FIVE OF MY FAVOURITE HAUNTED HOUSES
One of the things I loved most about writing The Turn of the Key was creating Heatherbrae House – a seemingly perfect house, with something seriously sinister lying just beneath the surface.
A luxuriously renovated Victorian lodge full of lovingly preserved original features, it’s also a high tech smart house – with wired up speakers, cameras in every room, lights you can operate from your phone, and a fridge that talks to you by name.
But is the technology hiding something else, something… wrong?
There was something sick in that house, Mr Wrexham… if you scratched the walls of Heatherbrae house, scoring the handblocked peacock wallpaper with your nails, or gouging the polished granite tiles… darkness would seep out.
Whether Heatherbrae is haunted or not (and you’ll have to make up your own mind on that), I love a good haunted house story. Here are five of my favourites – some seriously spooky, others just threaded through with a delicious unease…
The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters
From the moment Dr Faraday, the narrator of The Little Stranger, encounters Hundreds Hall, he is obsessed. And over the course of the novel, the house draws him back, again and again, in spite of, or maybe because of, the strange happenings that curse the Ayres family. What exactly is going on at Hundreds Hall? Waters resists easy explanations, and the novel is all the better for it.
The Haunting of Hill House – Shirley Jackson
This truly terrifying novel has one of the best and most unsettling opening paragraphs I’ve ever read. It sets the tone for a book in which Jackson rarely gives the reader a moment’s respite – what begins with a creeping sense of unease, mounts eventually to sheer terror. Hill House has been immortalised several times on film and most recently Netflix used it as the setting for a very good TV series, which looked at a family moving into Hill House years after the events in Jackson’s novel – but I don’t think any of the adaptations have quite matched the power, ambiguity and menace of the original.
The Woman in Black – Susan Hill
The fabulously named Eel Marsh House stands alone in a salt marsh, cut off from the mainland by the tide for most of the day and night. When a young solicitor, Arthur Kipps, is sent by his firm to catalogue the estate of the deceased owner, locals earnestly adjure him not to stay at the house overnight – advice he foolishly ignores. It’s a decision that leaves him a changed man in more ways than one.
The Shining – Stephen King
I avoided Stephen King for years, thinking I would be too much of a scaredy-cat for the master of horror. And the truth is that this book is seriously terrifying. But it’s also seriously good, and it delves much deeper, into much stranger territory than the Stanley Kubrick film. Is the Overlook Hotel haunted, or just the unlucky venue for some co-incidental tragedies over the years? Check in, along with Danny and his parents to find out. But, like Hotel California, it’s a hard place to leave behind..
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier
A different kind of haunting in this novel – but one that is just as real to the narrator as she grapples with the ghost of her husband’s first wife, the eponymous Rebecca of the title. Rebecca’s presence looms so large at Manderley, Maxim de Winter’s beautiful country house estate, that it casts a shadow over everything it touches. Can our narrator exorcise Manderley and her husband from the grip of this long-dead woman?