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Ultimate Guide to Ghost-novels; 65 spectral recommendations

Although my feelings about autumn in general are mixed at best (cold feet, arriving rain-soaked to work every day and achy joints: no thank you!), there is nothing mixed about my love of autumnal reading. That of course includes the quintessential spooky and atmospheric reads that are perfect for Halloween. It’s become a bit of a yearly tradition for me to publish a themed “Halloween special”, and this year I decided to finally bring you a list that’s been quite some time in the making. Without further ado, I present you my recommendations for my absolute favourite spooky-trope; 65 haunted recommendations, across 13 categories in The Fictionfox’s Ultimate Guide to Ghost-Stories.


The Gothic Ghost pt.1: the classics


- The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson An unlikely quartet of a thieving young heir, an anthropologist with an interest in the paranormal, a bohemian artist and a shy young woman with a troubled past, experience strange and unsettling happenings in a supposedly haunted manor. Is it paranormal, psychological, or something else entirely? The Haunting of Hill House is one of my personal favourite novels of all time; relying on tension and terror rather than horror. I also highly recommend the Netflix adaptation, which is very different from the book, but great in its own right.

- Beloved – Tony Morrison A formerly enslaved woman and her family are haunted by the destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Beloved is a heart wrenching tale of the real-life horrors of America’s history of slavery, told with compassion and without reservations.

- Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier A naïve and introverted young bride is haunted by the ghost of her new husband’s previous wife. One of the quintessential gothic ghost-stories of the last century that was far ahead of its time and holds up to be a masterpiece to this day.

- The Woman in Black – Susan Hill

Whilst sharing ghoststories by the hearth fire, a man recounts his horrific experiences with the titular black-clad spectre that terrorised a small English town.

- Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte Part coming-of-age novel, part ghost story, and perhaps the most famous novel on this entire list. Jane Eyre tells the lifestory of our titular character from childhood into adulthood, on the haunting English moors.


The Gothic Ghost: Classics


The Gothic Ghost pt.2: Modern adaptations

- The Lighthouse Witches – C.J. Cooke Two sisters go missing on a remote Scottish island. Twenty years later, one is found--but she's still the same age as when she disappeared. Rumours of witchcraft, ghosts and foundlings abound in the area, and it’s up to one woman to uncover the secrets of this place before her own family becomes entangled in the peril.

- Melmoth – Sarah Perry A man discovers a curious letter in the library; a confession and a warning that speaks of Melmoth the Witness, a dark legend found in obscure fairy tales and antique village lore. A few days later, he goes missing without a trace on the streets of Prague. His level-headed friend Helen Franklin is convinced there’s a mundane explanation, and embarks on a quest for answers.


- Things in Jars – Jess Kidd In Victorian England, a female detective with extraordinary powers is confronted with her most baffling case yet; the disappearance of a young girl whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors and traders of curiosities. Assisted by a colourful cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary, she embarks on a journey into the supernatural underworld of London’s collectors of curiosities.

- House of Glass – Susan Fletcher Summer 1914. A young disabled woman suffering from a rare brittle-bone disease is summoned to a large stone house in Gloucestershire, in order to fill a greenhouse with exotic plants, to create a private paradise for the mysterious owner. Yet, on arrival, it quickly becomes clear that something unsettling is happening at this estate. Rumours circulate about a haunting in the gardens and empty hallways, and it’s up to Clara to find out what’s real, and what’s superstition.

- The Glass Woman – Caroline Lea 1686, Iceland. An isolated windswept land haunted by a history of witch trials and ancient sagas. Rósa is sent off into a marriage of necessity to her new husband in the remote village of Stykkishólmur. Rosa feels immediately unwelcome. The villagers whisper of witchcraft and misdeeds; all of their stories having Jón at the center of them. What is Jón hiding? What’s in the attic that is so private Rosa is never allowed up there? And most importantly: what happened to Jón’s previous wife Anna, that nobody seems to dare to speak of. This modern gothic tale echoes of Rebecca and Burial Rites, and will put a chill in your bones on those cold autumnal/early winter nights.


The Gothic Ghost: modern

The Residential Ghost: Takes on the haunted-house-trope


- House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski A fragmentary tale told in alternate/experimental format about a house that measures bigger on the inside than it does on the outside and the madness and obsession that befalls the people who cross paths with it. famously divisive and ineffable in its format, but a perfect example of form matching substance with its haunting and disorienting feel.

- Home Before Dark – Riley Sager 25 years ago, a young couple and their 5-year old daughter moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks later, they fled the house in terror in the dead of night, never to return. Now an adult, daughter Maggie remembers little of that night, other than what her father documented in his nonfiction bestseller House of Horrors. Maggie doubts the stories of hauntings and curses and decides to return to the House of Horrors to find out the truth about the events that transpired.

- Other Words for Smoke – Sarah Maria Griffin A lone house at the end of the lane mysteriously goes up in flames, and the twin girls who stayed with the owner over the summer vanish within the blaze again. From an unknown “after”; one of the twins recounts the events lead up to the fire, and the mysterious nature of the house where she spent that faithful summer. An owl in a wall, an uncanny cat and an dark power within the house that devoured love and fear. A unique take on the haunted house that twists some tropes on its head, and managed to really unsettle me for it.

- The Upstairs House – Julia Fine A young mother suffers post-partum depression, only to be additionally haunted by the judgemental ghost of the famous children’s book author she’s been writing her thesis about. Definitely a unique story and a phenomenal take on motherhood and a woman’s fraught relationship with her body and mind.

- Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia

After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. Although prepared to face her cousin’s new husband, who is equally menacing and alluring, she couldn't have prepared for the oddities of High Place itself; a house that invades her dreams with visions of blood and doom and hides more than just mouldy patches within its walls.


The Residential Ghost: haunted houses


The Classically Creeper: horror-novels featuring malevolent spirits that will freak you out this fall


- Later – Stephen King The son of a struggling single mother, Jamie Conklin just wants an ordinary childhood. But Jamie is no ordinary child; he can see ghosts, and no; it’s not like that movie with Bruce Willis. His unique ability of witnessing ghastly visions from those who’ve passed, makes Jamie the target for a corrupt NYPD detective, obsessed with capturing evidence about a killer beyond the grave, even if that means putting young Jamie in serious peril.

- Black Mouth – Ronald Malfi A group of friends return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they first stumbled on as teenagers in this mesmerizing odyssey of terror that echoes of Stephen Kings IT, without the problematic content.

- The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig After a young family reluctantly moves into the husbands childhood home, which was left to them in his abusive fathers’ will, soon, strange occurrences start to take place, echoing of trauma’s they thought they left behind long ago.

- All’s Well – Mona Awad A darkly funny novel about a theater professor suffering chronic pain, who in the process of staging a troubled production of Shakespeare’s most maligned play, suddenly and miraculously recovers. Her recovery however, comes with a steep price: an unhealthy obsession with the titular play, and a haunting by three ghostly figures from it.


- The Moor – Sam Haysom

A group of teenagers exchanges ghost-stories around the campfire on their walking trip on the Moors. Soon, mysterious events start to take place; noises in the night, a severed rabbit’s foot outside a tent, a boys beginning to disappear. As panic sets in and a storm approaches, the remaining boys must band together to face a darkness not even the local ghost stories could help them predict.


The Classic Creeper: horror

The Fantastical Ghost: Urban- and Epic Fantasy featuring spirits


- The Monsters We Defy – Leslye Penelope A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist to save her community in this timely and dazzling historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic, history, and romance.


- The Diviners – Libba Bray A young woman discovers her mysterious powers could help catch a killer in this stunning supernatural historical mystery set in 1920s New York City. With it’s diverse cast of lovable characters and perfect mix of feel-good and scary; The Diviners is a must-read series for any lover of urban fantasy with a supernatural twist.


- Strange the Dreamer – Laini Taylor A young librarian is fascinated with the theoretical research of a mythical lost city of Weep. He is ridiculed by his fellow scholars for his "fancyful hobby", until one day a group of explorers requests is expertise. The lost city of Weep might be more real than anyone has predicted, and this team of explorers is determined to unearth it.


- Sacaran Nights – Rachel Emma Shaw The ancient city of Sacara is decaying. The dead walk the streets, fungi light the night and the living will go to great lengths to protect their legacies from the corruption that lingers around every corner of their society… Dagner dreams of leaving the stink of Sacara behind forever. Instead, after the sudden passing of his father, he’s trapped by an inheritance he never wished for. A stunning independently published fantasy by one of the greatest indie-voices in fantasy horror.

- Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Alex has always been able to see ghosts, ever since a surviving an attempt on her life years ago. Now an unlikely freshman at the prestigious University of Yale, she attempts to navigate her new life at the Ivy League while tasked by her benefactor with monitoring the eight Houses of the Veil; secret societies that harbour dark occult magic and power. Although this novel didn’t click with me personally, as you can read in my review; it’s still a very beloved book that made a perfect fit for this list; hence the recommendation.


Fantastical Ghosts

Boo-hags, Spooks and ancestral spirits: ghosts from different cultures


- Sorrowland – Rivers Solomon A young black mother experiences mysterious hauntings and physical mutations during her flight through the woods with her two new born children, in a desperate attempt to escape the cult she grew up in.

- When the Reckoning Comes – Latanya McQueen A haunting novel about a black woman who returns to her hometown for a plantation wedding and the horror that ensues as she reconnects with the blood-soaked history of the land and the best friends she left behind.

- Black Water Sister – Zen Cho Following her move back from America to Malaysia, a Chinese-Malaysian girl is haunted by the ghost of her estranged grandmother who requires her help to settle a score against a gang boss who has offended the gods. Black Water Sister is a comedic, high-stakes and genuinely thrilling adventure about family and acceptance in a world full of vindictive gods, feisty ghosts, and family secrets.

- The Hacienda – Isabel Canas Mexican Gothic meets Rebecca in this debut supernatural suspense novel, set in the aftermath of the Mexican War of Independence, about a remote house, a sinister haunting, and the woman pulled into their clutches...

- The Monsters We Defy – Leslye Penelope A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist to save her community in this timely and dazzling historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic, history, and romance.


Ghosts in non-western cultures


The Melancholic Ghost; spirits lamenting their losses


- Watch Over Me – Nina LaCour Mila is used to being alone. Maybe that’s why she said yes to the opportunity: living in this remote place, among the flowers and the fog and the crash of waves far below. But she hadn’t known about the ghosts. A heartwarming coming of age tale of found-family, grief, resilience and healing.

- The Glass Hotel – Emily St. John Mandel A haunting tale, tracing back the intersection of two seemingly disparate events–a massive Ponzi scheme collapse and the mysterious disappearance of a woman from a ship at sea. The Glass Hotel is one of my all-time favourite novels, wherein the characters are haunted by the ghosts of their pasts both literally as well as metaphorically.

- Me Moth – Amber McBride A teenage girl and boy, each carrying their separate griefs and trauma’s join on a road trip that has them chasing ghosts and searching for ancestors, in this stunning novel in verse.


- 10 minutes and 38 Seconds in this Strange World – Elif Shafak A young sex-worker is brutally murdered, her body unceremoniously dumped in a bin on the streets of Istanbul. As her brain shuts down, Leila recalls her life in its entirety. These intimate recollections – covering one woman’s life from birth to death, the family who disowned her and the friends who came to be her greatest support, against a backdrop of key moments in Turkish history. A haunting from within, like you’ve never read before.


- Creatures of Passage – Morowa Yejide Nephthys Kinwell is a taxi driver of sorts in Washington, DC, ferrying ill-fated passengers in a haunted car: a 1967 Plymouth Belvedere with a ghost in the trunk. Endless rides and alcohol help her manage her grief over the death of her twin brother, Osiris, who was murdered and dumped in the Anacostia River. A stunning tale of a forgotten quadrant of Washington, DC, and the ghosts that haunt it, infused with element of both Afro-American an Egyptian mythology.

- The Third Hotel – Laura van den Berg Shortly after her arrival in Havana, Cuba, a woman unexpectedly spots her husband standing outside a museum. He’s wearing a white linen suit she’s never seen before, and he’s supposed to be dead. Grief-stricken and baffled, she tails her ghost-husband through the newly tourist-filled streets of Havana, as the lines between memories and reality begin to blur more and more.


The Melancholic Ghost


The Wholesome Ghost; benevolent souls sending love from beyond

- Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger A young indigenous girl inherits the ability to raise the ghosts of dead animals from her Lipan Apache family. When her cousin becomes the victim of police violence, Elatsoe embarks on a desperate quest for answers, accompanied by the ghost of their deceased family-dog. This book has indigenous magic, a portrayal of a loving and healthy family and a ghost-springer spaniel. What more could I want?!


- Under the Whispering Door – T.J. Klune When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead. And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he’s definitely dead. But even in death he’s not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days.


- The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman A young orphan is taken in, raised and educated by the ghost in his local graveyard. The boy feels safer among the ghosts than he does in the world of the living. Afterall; that’s where the real monsters reside. Monsters like the man responsible for the death of his parents.


- Secret Life of Souls – Jack Ketchum A deeply sad family drama is balanced out by the presence of worlds most wholesome dog that our protagonists come to believe might be a vessel for the soul of a deceased family member.


- The Keepers of Metsan Valo – Wendy Webb After the passing of their Half Norwegian matriarch Taika, a family gathers in their family home on Lake Superior, to pay their respects and honour their (grand-)mothers final wishes. The home and its surrounding forests live and breathe the memories of their family history; from secrets kept in the dark, to benevolent spirits that light up the woods.

The Wholesome Ghost

The Aquatic Ghost: novels featuring haunted waters


- They Drown Our Daughters – Katrina Monroe With a name like Cape Disappointment, what else could Meredith Strands hometown be, but haunted? Meredith never desired to return, but when a family emergency sends her and her daughter right back to the gloomy shores where she grew up, she immediately feels the pull of the waters. With coastal mists fogging up the edges, it becomes increasingly difficult to discern whether the familial curse that has lingered on the Strands is generational, psychological or supernatural in nature…

- All the Murmering Bones – A.G. Slatter Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the mysterious creatures that haunt the seas: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of their own freedom.


- A House at the Bottom of a Lake – Josh Malerman It sounded like the perfect first date: canoeing across a chain of lakes, sandwiches and beer in the cooler. But teenagers Amelia and James discover something below the water’s surface that changes their lives forever; a haunted house at the bottom of a lake.


- The Sound at the End – Kirsty Logan On a near-abandoned research base in an Arctic ice field, a skeleton crew works to ensure the centre doesn’t collapse amid treacherous storms. Officially, Trieste Grayling arrives in order to explore and film a sunken shipwreck for a documentary film; privately, she's working through a complicated grief. Trieste soon realises she's not the only one who was attracted to this intense isolation in order to escape her ghosts.

- Forget the Sleepless Shores – Sonya Taaffe A collection of short stories with a central theme of haunted waters. Expect ghosts and spirits who inhabit brine, some from tears of heartache and loss, some from strange bodies of water, not necessarily found on the map.


The Aquatic Ghost

The Extraterrestrial Ghost: tales of ghosts in space


- Dead Silence – S.A. Barnes A reluctant crew of space farers is sent on a salvage mission to recover an abandoned ghostship, only to find a that the haunting aboard is far from over.

- The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling A caver on a suicide mission on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival, in which she must face not only the dark of her underground and alien surroundings, but the ghosts inside her own head that prey upon it.

- We Have Always Been Here – Lena Nguyen A ship-doctor ona survey ship headed to an icy planet in an unexplored galaxy, must singlehandedly discover the source of her crew's visions of madness... or risk succumbing to it herself.

- Gideon the Ninth – Tamsin Muir Described as “an adventure between lesbian necromancers in space for fans of Jay Kristoff’s Nevernight Chronicles”, I have little to add to that description. I personally haven’t read this book, and have no interest in doing so, but being the beloved sci-fi series it is, it deserved a mention on this list.


The Extraterrestrial Ghost

The Child-friendly ghost: haunted tales for middle-grade readers


- Ghostlight – Kenneth Oppel A young teens summer job scaring tourists with ghost stories of a haunted lighthouse takes a terrifying turn when he accidentally summons the spirit of a dead girl—and she has demands. . . . Kenneth Oppel is a childhood favourite author of mine, and any of his works would fit perfectly within the autumnal season. Ghostlight is his most recent release, in which he again combines spooky with heart-warming and cosy.

- The Curse on Spectacle Key – Chantel Acevedo A sweetly spooky ghost story about a Cuban American boy who befriends a pair of spirits and tries to break the curse on his island home in the Floridian Keys. . . only to discover a seemingly lost piece of his family's history in the process. Probably the most wholesome out of these middle-grade stories and perfect for readers who want something slightly spooky, but not scary.

- Root Magic – Eden Royce A historical ghost story set in South Carolina in the 1960s—a tale of courage, friendship, and Black Girl Magic. After the death of their beloved grandmother, the local police deputy won’t stop harassing the Turner family. Twins Jez and Jay take it upon themselves to learn their grandmothers practice of root-magic in order to protect their family from threats both supernatural and mundane.

- The Language of Ghosts – Heather Fawcett Forced into exile on an enchanted, moving island, ex-princess Noa Marchena has two missions: reclaim her family’s stolen throne and ensure that the dark powers her older brother, Julian, possesses don’t go to his head in the process. An adventurous middle-grade fantasy about a princes with a talent of speaking to ghosts, and her older brother who may or may not be the “evil overlord” in the making.

- Spirit Hunters – Ellen Oh After moving into a new home Harper Raine, must face down the dangerous ghosts who has set their eyes on her younger brother, with the help of her newly made friends. A genuinely spooky middle-grade read with a lot of humour, heartfelt moments, friendship and some wonderful messages about diversity and acceptance.


The Childfriendly Ghost: middle-grade

The Teenage ghost: YA-books featuring hauntings


- The Dead and the Dark – Courtney Gould The inhabitant of Snakebite, Oregon aren’t too happy about the arrival of The Paraspectors, TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have come to investigate the paranormal occurrences in their town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV's ParaSpectors, has never believed in ghosts, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there's more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

- White Smoke – Tiffany D. Jackson The Haunting of Hill House meets Get Out in this chilling YA psychological thriller and modern take on the classic haunted house story from New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson.

- The Saturday Night Ghost Club – Craig Davidson In this bittersweet coming-of-age story in the vein of "Stranger Things" and "Stand by Me" about a group of misfit kids who spend an unforgettable summer investigating local ghost stories and urban legends.

- The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater The story of the unlikely friendship between the daughter of clairvoyant mother who sees the soon-to-be-dead, and a group of prep-school boys who become entangled in one of her premonitions.


- We Speak in Storms – Natalie Lund A powerful and haunting debut novel about friendship, acceptance, and learning to let go as the balance between the living and the dead is upended within a small town, in the wake of a devastating tornado.


The Teenage Ghost: Young Adult Fiction

The Bite-sized Ghost: short stories


- The Haunting Season – Various authors In this collection of 8 short stories, various bestselling authors share their best short tales of ghosts and strange happenings, in the tradition of sharing ghost-stories by the heartfire.

- The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell A collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls by Jen Campbell. Expect spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, a girl running a coffin hotel on a remote island, and more.

- When Things Get Dark – Various authors A collection of new and exclusive short stories inspired by, and in tribute to, Shirley Jackson by various bestselling authors.

- Dead End Memories – Banana Yoshimoto Dead-End Memories collects the stories of five women who, following sudden and painful events, quietly discover their ways back to recovery. It thanks its place on this list to its first short story, which follows the daughter of a yōshoku restaurant owner encounters the ghosts of a sweet elderly couple who haven't yet realized that they have been dead for years.

- Seven Emtpy Houses – Samantha Schweblin The seven houses in these seven stories are empty. Some are devoid of love or life or furniture, of people or the truth or of memories. But in Samanta Schweblin's tense, visionary tales, something always creeps back in: a ghost, a fight, trespassers, a list of things to do before you die, a child's first encounter with a dark choice or the fallibility of parents. By the Queen of the Strange and Unsettling, Samantha Schweblin.


The Bite-sized Ghost: Short Stories

All titles are linked to their respective Goodreads-pages. Links are not affiliated.

Cover-Image Credit : Su Blackwell

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