10 Best Folk Horror Novels of All Time | TheReviewGeek Recommends

Some of the best types of horror come from folklore: little stories that are part of our culture that we tell around campfires, at sleepovers or just to scare our friends and siblings. Folk horror has come a long way, using parts of our folklore to create foreboding and chilling stories. So if you’re looking for dark stories or just want to check out more folk horror, here are some of the best folk horror novels you should try: 

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

Stephen Graham Jones presents us with The Only Good Indians, which seamlessly combines classic folk horror, a gripping narrative, and thought-provoking social commentary. The story centres around four Native American men who find themselves in a harrowing battle for survival after a haunting incident from their past comes back to haunt them.

Pursued by a vengeful entity, these childhood friends are forced to confront the consequences of abandoning their culture and traditions.

The Ritual by Adam Nevill

The Ritual by Adam Nevill introduces you to Scandinavian folklore. Four former university friends embark on a hiking trip in the remote Scandinavian wilderness of the Arctic Circle. However, their journey quickly turns into a nightmare as their lack of common ground and mounting frustration leads them to take a shortcut.

Lost and exhausted, they stumble upon an eerie, isolated house. Inside, they are confronted with the remnants of dark rituals and ancient sacrifices. Unbeknownst to them, a savage predator lurks in the ancient forest, turning the friends into prey. As they fight for survival, they soon realize that escaping death in the grasp of these ancient trees will not come easy.

The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh

In this folk horror from Nuzo Onoh, the Queen of African horror, The Sleepless, follows a tragic event that unfolds as an innocent boy is led to his demise by someone who should have protected him. The shocking truth about his disappearance is known by his little sister, Obelé, who hears a secret voice relaying horrifying information that no child should bear.

Realising that she knows too much and is in danger, Obelé seeks refuge and finds solace in a group of giggling little girls she encounters at an abandoned cursed house. However, this newfound friendship comes at a terrible cost, and Obelé begins to question the true nature of her new companions.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle

Victor LaValle brings us The Changeling, which follows Apollo Kagwa, a new father who is haunted by strange dreams and his father’s disappearance. As he and his wife, Emma, navigate the challenges of parenthood, both physical exhaustion and anxiety take a toll on them. Apollo’s dreams resurface, and Emma’s behaviour becomes increasingly concerning. Initially thought to be postpartum depression, it becomes evident that something more sinister is affecting her.

When Emma commits a horrific act and disappears, Apollo must embark on a quest to find his wife and child, encountering a mysterious stranger, a forgotten island, a secretive graveyard, and a forest steeped in immigrant legends.

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeymi

In White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi, the Silver family resides in a grand and enigmatic house perched on the cliffs of Dover. The family is grieving the loss of Lily, the mother of twins Miranda and Eliot, and wife to Luc. The house itself is not without trouble, with its unsettling noises and perplexing layout that disorients visitors.

Miranda, with her growing affinity for chalk and her sensitivity to spirits, becomes more connected to the generations of women who have inhabited the house than she is to her own brother and father. As her grip on reality weakens, Miranda slowly slips away from her loved ones until one night she mysteriously disappears. Left behind to recount her story, the surviving members of the Silver family are faced with unravelling the secrets and mysteries surrounding Miranda’s vanishing.

Melmoth by Sarah Perry

An introspective novel about a spectral figure to you offering an escape from your guilt. Melmoth by Sarah Perry invites you on a journey as a mysterious figure known as Melmoth the Witness. The novel follows Helen Franklin as she finds solace and refuge in Prague, where she works as a translator. Her life takes a turn when her friend Karel uncovers a letter in the library that speaks of Melmoth and her damning power.

According to folklore, Melmoth dooms those she convinces to join her in an eternal, lonely existence. Initially sceptical, Helen soon realizes that she is being watched, and when Karel suddenly disappears, she becomes entangled in a web of intrigue and the enigmatic presence of Melmoth.

The Summer of the Ubume by Natsuhiko Kyogoku

An insightful horrific look into Japanese folklore, The Summar of the Ubume introduces you to a series of perplexing mysterious surrounding the Kuonji family. Kyoko Kuonji has been pregnant for an astonishing twenty months, while her husband Makio mysteriously vanished prior to her pregnancy.

Finding themselves with no one to turn to, the family seeks help from a freelance writer who enlists his sceptical exorcist friend, Akihiko “Kyogokudo” Chuzenji, to investigate. Despite his disbelief in ghosts, Kyogokudo approaches the supernatural from a metaphysical and psychological perspective.

Thistlefoot by GennaRose Nethercott

More of a modern fairytale take on Russian folklore, Thistlefoot follows the Yaga siblings Bellatine and Isaac, who have been estranged for years. However, when they discover they are set to inherit a mysterious bequest, they are reunited to find something unexpected—a sentient house on chicken legs named Thistlefoot.

The house has arrived from their ancestral home in Russia, accompanied by a sinister figure known as the Longshadow Man, who carries violent secrets from their family’s past. As they embark on a cross-country tour of their family’s theatre show, the Longshadow Man relentlessly pursues them, leaving destruction in his wake.

White Pines by Gemma Amor

White Pines is a delightfully creepy comic Celtic folklore-inspired story from Gemma Amor, author of Dear Laura and Full Immersion. Megs finds herself inheriting a secluded cabin in the remote wilderness of Scotland after her marriage ends. The nearby island holds a curious secret – its white trees stand out in the landscape. As Megs settles into her new surroundings, she realizes the villagers are peculiar and she becomes increasingly detached from reality.

There is an inexplicable pull towards the island, and the villagers are filled with fear. Megs must uncover the truth about her connection to the mysterious island, the villagers, and the enigmatic figure named Nimrod. The question remains: is someone or something living on the island?

The Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon

The Harvest Home is a classic 70s folk horror that tells the story of Ned and Beth Constantine, who stumble upon the quaint and idyllic village of Cornwall Coombe. The secluded hamlet seems untouched by time, with beautiful colonial houses and a charming white-steepled church. The Constantines are immediately drawn to the village and decide to make it their home.

However, they soon discover that Cornwall Coombe is not the peaceful haven they had imagined. Instead, for Ned and his family, it becomes a place of unimaginable terror.

There we have it! If you’re interested in folklore horror or just want to expose your mind to some new spooks, why not give these novels a try? Have you read any of these folk horrors before? Are there any we’ve missed? Comment below and let us know!

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