The best haunted houses don’t necessarily charge an admission fee or feature electronic bats and actors in zombie makeup; often, they are found in between the covers of books, where our own vulnerable imaginations finish the job an author has begun, of scaring the hell out of us. With allusion-rife Gothic romance Crimson Peak in theaters and Halloween around the corner, we thought we’d revisit some of the creepiest, deadliest, most uncanny, and occasionally funniest homes in all of literature.
Incest, murderous mothers, ghosts, houses that take possession of their residents, and “Bluebeard”-style secrets in hidden wings of the attic are the elements you’re most likely to come across in a classic Gothic house novel. And more often than not, the house’s eventual destruction will symbolize something rotten in the ancestral family that cannot sustain itself.
In fact, a fun game to play with this list would be to count how many of these houses eventually get consumed by a fire or explosion of some sort.
In the meantime, don’t turn out the lights.