10 Chilling Horror Novels to Read This October
Updated: Oct 21, 2022
It’s a Saturday night and you’re home alone, with only the flickering screen of the television for comfort. Darkness settled not long ago; long shadows curl against the walls, seeking out and swallowing the faint remnants of light. You try to ignore the growing sensation that someone’s watching you, but it’s hard. Every time you turn your head you catch a glimpse of movement through the crack in the closed curtains, hear the faintest ghost of laughter from somewhere within your home. Your feet twitch to go investigate but you keep still, fingers hooked into the arms of the sofa as though it’s your lifeline. You don’t dare look in the mirror on the wall, fearing what twisted face will mock your own, and so you keep your eyes firmly fixated on the television screen. In the gathering shadows of the ceiling, your brain concocts the image of a being, hanging upside down. You don’t glance to see if it’s just a trick. There's a chilling, mounting sense of dread that makes you think if you do look, it'll drop down onto you.
The shadow creature coils on the ceiling like a mass of snakes. Once. Twice.
Then it falls.
What is horror fiction?
Horror novels have long been defined as a story with the focus on creating a feeling of fear within the reader, as I hope the above paragraph did. It has deep ancient origins, with roots in religious traditions and folklore centring on death, evil, the demonic, and the afterlife, to name a few. Horror is sometimes divided into the following:
Psychological horror. This has a focus on mental, emotional, and psychological states to frighten or disturb the reader.
Supernatural horror. Supernatural occurrences in these novels include ghosts and demons, and may or may not have elements of religion.
As we are now well into the midst of spooky season, I thought I would craft a list of the best classic and new horror novels to satisfy your thirst for the dark, the mysterious, and the deadly. The horror novel that never fails to leave a chill down your spine could have terrifying clowns or flesh-eating plagues, haunting psychological mind games or the classic demonic possession – whatever may be your favourite flavour of fear, I’m sure you will find a novel that you had forgotten and now wish to read again, or a new suggestion on this list that will petrify you just as much as the ones you already love.
1. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill – 1983
I have to start off the list with what was my first horror novel read. In fact, the film adaption is what made me read Susan Hill's novel, as I was so creeped out by the tale of the central character I just had to read the original tale.
The Woman in Black is a classic gothic eighties novel with a very Victorian feel. Featuring a mysterious ghost who haunts a secluded house on the foggy moors and foreshadows the deaths of children, it is perfect for anyone who loves understated British ghost stories and the stark despair of tragedy.
Perfect for those who would love:
A British ghost story
Dark, tragic ending
2. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist – 2004
Although Let the Right One In was published this century, it takes place in the decade the previously mentioned novel was published – the eighties. It centres around the relationship between a deadly vampire, Eli, who appears to be a twelve-year-old girl, and an actual twelve-year-old boy named Oskar. Gruesomely packed to the brim with disturbing topics – including pedophilia, self-harm and murder – it is an atmospheric read unfit for the fainthearted.
Perfect for those who want to read about:
Early eighties references
3. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins – 2017
This novel is perfect for those who love YA and want to read what is essentially a homage to classic slasher horror movies such as Scream. It is filled with teen romance and so would be best suggested for those who want to read a cheesy slasher novel rather than the traditional horror. However, I can highly recommend the Netflix adaption if you want a gory, action-packed movie to watch.
Perfect for those looking for:
4. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin - 1967
Rosemary’s Baby is viewed as the cause of a ‘horror boom’ in the sixties, and is why horror fiction has gone on to receive such commercial success. As such, it is perfectly possible you have already read it, but it never hurts to revisit the novel that gave the genre its well-deserved nudge into the spotlight.
Rosemary’s Baby tells the story of Rosemary Woodhouse, a young woman who has moved into an apartment building with her husband, and her meddlesome neighbours who may be the leaders of a Satanic coven. As strange happenings occur, including an encounter with an inhuman creature, a sudden pregnancy and a craving for raw meat, Rosemary starts to believe her baby is wanted by the coven for something extremely sinister.
Great for those who like:
Tales about the Antichrist
5. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – 2000
Now, this one is not an easy read. House of Leaves is told in a multitude of ways, including footnotes, upside down text, and chapters hidden within passages of writing. It focuses on the story of a family who move into a house and discover it is much bigger than they originally thought. The reader is kept off-balance and unsure by how the atmosphere in House of Leaves slowly builds alongside the vast amounts of foreshadowing, before both are abruptly cut off. On a single reading, it is possible to miss so many features about this book. That is as much as I can say about the novel without delving into a thousand-word review for this book that I wouldn’t even know how to finish.
Great for those who:
Want a challenge
Like unconventional writing