Haunting Horror

What is 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 it doesn't necessarily need to be tied to the main character. In stories like The Amityville Horror or The Haunting of Hill House, the supernatural entity is linked to the setting and existed long before the story begins.

This is probably why the haunting horror genre is sometimes also referred to as haunted house horror. The supernatural entity may also be tied to an object, such as a doll in Annabelle or a suit in Heart-Shaped Box. The haunting horror subgenre is one of the oldest and most widely varied in the horror genre. Stories can range from violent gorefests as seen in The Amityvile Horror to the atmospheric as seen in The Fall of the House of Usher. The entities can be malevolent or vengeful, but they can also be friendly and sympathetic. In fact, it seems like the only requirement for this genre is that the supernatural be regularly encroaching on the natural world, though the most haunting of horror stories blend the supernatural horror with the psychological horrors within the character's minds.

Haunting Horror Characteristics

Level of Characterization: The level of characterization in haunted horror can vary widely from scholars and professors to alcoholics and junkies, characters in haunted horror are as vastly different as the supernatural entities that plague them.

Level of Plot: The level of plot in haunted horror is relatively low. A supernatural entity plagues  the characters with increasing menace until the situation explodes.

Level of Supernatural:  Considering that a supernatural entity, whether it be demon or ghost, is  a character responsible for plaguing the protagonist in a haunting horror, it is safe to say that the level of supernatural in this subgenre is very high.

Level of Scary:  Another level that can vary greatly in haunting horror is the level of scary. Some of the earliest haunting horror is vaguey eerie while other stories will make you afraid to sleep with the lights off.

Level of Violence: Again, the level of violence in a haunting horror will vary depending upon the actions of the supernatural entity present. The Amityville Horror is extremely violent, wheras in The Haunting of Hill House, the violence is rarely seen on the page.

Typical Setting: A haunted house, of course. Haunting horror is typically set in an area that is being haunted by a supernatural being, though not always. Other typical settings of haunted horror include, small towns, marshes, or remote castles, any place that is sufficiently away from the normal to produce the necessary haunting atmosphere.

Related Horror Subgenres

One of the most obvious related subgenres is supernatural. Other related subgenres included atmospheric due to the fact that haunting horror generally evokes an air of creepiness and possession given that haunting is closely linked to possession. Another not so obviously related subgenre is psychological as many of the best haunting horrors combine the supernatural with the horrors in the protagonist's life. Some may even blur the line between the two genres.

Don't Read Haunting Horror If You Dislike…

The fantastical and supernatural. A staple of the haunting horror genre is the supernatural entity that plagues the protagonist and other characters. Because of this, anyone who enjoys a certain level of realism in their horror will be disappointed in the haunting horror genre.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James- Published in 1904, this eerie collection of short stories is probably among the first in the haunting horror subgenre. What it lacks in modern day thrills and chills, it makes up for in spooky atmosphere. From a haunted book to the tale of two ghosts seeking revenge on an evil alchemist, many of these stories will seem familiar, bu only because this work has been an inspiration for many of horror's greatest writers.


The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe- When the narrator receives a letter from his friend Roderick Usher complaining of an unusual illness, the narrator rushes to his friend's aid, only to find Roderick and his sister Madeline living in a decaying family home on a desolate lake. Both have strange symptoms, and Roderick claims to know that the house is alive. When Madeline dies, strange things start to happen in the house, causing both the narrator and Roderick to believe that she may have returned from the grave.


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.


Ghost Story by Peter Straub- Four friends gather in their old age to reminisce about their youth and tell ghost stories, but one story they never bring up is the tragedy of their past surrounding an accidental murder of a young girl. When one of the friends mysteriously dies, the others begin to realize that the secrets of their youth may be coming back to haunt them.

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 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.

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.


Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill- In this Stoker award winning novel, aging rock star Jude Coyne has begun a morbid collection in his retirement.  Online, he's approached about adding an odd item to this collection, a dead man's funeral suit. When he's warned that the man's ghost is attached to the suit, Coyne is unable to resist the macabre addition to his collection, but soon it becomes apparent that not only is the spectre very real, it is hell bend on killing Coyne and everyone around him.

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