Sometimes, the best horror books are those that float just under-the-radar, with only the help of dedicated readers and great word of mouth to keep them fueling our nightmares. We’ve included overlooked works of the masters, forgotten treasures, and terrifying true accounts to bring you nine underrated horror books to read next.
1. The Sentinel, by Jeffrey Konvitz
If you just can’t get enough of "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary’s Baby", try Jeffrey Konvitz’s 1974 novel, "The Sentinel". Like Rosemary’s Baby, this novel features a young woman navigating her new apartment and strange neighbors—but the neighbors have more in common with the unwanted visitor in The Exorcist. There’s something not quite right about these tenants... especially the priest who lives upstairs. Konvitz was reportedly pretty freaked out while writing the book, and even more terrified by the strange (and scary) things that happened to him after it was published.
2. Haunted, by Chuck Palahniuk
Palahniuk may be best-known for penning "Fight Club", but boy does he know how to write a sickening horror book. "Haunted," an under-the-radar collection of stories that Palahniuk calls a “novel,” is so terrifying that several people reportedly fainted while listening to him give a reading of “Guts.” No, it wasn’t us... it happened to a friend of ours!
3. Horror Show, by Greg Kihn
Greg Kihn may be a rock musician, but he’s also a talented horror writer. His first book, 1996’s "Horror Show," won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel. Horror Show tells the story of a young journalist who hopes to get the scoop on the urban legends involving a fictional 1957 horror movie called Cadaver, including the rumor that real corpses were used during filming—placing a curse on the film and anyone involved with it. Fans of classic horror movies will love this inventive blend of film and fiction.
4. Penpal, by Dathan Auerbach
Inspired by an online horror thread of spooky experiences Auerbach founded, "Penpal" was destined to be published. Auerbach raised over 1,000 percent of his Kickstarter goal to publish this book, which tells the story of a young man who goes back to his childhood to link together a series of terrifying events up to the present day. That’s where all that material from the forum comes into play. Penpal proves you don’t need a marketing machine or even a publisher to gain readers—just a great story.
5. Harvest Home, by Thomas Tyron
In the 1970s, Thomas Tyron’s novels were a huge success. But it’s past time for a new generation to discover these horror books, including 1973’s "Harvest Home". When a family moves out to the country for some R&R, they find themselves embroiled in a community with a strange harvest tradition. Fans of films like "Children of the Corn", "Signs", and "The Village" will recognize the chilling clues to the truth in this underrated horror classic.
6. Spindrift, by Jan Bryant Bartell
This terrifying memoir of a truly haunted life has been out-of-print for decades, meaning a whole generation of horror fans may not be familiar with the terrifying story behind it. Jan Bryant Bartell lived for over a decade at 14 West 10th Street, a townhouse in NYC that was so plagued by paranormal activity it earned the nickname the “House of Death.” Bartell and her husband finally had to flee, but not before she put her experiences down on paper in the form of her 1974 memoir, "Spindrift: Spray from a Psychic Sea". Unfortunately, Bartell claimed the spirits of the House of Death followed her to her new home, and she died under mysterious circumstances just before the book was published.
7. The Elementals, by Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell is remembered as the writer of Tim Burton’s "Beetlejuice"—but he was also a horror novelist, often publishing under several pseudonyms. Focused on the Southern gothic genre, his 1981 novel "The Elementals" perhaps best embodies the spirit of his work. When two families hope to summer together in homes on the Gulf coast of Alabama, they find a sinister force squatting in one abandoned home nearby. McDowell’s career was cut tragically short when he died of AIDS related illness in 1999.
8. The Devil in Gray, by Graham Masterton
Graham Masterton is one of the most prolific horror writers of the 20th century. To say that his work is underrated is inaccurate, but we found his 2004 novel, "The Devil in Gray", lacked adequate praise. Only a British writer could tackle the American Civil War and make it so bloody terrifying. Because let’s face it, the only thing more terrifying than a Confederate soldier ghost is a Confederate soldier ghost that can kill you without you seeing it coming.
9. The Lottery and Other Stories, by Shirley Jackson
Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery” may be one of the most infamous short stories ever written, but the collection in which it rests remains widely unread and under-celebrated. Published in 1948, The Lottery contains 26 bone-chilling short stories, most featuring a man in a blue suit who sometimes goes by the name “James Harris,” “James,” or “Jim.” He keeps popping up—but who is he? Clues to his identity are scattered throughout this excellent, overlooked collection.
This story was originally featured on The-Line-Up.com. The Lineup is the premier digital destination for fans of true crime, horror, the mysterious, and the paranormal.