7 Gothic Novels with Creepy Estates
Kit Mayquist, author of "Tripping Arcadia," recommends books about crumbling manors, mysterious boarding schools, and sinister ancestral homes
Who doesn’t love a creepy house? When the wallpaper is peeling and the floorboards creak, it summons up everything there is to love about the Gothic genre. The atmosphere, the vibes, the feeling of being trapped in a place that is home but doesn’t quite feel welcome. Or maybe… maybe it welcomes you with a little bit too much enthusiasm.
To someone like me, the creepy estates of the Gothic genre feel like home in a way that isn’t easy to explain. It is a strange kind of love, but it is also why when I was writing my debut, Tripping Arcadia, I fell deep for the crumbling Gilded-Age manor home Arrow’s Edge, and seemed to smile writing every horrific, opulent scene.
A good Gothic estate can be as much of a character as a protagonist. When we think of stories like Rebecca or The Haunting of Hill House, what is it that we think of first? Hill House, standing alone, not sane..
You get my point.
There’s just so much to love when a house loves you back. When it hungers. When it digs its claws into you and begs you to stay long past the story is over and the lights have been turned out for one last time.
Read on for some recent Gothic novels with homes that do just that.
Lindridge Hall: The Death of Jane Lawrence by Caitlin Starling
A horrifying delight from beginning to end, this novel is one I picked up after falling in love with Starling’s novella, Yellow Jessamine (a sapphic Gothic you should also check out if you like poison-filled fun). In The Death of Jane Lawrence, a young woman marries a handsome doctor under the condition that she must never under any circumstances visit his ancestral estate, Lindridge Hall. Naturally, on a rainy night and with a terrified doctor in tow, she does just that, and all I can say is that this house is the perfect setting for the horrors that ensue. Immensely creepy, and set in a dark-mirror version of post-war England with a Crimson Peak flair, this novel by Starling is a fantastic addition to the Gothic canon. This is a house of terror that will have you remembering the name Lindridge Hall for a very long time.
Heatherbrae House: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware
Heatherbrae House isn’t a normal house, it’s a “smart” house, and somehow that makes it all the more horrifying. As a fan of Ruth Ware’s ability to write contemporary mysteries with a Gothic lens, THE TURN OF THE KEY is a classic Gothic about a woman hired to care for children at a luxurious, but remote estate, and how she ends up being blamed for the tragic murder that ensues. With constant surveillance via the cameras found everywhere in the glitching house, the malfunctioning technology adds a refreshing but creepy update to the classic Gothic manor home trope that you can’t help but love. Afterall, who doesn’t enjoy when a shiny, luxurious facade hides darker secrets deep within?
High Place: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
I can’t help but owe a lot to this book. Rarely is there a novel that captures audiences in such a way that it revives an entire genre. Well, Mexican Gothic did just that, and High Place was the best (worst?) home for such a tale. In it, a socialite in 1950s Mexico is summoned to the English estate of her newly-wed cousin, who pleads to her, desperate for help. Thrust into a mystery filled with poison and grotesque horror, the story becomes more horrifying with every page. As a reader, High Place captured one of my favorite topics that Gothic literature explores, which is the underlying social horror and tension that a wealthy estate like High Place represents. In Mexican Gothic, there is no escaping the colonialism woven throughout, and High Place portrays that horror with skill. From the small details within the house, to the way the protagonist Noemi describes it at each terrifying turn, there is no forgetting the oppressive force that High Place came from, and what it holds.
Brookhants School for Girls: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth
I don’t know where to begin with this one, other than if you want a creepy, falling apart school for your Gothic manor house, look no further than Brookhants School for Girls. A story within a story (within a story), Plain Bad Heroines is an unforgettable trip into something that feels like Dark Academia meets Gothic. The book follows a small group of girls at Brookhants in 1902, who form a secret society ala Dead Poets Society, only to all be found dead at their meeting place one day via a swarm of yellowjackets and a copy of the scandalous book that inspired their club. Cut to the present day, where the filming of a Hollywood version of their sorrowful tale has opened up Brookhants for the first time in decades and possibly summoned the mysterious curse that has plagued the school ever since. I love a book that features a return to the scene of the crime, and Brookhants is the perfect setting for this dual-timeline Gothic tale.
Lakesedge: Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone
This YA novel goes on the list for its clear love of the genre and for having such a lush estate, dripping with everything one could crave in a decaying familial home. It’s hard not to love, especially when there’s lake horror. Lakesedge features the protagonist Leta, who arrives at the haunted estate expecting to find a monster thanks to the rumors that surround the heir that she’s now tied to. Of course, not everything is as it seems, and the rumors aren’t the only lore that surround the place. With death gods, sacrifices, family curses, and more, this is a Gothic tale that has found an ideal home in its watery setting, making the estate memorable for its rich atmosphere, and ensuring it will stay with you after the last page is done.
The Rochester Mansion: Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood
If you’re looking for a claustrophobic Gothic mansion, this retelling of Jane Eyre inspired by Ethiopia is certainly one to add to the TBR pile. As a setting, the Rochester Mansion is eerie and perfect for the story that unfolds, capturing that feeling of being trapped without escape so very well.
In Within These Wicked Walls, the main character is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. However, when she is hired by a new client, Andromeda finds herself in a house filled with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and secrets that may be beyond her help. This Gothic leans heavily into the supernatural side, and feels more like a cousin to The Exorcist (not that I’m complaining!), but that only makes the house all the more ideal of a setting for everything the story holds.
Catherine House Boarding School: Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas
Another school (because is there anything creepier than a school?) Catherine House had to be on this list for its horrifying decadence and for being the perfect school to linger in my mind long after I was finished reading. Catherine House is a place that has raised Supreme Court justices, presidents, artists, writers and more—all with tuition, room, and board for free. The only catch? You give your life, and everything you own over to it. The outside world forgets you, and your life becomes bound to the school for the three years you attend. The opulent campus is an ideal contrast to the both gritty and Gothic tone to the book, with all of its velvet and timeworn leather serving as a delicious playground for Thomas’ prose, and feeling like an unforgettable Gothic setting that beckons you to attend, no matter how bad of an idea it may seem.