Five Ghost and Horror Stories to make your Spine Tingle

by Daniel Pembrey

With Halloween just round the corner, we wanted to give you a curated list of ghost and horror stories to really make your spine tingle. These picks come from five BritCrime members who will be appearing on a Halloween Crime and Horror panel at Waterstones King’s Road in London on Tuesday 1st November

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill
SJI Holliday’s pick: The Woman In Black (1983) by Susan Hill

“Arthur Kipps, still traumatised after the horrific and tragic events that he witnessed many years before, reluctantly recounts the tale of his time spent at Eel Marsh House and the mysterious "Woman in Black" who haunted him then and still haunts him now. A dark gothic mansion on marshland cut off at high tide, banging doors, creaky rocking chairs and things that go bump in the night - this for me is the ultimate, classic ghost story. I read this book with a feeling of utter dread in my chest throughout, so tense it often made me forget to breathe. As Kipps says at the end ... They have asked for my story. I have told it. Enough.”

The Shining by Stephen King
Amanda Jennings' pick: The Shining (1977) by Stephen King

“Jack Torrance becomes caretaker of the remote, unoccupied Overlook Hotel with his wife and son, Danny. Soon Danny, who possesses 'the shining', begins to witness the hotel's gruesome past in horrifying visions. When the snow comes, the hotel is cut off from the rest of the world and supernatural forces push Jack's sanity to the edge and threaten his family. Claustrophobic, atmospheric and downright terrifying, The Shining bewitched me as a teen. Unable to read fast enough it scared me so much I had to leave it outside my bedroom so the words couldn't get me in my sleep.”
Therese Raquin by Emile Zola

Thomas Mogford’s pick: Thérèse Raquin (1867) by Emile Zola

“This classic French novel tells of how Thérèse and her lover, Laurent, bump off Thérèse’s husband, Camille, in a fake boating accident, and are fatally haunted by the consequences. It’s meant to be an example of ‘naturalism’ – cold scientific observation transposed to literature – but the supernatural and macabre bubble irresistibly to the surface. I’d love to write an updated version, but Michael Dibdin’s already done that in the brilliant Dirty Tricks (1991)."

The Vanishing by Tim Krabbe
Daniel Pembrey’s pick: The Vanishing (1984) by Tim Krabbe

"The Vanishing is about a young Dutch woman who disappears at a busy petrol station while going on holiday with her boyfriend. It has been adapted to the big screen twice (the Dutch version being the film to watch), and explores chance, the dark margins of consciousness and the agony of not knowing a beloved one’s fate. Just 115 pages long, it contains perhaps the most unsettling ending I’ve ever read in fiction."

Haunted Hotel by Wilkie Collins
Sarah Ward's pick: The Haunted Hotel (1879) by Wilkie Collins

“A glamorous Countess asks a doctor for his professional opinion as to whether she is evil or insane. About to be married to Lord Montbarry who has broken off his engagement to another woman, the Countess is convinced the jilted bride will be her downfall. In a Venetian hotel, a haunted room begins to bring the prophecy to pass. A classic ghost story in the Victorian Gothic tradition.”

Over to you: which stories you scared you most?

Waterstones Crime and Horror Event, 1st November, King's Road, London

Chelsea has served as home to many stars of the horror genre, including Christopher Lee, Boris Karloff, writer Dennis Wheatley and of course Dracula-creator Bram Stoker. Join contemporary crime and horror writers SJI Holliday, Amanda Jennings, Thomas Mogford, Daniel Pembrey and Sarah Ward for this ghoulish celebration of dark delights.

The authors, who have set their novels across Europe, will also discuss the impact of location on their writing. SJI Holliday is the author of the Banktoun trilogy, set in East Lothian; Amanda Jennings based her novel In Her Wake in Cornwall; Thomas Mogford uses Gibraltar as the setting for his Spike Sanguinetti series; Daniel Pembrey's new Henk van der Pol detective series is set in Amsterdam; and Sarah Ward has the Peak District as the location for her Bampton series.


  1. What a great get-together of good authors, we will publicise the event - loving the range of settings for the books...