Columns > Published on September 10th, 2021

DYI Horror: 10 Haunted Fixer-Uppers

So many fans of horror love a good haunted house story. You can Google "Best Haunted House Books" and find a bajillion lists with countless recommendations. This list is for books with a trope within the haunted house trope. 

The fixer-upper.

And not just "a person or family moves into a haunted house and realizes they are not alone." That's close, but that's not hitting the nail on the head. I love scenes, wait... whole chapters actually, dedicated to detailed descriptions of restoration. I love when characters walk into the house of their dreams and they start imagining what it could look like with a little elbow grease and updating. I want the characters to pick out their rooms. They should take note of the wallpaper and love it or hate it. When they use the bathroom, the water should annoyingly fluctuate between hot and cold, so they immediately add that to the list of things to do.

Remember the movie The Money Pit with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? I want that but without the humor and all the horror. Some of these are books I have read and loved. A few of them were too light on the horror, but the scenes about fixing up an old house entertained me. While I was doing research for this listicle, I found a few I added to my own TBR and I'm excited to share those with you. Time to unpack!

1. "The Invited" by Jennifer McMahon

The married couple in this book live out one of my fantasies: Building a dream home in Vermont. On the property are the bones of the former estate and a swamp rich with historical significance and of course...the ghost of a witch. If you enjoy watching HGTV house-building shows, do not miss this.

Get The Invited at Bookshop or Amazon 


2. "The Grip of It" by Jac Jemc

A young couple suffering tension in their marriage as a result of their busy lifestyle decide to leave the city and move into a fixer-upper near the woods. The alternating POV between the husband and wife is compelling as they settle into their new life. The descriptions of decorating and renovation mixed in with the couple being tormented by some outside entity makes for an engaging read. 

Get The Grip of It at Bookshop or Amazon


3. "The Restoration" by J. H. Moncrieff

A woman is hired by a creepy older lady to live in a historical house in need of restoration. She takes the job and moves in with her daughter who immediately starts seeing things. Fans of This Old House with Bob Vila will love this blend of home restoration and all the classic haunted house tropes. 

Get The Restoration at Amazon


4. "The Bird Eater" by Ania Ahlborn

A man returns to the dilapidated home where he was raised only to find that it is in desperate need of repairs and probably an exorcism of its demons from the past. There are some really creepy scenes, but also some great descriptions of making a house a home (even if it is sinister).

Get The Bird Eater at Bookshop or Amazon


5. "The Haunting of Ashburn House" by Darcy Coates

For those unfamiliar with Darcy Coates, her books are what I would label as "cozy horror." Perfect with a cup of coffee or tea on a rainy day for some mildly creepy dread and tons of atmosphere. This one in particular features the "inheritance of a haunted house" trope. A young woman and her cat unexpectedly become the new owners of a big estate in need of a lot of restoration and a paranormal expert. Available on Kindle Unlimited.

Get The Haunting of Ashburn House at Bookshop or Amazon


6. "Starter House" by Sonja Condit

I found this book in my research for this article and added it to my Kindle. An elementary school teacher on maternity leave falls in love with a house and she and her husband go to great lengths to buy it. Their elation of making the house their own quickly fades as they realize they might not be alone. The combination of motherhood horrors and a haunted house where people have been murdered sounds interesting.

Get Starter House at Bookshop or Amazon


7. "Violet" by Scott Thomas

This book is really my inspiration for doing this article. I absolutely loved the scenes of cleaning, repairing, and restoring at the center of this grief horror. The main character lost her mother to cancer and it's clear that pouring herself into fixing up her mother's home is a coping mechanism for her overwhelming sadness. In the meantime, while she is so distracted, her daughter makes a new friend inside the house. 

Get Violet at Bookshop or Amazon


8. "Burnt Offerings" by Robert Marasco

I just bought this book to add to my "vintage horror TBR stack" for October. I've heard so many wonderful reviews. An enormous mansion with too many rooms on a sprawling estate is rented by a family for the summer for a "too good to be true" price. One character, Marian, becomes obsessed with all the antiques and restoring the home to its original glory as a way to relax and unwind. " A malevolent story of possession..."

Get Burnt Offerings at Bookshop or Amazon


9. "House of Echoes" by Brendan Duffy

I added this book to my list of "want to read" after I ran across it in my search. A couple decide to move house after their son is horribly bullied at his school. They decide to buy an inn in a remote village. To make friends with the locals, they join a preservation society and start to unravel the historical relevance of their new home. The description reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon.

Get House of Echoes at Bookshop or Amazon


10. "The Skeleton Tree" by Diane James

This book was just released this Spring and it sounds worth checking out. A woman inherits enough money to buy her dream house, but will it ultimately become her worst nightmare? This sounds like a domestic family drama at the center of a haunted house story with lots of home restoration and discovering hidden secrets. I'm interested!

Get The Skeleton Tree at Bookshop or Amazon

Restoring or renovating a home is exciting and exhausting. My husband and I have owned quite a few different homes over the course of our 25 years of marriage. Maybe this is why I have such an affinity for this very specific sub-genre? Who knows, but I welcome any and all recommendations either by commenting here or engaging with me or this article on social media. Thanks in advance!

About the author

Sadie Hartmann, “Mother Horror” reviews horror fiction for Cemetery Dance Online and Scream Magazine. She is a co-owner of a curated, horror fiction book subscription company called Night Worms. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, kids and Frenchie.

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