A desolate landscape. Creaking stairs. Shutters hanging from their hinges. Low moans emanating from the walls. We all know the hallmarks of a classic (read: Western) haunted house story.
But not all haunted houses are cut from the same cloth. In fact, any domicile — of any shape, size, or locale — can be cursed, if you believe it is. Here are six unusual, unique haunted houses that prove just that.
A House at the Bottom of a Lake, Josh Malerman
The central home of this quirky novella has a lot of the trappings of a classic haunted house. But, you see, it’s at the bottom of a secluded lake. Teenagers James and Amelia discover this watery domicile on their first canoeing date. Rather than row in the opposite direction (as the protagonists of a different genre’s book would do), the pair is drawn to the house, diving repeatedly to explore its exquisitely furnished environs. But, of course, they’re not alone in this impossible place.
Mexican Gothic, Silvia Moreno-Garcia
In many ways, Moreno-Garcia has written a classic Gothic story. High Place, a grand and bleak old manor atop an isolated countryside perch, fits neatly among its many predecessors — all the way back to The Mysteries of Udolpho. But it’s also unfortunately rare, with its 1950s Mexico setting. With socialite Noemí Taboada plunging into danger, Moreno-Garcia wields social critique like a scalpel. And that’s all before the grotesque fungal plot twist.
Imaginary Friend, Stephen Chbosky
Haunted treehouse! Kate Reese fled an abusive relationship, and, upon arrival in Mill Grove, Pennsylvania, thinks the worst is behind her and her son, Christopher. To her surprise (if not to ours), Kate is wrong. Christopher disappears into the nearby woods for days. When he reappears, he enlists his friends in an otherworldly, urgent mission to build a treehouse. With his stories of a “hissing lady” and a nightmare land hidden in the woods, it’s clear what Christopher is so urgently constructing is a true treehouse of terror.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth, Cassandra Khaw
The spooky setting for Khaw’s latest novella is unusual for its rarity; the haunted house in question is a Heian-era Japanese mansion, notoriously plagued by its dark past. Though perhaps what’s stranger is that this rotting relic will soon serve as a wedding venue. But when the wedding party of five childhood friends arrives with considerably more baggage than what they physically carry, it’s not long before their flirtation with darkness turns into a bigger commitment.
Nothing But Blackened Teeth will hit shelves on October 19, 2021.
The Good House, Tananarive Due
Often in a haunted house story, the poor saps being haunted are new to the premises. They’ve stumbled into this fresh hell, having bought a house based on minimal research or pulled off the road to stay at a cursed inn. But Angela Toussaint knows the titular Good House all too well. This is her ancestral home, where her grandmother healed with vodou and where her son recently died by suicide. Angela intends to sell the horrible house, but her final visit forces her to confront its tragic past and the malignant forces still roaming its halls.
It Will Just Be Us, Jo Kaplan
Wakefield Manor, perched as it is on the edge of Virginia’s Great Dismal Swamp, features a truly unique brand of haunting. Vignettes of the home’s past tragedies play out in loops through its cavernous rooms. Much to Sam Wakefield’s horror, her family’s house has a new ghostly presence: the Faceless Boy. Is the boy a ghost from the past? She’s never seen him before. But if he’s not a figure from the house’s history, just who is he — and what does he want?