Beginners Horror September 26, 2018 – Posted in: Book News

Horror fans, rejoice: Halloween is almost here! For readers looking for titles that deliver the chills, we’ve put together 21 ‘Beginners Horror’ novels, offering haunted houses, abandoned asylums, murderous trees, vengeful witches, ravenous ghouls, and one nightmare-inducing doll!

We’ve divided our favourites into ‘Scary’, ‘Even Scarier’ and ‘Scariest’, to help give an indication of just how horrifying they are.  We’ve also given a rough idea of what age the book might be appropriate for.  But, as always, this will totally depend on the child and their tolerance for all things creepy and nightmarish!

If your young person hasn’t ventured into this genre before, we’d definitely recommend starting with the ‘Scary’ selection before venturing into ‘Scariest’, as these books may even have grown-ups checking under the bed before lights out!

The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

After their father is killed in a car accident, Emily and her younger brother, Navin, move to their mother’s ancestral home, a creepy edifice seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Strange noises lure them to the basement, and Emily’s mom is kidnapped by a gruesome tentacled monster. If the children hope to rescue her, they must make new friends, face many dangers, and learn more about the strange amulet that Emily finds. Best for 9+

The Puffin Book of Ghosts and Ghouls

Settle down for the 14 ghostly stories lurking behind the glow of the dark cover …  Enter the terrifying world of the supernatural and meet an unnerving array of ghosts and ghouls, including a Victorian child with disturbing powers, two children with a gruesome plan, and a bizarre ghost puppy.

These shuddering short stories come from highly acclaimed authors, including: Gene Kemp, Joan Aiken, Penelope Lively, Michael Morpurgo, Ray Bradbury and more. Best for 9+

Groosham Grange

Sent to Groosham Grange as a last resort by his parents, David Eliot quickly discovers that his new school is a very weird place indeed. New pupils are made to sign their names in blood; the French teacher disappears every full moon; the assistant headmaster keeps something very chilling in his room … What’s the meaning of the black rings everyone wears? Where do the other pupils vanish to at night? Most important of all, how on earth can David get away – alive? Best for 9+

Skeleton Tree

When Stanley Stanwright finds a bone poking out of the earth in his back garden, he is determined to take a picture of it and send it to the Young Discoverer’s Competition, thinking it will help bring his dad back home. But the bone begins to grow, reaching up out of the ground until it turns into a skeleton – a skeleton with an unusual interest in his unwell younger sister Miren, which makes Stanley very wary of him. Best for 9+

City of Ghosts

Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead … and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost. So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger. When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil – and herself. And she’ll have to learn fast. Best for 10+

Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror

Uncle Montague lives alone in a big house and his regular visits from his nephew give him the opportunity to retell some of the most frightening stories he knows. But as the stories unfold, another even more spine-tingling narrative emerges, one that is perhaps the most frightening of all. Uncle Montague’s tales of terror, it transpires, are not so much works of imagination as dreadful, lurking memories! A wonderful book for children who like to be spooked! Best for 10+

Shiverton Hall

A boarding school story with a difference. With its imposing entrance and spooky appearance Shiverton Hall more than lives up to its chilling name. When Arthur Bannister arrives on a scholarship he finds himself dealing with some problems common to all schools, as well as some very unusual circumstances indeed. George Grant, Arthur’s new pal, has a grandfather who wrote the history of the school and George is quick to inform Arthur of the Shiverton Curse. Arthur is skeptical, but before long weird events start undermining his certainty …  A fast paced mix of gruesome school, grisly ghosts all with a generous helping of comedy. Best for 10+

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Twelve-year-old Serafina, who lives in the boiler room in the basement of the wealthy Biltmore estate with her pa, longs to know the truth about her life: what happened to her mother, why she must stay hidden away, and whether – with only eight toes and unusual golden eyes – she isn’t fully human. At night, Serafina stealthily walks about the mansion, borrowing books from the immense library and, as a self-appointed “Chief Rat Catcher”, traps rats that roam the mansion. One night, she sees a mysterious and foul-smelling man in a black cloak abducting a child and making her vanish. Serafina, along with the Biltmore’s owners’ nephew Braeden, sets out to solve the mystery of the man – and uncovers the truth of her own past in the process. 10+

Christmas Dinner of Souls

It’s a dark and lonely Christmas Eve in the dining room of ancient Soul’s College. The kitchen boy, 11-year-old Lewis, has helped prepare a highly unusual meal, made with unrecognisable ingredients, cooked by a mysterious chef. And then the guests arrive … and carnage ensues. They are ex-students of Soul’s College, and they are all completely demented. For this is the annual meeting of a secret club for those who despise children, warmth, happiness, and above all Christmas. Each member must try to out-do the others by telling the most terrible, disgusting story they know.

A spooky, shocking, bloodthirsty alternative to festive cheer that will appeal to, fascinate and delight young readers. 10+

The Spook’s Apprentice

For years, the local Spook has been keeping the County safe from evil. Now his time is coming to an end, but who will take over? Many apprentices have tried. Some floundered, some fled, some failed to stay alive. Just one boy is left. Thomas Ward. He is the last hope. But does he stand a chance against Mother Malkin, the most dangerous witch in the County? Best for 10+

The Power of Dark

Something is brewing in the town of Whitby. To best friends Lil and Verne, it just seems like a particularly bad storm. But Cherry Cerise, the last of the Whitby witches, fears that ancient forces are at work, reviving the curse of a long lost magical artefact. The legend goes that the Nimius was created by magician Melchior Pyke, with the assistance of a young witch known as Scaur Annie. But they were both betrayed by Pyke’s villainous manservant, Mister Dark, causing a feud that has survived even beyond death.

As Mister Dark, with his horrific winged familiar, arises to mastermind Whitby’s very own apocalypse and take the Nimius for his own evil purposes, can Lil and Verne join with Cherry to quell his plans and save their home? 11+

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase

For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions.

Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive. 11+

The Graveyard Book

When a baby escapes a murderer intent on killing the entire family, who would have thought it would find safety and security in the local graveyard? Brought up by the resident ghosts, ghouls and spectres, Bod has an eccentric childhood learning about life from the dead. But for Bod there is also the danger of the murderer still looking for him – after all, he is the last remaining member of the family. A stunningly original novel deftly constructed over eight chapters, featuring every second year of Bod’s life, from babyhood to adolescence. Will Bod survive to be a man? 11+

Doll Bones

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for as long as they can remember, playing together and inventing wonderful stories for their toys to act out. Their imaginative world of magical lands, marvellous adventures, heroes and heroines is presided over by the Queen (an old and valuable porcelain doll) from her regal throne in Poppy’s mother’s glass cabinet. But one night, the two girls turn up at Zach’s house with an extraordinary and terrifying story. The Queen has appeared to Poppy in a nightmare – and now she has demanded their help.

Spooky dolls are a classic element of sleepover ghost stories, but here Holly Black combines the cliche with a thoughtful story about the challenges of friendship and growing up. With just the right amount of chilling, creepy gothic darkness to tantalise pre-teen readers, this is a beautifully-written little gem. 11+

My Swordhand Is Singing

Set in the isolated, hostile environment of the forests of seventeenth century Romania, My Swordhand Is Singing tells of the enigmatic Tomas and his adolescent son, Peter, woodcutters and outsiders who cannot seem to find a place to settle.

When a band of gypsies comes to the village, Peter’s drab existence is turned upside down. He is infatuated by the beautiful gypsy princess, Sofia, and intoxicated by her community’s love of life. He even becomes drawn into their deadly quest – for these travellers are Vampire Slayers, and Chust is a community to which the dead return to wreak revenge on the living. 12+

The Power of Five: Raven’s Gate

The first episode in The Power of Five series by the author of the bestselling Alex Rider series, Anthony Horowitz. Matt has always known he has unusual powers. Raised in foster care, he is sent to Yorkshire on a rehabilitation programme, only to find himself in the midst of sinister goings-on. Matt investigates and uncovers a terrible secret – eight guardians are protecting the world from the Old Ones, beings banished long ago by five children. But devil worshippers want to let the Old Ones back in … Best for 12+

Mister Creecher

Billy is a street urchin, pickpocket and petty thief. Mister Creecher is a monstrous giant of a man who terrifies all he meets. Their relationship begins as pure convenience. But a bond swiftly develops between these two misfits as their bloody journey takes them ever northwards on the trail of their target … Victor Frankenstein. Friendship, trust and betrayal combine to form a dangerous liaison in this moving and frightening novel! Best for 12+

Thirteen Days of Midnight

When Luke Manchett’s estranged father dies suddenly, he leaves his son a dark inheritance. Luke has been left in charge of his father’s ghost collection: eight restless spirits. They want revenge for their long enslavement, and in the absence of the father, they’re more than happy to take his son. It isn’t fair, but you try and reason with the vengeful dead.

Halloween, the night when the ghosts reach the height of their power, is fast approaching. With the help of school witchlet Elza Moss, and his cowardly dog Ham, Luke has just thirteen days to uncover the closely guarded secrets of black magic, and send the unquiet spirits to their eternal rest. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about. Best for 12+

Cuckoo Song

Something sinister, beyond just getting wet, happens to Triss when she falls into the Grimmer. Something that causes her to change in all kinds of ways which her parents don’t recognise. Triss can feel the changes – she is always hungry, her hair is full of leaves, her tears are like cobwebs and her sister is terrified of her – but she cannot understand why they are happening. Somehow, Triss has been taken over. She is now a changeling and she needs to search through the underworld of the city itself to find the truth. Best for 12+

The Hazel Wood

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the strange bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate – the Hazel Wood – Alice learns how bad her luck can really get. Best for 13+


Fifteen-year-old Wulliam doesn’t want to become the Riverkeep like his father before him, and his father before that: rowing the bata at night through the frozen river, lit only by whale-oil lamps, pulling out the decomposing bodies of those who have died there – suicides, murders, accidents.

However, when Wull’s father is possessed by a malevolent spirit-creature, Wull learns that only another mythical creature, a deadly mormorach, might provide a cure. And a serpent-like mormorach has just been sighted – the first in a thousand years … Best for 12+

« Classic Picture Books That Still Work
Picture Books about Friendship »