As soon as colder weather starts rolling around, it’s time to huddle up with some creepy, bone-chilling stories. Below are some of my favourites. To my own surprise (considering 99% of what I read) there isn’t a drop of romance to be found in most of these stories: instead, they’re just good old-fashioned straight-up fear.
The Shining by Stephen King
This one is a total classic. Jack Torrance, a recovering alcoholic, has just been kicked out of his job as a teacher in a Vermont prep school; his only option is to become the winter caretaker for the empty Overlook Hotel. But he soon finds that he, his wife, and their 5-year-old son aren’t the only inhabitants left.
I genuinely do not recall having read a scarier book. It’s the perfect thing to read while you’re curled up under the covers! The sequel Doctor Sleep is a little disappointing, though.
White is for Witching By Helen Oyeyemi
Near the famed White Cliffs of Dover, a tragedy has just happened: the Silver family has lost their matriarch, Lily, who leaves behind a mourning husband and a pair of twin children named Eliot and Miranda. Through it all, their strange, haunted house watches them.
Dark Matter by Michelle Paver
A short but suitably chilling novel. It’s 1937, and Jack has just rashly accepted an invitation to join an Arctic expedition alongside the man he’s dazzled by. But one by one, the others leave him alone in the frozen wilds. Only…is he alone?
The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon
In 1908, Sara Shea is found mysteriously dead, just months after the death of her own daughter. Fast forward to the modern day. Teenager Ruthie lives in Sara’s old house with her mother and younger sister. When her mother disappears, Ruthie sets out to find her, discovering uncanny parallels with Sara’s life in the process.
Ghost Story by Peter Straub
In New York, four old men – friends from childhood – meet up regularly to tell each other terrifying horror stories. But as they find themselves plagued by nightmares, they start to wonder if a crime they committed in their youth is back to haunt them (literally).
Wolf Winter (Svartåsen #1) by Cecilia Ekbäck
1717. Lapland, Sweden. One small family – Maija, her husband Paavo, and their daughters Frederika and Dorotea – have just moved from Finland to this unforgiving few world, icy but beautiful, in the shadow of a mountain. But then the mutilated body of Eriksson, one of their neighbours, is found nearby. Although it’s dismissed as a wolf attack, Maija can’t help but think another human on the mountain with them committed the crime…
The Terror by Dan Simmons
It’s 1845 and the HMS Terror has set out for the Arctic Circle as part of the Franklin Expedition, an attempt to force the Northwest Passage. But they never come back, and the wreck isn’t discovered until 2016. What happened to all the men on board?
This one is a historical novel, it just so happens that the author has added a sprinkling of supernatural on top. Probably unnecessary – the lost wreck, cannibalism, freezing conditions, etc. are terrifying enough.
The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
This one isn’t strictly set in the depths of winter, like most of the other stories on my list. But it’s a ‘gentle’ horror story that does feature increasingly colder weather. Plus, it’s my favourite ghost story, so I’m going to go ahead and include it anyway.
Dr Faraday has risen from humble beginnings, as the son of a maid at the wealthy Hundreds Hall, to a practising GP. But he can’t ever quite forget his roots. When he’s given the opportunity to spend time with the Ayres family, who own the hall, he leaps at the chance. But this once-great family is rotted and decayed, and things in Hundreds Hall aren’t quite as they seem.
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Winter spells trouble for the small, isolated Anishinaabe community. Food supplies are diminishing; the power is cut off; people are getting scared and difficult to manage. Things get worse when more and more people start arriving, fleeing the instability in the south. As the death toll rises, so too do tempers, pressures – and fears.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
A bit like Straub’s Ghost Story, this one follows four American Indian men who have been friends since childhood. Decades ago, they did something they shouldn’t have. And now that something – grounded in the culture and traditions they left behind – is back to get them.
If you enjoyed these, here are 15 more terrifying titles!
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