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Featured Horror Books NA Reviews

The Best Books About Hauntings

“The book is so much better than the movie.” It’s a phrase you hear often from the most advanced bookworms, especially horror enthusiasts who love to discover terrifying new worlds from the comfort of their own (occasionally haunted) homes. No jump scares. No monsters in SFX makeup. No image of scream king Patrick Wilson banishing a demon. Just you and the deadly silence, flipping through pages of the most hauntingly beautiful tales about ghosts, spirits, and life beyond the grave. The year 2020 has given us plenty of time to dive into the most dread-filled novels – ranging from dark fantasy and gothic horror to the post-apocalyptic. But you can’t go wrong with a classic ghost story – detailing the experiences of spirits who (knowingly or not) haunt the living world, and you’ll definitely find yourself looking over your shoulder with every creak or crack you hear while reading these haunted books

The Shining

Author: Steven King

Published: 1977

The Shining book cover

No list of best haunted books would be complete without The Shining  – an epic novel from the godfather of horror, Mr. Steven King. In fact, you could even argue that this was King’s breakthrough story. The Shining focuses on the life of Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic working as an off-season caretaker at a hotel in Colorado. His son Danny, who possesses psychic abilities referred to as “the shining,” begins to pick up on the hotel’s tragic past –  with haunting visions and terrifying threats coming his way. Danny and his mother, Wendy, soon find themselves in great danger when supernatural forces begin to take control of Jack – and a snowstorm traps them inside the hotel with their deranged loved one and evil forces. The Shining was made into a film in 1980 – earning its status as a horror classic and pop culture phenomenon. Here’s Johnny!

Within These Walls

Author: Ania Ahlborn

Published: 2015

Within These Walls book cover

Lucas Graham’s life is falling apart – his marriage crumbling while his formerly successful career as a true crime writer has come to a halt. What’s a man to do when he has nothing left? Tell the story of Jeffrey Halcomb, a convicted cult leader who has avoided media interviews for many years. Seeing his chance for redemption, Graham gives up his life in New York to move into Halcomb’s old home – until he discovers that the residence, and Halcomb’s history, is far more sinister than he could have imagined. Many haunted house tales begin with a more modern type of horror story – a person’s fall from grace. They move into a new house hoping for a fresh start and sense of purpose, just like Graham, only to discover that their demons (and other evil spirits) will always follow them. Within These Walls is a terrifying horror story that’s more relatable than most of us would believe. 

The Haunting of Hill House

Author: Shirley Jackson

Published: 1959

The Haunting of Hill House book cover

If you’ve watched the hit Netflix series based on this novel, you know that it’s not just ghosts that bring the terror, but complex relationships. But unlike the group of siblings you follow in the show, the book focuses on four strangers – brought to stay at Hill House for the summer under the guidance of Dr. John Montague, as he attempts to prove the existence of the supernatural. It’s safe to say that he succeeds, as the participants begin to notice strange noises, ghosts roaming the halls, blood written on walls and other paranormal occurrences that are terrifying in every decade. As much as you loved watching The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix, now may be the time to step away from the laptop and pick up the novel that started it all. Undoubtedly one of the best books about hauntings ever written.

Hell House

Author: Richard Matheson

Published: 1971

Hell House book cover

Most horror fans have a fairly high tolerance for the gruesome, strange, and disturbing… but Hell House takes it to the next level. You’ll definitely feel a little uncomfortable while reading this 1970’s novel, yet also find yourself unable to put it down. Pretty standard for the horror genre. The story involves a dying millionaire, William Reinhardt Deutsch, who hires a psychiatrist and two psychics to investigate the existence of the afterlife. Seems simple, right? Not quite.They only have one week to do it, and are required to enter the most haunted house in the world – with a disturbing history of blasphemy, perversion, and murder. Most who enter the Belasco House don’t make it out, and the researchers must solve the puzzle of the afterlife without turning on each other or losing their sanity in the process. Hell House is basically the 1970’s, more terrifying version of a modern escape room – and you’ll be thrown right into it with this terrifying haunted house novel. 

The Woman in Black

Author: Susan Hill

Published: 1983

The Woman in Black book cover

Children play a large role in the horror genre – whether they’re the ones falling victim to spiritual trauma, or just the ones doing the killing. This novel tells the story of a grudge-holding spirit named Jennet Drablow, also known as The Woman in Black. After young lawyer Arthur Kipps is summoned to the English town of Crythin Gifford to settle the estate of Alice Drablow (Jenett’s sister) after her death, he discovers that the townspeople are reluctant to talk much about the woman or her family history… besides the fact that The Woman in Black is frequently sighted before the untimely death of a child. As it turns out, it’s for good reason – as the circumstances behind these experiences are more terrifying (and heartbreaking) than anybody could imagine. The Woman in Black was also made into a 2012 film starring Daniel Radcliffe, but you should definitely read the book first for extra spook factor.

The Restless 

Author: Chanel Harry

Published: 2017

The Restless Book Cover

If we learned anything from American Horror Story: Murder House, it’s that moving into a mansion is not enough to save your failing marriage. No matter how gorgeous the house is – and especially not when it’s crawling with ghosts. Published in 2017, The Restless follows Stephen and Marlo Coleman as the couple and their twin daughters move into an old house inherited through a family trust. The catch? Marlo’s elderly aunt Anabelle still lives there, and needs daily care – and things begin to take a turn as the woman speaks of a family curse and visions of her deceased daughter walking the halls. While the family initially believes that Anabelle is simply old and possibly senile, things escate as they begin to experience paranormal occurences, and are forced to uncover the family secret that Anabelle has been hiding for years. 

The Amityville Horror

Author: Jay Anson

Published: 1977

The Amityville Horror book cover

The story of the Amityville house has become legendary in horror and popular culture – with a series of books and films detailing these horrific hauntings. But this 1977 classic is the book that started it all. It tells the story of what happened after Ronald DeFeo Jr. murdered his entire family at Amityville in 1974, when the Lutz family moved into the house and vacated the premises after less than a month – apparently due to being terrorized by evil spirits and paranormal phenomena. The “based on a true story” claim has been met with controversy over the decades since The Amityville Horror was released, but it’s a must-have read for any horror enthusiast – and will definitely put you in the mood to book a flight to New York and see the real-life haunted house for yourself. 

The Good House

Author: Tananarive Due

Published: 2006

The Good House book cover

Like many haunted tales, The Good House begins with the tragic loss of a child. Angela Toussaint lost everything after her son committed suicide – her law practice, her family, and her sense of purpose. She decides to do the unthinkable, and journey back to her grandmother Marie’s house where her son took his own life. While she visits the home looking for answers, she uncovers a family curse that puts herself, and countless others, in a terrifying position. This novel is a gorgeous mix of supernatural, mystery, and magic – featuring everything from ancient Voodoo rituals and terrifying spirits to the real-life horror of losing the things (or people) we love the most. 

The Graveyard Apartment

Author: Mariko Koike

Published: 2016

The Graveyard Apartment book cover

The only thing more scary than a haunted house? An entire haunted apartment building. Seriously, you’d think that people would realize that a super gorgeous, underpriced home is definitely haunted – but that wouldn’t make for a good ghost story. The Graveyard Apartment centers on the Kano family as they move into a brand new, luxurious apartment in Tokyo. The downside is that it’s surrounded by a creepy graveyard, and the family begins to realize that their beautiful new place is also home to tons of paranormal activity. Since we all know that Japanese horror movies are some of the best in the genre, just wait until you read this J-horror book that will make you very wary before moving into your next apartment.

The House Next Door 

Author: Anne Rivers Siddon

Published: 1978

The House Next Door book cover

Dive into this haunted house story with a unique perspective. You see, it’s not just those living in the house who are terrorized by spirits and bad vibes, it’s also the poor neighbors watching their sanity and home value decrease. The House Next Door is told from the perspective of a Colquitt “Col” Kennedy, a middle-aged woman who watches the contemporary home next door continuously lose owners to murder, madness, and scandal. As she discovers the power of the house, she needs to decide if she should warn others of its danger, or keep her reputation and safety intact by staying quiet. 

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

The Best Horror Books About Urban Legends

Urban legends are all fun and games until you hear scratching at your window, and start to wonder if it’s the escaped mental patient with a hook for a hand. Good times. Passed down for decades, or even centuries, these tales are believed to have happened “to a friend of a friend,” and often contain terrifying elements from both the real world and otherworldly realms. Sure, the serial killer hiding in the upstairs attic as he makes mysterious calls to the babysitter downstairs is a classic example of real-world horror. But don’t underestimate the power of Bloody Mary, the game played by teenagers across the world as they chant in front of their mirror hoping to witness a ghostly apparition. While often told at sleepovers or around the campfire, these tales are also scarily fun to read on your own… in the form of a classic paperback book that pays tribute to these age-old stories. Folklore has never felt so good in your hands, and you’re about to discover a new type of horror with these horror books about urban legends.

Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark

Author: Alvin Schwartz

Published: 1981

Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark Book Cover

Any 90’s kid will remember Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark – a children’s book about hauntings and urban legends that many have argued is not for children at all. And can you blame them? Besides the references to urban legends like the man with a hook for a hand, or the one who fled to Baghdad to escape an appointment with Death… the illustrations in this book are simply terrifying. Regardless of how many decades ago you read this book in the school library or under the covers with a flashlight, it’s not easy to get the image of The Haunt out of your head. And if you’re brave enough, just Google it. After you’ve ordered your new copy of Scary Stories to Tell In the Dark, watch the 2019 movie for even more childhood nostalgia.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends

Author: Jan Harold Brunvand

Published: 2004

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends Book Cover

All the stories you’ve heard around the campfire come to life in Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. Jan Harold Brunvand is a professor and folklorist who has dedicated his entire career to the art of urban legends – and you’ll be shaking, crying, and laughing with this collection of tales old and new. You’ve definitely heard a million adaptations of the babysitter who receives mysterious calls from the man upstairs, but what about the snake in the strawberry patch? Or the Mexican dog that wasn’t even a dog? One of the most scary aspects of urban legends? Most of them can definitely still happen in real life, even if it’s seemingly rare, and this book will bring out your deepest fears in the best way. 

Urban Legends: Bizarre Tales You Won’t Believe by James Proud

Author: James Proud 

Published: 2016

Urban Legends: Bizarre Tales You Won't Believe by James Proud book cover

Sure, you love the traditional urban legends that you’ve heard for years… but sometimes you’re in the mood for something a bit weird. Like alligators in the subway or a two-headed dog. Oh and aliens, all the aliens. Skeptics need not read this collection of beautifully bizarre stories, which may or may not give you weird dreams. Not nightmares, per se, but dreams about unknown creatures that aren’t exactly evil, just misunderstood. Just like us. 

The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can’t Unread

Author: MrCreepyPasta

Published: 2016

The Creepypasta Collection: Modern Urban Legends You Can't Unread book cover

Yes, it’s those Creepypastas. The horror stories you’ve seen posted around the internet – telling the tales of ghosts, demons, serial killers and otherworldly creatures. But the world wide web is a big place, and these new-age chronicles are somehow even more frightening when placed in good, old-fashioned print. Discover these tales of modern terror with The Creepypasta Collection, including some of the popular stories you may have read online. Ben Drowned, Jeff the Killer, Ted the Caver… oh, and Slenderman. The tall and terrifying creature that launched countless nightmares, YouTube documentaries, and even a feature film. Take a break from the decades-old urban legends, and treat yourself to this collection of new horror stories.

Superstitions: A Handbook of Folklore, Myths, and Legends from around the World

Author: D.R. McElroy

Published: 2020

Superstitions: A Handbook of Folklore, Myths, and Legends from around the World book cover

A book about urban legends that’s both spooky and educational? What more could a horror enthusiast want? You won’t just hear about the most common legends and superstitions across all cultures – you’ll also learn exactly why they’re a “thing,” and how they’ve affected certain communities over the centuries. For example, did you know that the number 13 is considered lucky in Italy – despite being a symbol of bad luck in the United States? Or that the seven years of bad luck that supposedly comes when you break a mirror, originates from the Romans and their glass mirrors? The main goal of this book isn’t to terrify you, but to teach you about the origins of the most popular urban legends and superstitions. As it turns out, it does both!

Scary Urban Legends 

Author: Tom Baker

Published: 2010

Scary Urban Legends book cover

After you’ve finished reading D.R. McElroy’s sophisticated handbook on urban legends, you might just be in the mood to tremble with every page turn. And that’s exactly what you’ll get with Scary Urban Legends. It’s a collection of all the scary stories you heard around the campfire in high school, and possibly even did on a dare once or twice. Looking at you, Bloody Mary. Share it at a scary sleepover or simply read on your own time to discover the horrors of hitchhiking ghosts (not the Disney kind,) serial killers, and swarms of insects. Because as Jack Skellington once said, life’s no fun without a good scare.

Creepy Urban Legends

Author: Tim O’Shei

Published: 2010

Creepy Urban Legends book cover

Even if you’re not usually much of a reader, you can still uncover all the details of your favorite creepy urban legends with this book. In only 32 pages. It has major Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark Vibes, telling the tales of your favorite urban legends in a simple way. It’s perfect for beginners, or those who want to read about their favorite superstitions and stories before watching the movie it was based on.

Say Her Name

Author: Juno Dawson

Published: 2010

Say Her Name Book Cover

Bloody Mary is one of the greatest urban legends of all time. So great, in fact, that she inspired this terrifying tale by Tim O’Shei – in which a group of teenagers unknowingly summon her from the afterlife. And not the same night they chanted her name in the mirror, either – but with a sneak attack that includes threatening messages on the bathroom mirror and strange everyday occurrences. The things you’ll do to get your high school crush to notice you, are we right? The three teenagers must find out a way to save themselves before their five days are up, and Mary comes for them like she has countless others. 

Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend…of a Friend of a Friend

Author: Thomas J. Craughwell

Published: 2005

Urban Legends: 666 Absolutely True Stories That Happened to a Friend...of a Friend of a Friend book cover

Friend of a friend of a friend. It’s the basis of most urban legends, and these stories come together in this book by Thomas J. Craughwell. They’re scary, hilarious, and often extremely inappropriate… ranging from the alligators that supposedly roam in NYC sewers to the new parents who left their baby on a car roof. That’s right, it gets dark. You’ll be feeling all sorts of things with 666 Absolutely True Stories, and you can even convince your friends to read it for all the “did it happen, or not?” debates. 

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends

Author: Jan Harold Brunvand

Published: 2004

Encyclopedia of Urban Legends Book Cover

Another book from the father of folklore, Jan Harold Brunvand. He’s here to answer all your questions about urban legends, alphabetized and ready to discuss each one’s history and contribution to popular culture. And we’re not just talking about the much-talked-about tales that have been made into movies, but urban legends so weird and obscure that even your most folklore-obsessed friends will say “what?” Become a scholar of scary and supposedly true stories with this encyclopedia by Jan Harold Brunvand, and don’t forget to read his entire collection of books on urban legends!

Also check out our very own book based on Oregon’s Urban Legends. Atlas of Lore #1 – Oregon

If you want more Urban legends and paranormal lore check out our Encyclopedia of Supernatural horrors.

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Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

The History of Sci-Fi Horror from Books to Film

Defining Sci-Fi Horror

Mankind has always looked to the stars as a source of inspiration. The desire to explore and make meaning of the unknown is woven into our DNA. The more we learn through science and technology, the more we look to advance our understanding of both the world around us and the worlds above us. But there is a dark side to all of this. What boundaries are we pushing, and can they be pushed too far? What consequences are brushed aside with each new technological advancement and innovation? What terrors lurk in the vastness of space? There’s a reason the sci-fi horror genre has been popular for decades.

Science fiction horror stories often have a lot of bright-eyed wonder and fascination, but there’s also an inherent or underlying fear. Outer space is wondrous and also terrifying. Though not technically a horror film, you can’t watch Gravity and not be petrified by the cold, cruel infinite nothingness. Science fiction and horror are inextricably linked in many ways, and coming up with an exact definition is challenging because they share many of the same genre roots. Not to mention there’s plenty of overlap in sub-genres of body horror, cosmic horror, eco-horror, as well as in stories of the apocalypse or dystopia. To gain a better understanding of what exactly sci-fi horror is, let’s take a look at its origins, development, and notable creators. 

Origins of Sci-Fi Horror

Though the blended genre has been proliferated with noteworthy entries in the past few decades, the origins of sci-fi horror actually date back to over two hundred years ago. Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus shocked the literary world and continues to ignite imaginations to this day, its tale of reanimated bodies and mad scientists spawning countless spin-offs and reinterpretations. Shelley created not only an incredibly influential horror story, but also one of the first real science fiction books. Her “mad scientist” trope fascinated cosmic horror great H.P. Lovecraft, and she pioneered the way for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) and H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds (1897), the latter of which sent America into a frenzy during a 1938 radio broadcast because everyone thought aliens were actually invading earth. This just goes to show how genuinely frightening sci-fi horror can be.

Tracing the development of sci-fi horror also means exploring the history of social commentary and political statements, as stories within the genre are often born from societal upheaval and seek to question trends, policies, and belief systems. The film Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is ostensibly about aliens taking over the bodies of human hosts, but it’s also a reflection of the cold war paranoia and fear of communism prevalent in that time period. Larry Cohen’s film The Stuff (1985) is campy, gross B-movie fun, but it’s also a critique of capitalism and consumerism. Of course some sci-fi horror stories are created purely for entertainment value. But more often than not they contain social commentary, ranging from subtle to overt, that adds a layer of critical intrigue to the enjoyment. 

Notable Creators of Sci-Fi Horror

dead space sci-fi horror book cover

Sci-fi horror got its start centuries ago in literature, and many writers (such as Ray Bradbury and Philip K Dick) have helped it stay a mainstream attraction along the way. Even in recent years there are numerous authors continuing to push the genre in new directions. Some of the more famous ones that come to mind are Michael Chricton, Jeff Vandermeer, Octavia Butler, and Scott Sigler. The genre also has exciting entries in comics (such as Grant Morrison’s Nameless and Rob Guillory’s Farmhand) and video games (Bioshock, Dead Space, Alien: Isolation, SOMA, etc). But the most popular medium for sci-fi horror over the last few decades is unquestionably film.

When one hears the term “sci-fi horror” it will come as no surprise when images of viscous xenomorphs spring to mind. Ridley Scott’s Alien franchise is a staple of the genre. And no article about influential sci-fi horror would be complete without mentioning John Carpenter’s The Thing and David Cronenberg’s The Fly, movies that are terrifying in concept but also in their use of practical effects. To list out all the important movie makers in the genre would be pointless as popular creators are constantly emerging, but some other ones you should be paying attention to are Brandon Cronenberg (with provocative films like Anti-viral and Possessor) and Alex Garland, who has either written or directed such masterpieces as Ex Machina, Sunshine, and Annihilation

In Conclusion

Sci-fi horror is an engaging and exhilarating genre, melding mankind’s greatest hopes and fears into tales that shock and awe. It’s also a genre that is riff for new stories, as we continue to advance modern technology and seek the outer limits of space. The question of “what if” is extremely compelling, and it’s very exciting to speculate what dark and insidious conclusions lie on the other side. From where we’ve come and where we are now, the future of the genre certainly seems to be in good hands.