Portals to Hell: The Best Recent Haunted House Novels in Honor of “The Craftening”

Yesterday, a real-estate listing went viral due to decorative flourishes so terrifying as to instill fear in the hearts of all sighted people. The house in question, located in tony part of Connecticut, is a sinister celebration of wood and fabric. (If you haven’t seen it already, click over to Zillow for more than 50 spine-tingling photographs.)


From left to right: creepy kitchen cabinets, likely scratched by demons’ claws; blood altar to the Tree God / gazebo; the music room, where the owners considerately left a piano out for ghosts who like to tinkle the ivories

When I saw this house, something compelled me to pay tribute in the only way I know how: by compiling a list of good books about houses with pernicious powers. Problem is, I could only think of two: House of Leaves (duh) and House of Holes. (While Nicholson Baker’s 2011 novel is technically erotica, it certainly gave me the heebie jeebies.)

So I asked Booklist’s resident horror expert Dan Kraus for his favorite recent haunted house books, which I’ve linked to their excerpted Booklist reviews below. Extra points if you read one of these in that Connecticut kitchen without getting devoured by Little Otik.

apartmentThe Apartment, by S. L. Grey

Mark and Steph weren’t injured in the break-in robbery of their Cape Town apartment—neither was their daughter, Hayden—but the resulting trauma is rotting their relationship from the inside. On a whim, they decide to use an apartment-swap website to spend a week, just the two of them, in Paris. But apartment 3B isn’t the cozy, charming getaway they were promised.

bliss-houseBliss House, by Laura Benedict

After the explosion at her St. Louis home—leaving her husband dead and her 14-year-old daughter, Ariel, disfigured—Rainey Adams wants a fresh start. So she buys Bliss House, her ancestral, nineteenth-century Virginia country home, despite its murderous reputation. Whoops.



heart-shaped-boxHeart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill

Aging rock god Jude Coyne is enjoying his semi-retirement as a recluse on his farm with his beloved dogs; his latest groupie-cum-girlfriend, Georgia; and a creepy hobby, collecting objets des macabres. Jude’s latest addition to his ghoulish collection is a ghost. The specter resides in an old-fashioned Sunday suit, and, once released from the titular heart-shaped box, begins a mission of revenge.

house-of-small-shadowsHouse of Small Shadows, by Adam Nevill

From the opening line’s echo of Manderley (“As if by a dream Catherine came to the Red House”), readers will find themselves in the sickly-sweet rotted-silk grip of a decaying gothic nightmare, in which a psychologically damaged antiques appraiser, Catherine, is summoned to the crumbling Victorian home of 93-year-old Edith, the surviving niece of an apparently gifted, though hermetic, puppeteer named M. H. Mason.


no-one-gets-out-aliveNo One Gets Out Alive, by Adam Nevill

This great big anvil of horror lands hard from the get-go, with 19-year-old Stephanie shuddering in a dank, dark bedroom while voices come from the walls, and plastic—the kind you might wrap a corpse in—crinkles from under the bed. It’s her first night at 82 Edgehill Road.

sudden-lightA Sudden Light, by Garth Stein

There’s more than one way to be haunted. A 14-year-old named Trevor uncovers the dark mysteries surrounding the mansion built by his great-great-grandfather, a timber baron in the Pacific Northwest. While Trevor’s father is ostensibly there to sell the property and position himself to save his faltering marriage, Trevor begins to suspect there’s a soul at the mansion determined to see it returned to nature.





About the Author:

Eugenia Williamson is the Associate Editor of Digital Products at Booklist. She worked in bookstores for twelve years, reviews books for The Boston Globe, and writes about books, culture, and politics for several other publications. Follow her on Twitter at @Booklist_Genie.

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