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11 Sinister Haunted House Stories for Fans of Shirley Jackson

by  | September 17
The Hollow Places set on a tree branch

The fall chill in the air is getting us pumped for Halloween. We’re preparing by watching spooky movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and counting down until The Haunting of Bly Manor premieres on Netflix on October 9. If you’re like us, you’re going to want to pick up a copy of T. Kingfisher’s The Hollow Places. When a young woman discovers a strange portal in her uncle’s house, she ventures inside, finding alternate realities and sinister creatures that seem to hear her thoughts. And if that description isn’t enough to give you major chills, check out author T. Kingfisher’s recommendations for even more haunted house stories that’ll get you in the Halloween mood in no time.


I’m going to make a confession right here at the beginning—I didn’t actually like any of the characters in Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. This may not make me the best person to, say, write an essay about characterization in the works of Shirley Jackson, but it does mean that I spent the whole book rooting for Hill House to devour them all. (What, are you telling me that Hill House wasn’t the hero? No! I won’t believe it. That house had style.)

As a horror author, let me tell you, I dearly love a creepy house.

Your house is your home. It’s where you go to escape salespeople and stormy weather and bears. It’s a refuge from the outside world. When someone invades your home, it’s terrifying. There’s a reason that “the call is coming from inside the house” has become a cliché of slasher horror. But when the house itself is out to get you? That’s when things get really bad.

If you, like me, enjoy a read where the architecture is evil and the halls are alive with the sound of malice, then here are a bunch of my personal favorites, for when merely mortal antagonists aren’t enough.…

The Shining

The Shining

by Stephen King

Okay, okay, obviously this one is a classic. But it’s a classic for a reason. The Overlook Hotel is one of the great-granddaddies of haunted houses, a place that can reach into the minds of those within it and begin to twist them to its own ends. Also, bonus points for genuinely alarming topiary.

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Firefly Rain

Firefly Rain

by Richard Dansky

If there was justice in the universe, this book would have been a cult classic. Fireflies avoid the house that Jacob Logan inherits from his parents, and die if they’re brought over the property line. But this is only one of the terrors in the isolated house that Logan finds himself trapped in, a house that has never quite forgiven him for leaving.

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The Red Tree

The Red Tree

by Caitlin R. Kiernan

We could argue that the titular tree is the real evil force here, but the New England house where the narrator stays while the tree works on her already unstable mind is a marvelous character all by itself. Narrated from a found manuscript, the grinding dread of the situation grows even as the narrator descends deeper into unreliability, in a stifling, claustrophobic read by Kiernan.

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Rose Daughter

Rose Daughter

by Robin McKinley

This may seem like a strange addition to this list, because this isn’t a horror novel. It is a rather sweet fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast. But like most fairy tales, there’s something dark and toothy at the bottom of it. This Beast’s castle has no singing furniture, but it is full of doors that open by themselves and staircases that twist to confuse the climber, and which may only be pretending to be under the Beast’s control.

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14

14

by Peter Klines

This isn’t just a creepy house, it’s a whole creepy apartment building. There are cockroaches with extra legs, locked doors, strange machinery, and skeletons in the walls. As the tenants try desperately to figure out what is going on inside the building, it turns out that the old brownstone is holding secrets that could destroy…well…everything. This one is less gnawing psychological horror than madcap Lovecraftian adventure, and it’s a whopper.

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Mexican Gothic

Mexican Gothic

by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Some clever soul once said that a gothic novel is about the relationship between a woman and a house, and this certainly holds true for the newly published Mexican Gothic. And what a house of nightmares it is. High Place, in a dying mining town, is inhabited by a family of aristocrats who hold a secret so disturbing that you’ll wish the house was merely haunted. The writing is crisp and vivid and the setting is fantastically horrific.

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The Haunting of Ashburn House

The Haunting of Ashburn House

by Darcy Coates

Darcy Coates has made a whole career out of haunted houses, and I particularly enjoyed this one, not least of which because the cat lives. (I feel strongly that all books with animals in peril should get a similar disclaimer.) Creepy messages carved into the walls? Check. Disturbing things in the mirror? Check. Hidden grave in the woods? Check. Heroine who is not about to let a monster eat her cat? Oh hell yeah, check.

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The Women in the Walls

The Women in the Walls

by Amy Lukavics

A YA entry for the list, proving yet again that YA can be just as horrifying as anything written for adults. Lucy’s cousin is growing stranger and stranger, claiming that she hears the voice of her dead mother whispering to her from the walls of the Victorian mansion they share. Lucy thinks her cousin is going slowly mad, until she starts to hear the voices herself, and to realize that the women of her family have been caught up in something dark and strange for many generations.

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House of Leaves

House of Leaves

by Mark Z. Danielewski

Apparently trying to put this entry upside down and sideways or mirror-imaged would mess with screen readers, but I promise that I wanted to. This is one of the great surreal masterpieces about creepy houses. I can’t explain it. Reading it is a complicated experience, like a nightmare that you don’t quite want to wake up from because it’s just so interesting seeing what happens next.

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Nothing But Blackened Teeth

Nothing But Blackened Teeth

by Cassandra Khaw

I once described this book as “elegant and squishy.” I stand by this depiction. Friends visiting a haunted house on a lark that turns dead serious is a horror staple, but this incredible Japanese mansion is so vividly drawn that I kept rereading lines for their amazing imagery, even as I wanted to turn the page to see what happened next. Gore and rot and pageantry and painted screens—everything you didn’t know you wanted in a creepy house.

Nothing But Blackened Teeth comes out in 2021. Find out more details here!

The Hollow Places

The Hollow Places

by T. Kingfisher

Check out T. Kingfisher's The Hollow Places for another horror novel perfect for The Haunting of Bly Manor fans!

Pray they are hungry.

Kara finds the words in the mysterious bunker that she’s discovered behind a hole in the wall of her uncle’s house. Freshly divorced and living back at home, Kara now becomes obsessed with these cryptic words and starts exploring this peculiar area—only to discover that it holds portals to countless alternate realities. But these places are haunted by creatures that seem to hear thoughts…and the more one fears them, the stronger they become.

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T. Kingfisher, also known as Ursula Vernon, is the author and illustrator of many projects, including the webcomic “Digger,” which won the Hugo Award for Best Graphic Story and the Mythopoeic Award. Her novelette “The Tomato Thief” won the Hugo Award for Best Novelette, and her short story “Jackalope Wives” won the Nebula Award for Best Story. She is also the author of the bestselling Dragonbreath, and the Hamster Princess series of books for children. Find her online at RedWombatStudio.com.