A home is often thought of as a place of refuge; somewhere that a person can feel safe, accepted, and that they have a deep emotional connection to beyond the material objects that fill it. Readers of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror especially know that a house is a different beast entirely. A house can be a magical place that exists beyond time and space. A house can run around on chicken legs or float through outer space. Often—especially in the genres I’ve mentioned—a house will turn on its occupants and drive them mad or be a deeply malevolent entity unto itself.
To encourage everyone to read more books with weird houses in it I have compiled a list of comics and novels to get you started.
The Me You Love in the Dark by Skottie Young and Jorge Corona
It feels like only a matter of time until A24 discovers Skottie Young and Jorge Corona’s brilliant modern take on gothic haunted house stories. If you haven’t already stumbled across The Me You Love in the Dark then I insist that you stop reading this and go get your hands on a copy right now. It’s hands-down one of my favorite comic books that I’ve read in a long time and one that I find myself still thinking about.
This delightfully spooky tale of love, obsession, and art begins when a young artist leaves the big city behind and moves into an allegedly haunted house located at the edge of a small town. That it is haunted makes no nevermind to Ro who is hoping to find some inspiration in its dark and dusty halls. What Ro finds instead is a creature somewhere between a ghost and an eldritch monster that is as desperate for companionship as she is. Their tentative friendship turns romantic and then quickly toxic when the creature’s attempts to keep Ro inside turn violent.
Beyond being a clever take on haunted houses, The Me You Love in the Dark is an excellent meditation on art, artists, and how a person’s craft can become all-consuming.
Gallant by V.E. Schwab
What’s better than a gorgeous, crumbling manor house with poorly lit hallways that are being haunted by half-formed ghosts? Two stunningly gorgeous, crumbling manor houses that perfectly mirror one another but exist in different planes of existence of course. This is exactly what Olivia Prior discovers during V.E. Schwab’s chest-achingly good YA novel, Gallant.
After growing up in the Merilance School for Girls, a desolate and unfriendly place, a letter arrives for Olivia inviting her to a home that she knows very little about – Gallant. Determined to discover what secrets her ancestral home, its half-formed ghouls, and her volatile cousin are keeping from her, Olivia accidentally discovers the door to a world that perfectly mirrors the one she already exists in. Within this world is a Gallant that exists like a photonegative of her home. It’s ostensibly the same but is ruled over by a mysterious and shadowy figure who wants her dead.
True to Schwab’s form, Gallant is a book that will leave you feeling like you have a massive hole in your heart which is just about the highest praise that a bookseller can bestow unto a book.
The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
If you’re in the mood to read a deeply unsettling murder mystery that has a sinister, time traveling house at the center of its story then The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes is the perfect book for you. I have yet to find another that kept me awake at night the way The Shining Girls did, which is both a blessing and a curse.
The Shining Girls (a title that is, no doubt, a nod to Stephen King) kicks off in depression-era Chicago when Harper Curtis discovers a strange and alluring house that allows him to travel to different periods of time. Harper’s unbelievable discovery comes at a steep price. The house, through malevolent means, begins to show him the girls that he has yet to kill throughout time and consequently allows him to slip in and out of different time periods to spy on, talk to, and eventually murder his victims. He’s brutal, efficient, and impossible to track down until he finally meets his match in 1989. By some miracle Kirby Mazrachi survives Harper’s attack and begins to unravel the mystery of how Harper can do what he can.
Just Like Home by Sarah Gailey
The first word that comes to mind while thinking about Sarah Gailey’s claustrophobic and utterly riveting new novel, Just Like Home, is “gloopy”. It’s a story that, if you couldn’t tell from its fabulous cover, oozes strangeness and terror from start to finish and at its core is a truly horrific house.
Vera Crowder has made several bad decisions over the course of her life but the worst by far is returning to her childhood home. Upon arrival Vera discovers that her emotionally manipulative mother is a shell of her former self and seems to subsist on sickly sweet lemonade alone (good luck drinking any once you’re done reading this book). As if her dying mother isn’t enough to deal with, there’s the small matter of the parasitic artist who has taken up residence in the Crowder guest house and is capitalizing on Vera’s violent past by stripping her home of anything and everything that isn’t nailed down.
Just Like Home takes a turn for the truly unnerving when shadows start to move on their own accord, gouges appear in the walls, and notes written in Vera’s father’s handwriting begin to appear. Is Vera’s father back from the dead? Is her mind failing her? Or is there something infinitely more sinister afoot?
Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes
Traditionally a haunted house can be defined as a structure of some kind that is occupied by malevolent, disembodied spirits that drive said structure’s living residents to a point of madness (or worse). What makes S.A. Barnes’s horror novel, Dead Silence, so much fun is the fact that she takes the concept of a haunted house and drops it in the middle of outer space.
Twenty years ago the Aurora, a luxury space cruiser (think the Titanic) mysteriously vanished on its maiden voyage of the solar system. The ship and its hundreds of passengers disappeared without a trace. Naturally the Aurora is the last thing that Claire Kovalik and her ragtag salvage crew expect to find after picking up an emergency signal deep in outer space. A salvage job like this could change their lives forever but once aboard the Aurora it becomes clear that something went terribly wrong all those years ago. There are dead bodies everywhere, frozen in time, and evidence that the passengers turned on each other. Words are scrawled in blood on the walls, and Claire and her crew experience vivid and violent hallucinations. Soon what began as a potentially lucrative endeavor turns into a grisly, claustrophobic fight for their lives.
If you’re looking for a book that is full of unspeakable horrors that will keep you up at night then Dead Silence is exactly what you’re looking for.
Rachael Conrad is the Event Coordinator, Social Media Manager, and a Frontline Bookseller for Print: A Bookstore in Portland, Maine. She was a 2021 Publisher’s Weekly Star Watch nominee for her bookselling. You can find her tweeting about beautiful people and the books that she’s reading @Rachael_Conrad.