For the Week Two topic of the Horror Novel List, I've decided to use the classic setting of any great horror story...the haunted house. The long-standing creepy, dilapidated, cobweb-strewn, ghost-inhabited, soul-shattering manse has been a staple in classic AND modern horror fiction. So, I hope you enjoy this list and please add some of your own. Fictional stories (short OR long) can also include tales of hauntings, ghosts, demons, and ghouls...but these ALL must take place in one way or another in an old house, hotel, school, etc. Hear those boards creak upstairs? The wind howling around decrepit old eaves, sounding so much like the tortured scream of damned souls? The door suddenly opening behind you and you spin around to see...nothing!
#1 The Shining by Stephen King. Yes, yes, I know the setting isn't a HOUSE but a very large resort hotel, but this is perhaps the finest "haunted house" modern horror novel (in my opinion). Tortured writer Jack Torrance decides to spend the winter as caretaker of the Overlook, along with his wife and young son, who possesses the ability (the Shine, as dubbed by the Overlook's Shine-gifted head chef, Dick Halloran) to see violent and bloody events that took place within its walls...ghosts of the past. But when the evil essence of the Overlook begins to taint Jack's mind, he soon sees his family as a threat to his real inheritance...not as a famous writer, but that as a permanent resident of the Overlook.
#2 Ghost Story by Peter Straub. Perhaps the best horror novel written by the eloquent and resilient Straub, who's been writing horror for as long as his contemporary and friend from Maine. This dense but nicely-paced novel darts back and forth between two eras, the Then and Now, and involves a group of wealthy old men who gather to drink brandy, smoke cigars, and tell ghost stories--the Chowder Society--and a high school teacher trying to solve the mystery of his older brother's bizarre suicide. The members of the Chowder Society think that one heinous act in their past--that of the tragic death of one beautiful woman they ALL longed for--was buried forever. But unsettled, perhaps evil, things don't stay buried, for long...
#3 The "Harrow House" novels by Douglas Clegg. Although unknown to many of you, maybe, Clegg has been long contributing great novels and stories to the modern horror pantheon. In several novels, Clegg has created a terrifying history surrounding a dark mansion in upstate New York, a house called Harrow. Do yourself a favor and order these novels. They are well-worth the money. Nightmare House, Mischief, The Infinite, and The Abandoned all take place at Harrow, but at different time periods. Also, his novella, Necromancer, is kind of a prequel to Nightmare House, which is the first Harrow novel.
#4 The House Next Door by Anne Rivers Siddons. (This was suggestion from Shannon, by the way) This southern gothic classic takes place in Atlanta, where an architectural feat of a house is constructed, only to take away from the newly arrived family what they most hold dear. The neighbors next door, Colquitt and Walter Kennedy, try to make sense of the all-pervasive evil that seems to destroy all who inhabit the seemingly perfect, beautiful structure...but it is they who must take it upon themselves to confront this monstrous force...even if that feat seems nearly impossible.
#5 Flesh Gothic by Edward Lee. Okay, I couldn't help myself...but this is a classic haunted house tale, Ed Lee-style! Kind of like The Haunting of Hill House meets Hustler magazine...sort of. But seriously, Lee takes the haunted house motif and injects his own hardcore brand of the macabre. Not for the squeamish or faint of heart. And you can't help but think nothing good can ever happen in a place called Hildreth House...
As a side-note, I left out Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House because it was listed in Week One, but it would otherwise be noted here. Also, Richard Matheson's Hell House is supposedly a fantastic haunted house novel, which I own but haven't read yet.