As someone who grew up in Ohio, so close to the Appalachian Mountains, you could practically see them in the distant mist, Appalachian Gothic has always been on my mind. It’s simply something that appeals to me, reminding me of how a haunted home can feel.
Needless to say, nature can be scary—as can the effect it has on the people who dare to venture into it. And sometimes, the characters don’t even need to be in the mountains or the woods to feel the draw of that all-pervading power. Just being in the region can affect the very atmosphere of the story, all to terrifying effect.
Fortunately, in the horror genre, we have plenty of amazing authors who are exploring this unique brand of gothic in their short fiction, novellas, and novels. So, for your terror-loving pleasure, here are four Appalachian Gothic books that will send a chill up your spine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Everything That's Underneath
Kristi DeMeester is most definitely a horror author who has been making waves in the industry over the last decade. Her recent novel, Such a Pretty Smile, has been lauded throughout the genre, and her forthcoming book, The Dark Sisters, sounds every bit as good. Either one of those novels belongs on your TBR list, but if you’re also searching for an incredibly unique flavor of Appalachian Gothic, then look no further than DeMeester’s debut collection, Everything that’s Underneath.
These are stories that are haunted by the woods and the unknown spaces that lurk in nature. The tales are by turns terrifying, heartbreaking, and haunting, and there’s not a single weak link in the whole table of contents. A true horror achievement, and one you should pick up today.
Every chance I get, I love to sing the praises of Eden Royce and her incredible body of work. She’s seriously one of my favorite authors writing today, and for good reason. Her unique brand of Southern Gothic blends folklore, magic realism, and horror in a way that nobody else can do. She’s a genius at both long fiction and short stories, seamlessly toggling back and forth, her work always as devastating as it is thought-provoking. You truly can’t go wrong with anything she writes, but if I have to suggest one book in particular, it has to be her debut novel, Root Magic.
Two siblings start to learn the ways of rootwork in 1960s South Carolina while facing off with threats that are both magical and human alike. Once you’re done with that incredible tale, be sure to pick up her follow-up novel, Conjure Island. And once you’re done with that, don’t hesitate to buy a copy of Royce’s latest collection, Who Lost, I Found: Stories. All of these books more than deserve a place on your bookshelf.
The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek
When people think about Appalachian Gothic, their mind tends to wander to the deep south of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. And those states are of course rife with terrifying possibilities.
However, you don’t have to travel that far to see the storied and strange mountain range—West Virginia will do just as well and has plenty of haunting stories awaiting you. While I’m a Pennsylvania resident, I reside literally six miles from the border of West Virginia, so I’ve spent a decent bit of time in the Mountain State over the years. And The Hag Witch of Tripp Creek gives the flavor of both my worlds: protagonist Dawna has begrudgingly decided to move from her happy home in Pittsburgh down to the wilds of West Virginia, in hopes of giving her troubled husband a chance to recuperate.
Unfortunately, an exciting new friendship and a local legend about the Hag Witch turn into something that’s much more than she bargained for. Somer Canon always brings such a unique horror flair to everything she writes, and this novel proves once again why she’s an author you should be reading.
Another ode to West Virginia, Laurel Hightower’s acclaimed book, Below, released last year from Ghoulish Books is all about the most famous cryptid from the Mountain State: none other than Mothman himself.
While this book could probably be primarily called a monster tale, there’s a deeply abiding sense of dread in the atmosphere of Hightower’s incarnation of West Virginia, which gives it a decidedly gothic feel. A divorced woman named Addy is making a cross-country trip, desperate to face up to her own fears, only to come face to face with some fresh terrors in the evening gloom of West Virginia, the kind of deep horrors that she never expected. A nominee for the Bram Stoker Award in Long Fiction, this fantastic novella is well worth a read, for both monster lovers and gothic lovers alike.
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