Grab some headphones and hold on to your spines, because these books are pure horror. Imagine voices dripping with terror, desperate screams, and every creepy whisper right at your ears. Ready to be scared senseless?
The Whisper Man by Alex North, narrated by Christopher Eccleston. 9 hours, 38 minutes.
A father and son try to start over in a new town, but unfortunately it looks like a serial killer that was captured long ago has somehow returned. British actor Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who, Heroes, The Leftovers) brings his massive talent to the twisting psychological thrills in The Whisper Man.
The Hunger by Alma Katsu, narrated by Kirsten Potter. 10 hours, 34 minutes.
No one thought the migration from Missouri to California in 1846 would be easy, but the Donner Party suffered some of the worst tragedies recorded along the way. Separated from the original group of 500, the 87-person party took a detour, became trapped in a snowstorm, and quickly ran out of food. Struggling to survive, the Donner Party must have felt like they were going insane … or worse, being hunted.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, narrated by Joy Osmanski. 8 hours, 49 minutes.
The Barrett family has it rough. The breadwinner has lost his job, and now 14-year-old Marjorie has been diagnosed with schizophrenia … or maybe possession. As they near the end of their savings, the family agrees to star in a reality show that documents her exorcism. Will their well-intentioned plans drive evil away, or have they just invited it in?
Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons, narrated by Mel Foster and Laural Merlington. 39 hours, 27 minutes.
Saul Laski survives a Nazi concentration camp only to be thrown into battle with evils much older than Hitler. Mankind, he discovers, has been weaponized by a secret society, and in this way have been responsible for the worst atrocities of the century. Can Saul change the course of humanity, or is the next century doomed to repeat the past? Stephen King considers this “one of the three greatest horror novels of the 20th century,” so you know it has to be scary.
Hex by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, narrated by Jeff Harding. 14 hours, 21 minutes.
The town of Black Springs is cursed by the Black Rock Witch, a haunting that dates back to the 1600s. Her eyes and mouth are sewn shut, and long-held myths swirl around what would happen if they ever opened. Town elders have shut Black Springs off from the rest of the world, but that’s all about to change thanks to a few fed-up teenagers determined to find out if the witch’s hex is real.
The Elementals by Michael McDowell, narrated by R.C. Bray. 8 hours, 6 minutes.
You may know McDowell for his screenplays (Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas), but this haunted house story is every bit as classic. A dilapidated Victorian beach house is almost buried in sand, but its secrets are still leaking out, threatening to ruin the lives of everyone in the sleepy shore town. And by “ruin” we mean “murder.”
Bird Box by Josh Malerman, narrated by Cassandra Campbell. 9 hours, 8 minutes.
Civilization has collapsed, and something evil is to blame. One glimpse of it, and your most violent impulses are released before you either die or kill others. In this new world, a mother and two children must travel by river, blindfolded for their safety, to a place that they hope has better resources. Listen to this one with your eyes closed, if you dare.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King, narrated by Michael C. Hall. 15 hours, 41 minutes.
There’s a cemetery in the woods where children bury their beloved pets. Sounds innocent enough, but this is Stephen King’s world where evil is real and “sometimes dead is better.” Movies are great, but in this case, the book is so much more atmospheric. Plus, this edition is narrated by Michael C. Hall (Dexter, Six Feet Under), who absolutely nails the horror and the subtlety of a small-town mystery.
The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, narrated by Kevin Free. 3 hours, 9 minutes.
LaValle plucks a minor character from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Horror at Red Hook” and makes him a hero. Charles Thomas Tester is a hard-working street musician, taking any work he can to support his family. What starts as a routine delivery in Queens pulls Tom into a hidden world of magic and a battle with the Great Old Ones (Lovecraft’s ancient gods who once ruled Earth).
The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, narrated by Justine Eyre and Paul Michael. 26 hours, 6 minutes.
Academically, the heroine of the story is intrigued by the information that Vlad the Impaler — Dracula by lore — may still be exerting his influence in modern times. Personally, tracking him down will explain a lot about her father’s obsession and her mother’s mysterious death. Her journey across centuries and continents takes its toll, especially when the undead are in tow.
The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson, narrated by Kevin Collins. 7 hours, 16 minutes.
Lou Ford, a deputy sheriff in Central City, Texas, lives two lives. Outside, he’s a friendly face at the coffee shop. Inside, his thirst for revenge is all-consuming. After his brother, Mike, is killed, Lou vows to spill as much blood as needed to set things right. Lou is a calculating, terrifyingly evil, and 100% human, making him the most monstrous character on this list.