The founder of the classic horror genre is Edgar Allan Poe, who became famous for his works from 1827 onwards. Since then, numerous subtypes of horror formed. The stories tell of murder, manslaughter, bloodthirsty vampires or werewolves, catastrophe scenarios, ghosts, and other supernatural things.
The goal of horror literature is always to evoke fear, panic, horror, disgust, and bewilderment in the reader; in other words, to cause the entire range of aversive sensations.
For this purpose, different stylistic means are used. At one point during the action, you are suddenly and without warning startled by an unexpected event. On the other hand, the story builds up suspense from the beginning to the end. Towards the end, it culminates in the dramaturgical punch line.
If you are still looking for a scary story, below are the top 100 horror novels of all time:
“The Mask of the Red Death” by Edgar Allan Poe
The Mask of the Red Death is a short story written in 1842. It is about a group of privileged people who try – in vain – to escape from a mysterious plague in a castle. The protagonist is Prince Prospero, who organizes a masked ball to distract the illustrious society from the tragic events that have occurred. Every hour on the hour a clock strikes and scares the guests to the core. After the bell rings each time, everyone laughs with relief and continues celebrating. But are they really safe in the castle?
The classic testifies to the genesis of the horror genre and is well suited as an introduction to horror literature. A hidden pinch of social criticism encourages the reader to reflect and deal with the zeitgeist of the era.
“Perfume” by Patrick Süskind
In 18th century France. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille lives at the end of the nineteenth century. He has nobody odor of his own, but a keen sense of smell. Born into poor circumstances and under the worst conceivable circumstances, his mother wants to dispose of him shortly after his birth. Grenouille spends his childhood without love and affection in the care of various wet nurses; he is and remains an outsider. Only in the familiar world of smells does he find comfort and security. Fascinated by a girl’s smell and wanting to capture it, he commits his first murder one day. Grenouille sets his sights on creating the most stunning fragrance in the world. For this reason, he decides to go to Grasse, the capital of perfumers. There he continues his gruesome deeds and becomes a serial killer. Will he succeed in developing the ultimate beguiling fragrance? And how long will he continue his hustle and bustle before he is discovered?
It’s hard to put “The Perfume” down once you start reading it. An extensive and detailed description will take you to an unknown world that you can almost smell. Despite the length of the novel, it remains exciting throughout the entire plot and is at no point lengthy.
“Haunted Hill House” by Shirley Jackson
When you think about clichés in horror fiction, the haunted house is at the top of the list, an idea so often implemented that it’s often an unintentional parody. Shirley Jackson was no ordinary writer, however, and she takes the concept of the haunted house and perfects it. Haunted Hill House is simply the best-haunted house story ever written. The horrors come not only from the malevolent actions of a house that seems to be sentient and angry but also from the claustrophobia we experience in the novel’s unreliable narrator, Eleanor, whose descent into madness is slow and agonizing, beginning only after we have been lulled into a false sense of security by the apparent kinship of her early persona.
“Guardians of the Night” by Sergei Lukyanenko
“The Others” are supernaturally gifted people. They are differentiated into the Light Ones and the Dark Ones. Both have different lifestyles and values. The Light Ones do good and are helpful, the Dark Ones are bad and only look out for themselves. In this world, Nightwatch investigator Anton Gorodeski is supposed to track down a pair of vampires who are up to no good. In the process, he encounters a woman whom he must free from a powerful curse. If he does not succeed, this curse will possibly destroy all of Moscow. During the fulfillment of his mission, Anton becomes increasingly entangled and is himself a victim of intrigue. Can his lover Svetlana come to his aid in time?
An exceptional writing style and the cultural background that flows into the plot make “The Night’s Watch” stand out from the crowd. Not tangible, but clearly manifest, the reader feels the Russian soul of the story. The book is the first of the six-part Guardian series. The ambivalent description of the characters makes for a setting that could not be more realistic.
“EVIL” by Jack Ketchum
Ketchum’s twisted tale of terror got extra attention in 2007 when a feature film brought the horror story back into the conversation. The novel, based on the Indiana murder case Sylvia Likens, follows a single mother, alcoholic, and neighbor Ruth, who takes in two nieces after their parents die in a car accident. Ruth’s rapidly deteriorating condition creates a hellish environment for both the nieces and her own children. EVIL will make you think twice, three times – hello, probably forever – about giving your kids away to anyone.
“It” by Stephen King
Of all the King books that revolve around brave children, these are perhaps the bravest, most iconic, and perhaps most unnerving. The protagonists are a collection of pretty broad stereotypes (nerdy kid, fat kid, sickly kid, “the girl”, etc.), painted in an all-encompassing pastiche of 1950s American life, but that’s really what it’s about in the end.
King remains and always has been obsessed with the turbulent years of early adolescence. The titular “It,” on the other hand, is probably King’s most enduring and iconic monster, an interdimensional being of pure malevolence and alien mindset that seems so much simpler on the surface. An evil clown killing children? This could at least be dealt with in a way that is accessible to adults. Fighting the actual evil of It is a much trickier matter, depending on a perfect blend of mysticism and childlike faith necessary to overcome its greatest weapons: Fear and entropy and the ability to make an entire city forget the atrocities It commits and allows to be committed.
The ending of It is occasionally cited as its weak point, but it’s a big, thick novel that’s much more about a journey, both in the ’50s and the ’80s, and the horrific visions created along the way.
“The Labyrinth of the Faun” by Cornelia Funke and G. del Toro
In 1944 Ofelia moves with her heavily pregnant mother to her stepfather in northern Spain. The latter is a fascist and is entrusted with hunting down resistance fighters. A sadist through and through, he tortures his immediate surroundings and murders people in a bestial manner. Ofelia escapes into a dream world, where she bravely passes tests and fights battles. With this, she manages to escape the horror of the real world at least for a while. But then fantasy and reality begin to merge until they become indistinguishable.
If you are not reading something by Funke and del Toro for the first time, you will notice the perfect symbiosis of both writing styles in this story. Varied, flowery language and historical facts of the Spanish War of Independence combine to create an exciting story that is recommended primarily for a young reader audience.
“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
The lawyer Utterson falls for his friend and client Dr. Jekyll some peculiarities. He seems to be under pressure. A strange will, which Dr. Jekyll in the event of his demise or disappearance in favor of a Mr. Hydes has changed, fires his suspicion additionally. Then, when a murder occurs that involves the dubious Mr. Hyde, Utterson finally decides to investigate the mysterious connection between Dr. Hyde and Mr. Hyde. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde to get to the bottom. But when he has tracked down the latter, the latter commits suicide. Will he nevertheless succeed in untangling the opaque connections?
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are cult characters and are known even to those who do not know the book. The reader can look forward to a strange novella with unexpected twists and turns. Most enjoyable to read if you haven’t seen any of the film adaptations yet and therefore don’t know the ending.
“Christmasland” by Joe Hill
Author Joe Hill, not to be outdone by his dear old dad, unleashed utter vacation terror for his third novel, along with a warm embrace of the nostalgia-tinged magic that Stephen King so often employed.
In NOS4A2, both Victoria McQueen and Charlie Manx can slip out of time and space if they drive the right vehicle: Vic can find lost things on her rickety motorcycle, and Manx can travel to “Christmasland” in his old Rolls-Royce Wraith. Beyond the cheerful name and amusement park glitz, Manx’s Christmasland is the last place good little boys and girls want to end up, and Vic is the only kid to escape a ride with the Wraith. Much like Santa Claus himself, Manx never forgets a child, and when Vic is too old for his liking, so will Vic’s son.
NOS4A2 represented a turning point for Hill, as his own career was solidified to the point that he need not hide in relation to his kin. The result is a novel that combines the best of Hill’s distinct style with his father’s influence-and essentially the most terrifying depiction of Christmas in modern memory.
“The Prophecy” by Wolfgang and Heike Hohlbein
More than 3000 years ago in ancient Egypt the curse of Akhenaten was pronounced. Jump to our time: Aton, a young Egyptian, is visiting the Egyptian exhibition in a museum with his parents when he is attacked without warning by a mummy. Akhenaten’s curse has chosen him to fulfill the prophecy while battling the dark forces. On the way to this destination, the curse brings devastation and suffering over Aton’s life.
A typical Hohlbein novel. A youthful hero, fleshed-out characters, lots of intricacies, a fast narrative pace, topped off with a spectacular ending.
“The Devil’s Pact” by Michael Siefener
The protagonist Jan Droom tries to decipher the old handwriting of a mysterious manuscript. Reality and fiction are increasingly intermingled, and at some point, the only questions left are those to which there can only be terrible answers. Who is the promising Susanne? And what is the mysterious, black-cloaked stranger who constantly encounters Jan looking for? A story is full of symbolic morbidity.
Little by little, as the plot progresses, the confusion of the protagonist Jan is increasingly transferred to you as well. Are things really as they seem? Siefener knows better than anyone how to sow doubt, stir up distrust and create an atmosphere of hovering Damocles’ sword.
“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving
The original “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” was published in 1820. The setting is a small side valley of the Hudson River near the town of Tarrytown. The residents of the haunted town are superstitious and often report scary, supernatural apparitions. The most horrifying of them all is said to be the headless horseman. One evening, on his way home, country schoolmaster Crane is attacked by the Headless Horseman and from then on disappears without a trace. What does Brom Bones, Crane’s rival, know about the Headless Horseman?
Not only since the legend of Sleepy Hollow, but the Headless Horseman has also been a symbol of warning against death in numerous stories. He often appears when someone is planning something inglorious or forbidden. It is believed that Irving learned of the legend of the Headless Horseman during his trip to the Rhine River. A horror based on real-life scary folklore.
“Shining” by Stephen King
For most modern readers, legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s stay at the Overlook Hotel takes precedence over Stephen King’s original novel. Almost all of the moments anchored in the public consciousness-everything parodied in The Simpsons exists only in the film: the elevator made of blood, the eerie twin girls, the typewriter, “Here’s Johnny!” Look past these iconic pop culture examples and you’ll discover one of King’s greatest achievements, a hauntingly compelling look at a troubled man’s descent into madness. King’s novel leans more toward Jack Torrance, an alcoholic writer on the road to recovery who tries to improve his family’s life by taking a job as a janitor at a remote off-season resort with a barely concealed history of violence. The house wants Danny, Jack’s gifted young son, and gives the Torrance family hell to get to him.
King infamously hates Kubrick’s adaptation, and while it’s hard to debate the quality of the film or its place in the pantheon of horror movies, the novel is the more nuanced and arguably creepier version of the story.
“Bad Wolf” by Nele Neuhaus
The body of a 16-year-old girl is recovered from the Main River. Before her death, she suffered brutal abuse. Investigation reveals that she is missing from no one. As Inspector Pia Kirchhoff and her superior Oliver von Bodenstein investigate further, the clues lead to a presenter who has come dangerously close to the wrong people in her investigations. A crime that does not seem to fit into the bourgeois milieu.
Neuhaus describes the environment of organized child trafficking in detail and impressively. The description of the localities creates an authentic local color. A novel that skillfully restages a well-known motif.
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
The most famous vampire novel of all time is set at the beginning of the 20th. Century. The lawyer Jonathan Harker is sent to Transylvania on behalf of his law firm, where he is to negotiate business with Count Dracula. Already on his arrival, he learns that the local population lives in fear and terror of this Count. On the spot, he notices other strange peculiarities of Count Dracula: for example, he has no reflection in a mirror. Harker ends up following Dracula all the way to England, where he is on the lookout for new victims. Harker’s fiancée Mina also gets into danger. The physician Van Helsing finally allies himself with some confidants against the count. The latter now becomes hunted and flees to his castle. Will his thirst for blood ever come to an end?
Very thoroughly researched folklore theme. Stoker researched vampires and their myths for seven years to write his novel based on this information. The story begins leisurely and atmospherically dense, then picks up speed to culminate in a relatively tight finale. Different moods and points of view give the characters a lot of depth. It an entertaining work until the end.
“Rite” by Markus Heitz
In the French Gévaudan in 1764, a gruesome beast is targeting women, children, and even the bravest men. Is it a bloodthirsty wolf or yet a being straight from hell? The gamekeeper Jean Chastel and the abbess Gregoria are both mysteriously connected with the beast. Together they embark on a journey to Rome, where a demonic creature is also on the rampage.
Two storylines are told alternately in chapters and are shifted on a timeline by 240 years. In his novel, Heitz reworks the real historical events surrounding the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, which took place in the 18th century. century. At that time numerous inhabitants died in a bestial way for still unexplained reasons. A suspenseful story that in places parallels the movie “Pact of the Wolves”.
“The Voice” by S.K. Tremayne
The main character, Jo, finds herself in her own personal nightmare when her voice assistant, Electra, suddenly takes on a life of her own. Not only does she approach them unprompted. She also knows her worst secret. And then Electra starts doing things she shouldn’t be able to do at all. Jo’s accounts are drained, her friends and family receive abusive text messages. Slowly Jo begins to doubt her sanity. Does she end up carrying her father’s schizophrenia after all, or does Electra have knowledge that makes her a danger?
“The Voice” features a cleverly thought-out plot. Tremayne is a master at creating subtle horror with thriller tendencies. Suspenseful story with relevance to the digital age.
“Carrie” by Stephen King
In 1974, 16-year-old half-orphan Carietta White, known as Carrie, lives in Chamberlain. Her mother is a religious fanatic, bringing her up strictly and isolated from her environment as an outsider. As time goes on, Carrie finds that anger unleashes telekinetic powers within her. This also happens on the occasion of a school prom, where Carrie is exposed in front of the entire school. The bottomless humiliation unleashes her deep-rooted rage and is the starting signal for an excess of violence that draws a trail of death and destruction through the entire city.
“Carrie” was King’s debut work and is considerably less substantial than later works that followed. It is nevertheless, and rightly so, the cornerstone of King’s later career as Grand Master of Horror. Strongly oriented to the zeitgeist of the seventies, Carrie causes, especially for purists goosebumps feeling.
“The Exorcist” by William Blatty
12-year-old Reagan is plagued by behavioral problems that become increasingly obscene and blasphemous. When doctors can’t help, the mother becomes more and more convinced that her daughter is possessed by evil. She asks Father Lancaster, a Catholic priest, for help. The exorcist applies to his church for permission to perform an exorcism on the girl with the help of his assistant Damien Karras. The request is granted, but they are not prepared for what is to follow. During the procedure, Father Lancaster dies and Karras must face the all-destroying demon alone.
Blatty dealt intensively with the subjects of religious obsession, methods of psychoanalysis, and supernatural phenomena. With “The Exorcist” he succeeded not only in writing a classic but also in creating his own myth in the horror genre, which is still a popular theme today. Perhaps the highest possible award for a writer.
“The Village of Dead Souls” by Camilla Sten
In Stockholm Alice Lindstedt has just graduated from film school. She plans to make a documentary about Silvertjärn in Norrland. Sixty years earlier, all the inhabitants of the town disappeared overnight without a trace. Together with a team, Alice sets out on a search, but then strange events occur: the reception of all the cell phones is disturbed and an eerie laugh emanates from the radio. When a team member is killed, panic breaks out. Is a killer near them? And what happened to the people of Silvertjärn sixty years ago?
The horror thriller is the debut work of Sten. Two storylines alternate on two different time levels. The chapters that take place in the past are told from the point of view of a villager from that time. The current events are described from Alice’s point of view. The cliffhanger at the end of each chapter creates an oppressive feeling and you don’t want to put the book down.
“Snuff Killers” by Jesus F. Gonzalez
The novel, published in Germany in 2016, is originally called “Survivor” and belongs to the genre of extreme horror. Lisa wants to announce to her husband during a romantic weekend that she is pregnant. But it does not come to that. Strange men have it in for her. They intend to kidnap Lisa and make her the star of their snuff porn film. A gruesome death in front of running cameras is to be her fate. But what she does as she fights for her life puts everything in the shade.
Gonzalez drags the reader straight into a nightmare. The story and writing style are captivating, the action of the characters has a high recognition value. For fans of sadistic horror, this is a delightful read.
“The Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris
FBI agent Jack Crowford is on the trail of serial killer Buffalo Bill. He suspects that the imprisoned psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter knows more about his identity. In order to discreetly obtain the desired information, he assigns the FBI student Clarice Starling to ask Lecter for the necessary information under a pretext. A cat-and-mouse game increasingly develops between Starling and Lecter, with Lecter repeatedly throwing Starling a crumb. Will Clarice Starling be able to clear Buffalo Bill’s identity before he kills his next victim?
A thrillingly written and straightforward story that at no point feels overblown or striking. The plot is mostly told from Clarice’s perspective, some passages also from the victim’s perspective. Interesting insights are also given into the disturbing personality of Buffalo Bill. The strange dynamics surrounding Lecter round out the story and never leave you bored while reading.
“Broken Monsters” by Lauren Beukes
With The Shining Girls (2011) and Broken Monsters (2014), South African writer Lauren Beukes has established herself as a master of horror/thriller. It’s hard to choose between the two novels, but Broken Monsters’ Detroit setting, serial killer (Hannibal and True Detective fans will feel right at home), and the inexplicable threat from another world somewhat eclipse the impressive time-travel continuity of Shining Girls. In both books, Beukes masterfully twists perspectives, slowly filling in a full picture of the atrocities men commit when prodded by a malevolent force. While Shining Girls focuses more on a resilient survivor, Broken Monsters spreads its narrative love a bit more evenly, finding a handful of struggling heroes making a living in America’s capitalist failure. Beukes, however, rejects simple “ruin porn” and refuses to reduce Detroit to a grimy setting for elaborate murders.
With an impeccably researched setting and its unflinching look at evils known and unknown, Broken Monsters is the young horror author’s best work yet.
“The Elven Butcher” by Jens Lossau
The story takes place in the city of Nophelet in the kingdom of Sdoomi. In a short time interval, five Elblinge are found dead. It turns out that all the victims were robbed of their blood. Two investigators of the IAIT, the Institute for Applied Investigative Thaumaturgy, set out to find clues. In the process, the two hard-nosed investigators make discoveries that push them to their own limits. A thrilling work, which knows how to combine horror and fantasy artfully.
The Elf Slayer is recommended especially for fans of fantasy novels, who, because of this genre, nevertheless do not want to do without the explicit depiction of death and violence. The plot, framed by a mystical atmosphere, gives this work the potential to become a cult favorite.
“Rosemary’s Baby” by Ira Levin
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse move into an apartment newly married. A short time later, a young neighbor from their home is killed by a falling window. When the police question the witnesses a short time later, they meet a bizarre neighbor couple who also live in the house. Sometime later Rosemary becomes pregnant. From now on she is plagued by fears and nightmares. Even the neighbors seem more and more suspicious. At some point, in the tangle of clues, she comes to the conclusion that the neighbors have promised their unborn child to the devil. There is no escape because even her husband seems to be part of the conspiracy.
Rosemary’s Baby is inspired by the biblical stories of the virgin birth. Levin is able to stage an effective play between traditional forms of superstition and the modern motif of psychoanalysis.
Rankings 26-100 of the best horror novels of all time:
|Place:||Novel:||Author:||Link to the book:|
|26.||So dark the night||John Ajvide Lindqvist|
|28.||Lord of the flies||William Golding|
|29.||The City of the Blind||José Saramago|
|30.||YOU – You will love me||Caroline Kepnes|
|31.||The Chronicles of Alice – Darkness in Wonderland||Christina Henry|
|32.||The transition||Justin Cronin|
|33.||Evil comes on silent soles||Ray Bradbury|
|34.||BOY’S LIFE – The Search for a Killer||Robert McCammon|
|35.||The woman in black||Susan Hill|
|36.||The Institute||Stephen King|
|37.||Binewskis: Decay of a Radioactive Family
|38.||The secret history||Donna Tartt|
|39.||Evil comes in silent soles||Ray Bradbury|
|40.||I am Gideon||Tamsyn Muir|
|41.||Salem must burn||Stephen King|
|42.||The Road||Cormac McCarthy|
|43.||Horror Sturgeon||Grady Hendrix|
|44.||Hex||Thomas Olde Heuvelt|
|45.||Operation Zombie: Whoever lives longer is dead later||Operation Zombie: Max Brooks|
|46.||The Historian||Elizabeth Kostova|
|47.||We have to talk about Kevin||Lionel Shriver|
|48.||Anna in the blood red dress||Kendare Blake|
|49.||The Collector||John Fowles|
|50.||Mountains of Madness||H. P. Lovecraft|
|52.||TICK TACK – How Long Can You Lie? Thriller||Megan Miranda|
|54.||The House – House of Leaves||Mark Z. Danielewski|
|55.||I am Legend||Richard Matheson|
|57.||Power of Evil||Dan Simmons|
|58.||Bird Box – Close your eyes||Josh Malerman|
|59.||The Seed||Chuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro|
|61.||Dark Places – Dangerous Memory: Thriller (High Class)||Gillian Flynn|
|62.||The evening glow in the west||Cormac McCarthy|
|63.||Slade House||David Mitchell|
|65.||THE OMEN||David Seltzer|
|66.||The exorcism of Gretchen Lang: horror thriller||Grady Hendrix|
|67.||The light of the last days||Emily St. John Almond|
|68.||The Stand – The Last Stand||Stephen King|
|70.||The yellow wallpaper||Charlotte Perkins Gilman|
|72.||Mr. Shivers||Robert Jackson Bennett|
|73.||The spinning of the screw: A ghost story||Henry James|
|74.||What we lost in the fire||Mariana Enríquez|
|75.||The dark forest||Liu Cixin|
|76.||The Picture of Dorian Gray||Oscar Wilde|
|77.||Two Can Keep a Secret||Karen M. McManus|
|78.||The Hunger – The Last Journey||Alma Katsu|
|79.||The Illustrated Man||Ray Bradbury|
|Bret Easton Ellis|
|81.||Night Shift||Stephen King|
|82.||The House of Dark Dreams||Shaun Hamill|
|83.||Pretty Girls||Karin Slaughter|
|84.||The Wasp Factory||Iain Banks|
|85.||Rebecca||Daphne du Maurier|
|86.||Doctor Sleep||Stephen King|
|87.||The fifth child||Doris Lessing|
|88.||Blind Flight||Peter Watts|
|89.||In the abyss||Jeff Long|
|90.||The Last Werewolf||Glen Duncan|
|91.||Shining Girls||Lauren Beukes|
|92.||The Vegetarian||Han Kang|
|93.||Come closer||Sara Gran|
|94.||In a small town||Stephen King|
|95.||Man Child||Toni Morrison|
|96.||Selina’s ghosts||Sarah Waters|
|98.||Conversation with a Vampire||Anne Rice|
|99.||Gone Girl – The Perfect Victim||Gillian Flynn|
|100.||A Head Full of Ghosts – An Exorcism: Psychothriller||Paul Tremblay|
Horror literature is not always clearly distinguishable from other types. Some of them show intersections with crime novels, thrillers, or science fiction novels. This wide range of content focuses, makes horror literature, despite its gloominess, a colorful genre that has something for everyone.