The best novels about mysterious old houses with a haunting presence

Loretta Marion Author Of House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery
By Loretta Marion

Who am I?

I am an author of mysteries with three published books in the genre to date. Novels involving a mysterious house will immediately grab my attention. Throw in an otherworldly presence and I’m hooked. So it was no surprise when my muse guided me to create a mystery series that centers around a Victorian home haunted by the spirits of its original inhabitants. Inspiration came from personal experience—a real-life ghostly encounter in my New England country home which bordered an ancient cemetery—and influence from classic tales that delve into the paranormal and the psychological. This is the type of book I will always rush to read (and write).


I wrote...

House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery

By Loretta Marion,

Book cover of House of Ashes: A Haunted Bluffs Mystery

What is my book about?

A century-old curse, a dying proclamation, and a mystifying disappearance converge in the shadows of a brooding Victorian, standing triumphant despite tragedies that have swept the generations. In the first Haunted Bluffs Mystery, Cassandra Mitchell is in a desperate race to save her family home and legacy when two friends vanish without a trace. Despite warnings from police and the FBI, Cassandra follows the trail of clues—and eerie signals from the ghostly presence of the old Victorian. Dark family secrets are exposed as she seeks to solve the mysterious disappearance. But will she succeed before a perilous curse threatens to destroy everything?

A raging storm, missing child, and suspicious deaths set the stage for Storm of Secrets, the second ghostly mystery in the series.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Book cover of Rebecca

Why this book?

A masterpiece of gothic literature, Rebecca was the first book to draw me to the genre. Hooked by the first line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”…I remained spellbound by every atmospheric scene and suspenseful twist until reaching the last haunting words, “And the ashes blew towards us with the salt wind from the sea." Only after finishing did I realize that the book’s narrator, the young second wife of enigmatic Maxim de Winter, is never introduced by name. Though dead, it is the title character and first Mrs. de Winter—Rebecca—who continues to torment the newly married couple.

The home itself, which du Maurier brings to life with such a beautiful description, becomes a vital character in the story. Without Manderley, there would be no Rebecca.

Rebecca

By Daphne du Maurier,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

* 'The greatest psychological thriller of all time' ERIN KELLY
* 'One of the most influential novels of the twentieth century' SARAH WATERS
* 'It's the book every writer wishes they'd written' CLARE MACKINTOSH

'Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again . . .'

Working as a lady's companion, our heroine's outlook is bleak until, on a trip to the south of France, she meets a handsome widower whose proposal takes her by surprise. She accepts but, whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory…


We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott (illustrator),

Book cover of We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Why this book?

From an expert horror storyteller, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is my favorite Shirley Jackson novel. Unlike the more famous The Haunting of Hill House, Castle is not about a haunted house. But there is something strange and mysterious happening within the walls of Blackwood House. Instead of ghostly spirits, the mansion on the outskirts of town is possessed by secrets. Secrets that have ostracized two sisters and their crippled uncle following the suspicious arsenic poisoning deaths of half the Blackwood family. Reclusive older sister Constance is widely suspected of the crime, while young Merricat is subject to persecution when venturing into town for provisions. With a quirky belief in omens and magic, Merricat weaves a questionable narrative and twisted perspective through the telling of a dark tale. 

We Have Always Lived in the Castle

By Shirley Jackson, Thomas Ott (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

9 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?

'Her greatest book ... at once whimsical and harrowing, a miniaturist's charmingly detailed fantasy sketched inside a mausoleum ... the deeper we sink, the deeper we want to go' Donna Tartt

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…


The Lake House

By Kate Morton,

Book cover of The Lake House

Why this book?

The Lake House was recommended to me because the style of writing and the themes of the story have been compared to my own books. I especially enjoy the techniques of interweaving present-day stories with tales from the past and employing multiple perspectives. Kate Morton’s characters are always well-developed, and her descriptions provide atmospheric depth. The country lake home, Loeanneth—beautifully described in its prime—is an abandoned, crumbling estate decades later. Family secrets abound and having two unrelated mysteries at work brings texture to the story. As a writer, I do appreciate when one of the main characters is an author, and I enjoyed observing Alice Edevane's approach to her writing life. Be patient as the mystery twists and builds. You won’t be disappointed!

The Lake House

By Kate Morton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Lake House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

June 1933, and the Edevane family's country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. But by the time midnight strikes and the fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever. Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Detective Sadie Sparrow retreats on an enforced holiday to her beloved grandfather's cottage in Cornwall. Venturing further into the countryside on her daily runs, she stumbles upon a long-abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the terrible story of…

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë,

Book cover of Jane Eyre

Why this book?

Jane Eyre is an eerily evocative novel in which two Victorian mansions present with sinister apparitions. Jane’s first terrifying ghostly encounter occurs in Gatesfield Hall when a wicked aunt locks her in the red room, haunted by her deceased uncle. After years in the harsh world of Lowood Institute for orphaned girls, she becomes the governess at Thornfield Hall. Jane falls in love with the dashing but brooding Edward Rochester, though also senses a mysterious, foreboding presence within the walls of his Thornfield home. On their wedding day, after discovering Rochester is still married to a madwoman he keeps locked in the attic, Jane flees Thornfield to an uncertain future.

I love that Bronte created a strong, independent female character, rare in Victorian times, and still delivered a satisfying ending.

Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Brontë,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Introduction and Notes by Dr Sally Minogue, Canterbury Christ Church University College.

Jane Eyre ranks as one of the greatest and most perennially popular works of English fiction. Although the poor but plucky heroine is outwardly of plain appearance, she possesses an indomitable spirit, a sharp wit and great courage.

She is forced to battle against the exigencies of a cruel guardian, a harsh employer and a rigid social order. All of which circumscribe her life and position when she becomes governess to the daughter of the mysterious, sardonic and attractive Mr Rochester.

However, there is great kindness and warmth…


The Haunting of Maddy Clare

By Simone St. James,

Book cover of The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Why this book?

The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a historic tale of ghost hunters who find exactly what they are seeking in Maddy Clare—a powerful and angry specter that haunts the barn where she ended her life. The characters are well drawn in a story that offers just the right balance of fright and romantic tension. The atmosphere is as dark and unsettling as one would hope to discover in a story about a haunting spirit, with enough mystery and suspense to keep the reader wondering about the ending for each of the characters—including Maddy Clare herself.

For readers who enjoy mysteries, ghost stories, and romantic suspense…The Haunting of Maddy Clare offers all of that and more.

The Haunting of Maddy Clare

By Simone St. James,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Haunting of Maddy Clare as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in family secrets, romantic love, and mental disorders?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about family secrets, romantic love, and mental disorders.

Family Secrets Explore 96 books about family secrets
Romantic Love Explore 450 books about romantic love
Mental Disorders Explore 111 books about mental disorders

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Winter King, Hero of Rome, and The Wall if you like this list.