Updated: Mar 10
Post by: Jessica
I have said it once before that the origins for my love of the horror genre come from literature. This is no different with my fascination with haunted houses but do I ever want to find myself trapped in one? The curious adventurous side of me wants to and I have a few stories as a child of exploring rundown houses, that in my mind I believed were haunted. Oh, that overactive child imagination of mine. However, the side of me that is a large scaredy cat as always says “F That!” and goes the other way. I have a quite a few fun stories of my adulthood experience of trying to enter into haunted house attractions around Halloween but I will talk about those at the end of the month. So since I have become less brave as an adult, I get my haunted house fix from movies and books but even then, those can be just a scary.
Haunted houses are used quite often in horror literature as a plot point. Where the story itself is built around a decaying home and provide the perfect set piece to scare the reader as they move through the main plot. The origin of the haunted house in literary works can be traced back to 1764 with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto, where the castle in which the plots plays out has all the trappings that a haunted castle would have: secret passages ways, bleeding statues, and unexplained noises. In the Victorian era, there was the fascination with spiritualism and haunted houses came with stories of homes being haunted by specters of those who passed from tragic circumstances that heavily influence the plot. The setting of a haunted house lends to give good Gothic tale credence.
A home is supposed to be considered a safe and warm place for individuals to find sanctuary from the day to day facets of life. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is strange sounds, random colds spots and something messing with the lights or furniture. I would be sageing the fuck out of my home if it came to that. For anyone who knows and is close to me, my home is my safe place and unless something is there to enrich my space, I would prefer it not to be haunted. However, I am completely fine with reading about ones late at night curled up under a blanket and surrounded by my feline horde.
Here is a short list of some of my favourite haunted house novels I have read:
"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1845) by Edgar Allan Poe
This short story by Poe includes the themes of madness, family, isolation and metaphysical identities all located in a home that is believed to be a haunted place. Our protagonist Roderick Usher believes his fate is connected to the family mansion and this what occurs in it or to it impacts his life. Not only is this a beautiful story, but the film adaption of it with Vincent Price is wonderful to watch.
The Haunting of Hill House (1959) by Shirley Jackson
Everyone is talking about this novel since the Netflix series that is loosely based on it aired October 2018. This gothic horror novel is about group individuals who arrive at Hill House under the guidance of occult Scholar Dr. Montague. While there to study experience of the paranormal the group learns more about complex relations and mysterious events that surround Hill House. This is truly a fine haunted house story and one I recommend everyone read at least once.
Hell House (1971) by Richard Matheson
It had been a while since I read a haunted house novel that truly unnerved me but when I read this one a few years back I had trouble sleeping. (Note: Do not read this novel before going to bed at night). Rolf Rudolph Deutsch is going to die. He is a wealthy magazine and newspaper publisher. He then starts thinking seriously about his impending death and he offers to pay a physicist and two mediums, one physical and one mental, $100,000 each to establish the facts of life after death. Dr. Lionel Barrett, the physicist, accompanied by the mediums, travel to the Belasco House in Maine, which has been abandoned and sealed since 1949 after a decade of drug addiction, alcoholism, and debauchery. For one night, Barrett and his colleagues investigate the Belasco House and learn exactly why the town folks\ refer to it as the Hell House.
'Salem's Lot (1975) by Stephen King
I know. You are probably wondering Salem’s Lot? Isn’t this all about vampires taking over a small town? Well, it is! But this wonderful tale introduces us the abandoned Marsten House. A house that had been the obsession of writer Ben Mears and becomes the center point of evil attracting evil.
The Shining (1977) by Stephen King
This classic King novel focuses around the Torrence family acting as off-season caretakers in the historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies. Their son Danny possesses an array of physic abilities that allow him to see the hotels horrific past. With the family being isolated and snowed in by a winter storm, the supernatural forces in the hotel begin to influence Jack and test his sanity. This may be a hefty novel but it is definitely one worth reading.
The Amityville Horror (1977) by Jay Anson
There has been so much written about the house in Amityville where Ronald Defeo Jr killed six members of his family on November 13, 1974. This novel is supposedly based on the paranormal experience the Lutz family experienced when they moved into the home. The haunting of this home is still hotly debated. However, it is a terrifying read nonetheless.
These are just some of my favourite horror novels that use the haunted house as a starting off or major plot point in their narrative. Check them out!