There’s finally a chill in the air; dead leaves are deserting their branches, and the undead have come out to play. Haunted houses are popping up in abandoned Burger Kings everywhere, and they’re charging egregious sums (like firstborn children or kidneys) for tours. If, like me, you have trouble crossing the threshold of these so-called shriek shacks without extreme coercion and/or bribery, but are more than willing to visit one from the comfort of your beanbag chair, then you need to consult our list. Whether your taste runs modern or classic, literature is brimming with some pretty terrifying imaginings—and plenty of bone-chilling, eerie abodes. And when your cold sweat (or, what I like to call “a hot chocolate refill”) requires you to take a break, you can always find your favorite kitty bookmark and take five with an episode of Golden Girls until you’ve composed yourself. Try doing that with a maniacal clown chasing after you with a bloody pickaxe.
House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski and Johnny Truant
Before they can even finish unpacking at their new home on Ash Tree Lane, the house turns on the Navidson family. Deeply unsettling—and compulsively readable—this complex story is a modern cult classic, and once you peel back the narrative layers you’ll understand why.
Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier
From the very first, it is clear that Manderley is everything a spooky mansion should be—drafty, ominous, overrun by a malicious housekeeper, and held in the icy grip of a long-dead woman—the first Mrs. Maxim De Winter. DuMaurier deftly blurs the line between dreams and reality in this haunting, unforgettable tale.
The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole
Characterized by its elaborate narrative frame, grotesque details, and macabre plot, this is the quintessential Gothic novel—and its success helped launch an entire genre. With each reading, the revelations will become more compelling and the labyrinthine passageways more confining—make time for it every Hallow’s Eve.
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Even after nearly 60 years, Hill House is unparalleled—it’s one of the most terrifying mansions in literature. When an unlikely foursome visits the rundown house on an ominous night, it quickly becomes clear that, with each turn of the page, the house is becoming more powerful, and one of the intruders is not going to make it out alive.
The Amityville Horror, by Jay Anson
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved to their quaint new Long Island home with big dreams and no reservations. By January, however, they were gone. This is the story of a house that can only be possessed by demons—never by people—and if you’ve never read it, you need to start it tonight!
Hell House, by Richard Matheson
Many have tried to uncover the mysteries of Belasco House, but their quests have all ended in one grisly manner or another—death, insanity, or debilitating paranoia. Four more people make an attempt at the outset of this novel, and pure terror awaits.
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
While Thornfield Hall isn’t possessed by unclean spirits, there is a madwoman in the attic who is determined to drive her housemates to a level of insanity commensurate with her own. This is one of the most famous novels ever written, and scholars appreciate it on a multitude of levels. I want you to read it once again, just for Thornfield Hall’s sake, and tell me whether you’d want to visit it on a dark and stormy night.