18 Haunting Folk Horror Books To Read Now

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Delve into a world of dark folklore and supernatural mysteries in these captivating and haunting folk horror books.

Fall head first into the macabre allure of folk horror, a genre that weaves ancient rituals, malevolent spirits, and sinister rural landscapes into spine-tingling tales of terror.

Find atmospheric storytelling blended with a rich tapestry of spooky folklore, transporting readers to remote locations shrouded in secrets.

Vengeful deities and ancient legends terrorize these mystical landscapes. Encounter ghosts, witches, vampires, and even book eaters. Spend the night in haunted houses and creepy cabins.

The best folk horror books promise to haunt your dreams long after closing their final pages. You might even want to read these tales with bright lights on.

So, keep reading to enter the heart of the darkness with these fantasy, LGBT+, thriller, mystery novels, and more, including anthologies filled with folk horror short stories.

Be sure to share your favorites in the comments. Let’s get started!

Most spine-tingling and haunting Folk Horror Books featured image with village tree-like cottage next to graveyard at night with dark blue sky

18 Best Folk Horror Books

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones book cover with deer with antlersPin

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

From Blackfoot Native American author Stephen Graham Jones comes one of the best folk horror novels to delve into the psychological impact of running from the mistakes of your youth.

When they were teenagers, the four friends Lewis, Ricky, Cass, and Gabe committed an act that went against the teachings and rules of the elders of their reservation.

Now, as adults, a series of seemingly unnatural and unexplainable events are causing the men misfortune.

As they attempt to flee from the consequences of their actions – and from the Native American culture they grew up in – a malevolent entity seems to be following in their wake.

Not just following, but tracking. And it will not stop.

The looming specter of creeping dread propels the narrative of this genuinely unnerving story.

Only the best folk horror books can make the reader feel so much dread, and The Only Good Indians is one of them.

The Only Good Indians is also perfect if you enjoy adult books about monsters or are looking to read more books written by Indigenous writers.

Read The Only Good Indians: Amazon | Goodreads

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean book cover with adult and child filled in with page of book outside a dark buildingPin

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean

Far from the prying eyes of the general public, there is a race of beings that subsist not on organic things like meat and vegetables, but on books instead.

These “book eaters” look and act like regular humans, or at least, most of them do.

For within their genetics, there is a chance that a baby might be born differently, even for a book eater. The child might have a darker, more disturbing diet: living brains.

Devon’s child is one such creature. She’s had to leave her clan behind and go on the run; if they catch her, they will kill the “abomination” she has borne.

Can she find a way to escape their clutches permanently? And will she be able to keep her son alive and well-fed without consequences?

Many cultures have folk horror books and stories about vampires, but The Book Eaters takes the idea in a creative new direction.

Author Sunyi Dean’s world feels both established and ancient, fitting right in with the everyday surroundings of modern life.

Discover even more of the best queer horror books written by diverse authors, including titles like Burn Down, Rise Up and Squad. You might also like these books that fall into the magical realism genre.

Read The Book Eaters: Amazon | Goodreads

The Ritual by Adam Nevill book cover with foggy woods, brown grass, and tree stump with something odd or creepy on itPin

The Ritual by Adam Nevill

In order to rekindle their friendship, old college buddies Luke, Phil, Dom, and Hutch decide to reunite for a hiking trip through the Swedish mountains.

Unfortunately for them, it will prove to be a dangerous and deadly journey.

After they have to take an unexpected shortcut, the group finds themselves hopelessly lost in the woods. On top of that, they also discover a very disturbing location.

The shack they stumble upon is filled with strange objects and more animal bones than they are comfortable with.

Unbeknownst to them, they are now caught up in what looks like an ancient ritual.

Whether it’s old tensions rising to the surface from panic, or a mysterious creature that stalks the woods, something is going to tear this group apart.

Drawing on Norse mythology, author Adam Nevill has written one of the best folk horror books for fans of isolated thrillers. Plus, it’s also one of the must-watch folk horror movies.

Uncover more of the best Swedish novels – from, about, and set there – including a unique twist on vampire books, Let the Right One In.

Read The Ritual: Amazon | Goodreads

Scanlines by Todd Keisling book cover with person with hands clasped and mouth open with blue tint over entire imagePin

Scanlines by Todd Keisling

Trigger warnings: depression, self-harm, and suicide

During a live broadcast in 1987, Congressman Benjamin Hardy III killed himself in front of a television camera broadcasting across the nation.

Since that shocking event, rumors have spread of a recording that shows the incident in full, whispered among morbid collectors and VHS dealers.

The video is called the Duncan Tape, named after the cameraman who happened to be recording the Congressman at the time of his death, and who attempted to sell the video.

But Robby doesn’t really care about that. He and his friends just want to download some erotic videos and have a lazy Friday night.

Unfortunately, the short, graphic video they find themselves watching is going to make them care about it because they say that everyone who watches it ends up killing themselves too.

Scanlines is one of the most difficult folk horror novels to read on this list, and it will stay with you long after you’ve finished reading it.

But if you’re looking for a creepy urban folklore book, this one is definitely worth the read.

If Scanlines sounds a bit familiar, you might also enjoy Ring from our spooky adult horror books reading list.

Read Scanlines: Amazon | Goodreads

Him Standing by Richard Wagamese book cover with mask like face with red lips and pointed teeth and nosePin

Him Standing by Richard Wagamese

Lucas Smoke has a gift for mask-making, so much so that soon his work is known far and wide.

It’s all because he learned the Ojibway art of carving from his grandfather. In fact, Lucas’ masks look so lifelike they could be real – if they weren’t made of wood.

But one day, a mysterious and wealthy stranger commissions a spirit mask, with a huge payment upfront. How can Lucas say no?

As the mask is made, it seems to start taking more and more control of Lucas’ life. And, it seems to be making itself look like someone specific.

It also appears in his dreams more and more.

When Lucas finds out that the mask is the legendary ancient sorcerer known as Him Standing, the race is on to stop him from crossing over from the dream world to the real one.

This YA supernatural thriller – by a terrific Canadian author – has some of the most effectively executed creepy folk horror ideas on this list.

Plus, if you are looking for the best short horror books under 200 pages to read, Him Standing is a great novella at 136 pages.

Read Him Standing: Amazon | Goodreads

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories by Various book cover with black crow and red titlePin

Taaqtumi: An Anthology of Arctic Horror Stories by Various

Are you looking to enjoy some folk horror short stories with an Arctic twist?

This collection of tales from Indigenous authors of North America will have you hiding under the bedsheets.

In the Inuktitut language, taaqtumi means “in the dark.” This collection aims to hit the smaller yet stronger horror nerves in the reader’s mind.

Here we have a mysterious door that leads to worlds unknown; a family trying to outlast zombies in the Canadian tundra; a post-apocalyptic community that blurs the lines of real and unreal.

In one story, the protagonist has to try and defeat their increasingly unnerving inner doubts. In another, the inevitability of helplessness is the main villain.

If you’re after introspection and creepiness, this is one of the best folk horror books for you.

Discover even more books that take place in chilling, wintery settings.

Read Taaqtumi: Amazon | Goodreads

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll book cover with black and white woods and red skyPin

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Sometimes you don’t need violence, gore, or even a specific antagonist like a monster or a murderer to freak you out.

That is the case with Through the Woods, one of the best folk horror graphic novels ever written.

Author, illustrator, and cartoonist Emily Carroll needs only a small hook to completely take over the reader’s imagination, drawing them into her visually stylized and compelling worlds.

What if your family members started disappearing one by one, simply because they went over to the neighbor’s house and just … couldn’t come back?

What if you knew for a fact that your brother was dead? But, suddenly, something that looks exactly like him comes back into the delighted and relieved arms of the local townsfolk.

These five folk horror short stories are expertly written to very subtly get under your skin. Each one has the capability of being the most disturbing experience for someone.

If you find yourself loving Through the Woods, encounter even more of the best horror comics and graphic novels set across the globe.

Read Through the Woods: Amazon | Goodreads

Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha book cover with white hand holding drinking white substance on pink backgroundPin

Apple and Knife by Intan Paramaditha

Translated by Stephen J. Epstein

When it comes to folk horror novels, sometimes there’s a fine line between wacky surrealism and nightmarish terror.

Apple and Knife manages to ride that line in extremely inventive ways.

In one story, a brainstorming session for a Free Maxi Pads ad campaign gets some help from an old hag who happens to be a consumer in more ways than one.

Another tale involves obsessive celebrity love. A man will give anything to have a popular singer become his wife, realizing far too late that he should have been careful about what he wished for.

Indonesian author Intan Paramaditha has delivered a series of fiercely written supernatural stories influenced by folk horror books and dark fairytales.

If you’re a fan of evil men getting what’s coming to them, with a healthy dose of satire and social commentary, don’t miss out on this quirky gem.

Read Apple and Knife: Amazon | Goodreads

Master of the Forest by Artyom Dereschuk book cover with shadowed person and monster shadow mirroring them on blue backgroundPin

Master of the Forest by Artyom Dereschuk

In Master of the Forest, our protagonist is a young man out on a journey to seek his fortune in the big city of Moscow.

When his attempts at leaving behind poverty make him desperate, he takes up an unusual offer from an old biologist: to travel to Siberia and dig up mammoth tusks to sell as ivory.

These tusks will fetch untold riches from the highest bidders. However, they must be excavated before the winter cold freezes the ground both solid and impenetrable.

But there are dangers lurking amongst the trees of this forested goldmine, for the Master of the Forest does not enjoy visitors in his domain.

The tension builds gradually in Ukrainian author Artyom Dereschuk’s contribution to the folk horror genre.

Beware the human perils of doing whatever it takes to achieve your goals, because you may end up getting eaten.

Read Master of the Forest: Amazon | Goodreads

The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving book cover with illustrated person standing on cliff with flag and moon shining downPin

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

You can’t talk about the best folk horror books without mentioning The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Originally published in author Washington Irving’s The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. in 1820, this is one of the most famous American folk horror short stories of all time.

In the later years of the 18th century, the small, quiet settlement of Tarry Town, which sits in the secluded glen of Sleepy Hollow, is a place full of supernatural events.

The villagers are haunted by various ghosts and apparitions. They have all manner of suspicions as to why this is the case.

Into this environment comes Ichabod Crane, a schoolteacher from Connecticut with a lot of superstitions.

While the locals’ stories chill him to the bone, he knows that, at least, they’re just stories.

But after spending a while in Sleepy Hollow, he comes to realize that they may not be just stories after all.

Read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow: Amazon | Goodreads

The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh book cover with image of black mask-like being with smokePin

The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh

No one knows what happened to the young boy who disappeared; no one except his little sister, Obelé… and the boy’s murderer.

Obelé knows a lot of things that she shouldn’t know because a mysterious voice whispers to her.

Because of this, her life is in danger. Obelé’s only hope for survival is to hide in the one place that terrifies her the most: the abandoned “cursed house.”

The giggling children she meets in that frightening place aren’t true to their manifestations. However, she has no other friends to help her.

Can Obelé find a way to put her brother’s tormented spirit to rest?

Blending African folklore with the brutal backdrop of the Biafra War, The Sleepless is one of those folk horror novels that asks, which is more evil: war or the supernatural?

If you are interested in learning more about Nigeria and the Biafra War, be sure to head over to our books on Nigerian life, culture, and history reading list.

Discover even more of the best books set in scary haunted houses.

Read The Sleepless: Amazon | Goodreads

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce book cover with image of nose and mouth on face above green-hued woodsPin

You Let Me In by Camilla Bruce

Cassandra Tipp’s life has been beset with tragedy.

Acquitted of shocking crimes at an infamous trial on a defense of insanity, the bestselling novelist has also experienced the murder-suicide of her father and brother.

Not to mention the still-unsolved brutal murder of her husband a few years before that. And now, Cassandra Tipp is dead, leaving behind her enormous fortune and one last book.

Cassandra always blamed her misfortunes on the supernatural (hence the insanity acquittal). However, there may be more to it than that.

Also, is she really dead?

This is one of the most well-written folk horror books on this list filled with elegant sentences packed with meaning. You Let Me In is a mysterious literary treat.

Read You Let Me In: Amazon | Goodreads

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco book cover with person's face being held by hands with green vinesPin

The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco

The legend of the Philippine island of Kisapmata has all the enticing hallmarks of the too-good-to-be-true.

It says there is a Dreamer god sleeping on the island, and it will grant great power to whoever brings it eight sacrifices.

This is enough for the locals to give the island a wide berth, fearing to go anywhere near it. However, the producers behind a Hollywood film crew have no such reservations.

They want to document the entire thing. They manage to persuade a young Filipino named Alon to guide them.

But right from the start, things begin to go wrong. Warnings go unheeded. Bodies appear and then come the visions. It’s too late to turn back now …

If cursed islands fighting back against unwanted intruders and LGBT YA folk horror novels are your bread and butter, you’ll have a lot to enjoy here.

Discover even more of the best island novels to read, both tropical and terrifying, big and small.

Read The Sacrifice: Amazon | Goodreads

The Gathering Dark: An Anthology of Folk Horror book cover with illustrated person in dress with long hair summoning somethingPin

The Gathering Dark: An Anthology of Folk Horror by Various

Haunted houses. Town curses. Forests and lakes that invite you in and swallow you up. These are the settings of some of the ghoulish folk horror short stories found in The Gathering Dark.

The authors featured in this anthology have contributed original and creative spins on popular folk horror book tropes, with some highly unnerving results.

One story features a creature that’s waiting for the completion of the ritual that summoned it to a lonely, isolated bridge.

In another, a town full of wicked and debauched people continuously burns down, only to begin the whole cycle again.

It’s fun to read through and see if you can spot the well-known folkloric influences that inspired each of these stories. And, you may not see a few of the endings coming.

Read The Gathering Dark: Amazon | Goodreads

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran book cover with image of person with dark hair and lighter skin with flowers growing out of mouthPin

She Is a Haunting by Trang Thanh Tran

In order to secure the college money she needs from her father, Jade Nguyen just needs to get through five weeks in the French colonial house he is restoring.

All she has to do is pretend to be a proper, polite, straight, Vietnamese-American girl. Easy enough, considering she’s become very good at lying to fit in.

What makes things hard are the unusual events taking place during the night. The walls of the house seem to thrum, and Jade often wakes up paralyzed, unable to move.

And what’s with these weird warnings saying “don’t eat”? Are they really being given to her by a ghost? Just how old is this house? And … what does it want?

With a modern interpretation of haunted house folk horror books, author Trang Thanh Tran has created something that will chill you to the bone.

Discover even more books about and set in Vietnam, fiction and nonfiction.

Read She Is a Haunting: Amazon | Goodreads

More of the best folk horror books from Christine

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt book cover with floating person in green and yellow light over housesPin

Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Translated by Nancy Forest-Flier

Travel to the Hudson Valley’s Black Spring, a town where a haunting secret lurks beneath the seemingly tranquil facade.

The town’s residents are gripped by an inexplicable curse, as the ghostly presence of a condemned 17th-century woman, whose eyes and mouth are stitched shut, looms over them.

The Black Rock Witch enters their homes during the night, standing next to children’s beds.

Gripped by fear, the inhabitants struggle to maintain a semblance of normalcy while the elders quarantine the town with surveillance.

But, what happens when a group of teens brings light to this curse?

The masterful storytelling of this dark fantasy forever etches Hex into the cannon of unforgettable folk horror books.

Hex is also the perfect book recommendation if you enjoy spooky and captivating stories with witches.

Read Hex: Amazon | Goodreads

Pine by Francine Toon book cover with illustrated partial deer with forest on its back on white backgroundPin

Pine by Francine Toon

TWs: animal cruelty, alcoholism, and more

In Toon’s Pine, a haunting tale unravels amidst the mystical Scottish Highlands.

Travel to the eerie village of Invermoray where father, Niall, and his daughter, Lauren, grapple with their grief over the disappearance of their wife and mother, respectively.

Not to mention that the community is full of unsettling secrets, anger, isolation, and rebellion.

Here, it is easy to overlook the incessant and mysterious disappearances and deaths amongst stone circles and locked doors. What lies hidden in the forest?

True to the folk horror genre, find atmospheric suspense where ancient myths and modern tragedy collide.

Travel to Scotland with even more great books set there.

Read Pine: Amazon | Goodreads

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher book cover with image of dark forestPin

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

Travel to North Carolina in T. Kingfisher’s The Blair Witch Project-esque folk horror novel, The Twisted Ones.

Follow along with Mouse as she clears the estate of her deceased grandmother.

Amidst the clutter and memories – her grandmother was a hoarder – Mouse stumbles upon her step-grandfather’s disturbing journal.

In it, he describes terrifyingly unnatural creatures lurking in the woods.

As Mouse dives deeper into this sinister mystery, she confronts her worst fears, trapped in a remote cabin.

Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, crafts a suspenseful and eerie tale promising to keep readers on edge with her examination of the darkness within the human psyche.

Discover even more of the best books that are based in North Carolina.

Read The Twisted Ones: Amazon | Goodreads

If you love all things horror, you might also scream for these 3 spooky reading lists:

  • Top Dark Academic Book Recs – If you enjoy books set in remote and creepy locations, try the competitive and deadly world of dark academia. Travel to elite boarding schools with sinister secrets where colleagues and students will stop at nothing to get ahead.

  • Famous Werewolf Books To Howl Over – From shapeshifters to horrific werewolves with fangs dripping in blood, meet (or run from) some of our favorite werewolves in literature.

  • Witch Trial Books From Salem, MA – Travel to Salem, MA to learn more about the public mass hysteria and hype known as the Salem Witch Trials. Would you have been accused of being a witch or would you be the accuser?

Grab your favorite folk horror short stories, novels, and movies here:

  • Audible Plus: From Amazon, listen to Amazon Originals, podcasts, and audiobooks. They add new titles every week.
  • Book of the Month: Get the month’s hottest new and upcoming titles from Book of the Month. You might snag an early release or debut author. Along with selecting a book a month, find terrific add-ons, both trendy and lesser-known titles.
  • Amazon Prime Video – Stream thousands of ad-free movies and TV series on demand with Prime Video.

Save Your Favorite Folk Horror Novels For Later:

Folk Horror Novels Pinterest pin with URL of website, photo of village tree-like cottage next to graveyard at night with dark blue sky, text that says folk horror short stories and books, and book covers for Hex, The Gathering Dark, Pine, The Ritual, The Sleepless, Scanlines, You Let me in, and she is a hauntingPin
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Dagney McKinney

Dagney (pronouns: any) is a neurodivergent writer and book nerd who is drawn to all things weird and macabre. She also loves anything to do with fast cars, unhinged anti-heroes, and salt. When she isn’t working or reading, you’re likely to find her eating Indian food, playing board games, or hiding out somewhere dark and quiet, stuck down an internet rabbit hole. The easiest way to win her over is through cats and camels.

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Christine Frascarelli

Christine (she/her) is the owner, lead editor, and tipsy book sommelier of The Uncorked Librarian LLC, an online literary publication showcasing books and movies to inspire travel and home to the famed Uncorked Reading Challenge. With a BA in English & History from Smith College, an MLIS from USF-Tampa, and a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship in Christine's back pocket, there isn't a bookstore, library, or winery that can hide from her. Christine loves brewery yoga, adopting all of the kitties, and a glass of oaked Chardonnay. Charcuterie is her favorite food group.


  1. For the folk horror I will be reading The Sacrifice by Rin Chupeco . I just happened to pick this book up at Barnes &Noble, so now I can read it and whittle my the list. It sounds very interesting.

    1. Hey Brenda, Thank you so much for sharing. We are so glad to have you for 2024 Uncorked Reading this year!

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