Reading List: Haunted Houses

halloween-haunted-house-pictures-fine

I have set three ground rules for this list:

a. The horror is either supernatural or its precise nature is left open to interpretation – nothing clearly caused by people and their madness alone. This rules out works like A Rose for Emily, Northanger Abbey, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Great Expectations, and The Yellow Wallpaper.

b. The story has to take place in an actual house; no Castle of Otranto or The Shining.

c. The house is the main setting of the story and/or the horror in question is tied to the house in some way.

 

The Fall of the House of Usher (1839), Edgar Allan Poe

About the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity – an atmosphere which had no affinity with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn – a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible, and leaden-hue.

The House of Seven Gables (1851), Nathaniel Hawthorne

A dead man sits on all our judgment seats; and living judges do but search out and repeat his decisions. We read in dead men’s books! We laugh a dead men’s jokes, and cry at dead men’s pathos!

The Turn of the Screw (1898), Henry James

Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.

The Haunting of Hill House (1959), Shirley Jackson

No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

The Woman In Black (1983), Susan Hill

It was true that the ghastly sounds I had heard through the fog had greatly upset me but far worse was what emanated from and surrounded these things and arose to unsteady me, an atmosphere, a force – I do not exactly know what to call it – of evil and uncleanness, of terror and suffering, of malevolence and bitter anger.

House of Leaves (2000), Mark Z. Danielewski

The walls are endlessly bare. Nothing hangs on them, nothing defines them. They are without texture. Even to the keenest eye or most sentient fingertip, they remain unreadable. You will never find a mark there. No trace survives. The walls obliterate everything. They are permanently absolved of all record. Oblique, forever obscure and unwritten. Behold the pantheon of absence.

Coraline (2002), Neil Gaiman

“How do I know you’ll keep your word?” asked Coraline.
“I swear it,” said the other mother. “I swear it on my own mother’s grave.”
“Does she have a grave?” asked Coraline.
“Oh yes,” said the other mother. “I put her in there myself. And when I found her trying to crawl out, I put her back.”

White is for Witching (2009), Helen Oyeyemi

Why do people go to these places, these places that are not for them? It must be that they believe in their night vision. They believe themselves able to draw images up out of the dark. But black wells only yield black water.

The Little Stranger (2009), Sarah Waters

And perhaps there is a limit to the grieving that the human heart can do. As when one adds salt to a tumbler of water, there comes a point where simply no more will be absorbed.

Slade House (2015), David Mitchell – review here

Finally, I’ve reached the grandfather clock. Its face has no hands, only the words TIME IS, TIME WAS, TIME IS NOT. Highly metaphysical; deeply useless.


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