The best horror novels featuring a cursed location

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a lifelong horror reader, really since first stumbling onto Stephen King in the 9th grade. There’s something about that genre that has held a particular fascination for me through the years, probably because the best works are some combination of suspenseful, well-written, and cathartic, as they really get your mind racing as to what you might do yourself in a given situation. If you’re lucky, they might even have something to say about the human condition as a whole. But given this prolonged interest and exposure to horror, it’s only natural I would eventually progress to giving it a stab myself.


I wrote...

The Doom Statues

By Jason McGathey,

Book cover of The Doom Statues

What is my book about?

Though dormant for many years, when an artists' retreat in the country reopens, a group of creatively inclined strangers cannot resist its charms. None of them find it odd that the locals steer clear of the place - at least not initially. Long before the property's dark past reveals itself to them, however, they begin to realize this retreat offers more than they signed up for. That creatives are perhaps ill-equipped for dealing with the quote-unquote real world, and that they may not escape this place any more than they can themselves.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of The Ruins

Jason McGathey Why did I love this book?

This is always the first one that leaps to mind for me when I’m thinking of a relentlessly paced novel that is nonetheless extremely well written. It’s a simple yet relatable premise, which to me makes it all the more horrifying. Smith is a master of economy here, as he keeps the plot moving (with no chapter breaks!) throughout, yet his style is a fairly literary one and he develops the characters well.

By Scott Smith,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Ruins as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Craving an adventure to wake them from their lethargic Mexican holiday before they return home, four friends set off in search of one of their own who has travelled to the interior to investigate an archaeological dig in the Mayan ruins.
After a long journey into the jungle, the group come across a partly camouflaged trail and a captivating hillside covered with red flowers. Lured by these, the group move closer until they happen across a gun-toting Mayan horseman who orders them away. In the midst of the confrontation, one of the group steps inadvertently backwards into the flowering vine.…


Book cover of House of Leaves

Jason McGathey Why did I love this book?

This notoriously difficult read is an extreme love/hate affair for most readers, with very few in the middle. But I liked the outrageous stylistic decisions (even the copious footnotes!), and even more so the somewhat overlooked strengths of Danielewski’s writing, as well as the central story itself: a house that is somehow much larger on the inside than it is when measured from the outside. There’s also a meta tale undergirding all this, about how a mysterious book written about the house also drives all readers slowly mad. This novel isn’t for everyone, maybe, but there’s nothing else quite like it.

By Mark Z. Danielewski,

Why should I read it?

22 authors picked House of Leaves as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“A novelistic mosaic that simultaneously reads like a thriller and like a strange, dreamlike excursion into the subconscious.” —The New York Times

Years ago, when House of Leaves was first being passed around, it was nothing more than a badly bundled heap of paper, parts of which would occasionally surface on the Internet. No one could have anticipated the small but devoted following this terrifying story would soon command. Starting with an odd assortment of marginalized youth -- musicians, tattoo artists, programmers, strippers, environmentalists, and adrenaline junkies -- the book eventually made its way into the hands of older generations,…


Book cover of Cujo

Jason McGathey Why did I love this book?

This is maybe not the novel that leaps to mind when people are thinking about King’s cursed places—most readers would probably pick The Shining or Salem’s Lot. Yet I think this still fits the bill as a somewhat overlooked pick. It’s just that in this instance the cursed place happens to be a hole in the ground. Maybe I have a soft spot for this one, as it’s the first book of his I read, and I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s his best novel, but to me this work is more believable than most of his tales. As a demented dog stalks people in the backwoods of Maine, King does a great job making you believe every word of it, to the extent you can almost feel the heat of this unusually hot summer, and sympathize with those attempting to defend themselves, in particular the mother and her young son trapped in that car.

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked Cujo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller, Cujo “hits the jugular” (The New York Times) with the story of a friendly Saint Bernard that is bitten by a bat. Get ready to meet the most hideous menace ever to terrorize the town of Castle Rock, Maine.

Outside a peaceful town in central Maine, a monster is waiting. Cujo is a two-hundred-pound Saint Bernard, the best friend Brett Camber has ever had. One day, Cujo chases a rabbit into a cave inhabited by sick bats and emerges as something new altogether.

Meanwhile, Vic and Donna Trenton, and their young son Tad, move…


Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Jason McGathey Why did I love this book?

Though her Haunting of Hill House, is much more famous, I actually found that to be an underwhelming read. And had given up on Jackson as a result, until catching the Netflix film version of Castle. That muted but creepy take on this material made me want to read the novel, and I’m glad I did, as it proves to have been a faithful adaptation. The tone here somehow walks a perfect line between understated and menacing throughout the novel, while also maintaining this sense of the young narrator’s childlike whimsy. So much so that you don’t even think of the central question at the heart of this tale, which makes the twist all that more shocking when it arrives.

By Shirley Jackson,

Why should I read it?

19 authors picked We Have Always Lived in the Castle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Living in the Blackwood family home with only her sister, Constance, and her Uncle Julian for company, Merricat just wants to preserve their delicate way of life. But ever since Constance was acquitted of murdering the rest of the family, the world isn't leaving the Blackwoods alone. And when Cousin Charles arrives, armed with overtures of friendship and a desperate need to get into the safe, Merricat must do everything in her power to protect the remaining family.


Book cover of Haunted

Jason McGathey Why did I love this book?

This is a unique entry in that the cursed place is a framing device, for this collection of mostly disturbing tales. For his first-ever collection of short stories, Palahniuk brings his wretched cast of characters to a haunted house, where each in turn offers his or her own demented tale. They don’t all work, but a number of the stories really stick with you, and this spooky old house at the center of it ratchets the intensity up another level—it’s not a static situation they are in, there, so the plot progresses to its own warped conclusion on this front as well. 

By Chuck Palahniuk,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Haunted as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"Haunted" is a novel made up of stories: twenty-three of them to be precise. Twenty-three of the most horrifying, hilarious, mind-blowing, stomach-churning tales you'll ever encounter - sometimes all at once. They are told by the people who have all answered the ad headlined 'Artists Retreat: Abandon your life for three months'. They are led to believe that here they will leave behind all the distractions of 'real life' that are keeping them from creating the masterpiece that is in them. But 'here' turns out to be a cavernous and ornate old theatre where they are utterly isolated from the…


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Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

Book cover of Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

Ralph Hickok Author Of Vagabond Halfback: The Saga of Johnny Blood McNally

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Green Bay and my dad was the official scorer for the Packers, so I was immersed in pro football history even as a child. During my careers as a newspaper feature writer and editor and as an advertising copywriter, I also became a sports historian. My magnum opus was “The Encyclopedia of North American Sports History,” 650,000 words. But my favorite by far is my biography of Johnny Blood. I was 12 or 13 when I decided I wanted to write it, 33 when I began working on it, 38 when I finished it, and 78 when it was finally published.

Ralph's book list on the history of pro football

What is my book about?

From Kirkus Reviews: "This debut short-story collection paints the wistful life of a newspaper journalist as seen through his sexual and romantic encounters...

Throughout, Hickok writes in an assured style, pulling readers along. The narrow sexual focus results in a distorted picture, yet other aspects of Art's life emerge at the edges—his intelligence, his career as a journalist, and even the sincerity with which he gives in to his male urges and construes sex as love... 

Subdued yet alluring; a pensive reflection on the male psyche."

Love, Sex, and Other Calamities: 15 Stories and a Poem by Ralph Hickok

By Ralph Hickok,

What is this book about?

A man arrives in a new city, hoping to start a new life, but he’s still haunted by memories of past loves…
A 12-year-old boy and an 11-year-old girl have a brief romantic encounter when their families are vacationing in neighboring lakeside cottages…
Two teenagers enjoy sexual experimentation when she babysits for her little brother while her parents are out drinking…
A high school boy has a crush on an older woman who identifies with Molly Bloom…
A college freshman falls in love with a high school freshman and is amazed at the depths of her passion…
A guy wins…


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