The 7 Scariest Haunted Houses in Literature

If you are a fan of spooky stories, then you are familiar with the ghosts, the goblins and the monsters. But sometimes the scariest of characters are not the characters at all: they are hidden, the unseen things that go bump in the night. And sometimes, as in the seven books listed below, they are the settings themselves; the very places where we are supposed to feel safe and secure and protected from whatever lurks in the shadows outside. And in rarer cases still, the protagonists know the houses are unsafe, but enter them anyway. The reader, of course, is only along for the terrifying ride…right?


cover_the-haunting-of-hill-houseThe Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson is the queen of horror, packing her books with bold frights and even more insidious quiet details that really up the scare factor. Jackson’s genius shines in this story of four people investigating a so-called haunted house—it was written in 1959 and is still utterly terrifying.

Nightmare scale: 9 out of 10. (Keep on the lights on.)


cover_the-amityville-horrorThe Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The Lutz family thought it would be okay to move their young family into a house that had been the scene of a mass murder. They were wrong. In the short time that they occupied the house, the Lutzes, and others who spent time there, heard voices, noted disturbances and—perhaps most disturbingly—say that their five-year-old was visited by an unseen playmate named “Jodie.” Still creepy even if it isn’t true.

Nightmare scale: 7 out of 10. (9 if it truly is non-fiction.)


Cover_The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King

The Overlook Hotel is—and its inhabitants (and catchphrases) are now—iconic in the lexicon of horror lovers­­­, and for good reason. In the vacant hotel, Jack Torrance is slowly going insane, his son can see things (like those creepy harbinger-of-murder twins) and the snow just won’t stop falling. The only thing that could make this place scarier is if old murdery scenes kept playing out in the seemingly empty rooms. Oh, wait…

Nightmare scale: 10 out of 10. (Redrum.)


cover_the-fall-of-the-house-of-usher“The Fall of the House of Usher” by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe’s Gothic take on a doomed family and the house they live in may be short, but it packs a punch. Dark, sinister and endlessly creepy, the Ushers’ lives are figuratively crumbling as the house they have always lived in does so literally. With Poe’s masterful whispers of horror, this one will stay with you a long, long time.

Nightmare scale: 10 out of 10. (2 points for style.)


cover_psychoPsycho by Robert Bloch

To be fair, the house in this story is not truly the horrific part, but that looming, dark mansion with one upper bedroom lit up, the silhouette of “Mother” in a rocking chair…that is one house that gets no trick-or-treaters, I guarantee. Come to think of it, the Bates Motel sounds like a pretty terrifying place to spend the night, as well.

Nightmare scale: 8 out of 10. (4 for each property.)


cover_hell-houseHell House by Richard Matheson

Like Hill House, this story involves four people investigating the mysteries of a so-called haunted house, but this time the book is laced with gruesome details of the home’s past and grisly promises of what the home is still capable of. Matheson, incidentally, was also a writer for some of the scariest episodes of The Twilight Zone ever broadcast.

Nightmare scale: 7 out of 10. (Loses a few points for cheesy dialogue.)


cover_the-wolves-in-the-wallsThe Wolves in the Walls by Neil Gaiman

This is a book for children. I tried to read this to my children. They were scared. I was scared. There are wolves in the walls of Lucy’s house. They scratch to try to get out, and the only one who can hear them is Lucy. But they’re there. And now my kids don’t sleep. Thanks, Neil!

Nightmare scale: 10 literal nightmares.



So which haunted house would you dream of visiting this Halloween? Let us know!

    Karen Green

    Karen Green is a freelance writer and big city ex-pat now living in rural Ontario. She writes for numerous print and online publications, and considers her library card to be one of her most valuable possessions.

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

    One Response to “The 7 Scariest Haunted Houses in Literature”

    Leave a Reply

    XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

    Wait! Before You Leave…

    Sign up to receive the BookClubbish* newsletter, your one-stop hub for book news, recommendations and sweepstakes. Yes! I want to receive newsletters, special offers and other promotional emails from BookClubbish*

    *Harlequin Enterprises Limited (Bookclubbish) is located at Bay Adelaide Centre, East Tower, 22 Adelaide Street West, 41st Floor, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5H 4E3 and sends informational and promotional emails on behalf of itself and Harlequin Digital Sales Corporation. Subscribers can unsubscribe at any time.