The Best Horror Fiction Set In New York City

With Halloween just around the corner, I figured it’s the perfect time to put together a list of the best horror fiction set in New York City. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some obvious ones – just remind me in the comments and I’ll add it to the list. Only the good stuff though!

title

In no particular order…

Rosemary

Title: Rosemary’s Baby

Author: Ira Levin

Rosemary Woodhouse and her husband Guy move into the infamous Bramford apartment building on the Upper West Side, and she soon becomes pregnant. But a series of strange incidents leads her to believe her seemingly harmless neighbors might be plotting something devilish for her baby…

I just read Rosemary’s Baby for the first time, and was blown away by how perfectly precise Levin’s novel is, from prose to character to plotting. Even if you’ve seen the movie version a million times like I have, it’s absolutely worth a read, if only for the slightly different ending…

americanpsycho

Title: American Psycho

Author: Bret Easton Ellis

Exquisitely-dressed and well-manicured Patrick Bateman lives a dual life: Wall Street banker by day, homicidal psychopath by night. Unfortunately, to Bateman’s dismay, no one seems to notice either identity, and so he delves deeper into his depraved world…

I wrote a lengthy post seeing how much of Bateman’s New York of the 1980s still exists today (very little, for better or worse).

sentinel

 Title:  The Sentinel

Author: Jeffrey Konvitz

Fashion model Alison moves into a creepy Upper West Side brownstone and quickly becomes annoyed with her bizarre neighbors…That is, until she learns she lives alone in the building, save for a blind priest on the top floor. Fearing for her sanity, she begins investigating, and soon finds herself closer to the depths of hell than she could have ever imagined.

This was clearly written as a Rosemary knock-off, and its clunkiness serves to show just how perfectly streamlined Levin’s novel is. That said, there are some fun and original ideas here, and it’s worth a read if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to live above the gateway to hell.

Relic

Title:  Relic

Author: Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child

Just days before a new exhibition opens at the American Museum of Natural History, visitors are being savagely murdered in the museum’s dark hallways and secret rooms. Autopsies indicate that the killer cannot be human, but the museum’s directors plan to go ahead with the big opening day bash anyway. Museum researcher Margo Green must find out who – or what – is doing the killing before it’s too late…

It’s been years since I read Relic, but I recall enjoying it as a sort-of supernatural Michael Crichton tale. I also recall learning from this book that the AMNH has the single longest hallway in all of New York, which I really need to check out one of these days.

SHORT STORIES

different seasons

Title:  The Breathing Method (from Different Seasons)

Author: Stephen King

A dark tale about a pregnant woman and an accident on a winter’s night.

I wouldn’t want to spoil the story by giving away more, but I will say that The Breathing Method features one of my favorite fictional locales in New York City: 249 E 35th Street, a mysterious gentleman’s club where members meet to tell strange and bizarre tales (the club is also featured in the short story The Man Who Would Not Shake Hands). The Breathing Method is told by a doctor at the club one night.

Everything

Title:  Lunch At The Gotham Cafe (from Everything’s Eventual)

Author: Stephen King

A man meets his wife in a New York cafe to discuss their divorce on the same day the maître d’ happens to go insane.

The first Everything’s Eventual edition is one of my favorite horror book covers of all time. See the strange swirl of red floating in the glass above? Turn the book over, and this is the full picture:

ee

I hear the Gotham Cafe is no longer in business…

1408

Title:  1408 (from Everything’s Eventual)

Author: Stephen King

Skeptical ghost book author Mike Enslin decides to spend the night in the allegedly haunted room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel…and barely lasts an hour.

If you’ve been yearning for King to return to The Shining’s Overlook Hotel, 1408 is a pretty decent substitute. And best of all, there are no ghosts in 1408. Oh, it’s haunted…but by something far worse than mere ghosts.

lovecraft

Title:  Cool Air (Read the story here!)

Author: H. P. Lovecraft

A strange and reclusive doctor keeps his apartment cooled to a steady 56-degrees…for a sinister purpose…

Written during Lovecraft’s miserable New York period, the townhouse in question was based on the property at 317 West 14th Street, now occupied by the Chelsea Pines Inn.

call

Title:  He (Read the story here!)

Author: H. P. Lovecraft

While out wandering one night, the narrator meets a strange man with supernatural powers and an insidious past.

The narrator’s home is located at 93 Perry Street, which I wrote about recently.

barker

Title:  The Midnight Meat Train

Author: Clive Barker

A man falls asleep on the subway and wakes up at the end of the line – and learns a horrific secret about what truly lurks beneath New York City.

I always think of this story when I nod off on the rain.

irving

Title:  The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (Read the story here!)

Author: Washington Irving

A superstitious pedagogue learns there may be truth to the sinister legend of the headless horseman.

“Not set in New York City,” you say? True, but I’ll have you note that the post-script to the tale indicates that the story was first told to the narrator in the “ancient city of Manhattoes.”

Plus it’s one of the greatest American short stories ever written. Want to feel like Halloween is just around the corner? Read this right now.

-SCOUT

If you enjoyed reading this post, would you consider making a donation to help me make my first movie? Just $5 or $10 can make a difference - AND you get this snazzy Scouting NY sticker/magnet as a Thank-You gift! Click here to donate today!

try4

And hey, if you've made it this far, why not follow us via RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr?

6 comments

  1. I LOVE Relic! Absolutely hated what they did to the storyline in the movie, but the book is excellent. And though many of the others in the series are not set in NYC (a couple others are) they just get creepier and creepier and Pendergast is the best contemporary FBI agent ever!

    Sorry, I always read your blog but hardly ever post, but I couldn’t pass up Relic.

  2. I have read them all and love them all. Great Post as usual.

  3. If you ever visit Utah, you need to come speak at my school! I love your website so much, thanks for all the time you put into it.

  4. The Sentinel apartment building is in Brooklyn, not upper west side.

  5. See also:

    CELLARS by John Shirley
    THE LIGHT AT THE END by John Skipp & Craig Spector
    FALLING ANGEL by William Hjortsberg
    WOLFEN by Whitley Strieber
    LIVE GIRLS by Ray Garton
    MANHATTAN GHOST STORY by T.M. Wright
    “Children of the Kingdom” by T.E.D. Klein (longish short story set in NYC ’77 blackout)

    There are other horror writers who use NYC to good effect than King & Lovecraft! ;-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>