Chloe Allen

Chloe Allen

Our Digital Marketing Executive Chloe is in charge of our e-newsletter. There's no one better placed to inform and delight you every month, so keep your eyes peeled for her newsletter hitting an email inbox near you soon.

Read time of 4 minutes.

With Halloween around the corner, we’re definitely heading into spooky season. But dressing up and having a horror film-fest aren’t the only ways to get into the spirit of things. 

We’ve put together a list of some absolutely hair-raising stories for you to enjoy. But be warned, we wouldn’t recommend getting absorbed in these pages before bed…or when you’re in the house alone.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1898)

The first book on our list may better be known for its 1961 film adaptation, but this gothic horror novella has endured the years for a reason.

The story of a governess employed to look after two orphaned children in a lonely country estate might remind some of Jane Eyre, but the presence of two ghostly figures makes it a lot more unsettling than the earlier work.

Is the house truly haunted by former employees of the family? Or is this really a tale of a woman slowly losing her mind in an unfamiliar place and projecting her fears on her innocent charges?

While the author wrote this as a classic ghost story, modern interpretation leaves you to make up your own mind as to whether the threat is supernatural, or psychological in nature.

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975) 

You might have expected King’s better-known IT to top the list here and it’s certainly a contender (we would not want Pennywise the Clown to follow us into nightmares), but something about Salem’s Lot continues to unnerve long after turning the last page.

The best horror stories reflect our own primal fears and this story of a rural American town slowly overrun by a cult of vampires is rooted deeply in the American psyche at the time – and the growing fear of central intelligence agencies (think the White House tapes) invading normal lives.

It’s also, hands down, been called one of the most terrifyingly written books one of our staff has ever read.

A sort of Dracula for the modern age, this is one that’s sure to send tingles of fear down your spine.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (1959)

Lauded as one of the best-written ghost stories of the 20th century, The Haunting of Hill House is bound to keep you up at night.

Just how much of the strange phenomena four strangers experience at Hill House down to the supernatural, and how much is Eleanor’s imagination? Whose hand is she really holding in that locked dark room?

We love a tale where a haunted house has a presence of its own – a presence so strong it almost becomes a character in its own right. And Hill House certainly asserts its murderous will by the close of the novel.

So much of the scare here is in the unseen and the uncertain, so if you’re after jump-scares this may not be the one for you. However, nothing can beat Jackson’s great skill in portraying a growing, creeping sense of unease.

Haunted house at night

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (2000)

You may not have heard of Danielewski’s debut novel, but it’s considered something of a cult classic these days.

Presented as a story within a story, we learn about the Navidson family who discover their newly bought house hides a larger-on-the-inside labyrinth, ever expanding and shifting shape – and that people can disappear forever inside its walls.

At once claustrophobic and agoraphobic, Danielewski’s novel is presented as an unreliable record, with missing pages, unverified footnotes and built in contradictions between the differing narrators.

Uncomfortable and deeply unsettling, we’re left questioning what exactly unseen force is prowling the expanding maze – and which of the unreliable narrators can be trusted.

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (1983)

Desolate manor house? Unexplained noises and chilling events? A lone figure shrouded in black haunting a terrified village? Check, check and CHECK.

The Woman in Black might be one of the most terrifying books on this list. The portrayal of a furious, vengeful spirit of a grieving mother terrorising Eel Marsh House and the local village is so vivid that you’ll be looking over your shoulder long after you’ve finished reading.

All the best ghost stories are born from tragedy and as this gothic horror proves, some of them end that way too.

Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin (1967)

Like many famous horror films, this one started life in book form first. If you love stories of satanist cults, ominous pregnancies and gaslighting husbands, this is one for you.

Part thriller, part horror, Rosemary’s Baby blurs the boundaries between female hysteria and the supernatural. Is Rosemary right that there’s something amiss with her pregnancy and the nosy neighbours in her apartment building?

Or is she simply imagining things as her husband insists?

This novel has been so influential on horror that we still see it in new stories, recent examples including two different seasons of popular HBO show American Horror Story and 2020 miniseries The Expecting.

The Collectors by Philip Pullman (2015)

You may or may not be familiar with Pullman’s best-known work, a trilogy of books collectively known as His Dark Materials. This short story is set in the same fictional universe, but you don’t need to be familiar with that earlier work to fully appreciate the underlying horror in this one.

In the course of a few short pages we’re treated to art theft, poisoning and murder within the halls of ancient Oxford College, all tied to a mysterious painting of a beautiful woman and a repugnant statue of a golden monkey.

The painting and statue might be sold separately, but always end up together in the same collection. And the collectors themselves seem to end up suddenly and violently dead.

Spooky? We think so. There’s something to be said about a possibly haunted painting and the string of unexplained deaths following it.


Looking for more Halloween inspiration?