Psychological horror is a vein of frightening fiction that uses the mental states of its protagonists to evoke feelings of dread. Its narrators are often unreliable, and there may be some question about what is actually happening in the circumstances they find themselves in. If tales of madness and terror are your thing, then you’ll love the following reading recommendations.
Writer and recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance is looking for a fresh start, and the winter caretaker job at the sprawling Overlook Hotel seems made to fit. Three months of peace and quiet, just Jack, his family … and ghosts. Lots of them. The Overlook is booked almost solid with the souls it has claimed, but still has room for just a few more occupants.
The Remastered, Full-Color Edition
Mark Z. Danielewski
A young family moves into a house and discovers it is larger on the inside than the out. It might be haunted. Maybe the house itself is alive. The mystery of the house is bigger than anyone can truly understand, but they’ll try anyway, and maybe lose their sanity in the process.
Caitlin R. Kiernan
Shortly after moving into a secluded old house in rural New England, writer Sarah Crowe discovers a manuscript hidden in a wall. It was left there by an anthropologist determined to uncover the truth about an old tree long associated with murder and various other unpleasant incidences. If she isn’t cautious, Crowe, too, will be drawn into the tangled history of the Red Tree.
The media calls them the final books: a group of women — strangers to each other — who were the sole survivors of massacres perpetrated by horror movie-style serial killers. Years later, and they’re still all trying to put the worst nights of their lives behind them. Unfortunately, the past is coming back to haunt them. When one of the Final Girls turns up dead, the victim of a supposed suicide, these haunted women begin to believe that the killing may not be over.
Bret Easton Ellis
Patrick Bateman is a high-powered businessman in eighties New York City. He’s also a psychopathic murderer who punctuates his gruesome killings with lines of cocaine, weirdly obsessive monologues about his skin care routine, and power lunches at some of the city’s chicest restaurants. Or maybe not: Bateman’s worst acts of violence and depravity may be entirely imaginary. Ellis leaves it up to the reader to figure out.
Edgar Allan Poe
You can’t talk about psychological horror without talking about Edgar Allan Poe. The tortured genius behind “The Raven”, The Fall of the House of Usher”, and so many other haunting works of prose and poetry virtually created the genre single-handedly. If high school was the last time you read his fiction, then it is definitely time to revisit it.
Shirley Jackson; Foreword by Ottessa Moshfegh
Shirley Jackson was one of the twentieth century’s foremost practitioners of psychological horror fiction. While her novels We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and The Haunting of Hill House should have high priority on any reader’s list, her short stories are a great place to start. Dip into her wonderfully creepy fiction with this new collection of horror stories.
People aren’t born bad, or are they? The Wasp Factory is a look inside the mind of a young psychopathic murderer. Graphic, funny, and altogether unique, The Wasp Factory is like nothing you’ve ever read before.
Clarice Starling is an FBI agent in training under the Bureau’s behavioral science unit. “Buffalo Bill” is a serial killer at large. Her best chance to find him is to interview his former psychiatrist: the now-imprisoned Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter. A master manipulator with nothing but time on his hands, Lecter is more than happy to help — for a price.
A New England family was thrown into chaos when one of their daughters had what appeared to be a severe psychotic break. When medicine didn’t help, they turned to an exorcist — who brought along a television crew. Years later, the possessed girl’s sister agrees to an interview with a writer. What really happened in the house may not have matched what viewers saw at home, and it is time for all to know the truth.