10 Terrifying Books To Hype You Up For A Spooky Time

Read these scary stories to get into the Halloween spirit or just ready for a spooky time at any point in the year.

1. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski


In House of Leaves, a young family moves into a house only to discover that something is very, very wrong: their house is bigger on the inside than it is the outside. This is just the beginning of the strange things that begin to happen and everything you thought you knew unravels. This book is disconcerting in a number of ways — it’s written in a truly complex way, filled with footnotes and upside-down text (yes, really). But if you’re patient and take the time to read it, you’ll realize this strange, off-kilter book is so terrifying you won’t be able to sleep for weeks.

2. Pet Sematary by Stephen King


If you want a slow-burning horror book that’ll set you on edge, this just might be the book for you. When the Creed family moves into a beautiful old house in rural Maine, their idyllic life seems too good to be true. But the woods behind the house hold a blood-chilling secret more terrifying than death itself. This is not a gory, blood and guts kind of horror story — it’s purely psychological.

3. Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk


Chuck Palahniuk is the king of grotesque, and this novel is all the proof you need. A number of artists answer an ad for a creative retreat in hopes of leaving behind the distractions of the world to create their masterpieces. But the retreat is a lot less glamorous than expected — in fact, it’s a cavernous old theater where they are kept completely isolated from the world, left only with a very small supply of heat, power, and food. They tell stories to pass the time, and the more desperate their circumstance becomes, the more desperate the stories become.

4. Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix


Orsk is an IKEA wanna-be superstore in Cleveland, Ohio, with a pretty disturbing secret. Every morning, employees arrive to find their showrooms destroyed, but security cameras aren’t showing anything suspicious happening. In the wake of panic from store managers, three employees volunteer to work overnight to see if they can unravel the mystery of what happens in the late hours of the night at the store, but what they find is more horrific than they ever imagined.

5. Her Body And Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado


This book of short stories isn’t just terrifying — for women, it might feel all too real. Machado uses horror to map out the realities of womanhood, including the violence visited upon women’s bodies regularly. These stories will make you laugh, cringe, and want to keep the lights on for just a little bit longer.

6. Coraline by Neil Gaiman


Coraline may be marketed to young readers, but that doesn’t mean it won’t give you some creepy vibes all the same. Coraline’s family’s new flat has fourteen doors, but only thirteen will open — the final one is locked, and behind it is only a brick wall. But one day Coraline opens the door and finds a tunnel that takes her into a flat just like her own… only it’s very, very different. There’s a mother there and a father there, too, and they don’t want to let Coraline go.

7. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


Four seekers arrive at the notoriously creepy Hill House in hopes of understanding what’s going on inside — there’s an occult scholar, his assistant, a woman well-acquainted by poltergeists, and the heir of Hill House. All they expect is a spooky encounter, but none of them realizes that the house has other plans for them.

8. We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver


We Need To Talk About Kevin isn’t a conventionally horrific book, but it’s unendingly disturbing all the same. Eva never wanted to be a mother, especially to a son who murders seven of his classmates — and who, worst of all, doesn’t seem to feel any guilt over it. Was Kevin born this way? Or was it Eva’s dislike for her son that made him fall off the rails? This novel questions how monsters are made, and if it’s possible that we have more to do with it than we’d like to believe.

9. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury


On a chilly October eve, the carnival appears in Green Town, Illinois. Cooger & Dark’s Pandemonium Shadow Show plans to destroy every life that touches its strange and sinister mystery. Two boys on the brink of adulthood soon discover that the satanic secrets behind what appears to be smoke and mirrors is the stuff of nightmares.

10. Ring by Koji Suzuki


When four teens die soon after watching a mysterious videotape that warns them of their imminent deaths, one of the teens’ uncle, a hardworking journalist, decides to investigate. As the journalist hurries to figure out the mystery behind the video tape, he’s led to a rural Japan that’s haunted by the past. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

About the author

Callie Byrnes

Callie is a writer, editor, and publisher at Thought Catalog. Her debut book, ‘The Words We Left Behind,’ was released in January 2024.