Humans have always been fascinated by horror and the macabre, but it’s only really been in the last 250 years that the genre of horror as we know it became popular among readers. Part of this is because horror was more of an abstract concept at the time rather than a refined genre, but also because many of the more famous authors and books we know so well didn’t exist.
Since then, horror has become an incredibly popular part of the world of literature, and many of the pop culture references that we use on a daily basis actually found their roots in well-known horror books. While it’s certainly a saturated genre at this point, we can never forget the horror classics that shaped the industry as we know it.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
There are very few people alive today that haven’t heard of the character Dracula. Dracula is the quintessential vampire and has become a deeply integrated icon in modern media and culture.
While vampires have existed in myths in some shape or another for thousands of years, Bram Stoker gave the creature a name that everyone could recognise. The book itself is one of mystery, obsession, and loss; and it focuses on the human experience, specifically what it would be like to face a truly unnatural being.
It can be a difficult read for those used to modern prose but remains a classic that’s certainly worth giving a try at least once.
The Great God Pan
Considered by many to be the best horror novel of all time – including Stephen King – The Great God Pan is a class of horror on its own. In fact, it stood out so much at the time that it became the inspiration for several well-known authors, such as H.P. Lovecraft, who based much of his mythos on this book. It’s a must-read for anyone with an interest in early horror associated with evil deities.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Another cult icon that has been at the root of countless movies, albums, video games, Canada gambling games, and literature, many regard Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein as the first true horror novel of its kind, and the book that created the genre as we know it.
Shelley was an interesting figure that suffered many losses in her life, and she was still quite young when she set about writing the novel that would cement her name in the annals of history forever. The book itself tells the story of a scientist who discovers how to bring dead tissue back to life, and inadvertently creates a monster that haunts him for the rest of his days.
Turn Of The Screw
This haunting novel from Henry James has everything there is to love about both horror and mystery. The book consists of a manuscript written by a governess, it tells the story of a potentially haunted manor that she lives in while looking after two children.
What makes this really stand out is that the reader is constantly left guessing as to whether what they’re reading is real or not – are there really spirits that are plaguing the house, or is the narrator suffering from some kind of terrible madness?