What’s scarier than a ghost story? How about a ghost story that’s true. From evil houses and abandoned asylums to ghost-filled graveyards, we’re here to recommend 17 books about real-life hauntings that will send a chill down your spine.
Related: Here Are the 50 Most Haunted Places in the United States
In this list, you'll find studies by ghost hunters and paranormal investigators with a passion for communicating with "the other side." Haunting victims reveal what it's really like to live with ghosts in first-hand accounts. And experts offer tours through “dreadful places” and murder houses across the globe, where spirits roam the world's largest cities and the fields of America's Heartland. These stories aren't just scary, they're true—and they'll sow the seeds of doubt in even the staunchest non-believers.
A Guide to Haunted New England
Whether you're a New England native or a visitor passing through, this book will introduce you to terrifying truths about the region you never could have imagined. Alongside folklore and haunting anecdotes, author Thomas D'Agostino includes recommendations that come in handy for travelers of all kinds. Encompassing six states, this guide unveils everything from the victims of alchemy mishaps in the White Mountains to Berkshire wraiths to the lingering spirits of drowned sailors in Connecticut.
Ghosts and Legends of Lake Erie's North Coast
It's hard enough leaving Lake Erie’s North coast when you're among the living—the dead may never get the chance. Overflowing with spirits both friendly and nefarious, the area is full of spine-chilling stories that will convince any paranormal skeptic. A hauntingly beautiful high school student drifts through the hallways in search of her boyfriend. The ghost of a maintenance man still ambles through the grounds of a Port Clinton hotel. And an eerie figure looms in the clock of the Port Clinton Courthouse every single night, watching until the sun rises.
Related: 10 Most Haunted Hotels in the World
A Haunted History of Louisiana Plantations
While some like to focus on the grand elegance of Louisiana plantations, it cannot be denied that beneath the beautiful surface is a history of oppression, suffering, and great tragedy. This book uncovers the unsettled spirits that linger behind on the fraught land. Learn of a still-wandering soul lost to an illegal duel over honor on Natchez’s Cherokee Plantation, Chloe the mutilated enslaved girl whose ghost walks the halls of St. Francisville's Myrtles Plantation, the ancient oak trees that twisted in grief after the massive losses brought on by the flooding of the Mississippi River, and more.
Capitol Hill Haunts
There's a lot going on at Capitol Hill that we may never understand—and not all of it is carried out by the living. The Capitol is said to be the most haunted building in the world, but its surrounding neighborhood holds just as many spirits. From the tale of the weeping lady of Maples to the Navy Yard where Commodore Tingey still stands watch, author Tim Krepp takes readers through haunts both well-known and obscure.
This House Is Haunted
One of America’s first ghost hunters, Hans Holzer is the author of more than 140 books on the subject. During his lifetime, he was a tireless researcher into what he called the “other side”—his most famous investigation being that of the Amityville Horror house. In This House is Haunted, Holzer examines the cases of more than 80 haunted houses, explaining how our encounters with the spirit world may be just as upsetting for the spirits as they are for us.
Horror in the Heartland
The “flyover states” of the American Heartland have a reputation for being idyllic—filled with rolling fields, small towns, and polite Midwestern manners—but they aren’t without a dark side. Keven McQueen brings that darkness to the surface in his spooky book, relaying tales of grave robbers, premature burials, mad scientists, and more. There’s even a story about a Michigan physician who leaves his estate to his pet monkeys, proving the American Midwest is just as bizarre as anywhere else (we're looking at you, Florida).
The Haunted House
Originally published in 1879, this classic nonfiction book tells the story of the infamous haunting of Esther Cox. Not one to settle for secondhand accounts, author Walter Hubbell moved in with Esther's family for six weeks, hoping to witness the phenomenon himself. He got a lifetime’s worth of paranormal experiences during his stay—from the “mysteries setting of fires” to “the powerful shaking of the house” to the “loud and incessant noises…as if made by invisible sledgehammers.” Needless to say, there's a reason The Haunted House has become a classic of paranormal investigation.
Haunted Graveyards of the Ozarks
Emily Dickinson once said, “One need not be a chamber to be haunted,” and that’s certainly true of these terrifying Ozark cemeteries. Expert David E. Harkins takes you on an eerie tour of burial grounds throughout the Ozark hills—complementing his stories with photographs—where you’ll meet restless Civil War soldiers, the spirit of a mass murderer, and many other ghosts and ghouls.
Get a haunting multimedia experience with Ghostly Encounters, which contains written recollections, video links, and audio clips compiled by paranormal investigator Jeff Scott Cole. Traveling from the Villisca Axe Murder House to St. Albans Sanatorium, Cole reveals the stories behind these scary locations while also offering insight into the science of ghost hunting itself. Having spent his entire life in search of ghosts, has Cole successfully found proof of life beyond the grave? You’ll have to read the book to find out…if you dare.
Related: Ghostly Encounters at the Villisca Axe Murder House and Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum
No, not the one with the aliens—although Roswell, New Mexico is surely haunted too. Instead, this book brings readers to the ghost-riddled past of Roswell, Georgia, where cracked graves tell chilling tales and the specters of slavery haunt the quarters of Bulloch Hall. Join author Dianna Avena on an excursion to haunted mills, antebellum mansions, and much more.
Ghosts and Murders of Manhattan
Most of the time, we imagine haunted houses in isolated locales—not, for instance, in the hustle and bustle of one of the largest cities in the world. Yet, the Big Apple has more than its share of ghosts and strange murders, as charted here by Elise Gainer. There are even some who say that Jack the Ripper once stalked the New York City streets—and the ghosts of his victims may yet linger at some of the city's most famous landmarks.
Ghosts may haunt our houses and shimmer across our movie screens, but author J.H. Brennan argues they also influence our politics. In this enthralling account, Brennan reveals how a belief in the spirit world—whether real or imagined—has shaped world politics since the dawn of human civilization. From Joan of Arc and Adolf Hitler to the leaders of today, you’ll be amazed to see how closely history, politics, and the supernatural are intertwined.
Ghosts of Bobby Mackey's Music World
This list has included haunted houses and haunted towns, haunted cemeteries and haunted people, but there aren’t too many books about haunted nightclubs. Fortunately, there’s at least one. Author Dan Smith outlines the murderous and supernatural history of this infamous Kentucky night spot, which has been the site of lynchings and demonic possessions since the 19th century.
The Demon of Brownsville Road
Even as a boy, Bob Cranmer had been drawn to the house at 3406 Brownsville Road in Brentwood, Pennsylvania. So when the house went on the market just as his family was moving back to town, it seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately for the Cranmer family, it was…Shortly after they moved in, the family was assailed by ghostly footsteps, objects moving on their own, and even bleeding walls. Such disturbances culminated an epic spiritual battle against evil—and Bob Cranmer recounts every horrifying detail in his excellent memoir, The Demon of Brownsville Road.
Related: The Haunting of the Perron Family Inspired The Conjuring
American Murder Houses
There are lots of reasons why a house may become haunted—and sometimes, in the words of Shirley Jackson, a house is just “born bad.” But one of the most common causes of paranormal disturbances is the home’s proximity to a bloody crime scene. Steve Lehto has made it his job to learn more about such homes, called "murder houses," and he shares his knowledge in this spooky guidebook. Follow Lehto's bloody trail as he goes inside some of the most infamous abodes across the country—including the home of the axe-wielding Lizzie Borden—where the gruesome past is still very much alive.
The Uninvited: The True Story of the Union Screaming House
Author Steven LaChance and his three children were driven from their home in Union, Missouri by what LaChance describes as “demonic attackers.” These uninvited forces screamed, growled, filled the house with putrid odors, killed beloved pets, and assaulted—sometimes sexually—members of the family. In their desperation for peace, the LaChances sought the services of paranormal investigators, psychics, and priests before finally fleeing the home altogether. But even then, their nightmare wasn’t over.
This disturbing first-hand account is not only a terrifying chronicle of a family’s encounter with the supernatural but also a look at how those same forces can drive someone to murder and madness.
The World of Lore: Dreadful Places
Aaron Mahnke’s Lore podcast has become a huge sensation, spawning an Amazon television series and a collection of books. In Dreadful Places, Mahnke takes us to a number of legendary places—from ancient castles to the hotel that inspired The Shining's Overlook—and completes his tales with the darkly genius illustrations of M.S. Corley.
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