7 Must-Read Nigerian Horror Novels

Adorah Nworah, author of "House Woman," recommends spine-tingling books that will scare you

A man holds his hands underwater
Photo by HisArt Photos via Unsplash

My first encounter with Nigerian horror stories were the Igbo folktales my parents narrated to me in my childhood, each one taut with tension and woven with haunting language that fizzled on their tongues.

Years later, those folktales would inspire my debut literary horror novel, House Woman, which follows Ikemefuna, a young Nigerian woman who moves to Sugar Land, Texas for her arranged marriage, but is immediately held captive by her eccentric in-laws in their suburban home and must go to great lengths to secure her freedom. 

Like the chilling Igbo folktales of my childhood, House Woman begins with familiar elements of Nigerian domestic life, but quickly subverts expectations by tumbling down a dark road of unpredictable twists and turns culminating in a shocking end. 

This reading list features seven Nigerian horror novels with unforgettable protagonists and unsettling plots that evoke a similar sense of foreboding as House Woman

Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s remarkable novel, Who Fears Death, is at once a fantasy novel and a work of literary horror. It follows our fierce heroine, Onyesonwu, who was conceived in the wake of her mother’s rape and spends her formative years as an outcast. During this time, Onyesonwu discovers and hones her magic, and unearths a prophesy that suggests she has the ability to heal her world. In addition to its litter of terrifying scenes, Who Fears Death masterfully tackles weighty topics like genocide, weaponized rape and colorism and draws from current events to painstakingly depict a society at war with herself.  

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi

Helen Oyeyemi’s White is for Witching is told from the perspectives of multiple unreliable narrators, including a devious house. The novel primarily follows the house’s occupants and the violence the house unleashes on them in the aftermath of its matriarch’s death. We watch with bated breath as the house grows increasingly xenophobic, with bloodshed marring its rooms and ghostly presences wandering its hallways. The result is a unique and creepy tale that is as brilliant as it is macabre. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

Oyinkan Braithwaite’s My Sister the Serial Killer is perfect for readers who like their horror novels with a side of wit. This fast-paced novel follows a formidable sister duo, one of whom happens to be a serial killer (no big deal!). Ayoola, the serial killer, has mastered the intricate art of attracting male attention and slaughtering her victims at her whim. In turn, her older sister Korede reluctantly enables Ayoola’s homicidal streak by cleaning up Ayoola’s crime scenes. The sisters’ relationship comes to a head when they find themselves in a love triangle with a handsome doctor and Korede must decide whether to continue covering up Ayoola’s crimes or let justice prevail for once. 

The Sleepless by Nuzo Onoh

Set against the backdrop of the Biafran war, Nuzo Onoh’s The Sleepless follows Obele, a young Igbo girl whose brother dies under mysterious circumstances. We quickly learn that Obele possesses supernatural powers that unearth the identity of her brother’s killers. Soon, Obele’s life is in danger and her sole chance at survival is a group of giggling girls whose friendship comes at a terrible price. The Sleepless is a fresh and gripping story that will have readers flying through its pages. 

Perverse by Wol-Vriey

Perverse follows 21-year-old Heather Forrest who accompanies her three friends on a trip to Vermont and is kidnapped along with her friends on the way to their destination. But what appears to be a predictable horror story quickly turns on its head when Heather and her friends go to inhumane lengths to secure their freedom. And if a bunch of friends resorting to gruesome tactics for a chance at survival doesn’t pique your interest, Perverse is chock full of wild twists that will keep even the most discerning reader on their toes until the very end.

The Murders of Molly Southborne by Tade Thompson

Poor Molly has watched herself die for so many years. Each time Molly bleeds, the spilt blood morphs into a new doppelganger of hers that is determined to kill her. Now, Molly must either find a way to end this twisted cycle or die at the hands of one of her replicas while grappling with the terrifying question of whether she is the real Molly or a mere replica of herself. 

Ghostroots by Pemi Aguda

Pemi Aguda’s Ghostroots is a collection of twelve short stories that unfurl against the backdrop of a reimagined Lagos. The stories feature a motley crew of characters who must wrest control of their destinies from ancestral curses. Ghostroots is a melting pot of horror, thriller, and fantasy, that promises to leave readers clutching their pearls—and blankets!

More Like This

8 Spine-Chilling Books About Occult Mysteries

Supernatural stories about ghosts, magic, and seances

Jul 3 - Lydia Kang

6 Famous Writers Inspired by the Occult

Experiencing writer's block? Try joining a ghost club like Arthur Conan Doyle, reading tarot like Shirley Jackson, or studying magic like W.B. Yeats

Oct 29 - Elizabeth Sulis Kim

Double Take: Dan Chaon’s ‘Ill Will’ is the Darkest Novel You’ll Read This Year

The literary thriller has a high body-count and a low estimation of humanity.

Jun 20 - Halimah Marcus
Thank You!