Haunted Houses in Literature

With Halloween only a week away, it’s time to really start bringing out the spooks and scares. If you’re wondering how to celebrate this spooky season, The Gothic Library already has you covered with ghost stories to read and scary movies to marathon. Another traditional Halloween activity is visiting haunted houses. This week I’d like to take you on a tour through some of my favorite haunted houses in literature:

112 Ocean Avenue—from The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson 

amityville-houseAnson’s novel claims to be based on true accounts of a real house in Amityville, New York. In 1974 the house was the site of a horrific murder when 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr. shot and killed his parents and four siblings. A year later, George and Kathleen Lutz bought the house and moved into it with their three children. The family fled the house after only twenty-eight days, claiming that they had been terrorized by paranormal phenomena. In the novel, the Lutzes experience cold spots, strange smells, unexplained noises, apparitions, and on one occasion red welts and levitating. Particularly frightening is the maybe-not-so-imaginary friend of one of the children, which appears as a pig-like creature with glowing red eyes. These are the things nightmares are made of…

Hill House—from The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

I’m reading this book for my book club this month, and there’s no way I could leave Hill House off of this list. In Jackson’s story, a paranormal researcher named Dr. Montague invites three young guests to come stay with him in an old mansion that is shunned by the nearby town, with the intention of documenting evidence of the supernatural. The house has an unsettling labyrinthine layout and comes complete with a creepy housekeeper named Mrs. Dudley who insists on leaving before sunset every day and has a tendency to ominously repeat, “In the night…in the dark.” All four inhabitants immediately feel a sense of evil radiating from the house, though they try to laugh off their uneasiness. As their stay progresses, however, their fears are confirmed when the four begin to experience some rather terrifying paranormal phenomena, tailored to their specific weaknesses.

Eel Marsh House—from The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Susan Hill’s Gothic novella describes the haunting of Eel Marsh House from the perspective of a solicitor named Arthur Kipps. Many years ago, Kipps visited the house for a funeral and became intrigued by the story of its inhabitants. Local rumors revealed that the late lady of the house had an unmarried sister who was forced to hand over her fatherless child and hide her identity from him. She hoped one day to steal her son back, but instead watched helplessly as he was killed in a carriage accident. Now she haunts the town in the form of the Woman in Black, and her appearance presages the death of a child. She’s definitely not a figure you want to see creeping around your house.


The Navidson home—from House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

Danielewski’s debut novel is written in a unique style, and the book is sometimes as difficult to navigate as the labyrinthine house it tells of. The story within a story features a family that returns from a trip to discover that their house is slowly growing and expanding—though no change is visible from the outside. First a mysterious closet appears, then gloomy hallways open up, leading to a seemingly endless number of previously unexisting rooms. The changes inside the house slowly drive the family insane.

Belasco House—from Hell House by Richard Matheson

hell-house-partial-coverThis last novel features a fictional “Mount Everest of haunted houses”—in other words, the most haunted house ever, which drew inspiration from a number of real and rumored events. In Matheson’s novel, a dying millionaire commissions a team to research the afterlife by staying in Belasco house for a week and observing the phenomena there. The house is haunted by its former owner Emeric Belasco, who is rumored to have committed unspeakable horrors there during his lifetime and continues his legacy after his death. Earlier attempts to investigate the house had ended in death and disaster, and this new investigation seems to be heading in the same direction until one of the researchers uncovers the truth about Belasco and sets the house to rest.

Are you visiting any real or fictional haunted houses this Hallween? Are there any other you think I should include in my list? Let me know in the comments!

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