Scary history: The 100 Best Horror Novels of All Time

The 100 Best Horror Novels of All Time

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 have formed. The stories tell 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. You are suddenly and without warning startled by an unexpected event during the action. 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: and other tales
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. 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 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 era’s zeitgeist.

“Perfume” by Patrick Süskind

The Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
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 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 novel’s length, it remains exciting throughout the entire plot and is at no point lengthy.

“Haunted Hill House” by Shirley Jackson

Haunting Hill House
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 usually an unintentional parody. However, Shirley Jackson was no ordinary writer, 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 evil actions of a house that seems to be aware 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

Guardians of Eternity: novel (The Guardians novels, Volume 4)
“The Others” are supernaturally gifted people, 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. He encounters a woman he must free from a powerful curse in the process. If he fails, 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 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. Based on the Indiana murder case, Sylvia Likens, the novel follows a single mother, alcoholic, and neighbor Ruth. She takes in two nieces after their parents die in a car accident. Ruth’s rapidly deteriorating condition creates a harsh environment for both the nieces and her children. EVIL will make you think twice, three times – hello, probably forever – about giving your kids away to anyone.

“It” by Stephen King

It: novel
These are perhaps the bravest, most iconic, and perhaps most terrifying of all the King books that revolve around brave children. 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.

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King remains and always has been obsessed with the turbulent years of early adolescence. On the other hand, the titular “It” is probably King’s most enduring and iconic monster, an interdimensional being of pure malice and alien mindset that seems so much more straightforward on the surface. An evil clown killing children? This could at least be dealt with in a way 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 its atrocities commits and allows to be saved.

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

The Labyrinth of the Faun
In 1944 Ofelia moved 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 natural 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 tale recommended for a young audience.

“The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (detebe)
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 involving 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

Christmasland: Thriller - The Novel to the NOS4A2 Series on Prime Video
Not to be outdone by his dear old dad, Author Joe Hill 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 career was solidified to the point that he need not hide about his kin. The result is a novel that combines the best of Hill’s distinct style with his father’s influence-and, essentially, the terrifying depiction of Christmas in modern memory.

“The Prophecy” by Wolfgang and Heike Hohlbein

The prophecy
More than 3000 years ago, in ancient Egypt, the curse of Akhenaten was pronounced. Jump to our time: Aton, a young Egyptian, visits 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 Devil's Pact
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 Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Washington Irving (Classics of World Literature)
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 city 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

Shining: Novel
Legendary director Stanley Kubrick’s stay at the Overlook Hotel takes precedence over Stephen King’s original novel for most modern readers. 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 most outstanding 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.

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King infamously hates Kubrick’s adaptation. 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

Bad Wolf: Crime novel | Highly suspenseful and emotional: The 6th case for Pia Kirchhoff and Oliver von Bodenstein by the bestselling author (A Bodenstein-Kirchhoff crime novel, Volume 6)
The body of a 16-year-old girl is recovered from the Main River. Before her death, she suffered brutal abuse, and the 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

Dracula: A Vampire Novel
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 follows Dracula to England, where he looks 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 studied vampires and their myths for seven years to write his novel based on this information. The story begins leisurely and atmospherically dense, then speeds to culminate in a relatively tight finale. Different moods and points of view give the characters a lot of depth. It was an entertaining work until the end.

“Rite” by Markus Heitz

Rite: Novel (Pact of Darkness, Volume 1)
In the French Gévaudan in 1764, a gruesome beast targets women, children, and even the bravest men. Is it a bloodthirsty wolf or yet a being straight from hell? Jean Chastel and the abbess Gregoria are 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 actual historical events surrounding the legend of the Beast of Gévaudan, which took place in the 18th 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 Voice: Thriller. What if your smart devices knew more than you'd like?
The main character, Jo, finds herself in her nightmare when her voice assistant, Electra, suddenly takes on a life of her own. Not only does she approach them unprompted, and 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. After all, does she end up carrying her father’s schizophrenia, 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

Carrie: Novel
In 1974, 16-year-old half-orphan Carietta White, Carrie, lives in Chamberlain. Her mother is a religious fanatic, bringing her up strictly and isolated from her outside environment. Carrie finds that anger unleashes telekinetic powers within her as time goes on. 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

The Exorcist: Thriller
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 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 successfully wrote a classic and created his myth in the horror genre, still a popular theme today. Perhaps the highest possible award for a writer.

“The Village of Dead Souls” by Camilla Sten

The Village of Dead Souls: Psychological Thriller
Alice Lindstedt has just graduated from film school in Stockholm, and 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 in the past are told from the point of view from that time, and the current events are described from Alice’s point of view. At the end of each chapter, the cliffhanger creates an oppressive feeling, and you don’t want to put the book down.

“Snuff Killers” by Jesus F. Gonzalez

Snuff Killers: The Classic of Extreme Horror
The novel, published in Germany in 2016, was initially called “Survivor” and belongs to 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.

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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

The Silence of the Lambs: Thriller (Hannibal Lecter, Volume 3)
FBI agent Jack Crowford is on the trail of serial killer Buffalo Bill. He suspects that Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s imprisoned psychiatrist knows more about his identity. 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 mainly told from Clarice’s perspective, some passages 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

Broken Monsters
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. Beukes masterfully twists perspectives in both books, slowly filling in a complete picture of the atrocities men commit when prodded by an evil 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 Elven Butcher: The Cases of I.A.I.T. 1
The story takes place in the city of Nophelet in the kingdom of Sdoomi. In a short time interval, five Elblinge are found dead, and 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. The two hard-nosed investigators make discoveries that push them to their limits in the process—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's Baby
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 an odd 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 concludes 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 can 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 nightJohn Ajvide Lindqvist
27.TerrorDan Simmons
28.Lord of the fliesWilliam Golding
29.The City of the BlindJosé Saramago
30.YOU – You will love meCaroline Kepnes
31.The Chronicles of Alice – Darkness in WonderlandChristina Henry
32.The transitionJustin Cronin
33.Evil comes on silent solesRay Bradbury
34.BOY’S LIFE – The Search for a KillerRobert McCammon
35.The woman in blackSusan Hill
36.The InstituteStephen King
37.Binewskis: Decay of a Radioactive Family
Katherine Dunn
38.The secret historyDonna Tartt
39.Evil comes in silent solesRay Bradbury
40.I am GideonTamsyn Muir
41.Salem must burnStephen King
42.The RoadCormac McCarthy
43.Horror SturgeonGrady Hendrix
44.HexThomas Olde Heuvelt
45.Operation Zombie: Whoever lives longer is dead laterOperation Zombie: Max Brooks
46.The HistorianElizabeth Kostova
47.We have to talk about KevinLionel Shriver
48.Anna in the blood red dressKendare Blake
49.The CollectorJohn Fowles
50.Mountains of MadnessH. P. Lovecraft
51.FrankensteinMary Shelley
52.TICK TACK – How Long Can You Lie? ThrillerMegan Miranda
53.YouStephen King
54.The House – House of LeavesMark Z. Danielewski
55.I am LegendRichard Matheson
56.SnowmanJo Nesbø
57.Power of EvilDan Simmons
58.Bird Box – Close your eyesJosh Malerman
59.The SeedChuck Hogan and Guillermo del Toro
60.BlindJoe Hill
61.Dark Places – Dangerous Memory: Thriller (High Class)Gillian Flynn
62.The evening glow in the westCormac McCarthy
63.Slade HouseDavid Mitchell
64.CoralineNeil Gaiman
65.THE OMENDavid Seltzer
66.The exorcism of Gretchen Lang: horror thrillerGrady Hendrix
67.The light of the last daysEmily St. John Almond
68.The Stand – The Last StandStephen King
69.ThicketScott Smith
70.The yellow wallpaperCharlotte Perkins Gilman
71.1984George Orwell
72.Mr. ShiversRobert Jackson Bennett
73.The spinning of the screw: A ghost storyHenry James
74.What we lost in the fireMariana Enríquez
75.The dark forestLiu Cixin
76.The Picture of Dorian GrayOscar Wilde
77.Two Can Keep a SecretKaren M. McManus
78.The Hunger – The Last JourneyAlma Katsu
79.The Illustrated ManRay Bradbury
80.American Psycho
Bret Easton Ellis
81.Night ShiftStephen King
82.The House of Dark DreamsShaun Hamill
83.Pretty GirlsKarin Slaughter
84.The Wasp FactoryIain Banks
85.RebeccaDaphne du Maurier
86.Doctor SleepStephen King
87.The fifth childDoris Lessing
88.Blind FlightPeter Watts
89.In the abyssJeff Long
90.The Last WerewolfGlen Duncan
91.Shining GirlsLauren Beukes
92.The VegetarianHan Kang
93.Come closerSara Gran
94.In a small townStephen King
95.Man ChildToni Morrison
96.Selina’s ghostsSarah Waters
97.NightmaresStephen King
98.Conversation with a VampireAnne Rice
99.Gone Girl – The Perfect VictimGillian Flynn
100.A Head Full of Ghosts – An Exorcism: PsychothrillerPaul 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.

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