It’s that time again — time to continue our haunted road trip across America. As a reminder, we’ve been shrugging off a year of pandemic staycations by visiting every state through the lens of a horror novel set within it. With our first two installments, we’ve traveled all the way through Maryland. Now it’s time to hop in your reading car for a trip from Massachusetts to New Jersey.
Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay
Let’s start with something both supernatural and psychologically suspenseful in Massachusetts’ Borderland State Park. The titular disappearance is of a teenage boy, Tommy. There’s little to the story that’s straightforward, and for the bulk of the novel, you can’t be sure what to believe. The impossible seems as plausible as any explanation rooted in reality. What’s certain, though: you probably don’t want to hang out at Devil’s Rock.
Broken Monsters, Lauren Beukes
Through rotating POVs, Broken Monsters, both gritty and grisly, looks at Detroit through several lenses. The real-life trials and tribulations of that city are given room to be unnerving in their own right, but I’ll wager that the image that’s going to stick with you is the corpse that greets Detective Gabriella Versado at the beginning of the novel: an unreal fusion of young boy and deer.
Bloodline, Jess Lourey
If you’re clamoring for more crime, hop two states to the West with me, to the small town of Lilydale, Minnesota. Inspired by a real disappearance, the story finds pregnant Joan Harken settling down with her fiance in his hometown. But something doesn’t seem right with the smothering-ly friendly townsfolk, and Joan’s soon pulling at the seams of a two-decades-old disappearance.
Blackwood, Michael Farris Smith
In the mid-90s, I remember trying to play SimPark on my family’s first PC. Quickly, my park was overtaken by kudzu vines, and I gave up. The people of Red Bluff, Mississippi, should have done the same. This spooky Southern tale stars that dying small town, with vines swallowing up its edges and broken residents shuffling through the motions of life. Then, the arrival of a desperate family of strangers stirs up Red Bluff’s haunted past.
Crota, Owl Goingback
Turns out all those “misery” “Missouri” puns may be a little too on the nose! This creature feature certainly won’t be material for any state tourism brochures. The Hobbs County police have discovered a mutilated body. A bear attack would seem the only logical possibility, but there aren’t many bears native to the area. The rest of the novel is a pulpy, gory monster hunt perfect for those in the mood for old-fashioned horror fun from an Indigenous author.
The Ploughmen, Kim Zupan
Admittedly, I’m stretching genre labels to include this desolate novel, but the bleakness of this modern Western stems from both its setting in rural Montana and its intimate probing of the depths of the human psyche. In the darkness of the county jail, a serial killer and a young deputy talk through their shared insomnia and the horrors one has performed and the other witnessed.
There’s Someone Inside Your House, Stephanie Perkins
There aren’t hordes of Nebraska-set horror novels, but the state is home to this fun and somewhat gruesome YA slasher. High-schooler Makani Young has a secret, one she thought she’d left behind in Hawaii when she moved to her grandmother’s house in a small Nebraska town. But when a serial killer starts picking off her new classmates one by one, Makani worries her past may catch up to her.
We Sold Our Souls, Grady Hendrix
This novel criss-crosses the country on its ghoulish journey, but the destination is Las Vegas, the site of the Hellstock music festival, which is bound to be a bad time. Two decades after they were cheated out of their careers and possibly their mortal souls, the former members of metal band Dürt Würk are on a path to confront the lead singer who ruined their lives (and maybe after-lives).
Horns, Joe Hill
Perhaps you have woken up one morning with a tremendous hangover. Perhaps it was head-splittingly bad. But I guarantee you it was not worse than Ignatius Perrish’s morning after — when he wakes up with a pair of devilish horns poking out of his forehead. Those horns? They compel the residents of Gideon, New Hampshire, to disclose to Ig their worst desires. The result is weird and wild.
The Night Will Find Us, Matthew Lyons
The setting of Lyons’s novel is very much its own character in the story. This is that age-old tale of what happens when a school camping trip goes horribly, murderously wrong. Though this time, when tragedy strikes a group of six teens, they’re soon enveloped in various supernatural horrors within the dense growth and shadowy depths of the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Even the trees have secretssss.
Looking for more? Our next group of states is coming soon, so stay tuned!