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Don't Be Fooled by the Slow Drawl—These Southern Horror Books Will Creep You Out

Be careful who you dine with; these horrors are all too eager to tip their hats and let you in. 

5 southern horror book covers on a southern ranch image with willow trees
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  • Photo Credit: Ashley Knedler / Unsplash

While you might think that the Southern horror genre is simply horror stories set in Southern landscapes or written by Southern authors, it’s a little more specific than that.

Influenced by gothic elements and aspects of the American South—such as racial tensions, poverty, crime, violence, and other social taboos—Southern horror is often more convoluted than other horror subgenres.

It’s heavy on melodrama, grotesque imagery, and deeply flawed or otherwise disturbing characters. 

For these reasons, Southern horror or Southern Gothic books have their own specific ambiance. They often also require a little bit more reading between the lines in terms of understanding the characters’ backstories and the foundational points of the plot.

But they’re a whole lot of fun. So if you’re looking to dive into these stories dripping with humidity and tension, we’ve curated a list of eight Southern horror books you won’t want to miss. 

Gone South

Gone South

By Robert McCammon

Lighter on the horror themes and heavier on the southern undertones, Gone South by Robert McCammon is a rip-roaring journey.

 Veteran Dan Lambert may have left the Southeast Asian jungle, but it never left him—and its abuse prevails. As he hustles for construction work in the heat of Louisiana summer, his pounding head—a result of the leukemia that's eating him from the inside out—is a nagging reminder of his time in the jungle. 

And to make matters worse, the bank wants to repossess his truck, and his efforts to reason with the loan officer are unsuccessful. In one fatal moment, Dan loses himself, his subconscious returning to the jungle, and he ends up shooting the banker through the chest before he comes to.

Now, he’s on the run; but tailing him closely are two strange bounty hunters: a one-time Siamese twin and an Elvis impersonator. If he wants to save his life, he’s going to have to remind himself why it’s worth living in the first place.  

A Lush and Seething Hell

A Lush and Seething Hell

By John Hornor Jacobs

A collection of two tales that navigate the violence and depravity within the human soul, A Lush and Seething Hell includes the novellas The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky and My Heart Struck Sorrow.

The Sea Dreams It Is the Sky is a lovecraftian-type story told by a young woman who, through examining the story of an exiled poet’s attempts to translate a maddening text, also examines life in a South American dictatorship. 

My Heart Struck Sorrow is the story of a librarian who discovers a recording from the Deep South; and thinks it could be music straight from the devil himself



By Brad Strickland

Robert McCammon and Stephen King fans are sure to love Shadowshow, set in post-war Gaither, Georgia—an all-American small town complete with white picket fences and evangelical goodwill.

Stranger Athaniel Badon arrives to reopen a shuttered cinema, promising the townspeople relatable family entertainment. 

Night after night, graphic scenes of murder and gore, human debasement, and violent sex flicker a glow on the audience’s faces.

And that’s only the beginning; Badon’s giving them what they want, what they deserve. But what’s coming next is something Gaither has never seen. 

Break The Bodies, Haunt The Bones

Break The Bodies, Haunt The Bones

By Micah Dean Hicks

This highly unsettling Southern Gothic leans heavily into timely social commentary to cultivate its atmospheric, Salem’s Lot type tone.

 Swine Hill is more than simply haunted; it’s overrun with the dead. While most of the ghost population lingers downtown, they simply meander within the places that mean the most to them.

So people avoided those streets and buildings; because these ghosts can hurt you. Change you, even. 

Jane is haunted. A ghost girl who feeds on the secrets and fears of everyone around her, whispering to Jane their thoughts and feelings, whether she wants to know them or not, plagues her.

Henry, Jane’s brother, is haunted by a genius ghost that forces him to build strange and dangerous machines. Their mother is haunted by a lonely ghost who burns everyone she touches. 

New arrivals move into town and begin taking the most desired jobs at the last factory in town; and both the living and the dead are enraged.

With rage perpetrating on all fronts, Jane must find a way to save her haunted family and escape the town before it kills them. 

All the Bells on Earth

All the Bells on Earth

By James P. Blaylock

A deal-with-the-devil, fantasy meets horror storyAll the Bells on Earth is a chilling read for fans of dark humor and the absurd. In the middle of the night, a man, driven by a compulsive urge to stop the ringing of the bells, scales the St. Anthony’s Church.

In a deserted alley, a conflagration swallows an apparently random victim. In the middle of the day, mail-order businessman Walt Stebbins receives a glass jar, the bizarre contents being the preserved body of a bluebird. 

Things like this don’t occur in Orange, California. In fact, they scarcely occur anywhere.

But as Walt comes closer to discovering the mystery behind his strange gift, he learns that the battle between good and evil rages non-stop, every day, in every corner of the world…



By Orson Scott Card

After Don Lark’s alcoholic ex-wife killed their daughter in a car crash, he not only withdraws from society, but finds that the only comfort he can find is putting a roof over other people’s heads. He buys dilapidated houses, restores them, and resells them at a profit; and his latest project is in Greensboro, North Carolina. 

He’s found a massive, sturdy shell of a house that’s suffered years of abuse from greedy landlords and transient tenants – having suffered years of abuse himself, Don opts to take on the challenge of fixing it up.

Everything is going well—he starts up a romance with the real estate agent, his charming neighbors offer him unrivaled Southern hospitality and even the squatter who was occupying the house starts growing on him—until it’s not. 

When Don discovers an old tunnel in the cellar, everything goes south: Sylvie, the squatter, turns dangerous, and his neighbors begin begging him to vacate the house; overall, everyone seems to want him gone.

Don doesn’t know why; but he does know that if he can overcome the tragic history of this house, he’ll have everything he’s ever wanted. But if he can’t, he’ll lose everything…

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires

By Grady Hendrix

Set in South Carolina in the 90s, Patricia Campbell’s suburban book club is the only thing keeping her sane from the monotony of her housekeeping life.

Grateful for the opportunity to talk about true crime and suspenseful fiction instead of marriage and motherhood, Patricia only becomes more excited when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into town. 

Patricia is initially attracted to him, as is the rest of her book club, and their discussions very quickly turn to talking about him. But when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect his involvement and begins her own investigation.

But she never thought she’d meet a being so sinister—and the only people keeping their community safe from him are the members of the book club. 

The Family Plot

The Family Plot

By Cherie Priest

Music City Salvage, owned by Chuck Dutton, is a family operation in the business of stripping old estates and selling anything of value.

Not the most profitable solution, you can imagine Chuck’s excitement when old and esteemed Augusta Withrow strikes a deal with him to unload her family estate3her huge and valuable family estate. 

The deal is so good that Chuck sends his daughter to personally oversee the project. So the crew sets off to Chattanooga, Tennessee, to find the house—and the barn, carriage house, and small overgrown summary, among a whole slew things that Mrs. Withrow left out of the paperwork. 

The property is in unusually great shape for a condemned building; and unusually empty for a building that isn’t abandoned. Something in this mansion is angry and lost – and it knows it only has a certain amount of time, and space, left to play before the house is gone forever. 

Featured image: Ashley Knedler / Unsplash