Each season of offers fanatics of all things frightening the opportunity to be sucked into a brand new, horrifying world. Season 6 just wrapped up—though it may have been—and, while we know that Season 7 is in part a return to Freak Show mythology, we have a while to go before we learn more. In the meantime, we’re filling the void with books similar to each freaky season of the show. From ghosts that haunt the Harmons in “” to the sinister inhabitants of the Hotel Cortez, in “,” there’s more to dread within the pages of these books.
Season 1: Murder House
The Loveliest Dead, by Ray Gordon
The Loveliest Dead
Like the Harmon family in Murder House, Jenna and David Kella are escaping their past—and the unexplained death of their four-year-old son, Josh—in The Loveliest Dead. But the past never stays hidden for long, and soon the family begins to see ghostly children—including one that resembles Josh—in their backyard.
The Secrets of Crickley Hall, by James Herbert
The Secrets of Crickley Hall
After the disappearance of their son, Cameron, Gabe, his wife Eva, and their remaining children, Loren and Cally, move to the English coast in order to move on from their loss. But their new residence, Crickley Hall—which served as an orphanage for children during the WWII evacuation—offers no comfort. And when Eva starts hearing voices, the true nightmare begins.
The Elementals, by Michael McDowell
After the funeral of the family matriarch, the McCray and Savage families look forward to relaxing in their beach houses on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. But only two of their three houses are habitable—something deadly is growing inside the third home and has haunted the families for years. And you thought the Infantata was horrifying …
Season 2: Asylum
The Sleep Room, by F.R. Tallis
The Sleep Room
Young psychiatrist James Richards is given the opportunity of a lifetime: To work on a controversial project in which disturbed patients are kept asleep for months as a form of therapy. Dr. Hugh Maitland, the lead on the project who is unwilling to talk about the patients’ past, is much like the sadistic doctors in Asylum. And when creepy things start happening, Richards realizes that there might be more to the Sleep Room than he knows.
The Asylum, by John Harwood
Like some of the patients in Asylum, Georgina Ferrars is being held in Tregannon House against her will. When she awakens disoriented and confused, the doctor claims she checked herself into the asylum under the name Lucy Ashton. Things only get more bizarre from there as Georgina tries to free herself and figure out just what is going on. The Asylum makes for a story even Lana Winters might be apprehensive to cover.
Season 3: Coven
The Witch's Cradle, by Gillian White
The Witch's Cradle
Much like the witches of Salem, whose descendants are portrayed in , Cheryl Higgins is the target of a modern day witch-hunt in the suspenseful novel The Witch’s Cradle. After the Higgins family has their life of poverty put on display in the fictional reality show The Dark End of the Street, their three children are kidnapped. When the two older children are found, but baby Cara remains missing, the public turns on Cheryl and the rest of the family.
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, by Katherine Howe
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
Harvard graduate student Connie Goodwin realizes she might be connected to the Salem witches after she discovers an ancient key hidden within a 17th-century Bible in the abandoned Salem home of her grandmother. As she begins to investigate, her mind is flooded with images of the witch trials—realizing that the key to solving the mystery is finding the woman whose name is attached to the key: Deliverance Dane.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, by John Berendt
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Like Coven, this non-fiction novel takes place in the South. The book surrounds the killing of prostitute Danny Hansford by a Savannah socialite Jim Williams and the trial determining if the killing was self-defense or murder. Parallels can be drawn between Williams and “Coven” character —a real-life New Orleans socialite and alleged serial killer. Those who love Capote’s style in his book will enjoy the fast-paced novelistic style in this work of non-fiction.
Season 4: Freak Show
Lobster Boy, by Fred Rosen
Fred Rosen details the real-life murder of legendary carnival performer Grady Stile, Jr. in this true crime account. Otherwise known as Lobster Boy, Stile’s murder was orchestrated by his wife—fellow carny Mary Teresa. , of course, has its very own “Lobster Boy,” Jimmy Darling, though fortunately Jimmy’s fate is not as dire as Grady Stile Jr.’s was.
Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
Something Wicked This Way Comes
In Something Wicked This Way Comes, 13-year-old friends Jim and Will are fascinated by the travelling carnival that comes to their town one October. The carnival’s leader, Mr. Dark, claims to have the power to grant people their secret desires … but in reality, he binds innocent people into servitude. Much like Freak Show, the novel combines horror and the supernatural to take us into a dangerous world.
Season 5: Hotel
A Face at the Window, by Dennis McFarland
A Face at the Window
Addiction plays a big role in Hotel, which is also the demon Cookson Selway is trying to fight in A Face at the Window. After their daughter leaves for college, Cookson and Ellen Selway take an extended trip to London and stay in the Hotel Willerton—which happens to be haunted by ghosts. The more Cookson is haunted, the further he descends into a spiral of self-destruction in this paranormal novel.
The Blood Countess, by Andrei Codrescu
The Blood Countess
“Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory is said to have murdered more that 650 young virgins and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth. Similarly, The Countess, queen of the Hotel Cortez, keeps a collection of children from which she feeds. Codrescu’s fictional account of the “Blood Countess” tells the story of journalist Drake Bathory-Kereshtur, one of Elizabeth’s descendants, and how he’s haunted by her legacy.
The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
The Devil in the White City
Serial killer built his own hotel of horrors during the Chicago World’s Fair in the 1890s. This non-fiction novel intertwines the story of chief architect behind the World’s Fair, Daniel Burnham, and serial killer Holmes—as Holmes lures victims to their deaths. Just like the unsuspecting guests at the Hotel Cortez, these victims never knew they were targets … until it was too late.
Season 6: Roanoke
Wylding Hall, by Elizabeth Hand
Members of a British acid-folk band retreat to Wylding Hall to record their music, but are met with tragedy when their lead singer, Julian Blake, disappears. Years later, the surviving members meet with a documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of the story and try to decipher what really happened to Julian all those years ago. Sounds suspiciously similar to the events of My Roanoke Nightmare and Return to Roanoke … we can only hope the Butcher doesn’t show up.
Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon
Time jumps between 1908 and present day in this suspenseful novel. The town of West Hall, Vermont has always been peculiar. In 1908, Sarah Harrison Shea was found dead following the tragic death of her daughter. Jumping forward to present day, when 19-year-old Ruthie’s mother Alice disappears, Ruthie finds Sarah’s diary hidden in her home and embarks on a historical mystery. The Roanoke Colony’s famous disappearance connects to the small town in Vermont, where seemingly inexplicable events continue to happen.
Featured still from "American Horror Story: Roanoke" via FX