I grew up on horror movies and devoured the books of Christopher Pike and Stephen King equally as a teen. But my favorite kind of horror has always been the haunted house & ghost story – no movie chills me more than The Others, no book creeps me out as much as Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.
With Teen Read Week coming to an end and Halloween just a few weeks away, here are four* YA haunted house & ghost stories to bring on the skin-prickling scares.
THE GIRL FROM THE WELL
by Rin Chupeco
First up is a YA horror novel that was pitched as Dexter meets The Grudge, based on the same Japanese ghost story as The Ring’s villainess. Yup, it’s Ring-style Japanese horror in YA book form. Does anything else even need to be said?
A dead girl walks the streets.
She hunts murderers. Child killers, much like the man who threw her body down a well three hundred years ago.
And when a strange boy bearing stranger tattoos moves into the neighborhood so, she discovers, does something else. And soon both will be drawn into the world of eerie doll rituals and dark Shinto exorcisms that will take them from American suburbia to the remote valleys and shrines of Aomori, Japan.
Because the boy has a terrifying secret - one that would just kill to get out.
ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD
by Kendare Blake
A little bit Buffy, a little bit Supernatural, I feel like this book has already become a classic of YA horror – it gets referenced a lot! I get why: it was a super fun read with plenty of snark, chills and gore (there’s even a sad backstory to humanize Angel Anna). The villain at the end was a little disappointing and problematic for me, but it was still a pretty good read overall.
Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.
So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.
Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.
Yet she spares Cas’s life.
AND THE TREES CREPT IN
by Dawn Kurtagich
From my TBR list: This book sounds like a Gothic YA House of Leaves, which is enough for me to fast track this to the top of my TBR pile. House of Leaves was an amazing book, and I am here for YA novels inspired by its unconventional narrative format & its pure frightening awesome. No pressure or anything.
When Silla and Nori arrive at their aunt’s home, it’s immediately clear that the “blood manor” is cursed.
The creaking of the house and the stillness of the woods surrounding them would be enough of a sign, but there are secrets too–the questions that Silla can’t ignore: Who is the beautiful boy that’s appeared from the woods? Who is the man that her little sister sees, but no one else? And why does it seem that, ever since they arrived, the trees have been creeping closer?
Filled with just as many twists and turns as The Dead House, and with achingly beautiful, chilling language that delivers haunting scenes, And The Trees Crept In is the perfect follow-up novel for master horror writer Dawn Kurtagich.
A BANQUET FOR HUNGRY GHOSTS
A Collection of Deliciously Frightening Tales by Ying Chang Compestine
More gory than scary, these short stories are based on the ‘hungry ghost’ legends from China. The author included a bit of cultural & historical info at the end of each tale, something I appreciated since Chinese culture isn’t well-represented in YA. She also included a recipe for each story, giving literal meaning to the “deliciously frightening” in the subtitle.
According to Chinese tradition, those who die hungry or unjustly come back to haunt the living. Some are appeased with food. But not all ghosts are successfully mollified.
In this chilling collection of stories, Ying Chang Compestine takes readers on a journey through time and across different parts of China. From the building of the Great Wall in 200 BCE to the modern day of iPods, hungry ghosts continue to torment those who wronged them.
*Did you know the number four is considered unlucky in China because it’s nearly homophonous to the word “death”? It’s similar to the number thirteen here in the US.