and it’s currently one of the poorest county’s in the United States. When it made headlines in 2015 for a spree of teen suicides, many began to suggest that darker supernatural forces were at work in Pine Ridge, citing the urban legend of Walking Sam.

Sign for Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

Between December of 2014 and March of 2015, there were 103 suicide attempts made. Nine of those were successful, and none of the victims were older than twenty-five. Many died by hanging. In previous years there had been other clusters of suicides, but none this large. Stuck in a crisis situation with no clear answers, many began to point to a sinister force that has long existed in Native American tradition and lore. Children raised in Lakota households grow up hearing of “suicide spirits,” “stick people,” or shadow people who attempt to lure adolescents from the safety of their homes at night. Over time, and with the explosion of popularity in Slender Man, these stories may have morphed into the single figure now known as Walking Sam.

The Legend of Walking Sam

Though he goes by other names as well (most notably “Tall Man” or “Stovepipe Hat Bigfoot”), most of the stories describe Walking Sam as a seven-foot tall figure with eyes but no mouth, sometimes wearing a stove-pipe hat. When he raises his arms one sees the bodies of previous victims hanging beneath. When teenagers hear him calling, he tries to persuade them of their worthlessness, encouraging them to kill themselves. Some believe he targets younger people because they are more susceptible to his tricks.

Shadow of man standing in dark tunnel

There are also those who believe he is not even necessarily a malicious entity, but rather one who wanders the forests as some sort of punishment and is merely looking for companionship. There are also the obvious ties to boogeyman folklore and Slender Man legends, but from a cryptozoological standpoint some believe he may be another version of, or in fact related to, Bigfoot. Finally, for a people group who have such an intertwined spiritual connection between the land and their heritage, some believe that Walking Sam is a sort of physical manifestation of the hurt and trauma that Lakota Indians experience on a regularly basis.

A Growing Epidemic

Whether Walking Sam is real, or perhaps a metaphor for depression, many of the adults at Pine Ridge take the threat he represents seriously, asking for help from government officials in curtailing the devastating effects of the legend. Disturbing videos have surfaced of teens explaining how to tie the rope just right. Pastors and teachers have stepped in at the last moment to stop group suicides. Authorities find nooses hanging grimly from trees. Whether or not these young adults are having their dark desires exacerbated by an ominous urban legend boogeyman remains a mystery. However, what is clear is that in a land plagued by extreme poverty, alcohol abuse, and skyrocketing high school drop out rates, teens are struggling with mental health issues and need proper care and support.

References

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore

Was Vlad Dracula The Real Count Dracula ?

Count Dracula has earned his place alongside the most iconic horror monsters, including Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. The 1897 novel by Bram Stoker has left a legacy on the gothic horror genre and beyond, with the depiction of vampires in pop culture transforming over the decades in the same way that Dracula’s victims did upon receiving a bite from the famed blood-sucking monster. But where exactly did the origin of vampires begin? Is Dracula real? Who inspired his taste for human blood? As it turns out, Count Dracula is widely believed to be based on real-life prince Vlad Dracula also known as Vlad the Impaler, who used his royal status as a weapon and lived up to his violent name. 

Who was Vlad Dracula aka Vlad the Impaler?

Born in the early 1400’s as Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (now known as Romania), this ruler had a variety of monikers. The first was Vlad Dracula, which means “Son of Dracul” and was adapted from his nobleman father Vlad II Dracul. And then there’s the universally known Vlad the Impaler, a name derived from his reputation for torture and mutilation of his enemies. But he had quite the journey towards such cruelty, and it all began when he was captured by the Ottoman Empire in 1442.

Map of Wallachia and Transylvania region 1400's

“The sultan held Vlad and his brother as hostages to ensure that their father, Vlad II, behaved himself in the ongoing war between Turkey and Hungary,” said historian Elizabeth Miller. While the two boys were treated decently, being taught in science and philosophy as their father returned to Wallachia, Vlad III felt reasonable hostility towards his captivity. It came to a head when Vlad Dracula was ousted as ruler of his country and later killed by noblemen. Vlad III made it his mission to reclaim his late father’s seat from Vladislav II, which he did for a mere two months before the latter returned from the Balkans to reclaim his throne. 

In the years after, Vlad III switched teams and severed his ties from Ottoman governors to obtain military support from King Ladislaus V of Hungary. After the fall of Constantinople in 1454, he achieved his goals and was named voivode of Wallachia in 1456. That’s when the bloodshed began. 

How did Vlad Dracula get his name? 

Bran castle Vlad Dracula's castle in Transilvania

Tales of Vlad III’s lust for blood have been told for centuries. One tells of two Catholic monks that he had impaled to “assist them in their journey to heaven,” before butchering their donkey as well. Another time, diplomatic envoys declined to remove their hats for religious reasons upon a meeting with the voivode, only for Vlad to keep the hats forever on their heads by nailing them to their skulls. Perhaps one of the most famous, however, is the time that Vlad III invited hundreds of unsuspecting and feuding boyars to dinner –  before having them stabbed and then impaling their still-twitching bodies. Red Wedding from Game of Thrones vibes, anyone? The most widely-believed reason for the dinner massacre was that the boyars were causing strife and dysfunction amongst the land, and Vlad simply did what he had to do… but we’re more inclined to believe that he just liked the violence and power that came with it. 

“I have killed peasants, men and women, old and young, who lived at Oblucitza and Novoselo, where the Danube flows into the sea,” Vlad III wrote to a military ally in the late 1400’s. “We killed 23,884 Turks, without counting those whom we burned in homes or the Turks whose heads were cut by our soldiers.” His body count is believed to be around 80,000 – with 20,000 being impaled and put on display in the city. The violence continued until his death in the 1470’s.

How did Vlad Dracula inspire Dracula?

Dracula by Bram Stoker Book Cover

As you can see, Count Dracula and Vlad Dracula aren’t exactly the same person. The two biggest similarities are likely a surname and sensational taste for blood, but they share other traits as well. The Transylvanian setting, reputation as an outcast, and desire for vengeance are just a few other mutual characteristics between the Romanian prince and the classic horror icon. Was Dracula a real person? Not exactly, but he had a beautifully bloodthirsty real-life inspiration!

Sources

https://www.livescience.com/40843-real-dracula-vlad-the-impaler.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/sciencemain/vlad-impaler-real-dracula-was-absolutely-vicious-8c11505315

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vlad_the_Impaler#CITEREFFlorescuMcNally1989

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Featured Horror Mystery and Lore NA

What is Lycanthropy and Where Did It Come From?

The official definition of Lycanthropy? “A delusion that one has become a wolf,” or “the assumption of the form and characteristics of a wolf held to be possible by witchcraft or magic.” Basically, it’s the werewolf that’s become a common fixture in not just horror, but cinema in general. There’s something truly terrifying about this half-man, and half-wolf creature that brings bloodshed wherever it goes. Perhaps it’s the fact that this affliction usually happens to a helpless man – in the wrong place at the wrong time as he’s bitten by a mysterious creature and becomes a monster right before his own eyes. Or the fact that lycanthropy dates back to centuries-old folklore, and many believe that the wolfman isn’t just a symbol of cinema… but a real-life terror that walks among us. Here’s what you need to know about the phenomenon of lycanthropy. 

Lycanthropic woodcut of a village attacked by werewolves by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, 1512

Where did Lycanthropy Originate?

Where does the legend of lycanthropy, or werewolves, originate? It’s complicated. Like many mythical creatures, the werewolf is a widespread concept in European folklore… was a critical part of stories told throughout the Medieval Period. However, the witch hunt (literally) for werewolves began during the Late Middle Ages and the Early Modern period alongside the witchcraft trials. According to Wikipedia, “the trial of supposed werewolves emerged in what is now Switzerland in the early 15th century and spread throughout Europe in the 16th, peaking in the 17th and subsiding by the 18th century.”

Being accused of witchcraft is one thing, but accusations of lycanthropy were quite literally a whole other beast. While many believed that you could become a werewolf by being bitten by one, others believed that lyncathropy took place by sleeping under the full moon or eating the wrong type of meat. In her book “Giants, Monsters, and Dragons,” folklorist Carol Rose notes that “In ancient Greece it was believed that a person could be transformed by eating the meat of a wolf that had been mixed with that of a human and that the condition was irreversible.” Yikes. 

Accusations of Lycanthropy

While the accusations are featured in less textbooks and movies than those of witchcraft, they were very much alive for centuries. One of the best known cases is that of Peter Stumpp, who was accused of werewolfery, witchcraft, and cannibalism in the 16th century. Known as “the Werewolf of Bedburg,” he had a violent and brutal history of torture, murder, and eating everything from goats and lambs to human children. After a grotesque execution where he had flesh torn from his body, limbs broken in multiple places, and was beheaded before being burned… his lyncathropy story became one of the most famous in history.

That being said, Peter Stumpp was a special case. And like the Salem Witch Trials, it’s safe to say that most accused of lycanthropy were not actually werewolves. Or were they? Many genuinely believed that werewolves walked among us centuries ago… and they remain a common presence in the gothic fiction and horror genres. We all love a good werewolf movie, but it becomes a bit darker after learning the fascinating history of lycanthropy.

Categories
Featured Horror Mystery and Lore Indie Horror Short Horror Stories

When the Bandage Man Finds You

The sky was drowning the Oregon Coast during the summer in 1932, that Monday–August 4th–had brought two unexpected inches and it looked as if they were going to get at least that many more before nightfall. Harvey glanced up at the dark and angry storm-clouds overhead, his dirty rain-streaked face bore an unfortunately stern look. Harvey paired up with Jack, both men were large and burly and their capabilities with the equipment had never failed them before. They had a few special jobs to take care of in Section 8 and one of them to take down a particularly massive pine. Their hands were both slick with sweat, rain, and grease; halfway through the trunk, their saw bucked suddenly as it hit a knot. Harvey’s glove slid clean off as he scrambled to control the blade at which point he lost his footing. The saw raked him hard against his left cheek and then his torso–then–everything went black.

His eyes were coated thickly with dried blood as he made an attempt to open them, he barely registered the paramedics looking down at him as they bounced along the wet roads of the old coastal highway. Half-way to blacking out again, Harvey heard a loud thud, then darkness overtook them all as the ambulance was swept off the highway in a mudslide. The rescue crews came around the next day when they could finally reach those who had not made it back the night before–they uncovered the lifeless bodies of the driver and paramedics, but Harvey’s body was never recovered. In an official capacity he was reported as a missing person, but presumed dead from all of the injuries he had sustained.


It wasn’t the best night to be on an unfamiliar highway, the patches of fog which only seemed to break for torrential downpour. The onslaught of rain smacked heavily against the windshield suddenly which disturbed Lee out of her uneasy sleep. Her eyes were wide and dark as she searched the gloomy scenery from the passenger seat as if to figure out where they were.

“Hey, you okay?” Mason, Lee’s boyfriend, gave her a sideways glance and a playful jostle to her knee.

“Huh? Oh,” she blinked and swallowed as if that would help clear the fog in her mind. “Yeah, just got a bit startled is all,” the rain was drowning out the sound of the weather forecast and it proved impossible to hear over the extra static on the radio. All she could see out of her water-streaked window were the outlines of trees made possible by the dingy high beams of their old shaky single-cab. “Where are we anyway?”

“Well I think we’ll be coming up on highway 26 in a little while, so according to GPS we’re just outside of Cannon Beach?” Mason didn’t sound sure, but with a quick look at the phone on his dashboard showed him that he was way off course. “Wait… that’s not right. Let me just pull off the highway real quick…”

Headlights in the fog
Photography by Will Swann

Mason saw a side road that led off the narrow highway and realized too late that it wasn’t well maintained as the truck listed hard to the side into a pothole. The two of them heard a loud pop just as they went careening towards the trees. He stomped so hard on the brakes he was surprised he didn’t break the pedal—but it only took the couple a moment to realize how close they had just come to serious injury. The two looked at each other breathlessly before they both burst into that uncontrollable and slightly inappropriate happy-to-be-alive laughter. Lee hung her head in her hands and her laughter turned into a groan.

“Of course, this is what happens on our first road trip together,” she pulled out her phone to call roadside assistance and Mason grabbed a flashlight then hopped out of the driver’s seat to check how much damage there was. From Lee’s perspective, it looked as if Mason was just shaking his head in disbelief, while the rain soaked him down to the bone.

“Did they say how long it would be for a tow?” Her waterlogged beau climbed back into the cab after a while, clicked the flashlight off and sighed.

“Well, there’s a problem, since we don’t know what road we’re on, all I could tell them is that we were on our way into Cannon Beach when our GPS started acting up and we pulled off—I’m not sure how much they heard, I had to repeat the policy number four or five times because the reception here is terrible. I don’t think anyone is going to be able to find us for a while,”

Mason cursed under his breath, “did you bring the blankets up here at the last rest stop we made?” Lee nodded and pulled her part of the seat forward to pull them out of where they had been stashed. Mason was already shaking from the chill that ran through his body as he pulled off his wet shirt and pants in an attempt to dry off with one of the blankets.

“I don’t like it here Mason,” Lee’s voice trembled a bit, her knuckles whitened from the vice-like grip she had on the second blanket. “It feels like we’re being watched.”

“Baby, we’ll be alright, we’re right outside of a town, if it weren’t raining we could probably walk—”

“—I am NOT walking anywhere! That’s the kind of thing that gets you killed in horror movies,” she huffed and Mason reached over to push her thick dark hair out of her eyes, an unyielding expression had overcome her.

“Come here, you whiner,” Mason smiled and pulled her over to him, “we’ll be alright, we’re not walking anywhere. We’ll have to stay here until morning though if the tow truck isn’t able to find us.” Lee’s lips returned to their pout and she leaned into him, “In fact, I think this is pretty great—it almost feels like we’re going parking,” Mason laughed, a devilish grin spread wide across his face and he snuck a kiss from her.

“You’re terrible,” she teased between his kisses before they finally lost all words and the sensual, playful kisses turned into clumsy, feverish fumbles—reminiscent of their teenage years. Lee pulled the second blanket around them as the windows began to fog up; the rush from their accident and subsequent stranding had turned into an insatiable lust for one another. Mason had Lee’s shirt halfway unbuttoned when they both felt it—the whole bed of the truck leaned heavily to one side and then bounced back.

“What the—” they both sat up to look out into the bed of the truck, “can’t see anything,” Lee used her sleeve to wipe the foggy window clean and immediately screamed in terror. There were red luminescent eyes looking back at her through the window, through a strange mask—no, not a mask, they were bandages. Mason fumbled with the flashlight to see what she had seen, but by the time he shone the flashlight through the back window there wasn’t anything to see. Whatever it was, Lee was inconsolable and babbling about red eyes.

Screaming in the dark

“Lee!” He shook her, “LEE! Listen to me! What did you see?”

“Mummy,” she squeaked out between sobs, “red eyes,” it was like her throat closed after that and she couldn’t find words to explain—the truck shifted again, the front end of the car sunk slowly down and they could hear the metal bending under something heavy. Mason tried to shine the light through the windshield, but the heat inside of the cab made the windows impossibly opaque. He had never had a reason to not believe what Lee said, but he didn’t know how to process her claims. Before he could even reach up to the windshield to wipe it off, someone—or something—began pounding on the windshield and roof of the truck.

“We’ll be okay,” his voice was soft, “we’ll be okay,” his voice got lower, “we’ll be okay.” Mason began to choke as a stomach-turning stench wafted in through the vents—it was the unmistakable smell of rotting flesh—the pounding continued for a few minutes and Mason held Lee protectively, she whimpered and ducked her head into his arms. It sounded like whatever was banging on the truck had moved back to the bed and Lee jumped at the sound of when it began beating the glass of the back window. Then it all stopped, but Lee couldn’t bring herself to look up.

The glass behind Mason’s head shattered as a bloodied and bandaged hand smashed through and grabbed him by the hair. Screams erupted from both of them and Mason attempted to beat away the bandaged arm with the flashlight he still had in his hand. Lee scrambled backward; blood-curdling screams propelled her through the door after she fumbled for the handle. Her body fell like a ragdoll out of the cab of the truck and she landed hard on the muddy ground. Frantically she grasped for footing in the slick and unforgiving earth below her, she caught a brief glimpse of the broken silhouette of the thing as it pulled her boyfriend out of the broken back window. It was strangling him; she could see him gasping for air through his broken cries for help.

Mason’s body went limp and Lee couldn’t find her voice to scream anymore, but she had wasted her opportunity to get away, frozen in place as she watched her boyfriend die before her eyes. Disbelief left her body as adrenaline pumped deafeningly through her and she scrambled back toward the highway at a sprint. Lee thought she saw lights coming through the fog, but a filthy bloodstained hand covered her mouth and yanked her backward.


It was nearly daylight when Larry pulled slowly on to Bandage Man road—he’d been searching for these tourists all night after his company received a call for a tow, but he’d been told it was garbled and all they knew is that they had been on their way into town.

“That damn pothole, I told ‘em it’d cause a problem sooner or later,” he moaned to himself as he navigated around the lake that had formed within it overnight. Once he caught sight of the truck he frowned, the passenger-side door was wide open—that was strange—and one of the back windowpanes looked as if it had been busted out. Larry stepped out of his rig and hollered, “Hello?” No response. He noticed as he walked up to the driver’s side of the truck that there was blood on the freshly broken back window, along with a lingering odor he couldn’t quite place. When he finally saw that there was no one in the truck, his heart began to race wildly—he knew as soon as he saw that ripped and bloodied bandage on the seat what had actually happened here, nearly a hundred years after Harvey, the Bandage Man, had met his brutal end.

Bandage Man of Cannon Beach, Oregon

Since we’re dedicated to supplying you with creative inspiration and all of your lore needs, we suggest you take a look at our encyclopedia entry on this particular haunting.

If you happen to have any first-hand encounters with Bandage Man or know a story that you grew up with, comment below and give us the details!

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

Witch Novels that Taught Us Not to F#$k With Witches

Stories of witchcraft are as old as time, and the concept of “witches” is one that spans many countries and cultures. Throughout the centuries witches, or simply those suspected of witchcraft, have been hunted and persecuted by mainstream society. There are many different types of witches, including kitchen witches, hedge witches, bruja, and daayan – all with their own beliefs, practices, and conflicted history. However, across categories one fact remains the same: witches are powerful.

Given the diversity in witches and witch folklore, it’s no surprise that stories involving witches are just as varied. We at Puzzle Box Horror want to acknowledge that the term “witch” should not be an inherently negative one, and there are many practicing witches and pagan communities that are a boon to society. Our goal with this article is not to disparage witchcraft in general, but rather to explore the darker side of the coin. With that in mind, we’d like to present some of the scariest witches in literature.

Maggie’s Grave by David Sodergren (2020)

Maggie's Grave book cover with spooky skeleton

MAGGIE WALL BURIED HERE AS A WITCH. So reads the faded inscription on the solitary grave at the top of a mountain. In the shadow of this mountain is Auchenmullan, a small Scottish town that has been left forgotten and lost to the world. Only forty-seven residents remain, plus the grave on the mountain. In a dead town with nothing to do, the residents suddenly find themselves confronted by the chilling fact that sometimes the dead don’t stay buried. Especially when they have unfinished business.

Maggie’s Grave is a shocking, disturbing, and fast-paced thrill ride of witchy horror. The buckets of blood, the flawed characters, the gross-out moments, and the folk horror elements will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.

The Remaking by Clay McLeod Chapman (2020)

The Remaking book cover with snake eating it's own tail

In the 1970s, Amber Pendleton was cast in a horror film titled Witch Girl of Pilot’s Creek, based on a true story of a mother and her daughter who were burned at the stake for witchcraft. Then, in the 1990s, Amber was cast in a remake of the cult classic movie. Now Amber herself has become the target of a witch hunt. In an attempt to free herself from this cycle of horror, she decides to tell her story one last time to a true crime investigator for his popular podcast. But will this retelling bring the closure she needs, or will it unlock a dark and vengeful force from the past?

The book brilliantly engages with four different versions of the same urban legend, while also populating each version with interesting characters and shocking incidents. This unsettling read will be sure to please fans of both horror and true crime!

Devil’s Call by J Danielle Dorn (2017)

Devil's Call book cover with hat and shadow

A western horror with witches? Say no more! Devil’s Call is written in the form of a diary from a pregnant mother to her unborn child. One wintry night in 1859, Li Lian’s husband was shot dead right in front of her. Unfortunately for the men who did this dirty deed, Li is part of the  McPherson clan, a long line of women gifted in the dark arts of witchcraft. In the diary Li recounts how she crosses miles of harsh land and numerous odds to hunt down the monsters who killed her husband.

With her rifle, her wits, and her powers of witchcraft, Li is truly a terrifying force to be reckoned with. It’s a supernatural tale of vengeance and motherhood set in the wild west, and it’s a must-read for lovers of witchy horror.

The Witching House by Brian Moreland (2017)

The Witching House book cover with old stone house

Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, from heights, to tight places, to the dark. But when her boyfriend wants to go explore a supposedly haunted house in the woods, she must swallow her insecurities and face her fears. The house in question was the scene of a brutal massacre in the 70s, where twenty-five people were killed and whose perpetrator remains a mystery. But the hauntings in the house are more than just urban legends, and Sarah is about to find out that the evil residing in the basement has simply been waiting for fresh prey.

The Witching House veers away from copious blood and gore, instead delivering a fast-paced tale of suspense and pulse-pounding terror. It’s a lean horror novella, one you can fly through while also reveling in all the twists and turns of the unique storyline. 

Wytches by Scott Snyder (2015)

Wytches book cover with creepy dark forest

The Rooks family, hoping to escape from a haunting trauma, has recently moved to the remote town of Litchfield, New Hampshire. They’re hopeful for a new life and a fresh start, but the ancient evil watching them from the woods has other plans…and it’s hungry.

Wytches posits a world where witches are darker and more terrifying than previously imagined, throwing out cliched tropes in favor of creepier creatures. The story is surprisingly emotional while also unsurprisingly bone-chilling, and is one of the absolute scariest graphic novels about witches we’ve ever seen (thanks in part to the nightmarish imagery from artist Jock). This volume collects issues 1-6 of the miniseries from Image Comics.

The Good House by Tananarive Due (2006)

The Good House book cover with house on a hill

Looking for a sweeping and spooky saga of family, loss, grief, and witches? Then look no further! Angela Toussaint has spent the last few years burying herself in her work, trying to rebuild her law practice after her son Corey committed suicide at a Fourth of July party. Unable to keep her questions at bay any longer, she eventually returns to the house where it all happened and looks for answers. However, the dark forces she discovers are more sinister than she could have imagined.

This epic 500 page book takes its time, allowing you to learn more about the Toussaint family, the surrounding town of Sacajawea, and the Good House itself. But there is a constant building dread, and when the horrors hit, they hit hard. Even seasoned horror readers will find themselves spooked by this tale of ancestral evil and voodoo witchcraft. 

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon (1973)

Harvest Home book cover with house in a storm

Time has not touched the village of Cornwall Coombe, a small town in New England. The quant colonial homes and white-steepled church seem to exist outside of modern life, and life in the village seems peaceful and easygoing. Newcomers Ned and Beth Constantine fall in love with this remote hamlet, assuming they’ve found the safe haven they’ve always dreamed of. Unfortunately, what they find instead is a disturbing and wicked force that turns Cornwall Coombe into a place of ultimate horror.

This book plays well to its folk horror roots, with its emphasis on rural life, dark pagan secrets, and evil in a small town. It’s definitely a slow-burn horror, but it maintains a high level of tension throughout while also delivering complex characters and a fascinating, if unnerving, storyline. Mysterious omens, brutal violence, and terrifying witchcraft – Harvest Home is one not to be missed!

Other Recommendations

The Devil’s Mistress by David Barclay (2021)

The Year of Witching by Alexis Henderson (2020)

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt (2016)

The Lords of Salem by Rob Zombie and BK Evenson (2013)

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi (2009)

The Witching Hour by Anne Rice (2004)