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  • Writer's pictureEmily

Some favorite scary reads

Updated: Nov 7, 2022

Some old favorites from autumns past, in no particular order:

The Little Stranger

The House Next Door

The Haunting of Hill House

The Turn of the Key

The Turn of the Screw

The Dollhouse Murders

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I picked this up a random from a library when I needed an audiobook for a car trip. So, I thought it would be a good idea to drive through the night listening to a ghost story. I nearly went into a panic at one point. I thought I was going to have to pull over. Anyway, I really liked this book, but I don't recommend it for nighttime car rides. I've listened to it once and read it in print once. It's so good. I wasn't wild about the movie, but it was pretty good. I would probably have liked it better if I liked the book less.

The book is set in a huge old English country house, just after World War II. Things are changing for the country and the family who owns the house. The main character is a doctor whose mother worked in the house when he was a little boy. The place has always had a hold on him, so he's curious when he's called in for a sick servant, who claims that the place is haunted.

Really, really creepy. After reading this book, I was thinking about it for days.

Another random library pick was The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons. I'd never heard of it, but I pulled it off the shelf for some reason when I was shelving, and the cover said it was recommended by Stephen King. Man alive, this book freaked me out. I'd never heard of it somehow. I believe that it first came out in the 70s. It's creepy, and it's about a brand-new house that seems to be haunted, and the main character knows for a fact that no one ever lived on that property, so how is it haunted? There's soooo much going on in this book.

OK, this is obvious, but I think that there are still people who haven't read The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. To my mind, it's better than We Have Always Lived in the Castle. The big creepy house, the paranormal investigation, the young woman being slowly stifled to death by her awful life. Scary stuff! The old black-and-white movie is awesome as well, but the book (naturally) is better.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware really creeped me out, like lost sleep and jumping when someone walked into the room while I had the book open. The usual stuff: a young woman goes to live in a huge, creepy house in the middle of nowhere. I love to read it, but when I'm looking for a new place, I don't put a deposit down until I know how long it will take me to drive to work and if there's pizza delivery. But for ghost stories, yeah, go out there in the middle of nowhere, it's very entertaining. This story has a smart house adding another level of creeps. It's gooooood.

Another very basic choice: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. To be honest, the first time I read this, I wished for a drill to get through it. It isn't scary at first and boy is it wordy, but it's worth sticking with it. I actually haven't read it in awhile, but I've revisited it more than once. There's alot of Victorian horror at something that the previous servants were up to that is never described, so you have to wonder now if it was really awful or really not that bad. The neglectful uncle looks worse with every passing year... The first time I read it, I was gobsmacked at the end. I re-read the last page about three times, like, What WAS that?

I watched the Netflix movie (The Haunting of Bly Manor), and it's pretty good, but not very close to the book. The same treatment as The Haunting of Hill House. I liked the Hill House series better the second time I watched it, so I'll watch Bly again soon. I've read that Bly references other James ghost stories, so I want to read more from him.

An OLD favorite: The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright really messed with my head when I was a kid. A girl's aunt comes to live in her grandparents' old house, where she and the girl's dad had lived as kids, until the grandparents were murdered. There's a dollhouse replica of the house, with replica dolls of the girl, her brother (main character's dad), and their grandparents, and the dolls keep re-enacting the night of the murders. I think this book might actually freak me out now, thirty years later.

Not a comprehensive list of course, but that post would take forever.

Here's a pumpkin picture I took ten years back. Just because I can't get enough of this kind of thing in October :)

Please leave a comment if you loved any of these books! I'd love to compare notes.

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