The image is instantly recognisable to horror fans: a foreboding house, a darkened sky, a single illuminated window. Maybe a figure stands silhouetted against the window’s yellow glow. Maybe the house is in a state of disrepair – forked cracks at the foundation and creeping vines strangling the porch rails. To me, a lifelong lover of all things spooky, it’s irresistible.

Recently Sadie Hartman, author of 101 Horror Books to Read Before You’re Murdered, posted on Instagram about how many 2023 books have creepy houses on their covers. At first, I felt a little chagrined, since the cover of my debut story collection Here in the Night prominently features the shell of a ruined Georgian house with one window lit up. But then I remembered the thrill and delight I felt seeing my cover for the first time (with cover art by Christopher Gee and cover design by Zoe Norvell). I have zero regrets about jumping on this haunted hayride of a bandwagon.

I love the way this iconic imagery, in its many forms and adaptations, captures what is so enticing in ghost and monster stories: the uncanny suggestion that there is something just slightly off-kilter, something lurking where it shouldn’t be. Who is awake and restless at this late hour? Who is peering out at the unsuspecting world? Who or what is pacing the attic floorboards while the living try to sleep?

Below are ten of my favourite horror covers.

I love the way this iconic imagery, in its many forms and adaptations, captures what is so enticing in ghost and monster stories: the uncanny suggestion that there is something just slightly off-kilter.”

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Stay Awake by Dan Chaon
Ballantine, 2012
Cover photograph by Jeffrey Hamilton; design by Lynn Buckley

It’s hard to separate my wholehearted love for this haunting and beautiful story collection from my love for its cover. The model house adds a bit of intrigue and complexity to this classic trope.

Linghun by Ai Jiang
Dark Matter Ink, April 2023
Cover art by Mateus Roberts; design by Rob Carroll

This incredible cover is extremely fitting for a book that turns the typical haunted house story upside down. In this unsettling novella about a town where residents can call back the ghosts of loved ones, it’s the living who will not leave the dead alone.

’Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
Anchor Books, 2011
Cover photograph by Robert Llewellyn; design by Henry Steadman

The cover for King’s newest novel Holly is also a perfect example of the spooky house trope, but I have a special place in my heart for the dramatic cover of this edition of his classic 1975 vampire novel.

The Spite House by Johnny Compton
Tor Nightfire, February 2023
Cover art by Jeffrey Alan Love; design by Esther S. Kim

This striking cover sets up the novel’s pervasive sense of unease and menace quite well, and captures the claustrophobia that the characters feel when they’re inside the titular house.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
Penguin Classics, 2006
Cover photo by W. Eugene Smith

This is the paragon of haunted house covers, for the paragon of haunted house novels, first published in 1959.

Welcome to Dead House by R.L. Stine
Scholastic, 2003
Cover art by Tim Jacobus

I was (and will always be) a Goosebumps fan girl, and this cover represents everything I love about the series. The slightly open door daring you to wander in! The evil orange glow emanating from the window! The campy colours! It’s perfection.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole
William Morrow Paperbacks, 2020
Cover design by Nadine Badalaty

I love how this cover instantly conjures the book’s Brooklyn setting and becomes more and more disquieting the longer you look at it. This phenomenal thriller is as thought-provoking as it is tense and engrossing.

How to Sell a Haunted House by Grady Hendrix
Berkley, January 2023
Cover design by Emily Osborne

I’m convinced that the dollhouse on this cover is the same as the one on the cover of Stay Awake, which fascinates me.The gingerbread trim and too-perfect porch is almost Stepford-esque, and the shadows cast by the title’s lettering are wonderfully atmospheric.

House Gone Quiet by Kelsey Norris
Scribner, October 2023
Cover design by Natalia Oblinski

I love absolutely everything about this cover: the red ribbons trailing into the night sky, the striking and vaguely disorienting colour palate, and the one window winking at the reader.

The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe
Signet Classics, 2006
Cover art by M.G. Houston; design by Kaitlin Kall

This is the fabulously gothic book cover of my dreams. I adore the sickly green background, the thumbnail moon and the thin slivers of windows.

Rebecca Turkewitz is a writer and high-school English teacher living in Portland, Maine. Her fiction and humour writing have appeared in The Normal School, Chicago Quarterly Review, Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading, SmokeLong Quarterly, The New Yorker’s Daily Shouts and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in fiction from The Ohio State University, has been a resident at Hewnoaks Artist Residency, and won a 2020 Maine Literary Award in the short works category. She loves cats, the ocean, and ghost stories. Here in the Night, a collection of thirteen spooky literary stories, is published by Black Lawrence Press.
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