Personally, I’m always looking for a new list of books telling me what I simply must read next, especially this time of year. Horror can be kind of an obscure genre that tends to be hidden in mystery sections or paranormal and it can sometimes be hard to find true, terrifying, horror stories. Most often when you do manage to find a list it’s full of well-known titles (and especially anything and everything King, which I love, but I’m already well aware of everything he writes.) So in an attempt to write a list that I myself would love, here are some horror novels for all ages, and hopefully there’s a title or two you might not have heard about before.
I’ve been really shit at staying committed to a list lately but that hasn’t lessened my enjoyment in making them. I also look forward to October every year because I love to read (and watch) nothing but horror all month long. Last year I did far better with watching than reading so I’m hoping for a little balance this year and won’t be committing to quite as much so that I might actually manage to feel some sense of accomplishment. Fingers crossed at least. Here’s what’s on my radar for the month:
Christine by Stephen King | Next up in my goal of catching up on King’s massive backlist. The Anomaly (The Anomaly Files #1) by Michael Rutger | I’ve been intrigued by this one since it was compared to Indiana Jones meets the X-Files. Bunny by Mona Awad Ghoster by Jason Arnopp | I’ve been anxious for something new from this author since his whirlwind novel The Last Days of Jack Sparks. Kill Creek by Scott Thomas | The praise for this debut is coming up all over again now that Thomas’ sophomore novel is out.
Shows & Movies
The Exorcist | Nope, I’ve never actually seen it.
American Horror Story: 1984, Season 9 | I’m already a few episodes in and while it’s not my favorite season, it’s still fun.
The Ritual | This Netflix movie looks all sorts of creepy and it keeps getting recommended to me.
Bird Box | I was so excited about this but have yet to watch it.
Dark, Season 2 | I don’t think I’ve recommended a show more and I’d like to finally get around to Season 2.
After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.
So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London's top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.
What they discover will change everything.
But there's little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start - as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.
With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of 'the problem' will finally be revealed.
Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.
“It was a time of beginnings, and a time of endings.”
After the events of The Creeping Shadow, the group set off to prove the Skull’s story right: that Marissa Fitts hasn’t actually been laid to rest and she’s been posing as her granddaughter Penelope for years. As the title implies, they do indeed find an empty grave. How Marissa could possibly remain alive and looking as young as she does remains a mystery. The mystery of the empty grave isn’t the only thing occupying their time though. They’re battling the Fitts agency to remain in business when Marissa announces that all small agencies will be absorbed into one and they must also deal with a fairground haunted by La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy) who psychically enchain her victims after alluring them with her beauty. Never a dull moment with Lockwood & Co.
“We’ve worked wonders to get here, and we won’t panic now. If we’re right, there won’t be anything to worry about. If we’re wrong, we deal with it, as we always do. […] But we won’t be wrong. We’re on the verge of something big here. It’s going to be good!”
Kipps adjusted his goggles dolefully. “Since when has anything good happened in a crypt? It’s going to be bad by definition.”
It seems rare that a series possesses such a fantastic story in addition to a brilliant cast of characters. It always makes me cringe when books are constantly being compared to Harry Potter, but the friendship dynamic in Lockwood & Co. is certainly comparable. Of course, it also has that Ghostbusters/X-Files angle that sets it apart. Lockwood himself is quite the complex character with a growing death wish that comes to a peak in this final story. His dark backstory gets dealt out in small servings involving a sister that was ghost-touched at a young age and parents that both died under mysterious circumstances. We see all this through the eyes of Lucy and while the two have been developing an almost reluctant romance since the start of the series, it deserves mention that it never overwhelms the story itself or any of the supporting characters. I originally picked this series up because of my love for a good ghost story and while I’m not often scared by them these days, Stroud still manages to include lines that’ll leave tingles down your spine.
“Her jagged mouth opened in welcome; she was like a deep-sea fish swallowing her prey. As she hugged him close, blue veins of ice ran swiftly down his skin. [Name omitted] limbs jerked and thrashed; he tried to speak, but could only make a gargling sound as he was drawn back into the dark.”
Being that this is the series finale, there’s always the issue with wrapping up all loose ends. What happened to Lockwood’s parents? What caused the rampant increase in hauntings in recent years? How has Marissa Fitts managed to retain her youth for so long? Who is the skull in the jar and what will become of him? And of course, what will become of Lockwood & Co.? I’m notoriously displeased with the majority of series endings but I’m so relieved that this wasn’t the case with The Empty Grave since I’ve been a diehard fan from the very beginning. It retained the perfect balance of creepy and humor (with help in that department from Skull) and resolved unanswered questions without giving it that “and they all lived happily ever after” type of ending that I so dislike. I started Ominous October back in 2014 and The Screaming Staircase was one of the first books I posted about. It’s always heartbreaking to see an amazing story come to an end but I was so pleased to see these fantastic characters get the story they deserve. Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and even Kipps… but I’ll still miss Skull the most.
“These spirits are a bit showy,” the skull said. “All that hooting and cackling. You don’t see me doing that. I ask you, where’s the class?”
Lucy Acosta's mother died when she was three. Growing up in a Victorian mansion in the middle of the woods with her cold, distant father, she explored the dark hallways of the estate with her cousin, Margaret. They're inseparable—a family.
When her aunt Penelope, the only mother she's ever known, tragically disappears while walking in the woods surrounding their estate, Lucy finds herself devastated and alone. Margaret has been spending a lot of time in the attic. She claims she can hear her dead mother's voice whispering from the walls. Emotionally shut out by her father, Lucy watches helplessly as her cousin's sanity slowly unravels. But when she begins hearing voices herself, Lucy finds herself confronting an ancient and deadly legacy that has marked the women in her family for generations.
“The girl lives in a beautiful dollhouse made of stone, […] But underneath her shining plastic smile, there are only screams.”
Lucy Acosta lives in her family’s estate, home-schooled, with only her cousin Margaret for company. Her father is a constant absence but her Aunt Penelope is their main caretaker. After Walter, the cook, commits suicide, her Aunt Penelope walks into the woods and disappears without a trace, and Margaret says she’s hearing voices in the walls, Lucy has no one to turn to. Lucy’s hold on her mental stability is fragile and her answer to hardship is to sequester herself in her room with a razor. She begins to realize though that no one else seems to grasp the seriousness of the issues going on and that it’s up to her alone to battle whatever evil resides within her home.
With a blurb essentially guaranteeing you sleepless nights, the story unfortunately felt lifeless, causing the intended terror to be nothing more than a distant mirage. The characters appear as mere caricatures without any solid background development to help the reader feel sympathetic to their plight. The lack of backstory is an enormous issue too with a complete lack of “connecting dots” that are clearly meant to be make this story more mysterious but ends up just not making sense half the time. What seemed to be a Gothic Victorian period piece ended up being the modern equivalent when the slang being used (“That promise sure lasted a hot minute.”) and the random sprinkling of curse words were taken into account. I really wish I had more nice things to say about this because I was genuinely excited for this story, alas, I wasn’t impressed by much until the very end and by then it was merely too little, too late.
From the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel Poe comes an edgy and bone-chilling new novel.
When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he's the devil, she figures it's just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she's now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar "dead souls" - those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in...and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.
Imagine witnessing your boyfriend get into a taxi with another woman after he tells you he’s leaving town on a business trip. You head to the bar to get trashed only to end up unintentionally selling your soul to a man named Scratch, who also claims to be the devil, for a single wish. There’s also the matter of the future favor he’ll be calling in when you least expect it. Bad freaking night. Fiona Dunn is an atheist and doesn’t believe it’s at all impossible, but when clear evidence to the contrary rears its ugly head, she’s determined to find a way out of the deal. Once she discovers that there are far more “dead souls” than just her in Oakland, California, she winds up becoming a new member of a support group for all who continue to walk this Earth, minus a soul. But as time passes, the Devil starts calling in his favors, and they end up being far more horrifying than they ever would have anticipated.
Out of all the wishes Fiona could have made, she made the wish to be truly invisible, to be able to witness all the things she otherwise would have missed. In exchange, she gets a business card with the date she sold her soul burnt into it and a blank space below “Favor.” Once the Devil calls in his favor, instructions will appear and you won’t be able to say no. And this is the part where the otherwise mysterious tale turns dark and gruesome. Very, very dark and gruesome. It is suggested that the mass shootings and otherwise horrifyingly violent acts that have occurred in the past (and even hinting at current events) are nothing more than the Devil calling his favor, performing violent acts in his name. I specifically enjoyed how the author manages to make this story very much set in the real world yet incorporating the paranormal aspects in such a way to make it all seem scarily conceivable.
The story is written in first person which gives it that distressing sense of urgency as Fiona frantically tries to come up with a plan to give out of the disaster she finds herself in. The beginning of the story delves into Fiona’s career as a marketing executive and it’s not until later you realize how relevant it all is in the grand scheme of things. A marketing executive is akin to a salesman and Fiona is determined to sell her plan to the Devil, just as she were to sell an idea to a client, except this time her very soul is at stake.
More horrifying than terrifying, but still immensely satisfying. Fenn knocks it out of the park with this delightfully macabre tale of horror.
The phenomenal bestseller that inspired the classic motion picture, rereleased in this special 40th Anniversary Edition
Originally published in 1971, The Exorcist was not only a bestselling literary phenomenon, but one of the most frightening and controversial novels—and terrifying movies—ever created. Based on a documented case of demonic possession, it is the story of Regan, the twelve-year-old daughter of an accomplished actress who has become possessed by an ancient demon, and the Catholic priests—one elderly, the other conflicted—who will risk their faith and their souls to save her.
Four decades after its initial publication, William Peter Blatty's purposefully raw, profane, and utterly gripping novel remains a shocking and eerily believable literary experience. It is a powerful and frightening classic that continues to transfix and inspire fans worldwide.
“You don’t blame us for being here, do you? After all, we have no place to go. No home… Incidentally, what an excellent day for an exorcism…”
When Regan MacNeil, daughter of famous actress Chris MacNeil, becomes strangely ill, coming up with a reasonable explanation proves difficult. Chris’ original belief that this is caused by repressed anger over her divorce with Regan’s father because less likely as time progresses and Regan begins going through increasingly violent episodes and physical transformations as well. When modern medical treatments fail to provide any change in her daughter, Chris seeks out the help of a local priest by the name of Damien Karras. While Karras is also quick to disregard the notion that Regan could be possessed based on a personal crisis of faith, it becomes more and more clear that there’s nothing else it could possibly be. Blatty states that his idea for the novel came after reading an article which claims that a 14-year-old boy was successfully exorcised of the devil.
It might be obvious to say that this novel features heavy religious discussions and of the never-ending battle between good and evil. Even though I expected it, I felt it was done in a very maladroit way. Many horror novels I’ve read, and many of the classics I’ve recently read, tend to focus more on the actual horror. The Exorcist, I felt was attempting to be more literary and highbrow than was necessarily called for as well as overly excessive in terms of time spent instructing the reader in religious knowledge. For me, an air of mystery will cause more fright versus being explained the reasoning behind things in minute detail.
The actual horror of this novel was a lot more subdued than I anticipated. While I knew random bits of pop culture trivia even though I hadn’t seen the movie beforehand, the supposedly horrific aspects of this story were far more gross than scary. Particularly the scene where she vomits green stuff or where she does… bad things with a crucifix. Sure, it’s meant to be horrifying that she’s doing these actions unwillingly, and that it’s terrible it’s happening to a girl so young but it didn’t evoke any terror for me. Still, this was a definite “must-read” on the list of horror classics and I’ve successfully knocked it out. I should probably suck it up and watch the movie now. Knowing that her projectile green vomit was actually Andersen’s pea soup mixed with a little oatmeal will likely ease any potential terror. 🙂
As a massive outbreak of supernatural Visitors baffles Scotland Yard and causes protests throughout London, Lockwood & Co. continue to demonstrate their effectiveness in exterminating spirits. Anthony Lockwood is dashing, George insightful, and Lucy dynamic, while the skull in the jar utters sardonic advice from the sidelines. There is a new spirit of openness in the team now that Lockwood has shared some of his childhood secrets, and Lucy is feeling more and more as if her true home is at Portland Row. It comes as a great shock, then, when Lockwood and George introduce her to an annoyingly perky and hyper-efficient new assistant, Holly Munro.
Meanwhile, there are reports of many new hauntings, including a house where bloody footprints are appearing, and a department store full of strange sounds and shadowy figures. But ghosts seem to be the least of Lockwood & Co.'s concerns when assassins attack during a carnival in the center of the city. Can the team get past their personal issues to save the day on all fronts, or will bad feelings attract yet more trouble?
Danger abounds, tensions escalate, and new loyalties form in this third delightfully terrifying adventure in the critically acclaimed Lockwood & Co. series.
The trio are at the top of their game and their camaraderie has never been better, so it comes as quite a disappointment when Lucy arrives home one day to find the boys have added a new member to the team: Holly Munro. On top of dealing with the new member of the team, Lucy is struggling to come to terms with her developing powers of being able to communicate with spirits and is torn between the desire to investigate them more and in keeping herself and her team safe. In addition to all that’s going on with the group, a recent surge of supernatural activity has all the psychic agencies in London joining together in the fight, including Lockwood & Co.
My adoration for this fantastic series continues and I dread the day when the trio grows up and subsequently loses their ghost hunting abilities. The Hollow Boy is once again another solid installment that continues some fantastic character building and even adds a new character to the mix. I’ve seen a lot of readers express displeasure in Lucy’s attitude towards Holly, calling her catty and petty, and while I also originally felt disappointed in the immediate girl-hate, I could also understand it. Lucy is upset at the immediate change the house undergoes with Holly’s presence as well as the immediate closeness Lockwood shows her. She’s understandably jealous which quickly puts the brakes on any closeness the two girls could share. Jealousy, while hard to control, is alas a fact of life. Holly’s presence managed to throw a proverbial wrench in the comfort and familiarity Lucy was just beginning to feel and I don’t think it was unreasonable for her immediate response not to be “Hi, you’re a girl and I’m a girl! We’re going to be the best of friends.” It is what it is and I don’t like Lucy any less because of it.
The aspect of these novels that has been most satisfying is just how creepy they can be. Stroud’s writing is on point and because the entire novel isn’t a creep-fest the sections that do terrify really sneak up on you making them all the more effective. The descriptive detailing is enough to sufficiently get under your skin. Here’s just a taste of what I’m talking about:
‘I watched that notch of darkness. I watched as something moved into it. It came from the right-hand side beyond the arch, a human figure crawling on all fours. Scarcely blacker than the blackness all around, it dragged itself along on knees and elbows with a series of slow, slow, jerking movements. Now and again it advanced in swift scuttles, as a hunting spider might…’
I think it’s quite possible the word scuttle makes anything terrifying. Nothing should scuttle. *shudders*
This series is quite the underrated gem possessing a fantastic set of characters (plus a talking skull that adds a layer of comedy to this haunted tale), an intriguing alternate reality of sorts, and a subtle horror that is woven throughout the story. The ending sets up much anticipation for the next installment and I for one will be eagerly awaiting it.
A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends domestic drama, psychological suspense, and a touch of modern horror, reminiscent of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, John Ajvide Lindqvist’s Let the Right One In, and Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House
The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.
To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality TV show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.
Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.
“I have to fill my head with something other than the ghosts.”
Fifteen years ago, 14-year-old Marjorie Barrett began to manifest signs of schizophrenia. Her parents, John and Sarah, took her to doctors and psychiatrists even though the financial burden was great since John was unemployed at the time. When the medication only seems to make her worse, her father who recently discovered religion, becomes convinced that Marjorie is possessed and enlists the help of a Catholic priest. The Barrett family also gains the interest of a producer interested in helping with their financial troubles by turning their domestic nightmare into a reality show. Marjorie’s little sister Merry was only 8-years-old and now fifteen years later she’s telling the whole sordid story of what truly happened.
In addition to the recollections of now 23-year-old Merry who is rehashing her childhood for the purpose of a non-fiction novel being written about her, we’re given posts by a blogger by the name of Karen Brissette who scrutinizes each and every aspect of the six-episode run of the simply named show The Possession. References to pop-culture are constant, comparing Marjorie’s actions to The Exorcist and various other movies of the same ilk. She makes many other valid points regarding the validity of Marjorie’s actions making you wonder if she’s simply following a script. Is she truly possessed? Is she actually mentally ill? Or is she simply a 14-year-old girl that is acting out for some unknown purpose? But the most interesting question of all is why this Karen Brissette is interested so much in this family in the first place.
With this story written not only through the eyes of an 8-year-old who immediately becomes an unreliable narrator, we’re given that additional overlying haze with everything being filmed. It’s difficult to differentiate between fact and fiction, who is mentally ill and who is simply acting. Your mind will constantly churn out possibilities to clear the overall ambiguity, but the veil won’t fall until the very end. Tremblay has constructed an intricately built story about simple truths and just how convoluted people can make them.
Do you wanna know a secret? Will you hold it close and dear? This will not be made apparent, But you and I are not alone in here.
Enter at your own Risk: The first ever Goosebumps.
Now with creepy bonus features!
11-year-old Josh and 12-year-old Amanda just moved into the oldest and weirdest house on the block--the two siblings think it might even be haunted! But of course, their parents don't believe them. You'll get used to it, they say. Go out and make some new friends.
But the creepy kids are not like anyone Josh and Amanda have ever met before. And when they take a shortcut through the cemetery one night, Josh and Amanda learn why.
Guess what time it is, guys? Time for a walk down memory lane. It’s October so naturally I’ve been immersing myself in all things scary and one night I was reminiscing about where my love of horror began and I started thinking about revisiting Goosebumps. Well, it happened. First off, do you realize the first Goosebumps came out in 1992?
No, it was not, thus making me feel officially fucking ancient I’ll tell you what. I love the idea of re-reading my childhood favorites, but what happens if its horrible? Your entire childhood becomes a lie, that’s what. But I had to take a chance, even though I took a chance on Stine last Ominous October and it didn’t exactly pay off so instead of reading his newer stuff I decided to go back to the very beginning. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all.
“It’s really dead around here, huh?” He chuckled. “Yeah. I guess you could say that.”
Welcome to Dead House is the very first in the original Goosebumps series (I don’t care what Amazon says trying to list this as #13 and Night of the Living Dummy as #1). It has all the makings of what scared me the most as a child and what still manages to freak me out still to this day: ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Josh and Amanda have just moved to a new town after their father received an old house from the will of a great-Uncle he never even knew existed. It’s a dark, creepy, and cold house but it’s huge and is a fantastic opportunity for their family. The kids aren’t sold. Amanda is constantly seeing things but keeps convincing herself that her mind is playing tricks on her. Her curtains move as if caught in a breeze even with the window closed and she hears footsteps in the hallway at night. But all of that is just her imagination running wild, right?
I can’t recall how long it took me to read these when I was a kid, but I ended up finishing this in a single night. It’s more of a novella for the mature reader, but it was certainly fun. While it didn’t exactly give me goosebumps because I’ve certainly read far scarier at this point in my life, it still managed to put a smile on my face taking that walk down memory lane and seeing once again what I loved so much about these when I was a kid.
The shocking true story of an American dream that turned into a nightmare beyond imagining...
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their new home on suburban Long Island. George and Kathleen Lutz knew that one year earlier, Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parents, brothers, and sisters in the house, but the property - complete with boathouse and swimming pool - and the price had been too good to pass up. Twenty-eight days later, the entire Lutz family fled in terror...
This is the spellbinding, bestselling true story that gripped the nation - the story of a house possessed by spirits, haunted by psychic phenomena too terrible to describe.
The Amityville Horror is said to be a work of non-fiction as it is the story of the Lutz family and the 28 days they spent in what was supposed to be their dream home. The house on 112 Ocean Avenue in Amityville, New York already had a bad name when the DeFeo family was murdered there by the oldest son, Ronald “Butch” DeFeo, Jr. in 1974. In his defense he claimed to have heard voices telling him to kill his family but he was instead diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences. He remains in prison to this day. There was never anything mentioned about paranormal activity, just a horrifying mass murder. Whether the act of the murders is what caused the issues the Lutz’s experienced is entirely up for debate. When the Lutz’s moved into the house on Ocean Avenue in late 1975, their troubles began immediately. George Lutz constantly suffered from a chill and spent the majority of his time feeding the fire. Kathleen Lutz felt a presence in the kitchen which laid an innocuous hand on her shoulder only to feel that presence again later which squeezed the air out of her so much that she passed out. The two state that their emotions would often get the best of them for no apparent reason which led them both beating their children which had never happened before. But that was only the first few days of their stay.
This is the second read for my scary book month of 2015 and I’m beginning to think the fear part of my brain is broken. Or maybe this just wasn’t that scary? Either way, this is always on the list of classic horror novels and has always been one I’ve wanted to read. But the strange occurrences that happened in the house would have been more terrifying to have actually lived it, to have felt the wrongness of the house, and that’s simply something that couldn’t have been conveyed through the page. The odd things that were actually visible (the strange, tiny red room or the weird ghosty pig) weren’t actually terrifying. Even the green goop that ran down the walls failed to horrify but what did horrify me was when George actually stuck his finger in it and proceeded to taste it. Because that’s what normal people do. Taste random shit running down their walls. For fucks sake.
I did make the mistake of reading this in bed, in the middle of the night, only stopping at a part where a character woke in the middle of the night to find some ghosty child touching her foot trying to wake her up. Suffice it to say I felt little fingers touching my feet all night. Other than freaking myself out by being a dumb dumb and reading it at night, I didn’t find this terrifying. It would have helped, maybe, if Anson had eased up on his use of the exclamation points whenever something ominous happened in order to be taken more seriously. While I’m not completely sold on whether or not this is indeed factual, it was still an entertaining story that makes you wonder about the history of your home and what could have possibly taken place within its walls.
Next up, I’ll be watching the classic movie. I just did this with Psycho (the Hitchcock version, not the one with Aragorn) and enjoyed the hell out of it. I may even have to watch the newer Amityville as well because 1. the trailer actually does look pretty damn terrifying and 2. other, various reasons. *shrugs*