In the mood to feel chills run down your spine? You're not alone! October is the perfect month for embracing all things creepy, especially when it comes to films and books.
Sure, you can always turn to a classic Stephen King novel for some quality spooks, but there are other authors out there waiting to give you a few thrills. We've rounded up a handful of the most beloved horror novels out there that you might not have stumbled across. A word of advice: Consider reading them with the lights on...
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
This chaotic novel can really only be described as an unholy rollercoaster. A book within a book, House of Leaves details the strange story of a family who is struggling to repair their relationships by moving into a new home. However, this home is nothing like it seems from the outside. Something dark is stalking the halls, and it becomes clear that things are not as they should be. Monstrous noises, mysteriously changing doorways, and utter confusion begin to consume the family, as well as their defenseless minds. Told through a mashup of footnotes, appendices, and downright chilling typographical styles, this postmodern novel is one you won't soon forget.
“Any hope or fear that the experimental novel was an aberration of the twentieth century is dashed by the appearance of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, the first major experimental novel of the new millennium. And it’s a monster. Dazzling.” - The Washington Post Book World
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchinson
Far from civilization lies a beautiful mansion surrounded by an overflowing garden. There are blooming flowers, shady trees, and of course, a collection of precious "butterflies." However, these butterflies aren't what you'd imagine: they're young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble the delicate creatures. They're held prisoner by the Gardner, a man who is as twisted as he sounds. When the garden is discovered and a survivor is interrogated by the FBI, the story of the Butterfly Garden shifts and changes. Clearly, the butterflies have something to hide, but what is it?
Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
The setting? Chicago, 1954. The story? Atticus Turner, a young African American army veteran, cannot find his father, so he embarks on a road trip to New England to search for him. His Uncle George and childhood friend accompany him. When the group reaches the manor of Mr. Braithwhite, they discover the hidden terrors of a white America. Ruff blends magic and horror together to form a disturbing portrait of racism and the fear it still embodies today.
"At every turn, Ruff has great fun pitting mid-20th-century horror and sci-fi clichés against the banal and ever-present bigotry of the era. And at every turn, it is the bigotry that hums with the greater evil." - The New York Times Book Review - Manuel Gonzales
Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
When the body of a teenage boy is found in a Sweden suburb in 1981, rumors begin to spread that the poor boy was a victim of a ritual killing. However, twelve-year-old Oskar hopes that something else is at work. He's been bullied constantly at school, but maybe this time, revenge is coming for his tormentors. Despite his strong hopes, Oskar is soon distracted by the girl next door. A girl who can solve a Rubik's cube on her first try, who is exceedingly odd, and who only comes out in the dark of night... You might have seen the 2008 film adaptation of this novel, but we all know that books can surpass the creep factor in any movie.
“Sweden's Stephen King...a classic tale of horror.” -Tucson Citizen
The Passage by Justin Cronin
Within thirty-two minutes, the world as we know it ceases to exist. An unfathomable security breach takes place at a secret U.S. government facility, and the monstrous creation of a military experiment gets loose. The accident results in killings across the nation, and by the time the sun rises, the survivors are left to face a changed reality. Civilization crumbles, people turn on one another, and the horrors don't stop. No one is safe, and human endurance is put to the test like never before. Relentlessly suspenseful and deep, this inventive story will have you turning pages deep into the night.
"Addictive, terrifying, and deeply satisfying. Not only is this one of the year's best thrillers; it's one of the best of the past decade - maybe one of the best ever." - Men's Journal
We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
This unsettling novel takes place on a family estate with a dark history. Merricat Blackwood lives there with her sister and uncle, but there used to be more Blackwoods. The rest of their family was tragically poisoned by a sugar bowl full of arsenic years ago, and no one knows who was behind the terrible deed. When cousin Charles appears, Merricat realizes the danger is still real and that she must protect her family at all costs. We Have Always Lived in the Castle isn't your traditional horror novel, but it's deeply unnerving and perfect for those looking for a quick read.
"A marvelous elucidation of life… a story full of craft and full of mystery." - The New York Times Book Review
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle
A clever play on H.P. Lovecraft's "The Horror at Red Hook," this novella tells the story of Charles Thomas Tester. Charles works hard to house and feed his father in New York City, and he knows that working as a con artist has its pros and cons. He's good at masquerading as a musician on the street, but when he is approached by an eccentric character and asked to perform at a party, he has his suspicions. Charles begins a dangerous journey into a world of sorcery and danger, and he witnesses horrors he wishes he didn't have to recall. Full of social commentary, as well as controversial subjects and strong characters, this compelling novella has won the praise of many readers.
"Wonderfully creepy and impossible to put down, The Ballad of Black Tom is a genre-bending must-read." - BuzzFeed
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Victoria McQueen has always possessed the uncanny ability to find lost things. She's discovered everything from a misplaced bracelet to questions that probably shouldn't be answered. Charles Talent Manx, on the other hand, has always had a talent for dealing with children. He likes to pick them up in his Rolls-Rocdye Wraith with the NO24A2 license plate and take them to a playground he refers to as "Christmasland." When Victoria stumbles across Manx as a young child, she manages to escape. Years later, as an adult, she only wants to forget the horrific experience, but she'll always remember Charlie. Unfortunately for her, Charlie has never stopped thinking about Victoria, either.
"Like any good novel, no matter the genre, NOS4A2 zips down the streets of its mesmerizing storyline not just in the Wraith but also, and more importantly, on the backs of high-octane characters... Hill imbues the pitter-patter of little feet with a terror you won’t soon forget." - USA Today
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker
Clive Barker is well-known for his terrifying novels, and many readers agree that The Hellhound Heart is one of his best (as well as the most horrifying). The book was adapted as a film, but don't let that stop you from picking this one up. There are three main characters: Julia is getting married to Rory, but she's not all that happy about the path she's started down. Frank, Rory's brother, lives his life in search of endless pleasure and has a swell time doing it. Kristy, Rory's friend, has been in love with Rory for some time and must watch as he heads towards marriage with another woman. When Julia starts hearing voices upstairs, things start to get... weird. Twisted and dark, this horror novel will leave you sleeping with the lights on.
"Barker's the best thing to happen to horror fiction for many moons...[he] never fails to deliver the compelling prose and relentless horror his readers expect." - Chicago Tribune
The Graveyard by Neil Gaiman
Poor little Owens was the sole survivor of the grisly murder of his entire family. After the gruesome slaughter, he wanders into a graveyard where an assortment of ghosts and other supernatural creatures adopt him. Now, he's older and goes by the name "Bod." His life in the graveyard could even be considered normal by some if you paid no attention to the unnatural occupants. However, the graveyard isn't as safe as it seems, and Bod knows that if he ever leaves his creepy home, he'll be hunted by the man who brutally killed his family. Both magical and terrifying, this Gaiman novel will undoubtedly impress you.
"Like a bite of dark Halloween chocolate, this novel proves rich, bittersweet and very satisfying." - Washington Post
What's your favorite scary story? Leave other recommendations in the comments below!