Haunted House Horror

What is the Haunted House Horror Subgenre?

Much like vampire horror and zombie horror have grown out of the creature horror subgenre because so many stories of these types of monsters exist, haunted house horror grew out of the haunting horror subgenre. Haunting horror is just as its name suggests, scary stories about people who are dealing with some sort of supernatural force that is drawn to them. The "haunting" can be anything from ghosts or poltergeists to demons, and in haunted house horror, this supernatural entity is tied intrinsically to the setting, and woe to those protagonists who dare to encroach.

The haunting horror subgenre is one of the oldest and most widely varied in the horror genre, and haunted house horror goes back almost as long. Haunted houses and castles were often used as plot devices in gothic literature, but the first haunted house tale came from Pliny the Younger who wrote to his patron about a haunted villa in Athens. In fact, haunted house stories are so pervasive in our culture that a 2005 Gallup poll found that 37 % of Americans, 28% of Canadians, and 40% Britons believe that houses and other buildings could be haunted. It's no wonder then, that many modern haunted house horror tales claim to be based on true events. Modern haunted house horror may also contain elements of psychological horror, in which the characters may not know if a supernatural entity is plaguing them or if it is their own psyche.


Haunted House Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization for haunted house horror is varied, though generally low to moderate for the human protagonists. The supernatural entity haunting the home, however, will often have more characterization than the humans.


Level of Plot: Plots will be low to moderate in haunted house horror as plots generally revolve around the human protagonists discovering that something supernatural is haunting their home.


Level of Supernatural: With ghosts, demons, and poltergeists abound in this subgenre, haunted house horror definitely has a high level of supernatural.


Level of Scary:  The level of scary varies in haunted house horror, though it is generally moderate to low, as atmospheric thrills are the most effective in this subgenre.


Level of Violence: Violence is a variable factor in haunted house horror depending upon the malevolence of the supernatural entity performing the haunting. However, generally in this subgenre, violence is moderate to low.


Typical Setting: A haunted house, of course. Haunted house horror is typically set in an area that is being haunted by a supernatural being. That being said, the haunting does not necessarily need to take place in a house. Isolated hotels and castles are also popular settings for haunted house horror.

Related Horror Subgenres

The haunting subgenre is the most obviously related subgenre to the haunted house subgenre as the two are often confused with one another. Supernatural menace is another related subgenre due to the high supernatural occurrence in haunted house horror.

Don't Read Haunted House Horror If You Dislike…

Ghosts and the supernatural. As the haunted house horror genre has a large number of spectral things that go bump in the night, if you're looking for a more realistic or more tangible horror, this subgenre may not be for you. Also, if you don't like your settings to play a large part in the story, this subgenre is probably not the best for you.

The House by Bentley Little- Five scattered strangers each have terrifying nightmares that harken back to childhoods that they would rather forget, childhoods that took place in houses identical to one another down to the placement of the furniture. As the terror mounts, each is drawn to their childhood home to confront a supernatural evil.


The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson- A team of paranormal researchers spend the summer investigating the supernatural phenomenon surrounding Hill House. As they do, the paranormal activity begins to center around Eleanor Vance, a shy telepath. Members of group fear for her safety, but Eleanor begins to feel more at home among the unearthly forces of the house.


The Bell Witch by Brent Monahan- Based on the true story of the Bell Witch, this tale recounts the poltergeist's tormenting of the Bell family through the voice of skeptic and local schoolteacher, Richard Powell.


The Turn of the Screw by Henry James- Classic haunted house horror at its finest, The Turn of the Screw tells the story of a governess who believes that her charges are being haunted by the ghosts of her predecessor and her lover.


Hell House by Richard Matheson- Millionaire, William Reinhardt Deutsch, hires a physicist and two mediums to investigate the possibility of life after death. To do so, they stay in one of the most haunted houses in Maine, aptly nicknamed Hell House. Influences in the house begin to corrupt the group, preying on their weaknesses. Hell House combines the supernatural with mystery in this chilling tale.


The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters- When Dr. Faraday visits Hundreds Hall, it is in a sad state of disrepair. He befriends the Ayre's family, who own the estate. Each is troubled in their own way, but none so much as Roderick, a former World War II pilot who believes that he is being tormented by an unseen force in the house, and that he must protect his mother and sister from its influence.


The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson- When the Lutz family moves into their new home in Amityville New York, they learn that it was the site of a brutal mass murder that occurred a year before they bought it. Supernatural forces plague the family, intensifying after the house is blessed.


The Shining by Stephen King- When recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance takes a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, the sinister forces in the hotel prey upon his mind in order to capture his son's unique psychic abilities. King's take on the haunted house subgenre is a chilling blend of psychological and supernatural.


The Rats in the Walls by H.P. Lovecraft- When the Exham Priory is restored by its heir, he begins to have strange recurring nightmares and hear noises of rats in the walls. As he investigates, he discovers the Priory's sinister history.


House of Leaves by Mark. Z Danielewski- Johnny Truant makes a macabre discovery in his new apartment. The body of its former tenant along with a manuscript that the old man was working on.  As he reads and researches the story, Johnny learns of a house that doesn't  seem to exist where supernatural forces drove the family who lived there and researchers into insanity and murder. The more that Johnny investigates the manuscript, the closer he comes to insanity himself.

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