Nothing quite compares to the experience of curling up in a dimly lit room, long after everyone else has gone to bed, with a good old fashioned scary story. When every flutter of a curtain glimpsed out of the corner of your eye makes your heart stutter, and the softest sounds heard in your quiet sanctuary make you spin around and peer into darkened corners.
On those occasions when you find an author who knows exactly how to write the specific kind of scary story you love most, it’s even more magical.
Darcy Coates writes horror, much of it revolving around young women in haunted houses (and often accompanied by a cat or two). They’re just my favorite combination of cozy and frightful, encouraging you to imagine yourself in the shoes of one of her heroines as things begin to take a dark turn. Here’s a curated selection of my most recommend titles from Coates:
My absolute favorite is The Haunting of Ashburn House. Our heroine, Adrienne, inherits an old house atop a lonely hill as a gift from her deceased aunt Edith. Edith, we quickly come to find, had a lifetime of macabre secrets that still plague her home after her death.
What earned this book a place among my faves is the combination of an intriguing mystery (I prefer horror that plants a seed of curiosity rather than just throwing out random scares) as well as one of the more interesting and well done antagonists I can recall in this subgenre.
Haunted house stories can sometimes stumble once things progress beyond bumps in the night to actually describing the entity behind all those spooky phenomena; so often it’s a case of the ‘reality’ of the villain being ultimately less scary than what the reader imagined. In Ashburn House, the author crafted a truly scary reveal that was even better than what I’d been imagining at the beginning.
Next up is The House Next Door. Jo, our intrepid ingenue, witnesses the family next door flee into the night, never to be heard from again, after hearing blood-curdling screams. The house is sporadically occupied after that, and never for long. Then one day a young woman named Anna moves in, and Jo is torn between her budding friendship with the her new neighbor and her dread of Marwick House.
It’s an interesting take on the haunted house story. Rather than the main character being the one whose house is haunted, the story revolves around Jo wanting to be there for her new friend, who keeps inviting Jo over to the house she fears so intensely. Much of the tension is generated from watching someone else suffer and feeling powerless to stop it.
Finally, Ghost Camera is a shorter entry but it packs in plenty of scares. Jenine stumbles upon an abandoned Polaroid camera (+1 for nostalgia) that turns out to be the worst discovery she’s ever made. The camera not only captures spirit images, but every snapshot she takes brings her closer to the ghosts’ attention, and they are not happy. This one is a little more focused and straight forward than the previous two books mentioned, perfect for someone who wants to get right down to the scares with a minimum of sideplots.