We gays love a scary story, right? From cult classic films like Jennifer’s Body (2009) and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) to timeless fiction such as Sheridan Le Fanu’s Carmilla (1872), we need a little horror in our lives. This spooky season, check out this list of every scary queer book you should read this Halloween.
Given that these are predominantly horrors or thrillers, please pay attention to any trigger warnings before checking these out.
Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield
Something strange is happening to Miri’s wife. After returning from a deep-sea dive, she’s different: quiet, isolated, and maybe a little translucent. Yet she won’t talk about what happened, and certainly won’t admit that anything went wrong under the sea. Miri can only watch in fascinated horror as their lives are turned upside down.
This was my most-loved book of 2022 and for good reason. You will gasp; you might even shed a tear. There is nothing quite as horrifying as the deep sea and all that comes with it, and Armfield portrays it perfectly.
TW: body horror, claustrophobia and confinement, death, disordered eating, grief, psychosis, thalassophobia
2. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1891)
This classic thriller may only contain homoerotic undertones, but it is still one wild ride. Obsessed with beauty, Dorian Gray decides to sell his soul for eternal youth. The only catch? A portrait of him will bear the mark of his actions… A cursed painting, a deal with the devil, and a whole lot of self-reflection that goes crazily wrong. This gothic horror is perfect for October.
TW: ableism, animal death (hunting scene), death, murder, suicide, misogyny, dubious consent, antisemitism, blood, drug use, fatphobia, racism
3. The Low, Low Woods by Carmen Maria Machado, DaNi, and Tamra Bonvillain
This graphic novel will have you jumping out of your skin. Two teenage girls discover that something isn’t quite right with their town. Girls are going missing, their memories are disappearing, and there is something crawling out of the decades-long fire that rages under their town. The art is haunting and truly magnificent, and the writing will have you (hopefully) obsessed with Carmen Maria Machado forever.
TW: sexual assault (implied), rape (implied), death, blood and gore
4. The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
This fantasy novel (and its sequels, The Oleander Sword and an upcoming third book) is terrifying in a way you won’t expect. A mysterious disease is spreading through the kingdom: the Rot, which turns human flesh and bones into leaves, moss, and bark. Malini, the princess, is banished for refusing to lay down her life. Priya, a maidservant, is trusted to care for the temple where her life was uprooted as a child. This epic story is inspired by the history and mythologies of India, and is a perfect read for autumn.
TW: body horror, murder, drug use, misogyny, homophobia, suicide, withdrawal
5. The Spirit Bares Its Teeth by Andrew Joseph White
In an alternate London in 1883, autistic trans teenager Silas is destined for a life that he hates: to become a wife and a mother, and prevented from following his true passion of medicine. Yet after a freak accident, Silas is instead banished to Braxton’s Sanitorium and Finishing School, a much worse fate. When the ghosts of former students start appearing to him, he must help — but what can he do in a place that opposes who he truly is?
TW: extreme gore, surgery, death, murder, abortion, vomit, misgendering, transphobia, paedophilia, misogyny, torture, ableism
6. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
A queer feminist collection of short stories that will shock you to the
core. Machado’s writing is spooky, complex, and very real; many of the stories reflect the real-life struggles and expectations put on queer women. With themes of sexuality, vulnerability, and self-urgency, this collection cannot be skipped.
TW: body horror, child abuse, death, domestic violence, abortion, vomit, murder, miscarriage, misogyny, self-harm, rape, eating disorder, gore
7. White Is For Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
Lovers of The Haunting of Hill House will enjoy this one. Set in a similarly-spooky manor in the countryside, twins Miranda and Eliot and father Luc are mourning the loss of Lily. There is something happening in the house — it moves and talks and traps — but only Miranda notices, at first. As they struggle with the grief of losing family, they must begin to understand what is happening in the house before it is too late.
TW: eating disorder (pica), racism, body horror, xenophobia
8. Things We Say in the Dark by Kirsty Logan
This is another collection of short stories separated into three parts: ‘The House,’ ‘The Child,’ and ‘The Past.’ Each collection brings the desires, aspirations, and fears of queer people to the forefront, twisting them each into something so haunting and often terrifying. The stories are united by one long account – is it true? Is it fiction? – that spans the length of the book.
TW: gore, vomit, abuse, death, murder, kidnapping, rape, vomit
9. Manhunt by Gretchen Felker-Martin
Three trans strangers have their lives intertwined forever after an accident. This novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is not kind to trans people — but they will do their hardest to fight back. Two manhunters and one lone wolf must unite to survive in their new reality, get revenge on some TERFs, and maybe find a family on the way.
TW: extreme gore, extreme violence, transphobia, cannibalism, death, murder, torture, rape, sexual assault, slavery, medical experimentation, eating disorders
10. Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
Eddie and Andrew, two close friends, are split apart. Only days before they are due to be reunited, Eddie commits suicide and leaves Andrew everything — including his ghost. As Andrew finds himself falling deeper and deeper into Eddie’s life, he must come to terms with his own issues regarding his sexuality and understanding his grief. But what if Eddie didn’t commit suicide? What if he was murdered? A story of queer longing, truth, and acceptance.
TW: suicide, death, murder, animal death, cancer, drug use, substance abuse, emotional abuse, vomit, racism, homophobia, gore, grief
By Holly (she/her)