Haunted Places and Haunted People | The Reader's Shelf

Perfect for the spooky reading season, these novels feature evil spirits that refuse to stay dead, as well as the people they’ve decided to torment.

These novels feature evil spirits that refuse to stay dead, as well as the people they’ve decided to torment.

In The Hacienda (Berkley. May 2022. ISBN 9780593436691. $27), Isabel Cañas’s debut novel, Beatriz is a young woman looking for security for her and her family after the Mexican government is overthrown and her father is executed. With nothing to her family name, she accepts the marriage proposal of Don Rodolfo Solórzano, even though his first wife died under mysterious circumstances. She will do anything to have a home for her and her family, but something sinister haunts her new hacienda. An angry spirit resides in its walls, waits in the shadows, and glares at her with red eyes. With her husband away at the Capitol and her sister-in-law Juana dismissing her concerns, Beatriz turns to Padre Andrés, a priest with secrets of his own, but these secrets may help Beatriz survive the darkness in her new home. READ-ALIKE: V. Castro’s The Queen of the Cicadas not only incorporates Latin American folklore, but its female protagonist must also deal with the societal ills of classism and sexism, all while trying to discover a spirit’s intent.

In Benny Rose the Cannibal King (Unnerving. 2020. ISBN 9781989206348. pap. $11.49), the third installment in Unnerving’s multi-author “Rewind or Die” series (after Carol Gore’s Infested), author Hailey Piper has a story to tell. It’s the story of Benny Rose, the local bogeyman haunting Blackwood, VT, circa 1987. It’s also a story of Dezi and her friends, just a group of teenagers looking for some fun on Halloween night, and of course Benny Rose’s name comes up. Everyone has a different story about who and what Benny Rose is, but these teens will stumble on the terrifying truth before this night is over. A storm hits their neighborhood and cuts off their only means of escape. There is no one they can turn to for help as Dezi sees the pale form of Benny Rose stalking them. Dezi and her friends soon discover, to their horror, that Benny Rose is more terrifying than just a scary story. Benny Rose is real, Benny Rose knows they’re in his territory, and worst of all, Benny Rose is hungry. READ-ALIKE: Slash, by Hunter Shea, also bravely shows off its deep slasher roots, featuring a haunted hotel, a seemingly unkillable monster, and a group of soon-to-be victims.

In The Ghost Eaters (Quirk. Sept. 2022. ISBN 9781683692171. $21.99), Clay McCleod Chapman invites readers to “get haunted” with a terrifying new substance called “Ghost,” a designer drug that offers its users a chance to see the ghosts that are all around us. When Ghost hits the streets of Richmond, VA, Erin is grappling with the loss of her ex-boyfriend Silas, who had recently died by suicide after struggling with addiction. Desperate to see him again, she takes Ghost and ends up peering through the veil separating the living and the dead, seeing the spirits that are literally everywhere—and who all seem to be drawn to Erin. The frightening spirits pose a risk to Erin, but she keeps using Ghost and spirals further into addiction. Erin soon finds herself sinking into darkness, haunted by ghosts who might never let her escape. READ-ALIKE: In Disappearance at Devil’s Rock, Paul Tremblay explores the painful process of moving on from loss and how grief itself—and the quest for answers after losing a loved one—can become a kind of addiction.

Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s Hex (Tor Nightfire. 2021. ISBN 9781250780935. pap. $19.99) takes place in the picturesque town of Black Rock, which is haunted by the ghost of the Black Rock Witch, a 17th-century witch whose eyes and mouth were sewn shut to contain her terrible magic. Its residents see the witch’s ghost wandering the streets and even into their homes, but they can do nothing to stop her. The population of Black Rock cannot even leave town, due to the curse she has placed upon them. Knowing that they cannot really win, the town’s residents and elders do the only thing they can: keep her contained from the rest of the world. The town elders employ a paramilitary group whose sole duty is to monitor the witch using state-of-the-art surveillance equipment and to make sure no footage proving her existence is leaked to the outside world. But this delicate balance is threatened when teenagers try to reveal the Black Rock Witch to the world; the witch’s dark power is truly terrible to behold. READ-ALIKE: They Drown Our Daughters, by Katrina Monroe, uses multiple narratives to tell a ghost story about a curse that spans generations.

Grady Hendrix’s Horrorstör (Quirk. 2014. ISBN 9781594745263. pap. $16.99) welcomes readers to the ORSK store in Cleveland, OH: a great place to buy some well-made and inexpensive furniture, though it’s less hospitable after hours. Someone or something is wrecking furniture when no one’s around, and security cameras can’t seem to capture the vandal. With management in a panic, a group of retail employees/amateur ghost hunters agree to a shift lasting all night to catch the people responsible. Sure, these employees have faced the horror of retail jobs and their share of surly customers, but the ORSK store wasn’t always a store. It was once a place where terrible acts were committed, and those who committed these acts refuse to truly die. The evil residing within ORSK will happily work these night shift employees to death…and beyond. READ-ALIKE: Brendan Deenan’s haunted-house story Chrysalis also deals with one of the most terrifying aspects of the human condition: the inevitable shouldering of adult responsibilities.

James Gardner is a Circulation Librarian at Clark County Public Library in Winchester, KY. He also loves talking, writing, and even breathing horror.  

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing