The Best Books About Hauntings

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Featured Horror Books NA Reviews

“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. 

The Best Cosmic Horror Books

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

One thing that is evident when you look for and inevitably read books, is that are a lot of authors that have been influenced by H.P. Lovecraft. Some take influence by crediting his creations, some crediting his name–others his style, short story form that truly resonate within the genre. Others still have found their own path within the genre, by taking the essence of cosmic horror and making it their own. Finding something genuinely original can oft be an exercise in futility, due to the very nature of this sort of horror, but when that originality is found it is truly like discovering gold. Here are Puzzle Box Horror’s best of cosmic horror book recommendations.

The best of Old-school Cosmic Horror books

What sets old-school cosmic horror apart from the newer literature within the genre, is pretty much what sets old classic literature apart from newer literature in any genre–language, surrounding culture, and societal advantage. It goes deeper than that of course, but what is important when getting acquainted with any form of literature is understanding the time within which it was created.

The Willows (1907)

The Willows book cover (1907) by Algernon Blackwood

While not exactly a book, The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, is technically the first cosmic horror novella that began to establish the cosmic horror genre. It was originally published among a series of other stories in 1907, as a part of his collection The Listener and Other Stories. It’s a great example of early modern horror and despite not receiving the credit it was due, was very much connected within the literary tradition of “weird fiction,” a genre later realized as cosmic horror.

The Willows is a story that invites fear of the unknown, there is a sense of agitation, fear, exhaustion, and eternal trepidation that does not leave the characters or the readers, because there is never a relief from the situation at hand. Available on Amazon here.

And, apart quite from the elements, the willows connected themselves subtly with my malaise, attacking the mind insidiously somehow by reason of their vast numbers, and contriving in some way or other to represent to the imagination a new and mighty power, a power, moreover, not altogether friendly to us.

Excerpt from The Willows by Algernon Blackwood

Listen to Algernon Blackwood’s The Willows below through HorrorBabble.

The Man Who Found Out (1912)

Another shorter existential horror story, Algernon Blackwood’s The Man Who Found Out really just begs the question about personal religious beliefs–what is the ultimate question and answer when it comes to a higher power, particularly that of “God?” Do we really know anything with any certainty? Or is belief and faith what matters most when seeking a higher truth? These unanswered questions are what make this one of the best cosmic horror books out there. Available on Amazon here.

LibriVox has given us Blackwood’s The Man Who Found Out through audiobook and it’s worth checking out.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories (1927)

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories book cover (1927)

It seems that the most successful additions to the cosmic horror genre are generally shorter stories; short stories are benefitted in this particular genre due to the fact that they limit the amount of information that can be conveyed within the confines of the short story’s maximum of ten thousand words.

All of the stories that appear within this particular anthology are by H.P. Lovecraft and are, of course, part of the public domain, so we have included a list of the stories with external links to the stories themselves. Those interested in reading some of the most well-known cosmic horror pieces can find them below. The entire anthology is available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

Shadows of Carcosa (2014)

Shadows of Carcosa book cover (2014)

Yeah, we know that this book came out in 2014–but that doesn’t discount the fact that it is actually full of old-school cosmic horror, because it’s actually an anthology from some of the best horror writers that literary culture has ever had to offer. These stories span almost an entire century, which illustrates how many authors can be credited for their contributions to cosmic or existential horror.

Luckily for readers who haven’t been well-enough introduced to cosmic horror by now, all of these stories are also within the public domain; we hope that these stories from Shadows of Carcosa (2014) give readers a full picture of what cosmic horror is truly about. The collection is available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

The best of Modern Cosmic Horror Books

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe (1985)

Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe book cover (1985)

Thomas Ligotti’s debut short horror story collection Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe possibly made his career–he’s often spoken of in the same manner as authors such as Poe and Lovecraft, and has been referred to as “horror incarnate.” Ligotti never seems to have to try to make his stories work, they take on settings that immediately put the reader into a mood where horror is inescapable without being presumptuous or predictable.

Ligotti’s style is singular and everything he has put into this particular anthology is wholly worth the time to read. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

Songs of a Dead Dreamer
  • Dreams for Sleepwalkers
    • The Frolic
    • Les Fleurs
    • Alice’s Last Adventure
    • Dream of a Manikin
    • The Nyctalops Trilogy:
      • The Chymist
      • Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes
      • Eye of the Lynx
    • Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story
  • Dreams for Insomniacs
    • The Christmas Eves for Aunt Elise
    • The Lost Art of Twilight
    • The Troubles of Dr. Thoss
    • Masquerade of a Dead Sword: A Tragedie
    • Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech
    • Professor Nobody’s Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror
  • Dreams for the Dead
    • Dr. Locrian’s Asylum
    • The Sect of the Idiot
    • The Greater Festival of Masks
    • The Music of the Moon
    • The Journal of J.P. Drapeau
    • Vastarien
Grimscribe
  • The Voice of the Damned
    • The Last Feast of Harlequin
    • The Spectacles in the Drawer
    • Flowers of the Abyss
    • Nethescurial
  • The Voice of the Demon
    • The Night School
    • The Glamour
  • The Voice of the Child
    • The Library of Byzantium
    • Miss Plarr
  • The Voice of Our Name
    • The Shadow at the Bottom of the World
The Imago Sequence and Other Stories book cover(2007)

Laird Barron’s first short story collection The Imago Sequence and Other Stories set a precedent for the rest of his career; what could be expected from him in his other works really was set up with this collection. The fact that it received the Shirley Jackson Award for best collection was not even the most wondrous part of this particular body of work–Barron has an ability to create an image within the reader’s mind that is unlike any other author. He has been compared to the likes of Stephen King, but with the advantage of making his details count for more than just words towards an ultimate goal. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • Old Virginia (2003)
  • Shiva, Open Your Eye (2001)
  • Procession of the Black Sloth (2007)
  • Bulldozer (2004)
  • Proboscis (2005)
  • Hallucigenia (2006)
  • Parallax (2005)
  • The Royal Zoo Is Closed (2006)
  • The Imago Sequence (2005)

White is For Witching (2009)

White is For Witching book cover (2005)

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is For Witching reads almost like a journal, which has always given the reader less of a feeling that they’re getting the full picture. Why look at the forest when you can see the trees more clearly? In truth, focusing on the details from a personal perspective often leaves much more to the imagination and that is a huge part of weird fiction and cosmic horror.

When you don’t know what is going on outside of the perspective of the narrator, it leaves you with a sense of emptiness–what is happening beyond their ideal truth? Available on Amazon here.

Cthulhu’s Reign (2010)

Cthulhu's Reign book cover(2010)

Another anthology designed to pay tribute to the father of cosmic horror, this collection of short stories gives a more complete image of what would happen once the old ones have taken over the world as we know it–when humans are no longer the dominant force on the Earth and when we can no longer rely on what we have become accustomed to.

What kind of horror would we endure when the old ones take over the world? What would we be able to expect from an uncaring force of nature and could we really hate the force that overwhelms society as we know it when it is not maliciously ending our world, or would it simply be something that we fear beyond anything else? Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • The Walker in the Cemetery (2010) by Ian Watson
  • Sanctuary (2010) by Don Webb
  • Her Acres of Pastoral Playground (2010) by Mike Allen
  • Spherical Trigonometry (2010) by Ken Asamatsu
  • What Brings the Void (2010) by Will Murray
  • The New Pauline Corpus (2010) by Matt Cardin
  • Ghost Dancing (2010) by Darrell Schweitzer
  • This is How the World Ends (2010) by John R. Fultz
  • The Shallows (2010) by John Langan
  • Such Bright and Risen Madness in Our Names (2010) by Joseph E. Lake, Jr.
  • The Seals of New R’lyeh (2010) by Gregory Frost
  • The Holocaust of Ecstasy (2010) by Brian Stableford
  • Vastation (2010) by Laird Barron
  • Nothing Personal (2010) by Richard A. Lupoff
  • Remnants (2010) by Fred Chappell

The Croning (2012)

The Croning book cover(2012)

The Croning can be considered, without a doubt, the debut cosmic horror novel by Laird Barron–unlike his collection of short stories, The Imago Sequence and Other Stories, this is a full-length novel within the genre of cosmic horror.

We see cults, dark magic, and a plethora of other themes that are common fixtures of the genre and we can’t look away–we highly recommend this particular literary spectacle, it’s a novel that without which, this list would be incomplete. Available on Amazon here.

Dreams From the Witch House book cover(2016)

Dreams From the Witch House (2016)

This particular anthology, Dreams From the Witch House: Female Voices of Lovecraftian Horror, while honoring the origins of the genre is something different and singular. This anthology of short stories contains, as can be derived from the title, stories of cosmic horror that were written by female authors in the genre. Available on Amazon here.

What Stories Appear Within This Anthology?

  • Shadows of the Evening (1998) by Joyce Carol Oates
  • The Genesis Mausoleum (2015) by Colleen Douglas
  • The Woman in the Hill (2015) by Tamsyn Muir
  • The Face of Jarry (2015) by Cat Hellisen
  • Our Lady of Arsia Mons (2012) by Caitlín R. Kiernan
  • The Body Electric (2015) by Lucy Brady
  • The Child and the Night Gaunts (2015) by Marly Youmans
  • All Our Salt-Bottled Hearts (2015) by Sonya Taaffe
  • Every Hole in the Earth We Will Claim As Our Own (2015) by Gemma Files
  • But Only Because I Love You (2015) by Molly Tanzer
  • Cthulhu’s Mother (2015) by Kelda Crich
  • All Gods Great and Small (2015) by Karen Heuler
  • Dearest Daddy (2015) by Lois H. Gresh
  • Eye of the Beholder (2015) by Nancy Kilpatrick
  • Down at the Bottom of Everything (2015) by E.R. Knightsbridge
  • Spore (2015) by Amanda Downum
  • Pippa’s Crayons (2015) by Christine Morgan
  • The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward (2012) by Elizabeth Bear & Sarah Monette
  • From the Cold Dark Sea (2015) by Storm Constantine
  • Mnemeros (2015) by R.A. Kaelin

The Ballad of Black Tom (2016)

The Ballad of Black Tom Book cover (2016)

Victor LaValle grew up reading the horror stories that came from the life of H.P. Lovecraft, but it wasn’t until much later in his life that LaValle realized the excessive amounts of racism and agoraphobia that was present in Lovecraft’s body of work. As an African-American man, he used this eye-opening moment in his life to respond in kind, from one writer to another, by reinventing Lovecraft’s short story The Horror at Red Hook from the perspective of a black man.

LaValle’s re-imagining of this story was invigorating, riveting, and a triumph of creative responses to unacceptable biases–he succeeded in showing that Lovecraft’s work would have been even better had it not been rife with bigotry and bias for those who were not like Lovecraft. Available on Amazon here.

It’s important to understand that while we here at Puzzle Box Horror greatly appreciate the body of work that Lovecraft added to the horror genre, we recognize his biases and do not endorse them or agree with them. We were more than ecstatic when we found that there were actually literary responses to these particular issues and hope that such responses continue to appear within the literary community. Read the original story, by Lovecraft, that this novella was based off of, The Horror of Red Hook, then read Victor LaValle’s The Ballad of Black Tom.

Lovecraft Country book cover(2016)

Lovecraft Country (2016)

Following The Ballad of Black Tom, the novel Lovecraft Country also addresses the topic of racism within the context of Lovecraftian horror–this particular book has been adapted to screen recently and will soon be seen on HBO as a series–we certainly hope it will be as good as it looks, because the prospect of this one making it to infamy on screen makes us incredibly excited. The novel is available on Amazon here.

From executive producer Jordan Peele, we believe that this production will be worth every minute of time it takes to watch!

The Fisherman (2016)

The Fisherman book cover (2016)

Another from our list of best cosmic horror boos is The Fisherman. Described as a captivating read from beginning to end, John Langan’s The Fisherman gives us a dark, mysterious, fictional assertion of horror and cosmic fantasy. It follows the story of two widowers through their quiet and powerful story of loss and grief, by acknowledging the melancholy situation and the fact that things are never the same after the loss of a loved one. A definite addition to any cosmic horror novel list and one of the best out there. Available on Amazon here.

It would be a lie to say the time passes quickly. It never does, when you want it to.

What the Hell Did I Just Read (2017)

What the Hell Did I Just Read? book cover (2017)

The third installment in the trilogy that started with John Dies at the End (2007), was followed with This Book is Full of Spiders (2012) and finally What the Hell Did I Just Read (2017). This book is largely hinged upon the narrative–we live in a world where we largely base our opinions on the story that the narrator presents, but what happens when the narrator isn’t exactly the most trustworthy of sources? Does it change how we view the story? Do we realize before it’s too late that our entire perception has been incorrect? Available on Amazon here.

The true weird tale has something more than a secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains. An atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; a hint of that most terrible conception of the human brain—a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

H. P. Lovecraft

We’re curious to know what you thought about these best of cosmic horror books, novellas, and anthologies. Have you read anything that’s not listed here that fits the cosmic horror genre? We’re interested in reading it too, so leave us a comment and let us know!

Don’t feel like reading about cosmic horror? No problem, check out our list of recommended cosmic horror movies too.

The Best Horror Books About Urban Legends

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

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.

The Bizarre Horror Novel That Outsold Dracula

Categories
Featured Horror Books Horror Mystery and Lore

How ridiculous would it sound if I said that the infamous novel Dracula by Bram Stoker—yes, the guy that essentially created the foundation of what we think of when we envision vampires—was originally outsold six to one by a novel that you probably have never heard about?

Well, it’s true. Richard Marsh, author of The Beetle: A Mystery gave Stoker a run for his money in 1897, however, after his novel fell out of print in the sixties, Marsh’s novel has been all but forgotten.

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The Beetle (1897) by Richard Marsh

To put this in better context, most people know about Dracula even if they have never even heard of Bram Stoker’s novel. Since the novel’s initial publication, Dracula has become the benchmark for vampires within horror culture. With Gary Oldman’s 1992 depiction of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, or the most recently created Dracula Untold (2014) it’s clear that Dracula has been an influential character for over a century.

The character, with or without Stoker’s name attached, has made so many cameos throughout pop-culture that it might be near impossible to create a comprehensive list. Then again, unlike Marsh, Stoker had the good fortune to remain in print ever since its first publication in April of 1897.

After having read The Beetle: A Mystery (1897) I now know how strange this supernatural mystery-horror this novel truly is. A tale of possession, revenge and literal transformation, the author of this literary oddity was Richard Marsh—born Richard Bernard Heldmann—was actually more successful as a short story author throughout his career. That didn’t stop the fierce competition that this book posed for Stoker’s insanely popular novel. Now, I may have roused your interest on how, exactly, The Beetle: A Mystery is so bizarre? Well, I’ll give you a brief synopsis of it, but be warned, there may be spoilers if you haven’t read it and plan to.

The Beetle: A Mystery (1897)

This Victorian-era mystery is told from the perspective of four different characters; this aptly described motley crew of middle-class individuals find that they are the last hope for civilization when they discover that a shape-shifting monster has arrived in London from the East (specifically Egypt). Now, our ragtag group of gumshoes includes an actual detective by the name of Augustus Champnell, a man named Sidney Atherton, a forward-thinking young lady named Marjorie Lindon, and Robert Holt an out-of-work clerk who can’t seem to catch a break. This seductive, yet inhuman creature has its eye on a British politician by the name of Paul Lessingham (who happens to be the fiancé of Marjorie Lindon), but after enslaving Holt this creature decides to attack London society.

The story itself is presented as a series of elaborate testimonies gathered by Champnell himself, who gives the context of the creature’s motives as well as the status of the rest of the Londoners, who were involved in the adventure, after the fact.

It’s up to these four Londoners to solve this mystery and stop the monster from achieving its goal—but when they find that the monster is actually a gender-swapping female that can transform into a giant Scarab beetle (I mean that part is pretty obvious from the title, but still wtf!) they’re a little bit more than unsettled! The situation gets even more terrifying for our protagonists when they learn that this evil creature, which originated in Ancient Egyptian civilization, is actually a High Priestess of a cult that worships the goddess Isis and has been kidnapping and subsequently sacrificing white British women to her goddess. Now, this is all happening years after Lessingham had been vacationing in Egypt when the Beetle monster, in her female form, had hypnotized him and then forced him to live as her sex slave until he was finally able to break free. During his escape, he attacked the Beetle and fled for his life; as a result of their previous run-in, the Beetle came to England specifically to seek her revenge through torturing and kidnapping his fiancée Lindon and then finally, killing Lessingham.

Of course, our characters are all intertwined in solving this mystery and defeating the beetle, but instead, it turns to a chase in an effort to save the life of Lindon after she had been abducted by the Beetle. They end up catching up with the monster, just to find that Lindon and her captor had been in a trainwreck—while Lindon was found relatively unharmed, they only find scattered burnt rags and bloodstains where the creature should have been. Of course, this uncertain ending marks where Champnell decided that he had exhausted his investigation, but had high hopes that the Beetle will never return.

Final Thoughts on The Beetle: A Mystery

Marsh wrote this novel to be a sort of literary fake, describing the events from each of the narrator’s points of view as if it were based on true events and insinuating that names had been changed to protect the identities of those involved. Even the year in which the events occurred is left ambiguous, with the reference to it having happened in the year of 18— around June 2, on a Friday. It was initially released piece by piece over the course of several weeks then finally released as a full novel later in the year—think of this in terms of Edgar Allan Poe’s Great Balloon Hoax in the paper, or H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds radio theater broadcast. Marsh, at the time, was an extremely prolific short story author so this story served as a heightened form of entertainment for the era.

I have a few objections about this novel, despite the fact that I thought it was a good read; to me, this novel was a little xenophobic—in the sense of what comes from the “exotic” East is dangerous or evil. In contrast to that blatant xenophobic message, there is also a message that speaks against colonization—that warning of something bad happening when we trespass into the lands of others and assume to have any authority. This, in my opinion, is a strange stance for a Victorian-era author like Marsh to take, but this was written during England’s colonization of Egypt during the late 1800s and England wouldn’t end its occupation of Egypt until the early 1920s. It’s safe to say that fear of foreigners was fairly commonplace, but that is but one of the

This novel provides a general commentary that would have been accurate at the time, with its anxieties over gender and sexuality—both of which are still providing consternation from the more conservative people in society. It also addresses the panic that white people may have had (or still have) in regards to traveling to non-English speaking countries, in fear of their precious white bodies and in particular white women’s bodies would be harmed or taken advantage of by the so-called evil foreigners.

The Beetle: A Mystery was published in 1897, so it’s well within the public domain laws and can be read here, or you can purchase a physical copy here. If you’re interested in learning more about Bram Stoker and his novel Dracula, you can always take a look at our article dedicated to the topic.

Works Cited

Rutigliano, O. (2020, April 27). This is the weird horror novel that outsold Dracula in 1897. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://lithub.com/this-is-the-weird-horror-novel-that-outsold-dracula-in-1897/

Marsh, R. (2019). The Beetle: A mystery. Sweden: Timaios Press.

Tichelaar, T. (2018, October 25). Dracula’s Rival: The Beetle by Richard Marsh. Retrieved November 07, 2020, from https://thegothicwanderer.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/draculas-rival-the-beetle-by-richard-marsh/

The History of Psychological Horror

Categories
Best Of Featured Horror Books Scary Movies and Series

What’s scarier: a fabricated boogeyman, or the realistic pressures of paranoia, guilt, fear, and self-doubt gnawing at your very soul? When it comes to horror all scares are good scares, but when it comes to psychological horror the scares tend to hit closer to home. You may not have a den of devil worshipers trying to steal your baby, but as a parent you may fear for the safety of your child and the unknown dangers that could lurk around every corner. Oftentimes it’s the dreaded anticipation of something happening, rather than the actual thing itself, that is more alarming. 

Defining Psychological Horror

Psychological horror centers around the mental and emotional states of its characters, typically replacing actual physical monsters with psychological terrors instead (madness, paranoia, anxiety, guilt, and so on). And even when the story does contain monsters, it tends to keep these creatures shrouded in darkness so the focus is on subliminal rather than overt horror. In fact, the “monster” is often meant to function as a complex metaphor for the flaws of the character or society at large. The overall effect is an unsettling story that uses internal conflict to dig into the darker, underlying fears of the human psyche. 

Psychological Horror Origins and Development

Illustration from Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto showing a man and woman in a gothic castle hallway

Early gothic literature features mentally unstable protagonists and terrifying manifestations of guilt and fear, so it’s no surprise that much of the groundwork for today’s psychological horror was laid in the 18th century by popular gothic writers. Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and Matthew Lewis’ The Monk are all shining examples of gothic horror establishing and promoting an emphasis on psychological terror.

In the 19th century American authors such as Ambrose Bierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne were instrumental in continuing the fascination with psychological fear. Henry James is another standout author during the time period, whose 1898 novella The Turn of the Screw effectively blends supernatural frights with mental uncertainty. But perhaps no one did it better than Edgar Allan Poe. Pick a Poe story from a hat – from “The Black Cat” to “The Tell-Tale Heart” and beyond – and you’ll likely wind up with an unreliable narrator suffering through thick layers of paranoia, terror, and even mental disorders.

Psychological Horror Films and Books in the Postmodern Age

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Going into the 20th century, psychological horror gained an even larger audience and wider popularity in literature. One notable contributor to the genre during this time is Shirley Jackson, who became a household name with her disconcerting novels of distrust and paranoia such as The Bird’s Nest (1954), The Haunting of Hill House (1959), and We Have Always Lived in the Castle (1962). Then of course there’s Stephen King, who wrote breakout hits in pretty much every horror genre, but whose novels Carrie (1974), Misery (1987), Gerald’s Game (1992), and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordan (1999) in particular are known for their elements of psychological terror.

Jackson and King really helped propagate the genre, in the stories they wrote but also the numerous adaptations and spinoffs that they inspired. Other fan favorites from the 20th century include William Golding (Lord of the Flies), Robert Block (Psycho and American Gothic), and Thomas Harris (basically anything involving Hannibal Lector). This is also the time period when the “psychological thriller” rose in popularity, blurring the lines and making it more difficult to discern between the two overlapping genres. 

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari poster from 1920's

The 20th century is also when psychological horror was woven into newer forms of media as well, specifically in movies. One of the very first films that fits into this genre is the 1920 German expressionist piece The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with its unnatural architecture, foreboding mood, and unsettling discomfort. Moving forward in the decades, some standout films in American cinema include Repulsion (1965), Rosemary’s Baby (1968), The Shining (1980), The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Additionally, elements of psychological horror can also be found in the Italian genre of giallo and the Asian genres of “J-Horror” and “K-Horror” (all of which also have their American remakes, of course). 

Recent Examples of Psychological Horror

The 21st century has only seen an increase in popularity for the genre, as many notable creators seek to tell stories that not only disorient and unsettle, but that include relevant social commentary and complex metaphors as well. In the world of film Darren Aronofsky gave us Black Swan (2010) and mother! (2017), David Robert Mitchell made the subliminal hit It Follows (2014), Jordan Peele elevated the genre with Get Out (2017), and Robert Eggers continues to amaze with movies like The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019). Some newer authors who write in the vein of psychological horror are Josh Malerman, Brian Evenson, V.C. Andrews, Nick Cutter, and Mark Z. Danielewski. And of course there are plenty other examples; indeed far more than there is room for in this article. With these particular standard bearers and more, it is clear that the genre is in good hands.

The Lighthouse psychological horror film poster 2019

In Conclusion

The effectiveness of this horror genre lies in its ability to unnerve and disturb by getting inside your head and messing with your mind, Stories that stand on often shaky narrative ground sound risky, but in actuality this inability to discern fact from fiction (for the character and the audience) is quite effective in its ability to frighten. If you’re looking for a deeply unsettling scare that explores important societal issues while also making you question your very sanity, look no further than psychological horror.

Do you have a favorite book, film, or comic in the psychological horror genre? Let us know in the comments below!

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