Summer is almost over. School is starting. We know many of you want the lazy days of summer to remain with us a little longer, but we can’t wait for the upcoming spooky season. Halloween is coming, and we want all the ghosts, ghouls, and ghastly things.
With the recent passing of Toni Morrison, of course we thought of her novel Beloved, one of the best ghost stories we’ve read. The haunted home of 124 Bluestone Road made us crave even more spectral places, like Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House. But Jackson and Morrison are just the beginning; we would like to invite you into a few other haunted houses built by women writers. You might see some familiar names here, but if not, you’ll definitely find some new authors to add to your autumn reading pile.
So let’s get started—don’t mind the creaky door, or the dust, or the darkness, or the screams….
The Uninvited by Dorothy Macardle
Originally published as Uneasy Freehold (1941), Dorothy Macardle’s Irish haunted house tale was titled The Uninvited for its 1942 American release. When siblings Roddy and Pamela Fitzgerald stumble upon the manor house Cliff End, they are immediately besotted, but they are convinced they could never afford such a grand property. Not so. Cliff End has stood empty for years (it seems the owner just can’t keep tenants), and it’s available for a bargain price! Like all good protagonists in haunted house books, Roddy and Pamela can’t resist, but it doesn’t take long for them to realize they bought a lot more than a house with a seaside view. Macardle expertly blends psychological trauma and mystery with the supernatural in this ghostly tale. Bonus: Macardle’s novel was adapted for the screen in 1944’s The Uninvited, directed by Lewis Allen and starring Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey. The film is well worth a Halloween viewing.
The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike
The Japanese edition of Koike’s novel first appeared in 1988, but the first U.S. edition in English was only recently published in 2016. This creepy tale is sparse, but effective. Rather than choosing a home with a history, The Graveyard Apartment is one of the rare haunted house stories set in a modern setting—this time a new-build apartment building. The accommodations are perfect, and best of all, cheap, possibly because of the graveyard and crematorium in the backyard. The home-built-upon-graves trope is only part of the horror of Koike’s book, however. The plot also effectively weaves in the troubled past of the Kano family, who think they’ve found the perfect home. Soon, though, trouble finds Teppei, his wife Misao, and young Tamao. Fans of Japanese horror will find this one satisfying.
The Good House by Tananarive Due
Every haunted house has a history, and the “Good House” in Tananarive Due’s 2003 book has a long, sordid one, filled with anguish, despair, and vodou magic. The home in question has belonged to the Toussaint family for generations. The house has always been a much-beloved fixture in the town of Sacajawea, Washington, but the home tends to eat its own. Angela Toussaint, the current owner, mourns the loss of her teenage son, Corey, who discovered the dark side to his family’s ties to magic, and that’s only the beginning of the horrors the house has in store. We love this novel for its unique twist on African American voodoo traditions and the Toussaint family, who readers will root for throughout the roller-coaster plot.
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Oh, how we love Helen Oyeyemi, and we think White is for Witching (2009) is her best. It’s an odd novel, especially for a ghost story, because despite its haunting qualities, ghosts don’t really haunt this house. Instead, Miri, the unstable main character, who lives in a Dover house turned bed-and-breakfast with her widower father and twin brother, haunts the house. Oh, and the house itself is alive too. It even takes a turn in the narration. Oyeyemi’s Gothic tale has everything a modern Goth heart could want: twins, insanity, loneliness, and a hunger that haunts the women of one family for generations.
The Family Plot by Cherie Priest
The most recent one on this list, Cherie Priest’s 2016 novel is a cautionary tale for all the HGTV, home rehab addicts out there. A tale about a decaying family estate in Chattanooga, Tennessee, sold for salvage, this book has plenty of Southern Gothic spooky atmosphere. When Augusta Withrow offers to sell her estate to salvage company owner Chuck Dutton, he knows he’s facing a financial risk, but the price is too good to pass up. He knows the buildings are full of valuable antiques and materials. And Withrow makes it clear that everything is his—she wants nothing from the property and only wants to be rid of it. A word of warning for readers: The Family Plot will make you think twice before taking a nice, long bath.
Before we let you leave, if you’re not too frightened, we have a couple short stories to suggest from the master of haunted houses, Shirley Jackson. Jackson’s “The Bus” (1965) is a tale with a dreamlike Twilight Zone feel. A woman riding a bus home gets off at the wrong stop and finds herself stranded in a house eerily reminiscent of her childhood home, complete with her favorite toys. “A Visit” (also known as “The Lovely House,” 1952) is a story of a girl’s stay at a friend’s house during the school holiday that takes some strange and dark turns. With its house of weird dimensions, shifting time, and ambiguous occurrences, it anticipates The Haunting of Hill House.
Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction, a non-fiction work from Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, is available September 17th from Penguin Random House.
Lisa Kröger holds a PhD in English. Her short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance magazine and Lost Highways: Dark Fictions from the Road (Crystal Lake Publishing, 2018). She’s an adjunct instructor of English at the University of Southern Mississippi, Gulf Coast. She cohosts The Know Fear Cast (knowfearcast.com) with Melanie R. Anderson.
Melanie R. Anderson is an assistant professor of English at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. Her book Spectrality in the Novels of Toni Morrison (University of Tennessee Press, 2013) was a winner of the 2014 South Central MLA Book Prize.