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Underrated Horror Novels to Read With the Lights Down Low

It’s that time of year. Halloween is just around the corner and with it, thoughts turn to all manner of grotesquerie and the macabre. For horror fans it’s a particularly intriguing time of year, a time when virtually everyone joins in on our love for the supernatural, for creeping terrors, and for things that go bump in the night. Horror has long been a fixture of the literary landscape, and every year a host of horrifying reads land on bookshelves and bestseller lists. Based on the sheer volume alone, it’s understandable if a few scares slipped past your notice. Much like any other genre, there are a host of underrated thrillers lurking in the figurative shadows. The books below are lesser-known (but no less terrifying) reads sure to keep you up at night. Some are from new authors on the rise, others are one-time classics lost to the shuffle of time, and a few are underrated gems from well-known authors. Lock those closet doors, take a quick look under your bed, maybe switch on that night-light, and enjoy.

  1. 1
    The Fold Book Cover Picture
    The Fold Book Cover Picture

    The Fold

    by Peter Clines

    This sci-fi thriller centers on Mike Erikson, a seemingly average man with a particular set of unique skills. When an old friend calls for Mike’s help with a top-secret device in the California desert, Mike’s seemingly peaceful life is soon upended by a terrifying secret with the potential to rip apart the fabric of reality.

    The Fold Book Cover Picture
    The Fold Book Cover Picture

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  2. 2
    The Poison Thread Book Cover Picture
    The Poison Thread Book Cover Picture

    The Poison Thread

    by Laura Purcell

    Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy, and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor, and awaiting trial for murder. When Dorothea’s charitable work brings her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted by the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets one of the prisoners, the teenaged seamstress Ruth, she is faced with a strange idea. For fans of Shirley Jackson, The Poison Thread is a spine-tingling, sinister read about the evil that lurks behind the facade of innocence.
    The Poison Thread Book Cover Picture
    The Poison Thread Book Cover Picture

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  3. 3
    The Ruins Book Cover Picture
    The Ruins Book Cover Picture

    The Ruins

    by Scott Smith

    This underrated thriller from Scott Smith sees a group of friends on a spring break trip stumble upon a shocking horror in the Mexican jungle. What began as an entertaining day trip soon spirals out of control as the group find themselves stranded amongst ancient ruins, and a terrifying and creeping presence begins to slowly — and grotesquely — chip away at their sanity.

    The Ruins Book Cover Picture
    The Ruins Book Cover Picture

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  4. 4
    The Devil's Colony Book Cover Picture
    The Devil's Colony Book Cover Picture

    The Devil’s Colony

    by Bill Schweigart

    Bill Schweigart’s Fatal Folklore Trilogy is a terrifying and thrilling riff on B-movie horror monsters. The books follow Ben McKelvie, a once-happy suburbanite who, after a horrific encounter with a monstrous beast in his neighborhood, finds himself crossing the country chasing down all manner of supernatural creatures.

    The Devil's Colony Book Cover Picture
    The Devil's Colony Book Cover Picture

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  5. 5
    Dark Tales Book Cover Picture
    Dark Tales Book Cover Picture

    Dark Tales

    by Shirley Jackson

    Despite near-universal acclaim for The Haunting of Hill House and her short story The Lottery, Shirley Jackson’s other forays into horror are often oddly overlooked. This collection pulls together a number of Jackson’s most unsettling and dread-inducing stories and showcases the author’s near unrivaled skill with the gothic and macabre.

    Dark Tales Book Cover Picture
    Dark Tales Book Cover Picture

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  6. 6
    The Warlow Experiment Book Cover Picture
    The Warlow Experiment Book Cover Picture

    The Warlow Experiment

    by Alix Nathan

    An utterly transporting and original historical novel about an eighteenth-century experiment in personal isolation that yields unexpected–and deeply, shatteringly human–results.
    The Warlow Experiment Book Cover Picture
    The Warlow Experiment Book Cover Picture

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  7. 7
    Magic Book Cover Picture
    Magic Book Cover Picture

    Magic

    by William Goldman

    William Goldman is best known as the mind behind The Princess Bride (both on the page and screen) and as a two-time Oscar winning screenwriter for “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men.” What sometimes gets lost in the shuffle is that Goldman is also a deft hand at horror. Magic is the tale of Corky Withers, an odd but talented magician and ventriloquist who may be losing grip on his sanity.

    Magic Book Cover Picture
    Magic Book Cover Picture

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  8. 8
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture

    Gothic Tales

    by Elizabeth Gaskell

    This collection of supernatural frights from Elizabeth Gaskell is a pitch-perfect example of Gothic Horror. Drawing inspiration from local legends, fairy tales, and the society around her, Glaskell’s tales are unnerving, slow-burn exercises in sustained dread.

    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture
    Gothic Tales Book Cover Picture

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  9. 9
    Deadlight Jack Book Cover Picture
    Deadlight Jack Book Cover Picture

    Deadlight Jack

    by Mark Onspaugh

    Swinging from the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest to the bayous of Louisiana, Deadlight Jack is nightmarish and wonderfully strange tale of family feuds, buried secrets, supernatural power, and long-held grudges. The novel follows two (seemingly) elderly men with links to the supernatural as they find themselves thrown up against an otherworldly terror known as Deadlight Jack, masquerading as a stage magician.

    Deadlight Jack Book Cover Picture
    Deadlight Jack Book Cover Picture

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  10. 10
    Niceville Book Cover Picture
    Niceville Book Cover Picture

    Niceville

    by Carsten Stroud

    The first in the Niceville Trilogy, this novel follows detective Nick Kavanaugh and his wife, Kate. The pair are drawn into a shadowy world hanging somewhere between life and death by the mysterious disappearance, and equally unsettling reappearance, of a young boy named Rainey Teague. What follows is a cascading and ever-widening nightmare underpinned by an ancient force lurking just beneath the façade of Niceville.

    Niceville Book Cover Picture
    Niceville Book Cover Picture

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