There’s nothing quite like curling up with a good, creepy book on a dark night. So we’ve dived into the darkest corners, nooks, and crannies of our collective bookshelves to find some of the best creepy classic books for you to read. These books are perfect for reading when you’re looking for a little shiver down your spine.
Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.
In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.
Between 1841 and 1844, Edgar Allan Poe invented the genre of detective fiction with three mesmerizing stories of a young French eccentric named C. Auguste Dupin. Introducing to literature the concept of applying reason to solving crime, these tales brought Poe fame and fortune. Years later, Dorothy Sayers would describe “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” as “almost a complete manual of detective theory and practice.” Indeed, Poe’s short mysteries inspired the creation of countless literary sleuths, among them Sherlock Holmes. Today, the unique Dupin stories still stand out as utterly engrossing page-turners.
When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase a London house, he makes horrifying discoveries in his client’s castle. Soon afterwards, disturbing incidents unfold in England: a ship runs aground on the shores of Whitby, its crew vanished; beautiful Lucy Westenra slowly succumbs to a mysterious, wasting illness, her blood drained away; and the lunatic Renfield raves about the imminent arrival of his ‘master’. In the ensuing battle of wills between the sinister Count and a determined group of adversaries – led by the intrepid vampire hunter Abraham van Helsing – Bram Stoker created a masterpiece of the horror genre, probing into questions of identity, sanity and the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.
The Haunted Hotel is a clever combination of detective and ghost story set in Venice, a city of grim waterways, dark shadows and death. The action takes place in an ancient palazzo converted into a modern hotel that houses a grisly secret. The supernatural horror, relentless pace, tight narrative, and a doomed countess characterize and distinguish this powerful tale.
The classic story of a dangerous love triangle set in an 1890s Paris opera house.
Rumored to be haunted, the Palais Garnier opera house in nineteenth-century Paris is the setting for this story of a dangerous love triangle involving a young Swedish soprano, her mysterious “Phantom” tutor, and her childhood friend. When Carlotta, the lead soprano, takes ill and Christine Daaé’s understudy performance is a rousing success, Vicomte Raoul de Chagny falls in love with Christine. Meanwhile, her tutor, “the Angel of Music,” whom she believes has been sent by her deceased father, is also coveting Christine’s affections.
The Turn of the Screw tells of a nameless young governess sent to a country house to take charge of two orphans, Miles and Flora. Unsettled by a dark foreboding of menace within the house, she soon comes to believe that something malevolent is stalking the children in her care. But is the threat to her young charges really a malign and ghostly presence or something else entirely?
For those who still dream and remember, for those yet to experience the hypnotic power of its dark poetry, step inside. The show is about to begin. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show has come to Green Town, Illinois, to destroy every life touched by its strange and sinister mystery. The carnival rolls in sometime after midnight, ushering in Halloween a week early. A calliope’s shrill siren song beckons to all with a seductive promise of dreams and youth regained. Two boys will discover the secret of its smoke, mazes, and mirrors; two friends who will soon know all too well the heavy cost of wishes…and the stuff of nightmares.
Classic horror stories by one of the masters of the form. Full of bone-chilling tales, this collection includes The Birds, the basis for the Alfred Hitchcock film of the same title, and other creepy classics.
First published in 1959, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House has been hailed as a perfect work of unnerving terror. It is the story of four seekers who arrive at a notoriously unfriendly pile called Hill House: Dr. Montague, an occult scholar looking for solid evidence of a haunting; Theodora, his lighthearted assistant; Eleanor, a friendless, fragile young woman well acquainted with poltergeists; and Luke, the future heir of Hill House. At first, their stay seems destined to be merely a spooky encounter with inexplicable phenomena. But Hill House is gathering its powers–and soon it will choose one of them to make its own.
Ten people, each with something to hide and something to fear, are invited to a isolated mansion on Indian Island by a host who, surprisingly, fails to appear. On the island they are cut off from everything but each other and the inescapable shadows of their own past lives. One by one, the guests share the darkest secrets of their wicked pasts. And one by one, they die…
Which among them is the killer and will any of them survive?
In these powerful and elegant tales, Edith Wharton evokes moods of disquiet and darkness within her own era. In icy new England a fearsome double foreshadows the fate of a rich young man; a married farmer is bewitched by a dead girl; a ghostly bell saves a woman’s reputation. Brittany conjures ancient cruelties, Dorset witnesses a retrospective haunting and a New York club cushions an elderly aesthete as he tells of the ghastly eyes haunting his nights.
What do you think about this creepy classics book list?
Have you read any books from this list? Do you have any creepy classic books on your TBR? What is your favorite creepy classic novel or story?