The original Frankenstein was published in 1818, drafted by English author Mary Shelley. The original title was Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, and became the benchmark of gothic horror for the genre’s millions of fans.
While modern gothic horror has taken an evolved approach, classic elements remain in vogue as well. While Shelley wrote predominately in other genres, Frankenstein is her most famous work.
This list will take us through some of the classic gothic horror novels and modern entries that build upon what came before them.
So let’s jump right into the fun!
It’s a toss-up as to which novel is more famous, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It’s impossible to speak about the most influential gothic novels without mentioning both.
Bram Stoker’s Dracula created an entire subculture surrounding Vampires, building mythical lore around the city of Transylvania and Romania as a whole. Castles, blood, and romance — all of the classic themes are present in Dracula.
If you are one of the few gothic horror fans who hasn’t read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, it’s available for purchase on Amazon here.
Dr. Faustus is a myth of a German doctor who sells his soul to the devil. Christopher Marlowe tells the myth in this creative classic that keeps too much of the story’s origin. While there have been several interpretations, Marlowe’s is one of the most famous play versions.
The gothic novel goes deep into the supernatural with Lucifer, angels, and tragedy. Dr. Faustus is a novel that deserves attention from those new to the gothic scene or who have yet to explore the classics.
If you’d like to explore the classic story of Dr. Faustus, the novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
Faust: Parts I & II
If this entry sounds similar to the last, there’s a good reason for that. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: Parts I & II is based on the same myth as the far earlier Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.
Goethe presents Faust in a detailed fashion, focusing on the complexities of the protagonist rather than the elements of pure good and pure evil. The play reads like a novel and is easily enjoyable for fans of the gothic genre.
If you would like to explore Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust: Parts I & II, it is available on Amazon here.
The Castle Of Otranto
Horace Walpole’s 1764 The Castle of Otranto is thought to be the first supernatural novel and one of the most influential gothic novels. The Castle of Otranto is a classic in the genre, touching on several themes which future gothic novels expanded.
The novel follows the Otranto family that undergoes loss, and in an attempt to right a wrong, a series of supernatural events begin to surround the family’s matriarch.
If you would like to read what unfolds for family Otranto the novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Haunting Of Hill House
Do you like haunted houses? Shirley Jackson seemed to; she authored The Haunting of Hill House, and the novel is hailed as a work of art in the gothic genre. Jackson dives fully into the supernatural and the ‘haunted house’ theme that is now popular in books, films, and video games.
The book looks at the haunted Hill House and what four truth seekers come to find when the supernatural unveils. If you are a fan of haunted thrillers this will be the story for you.
If you want to unveil the secrets of Hill House, you can purchase The Haunting of Hill House. You can purchase the novel on Amazon; it is available here.
The Turn of the Screw
Henry James authored The Turn of The Screw, a classic ghost story about the imagination, a mansion, and the supernatural. If that sounds like a classic gothic novel, it is.
The Turn of The Screw is actually a novella, but that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a beloved novel that thrills readers to this day. Horror and romance, are you prepared to see what lies in the pages of this classic?
If you’re intrigued, The Turn of The Screw is available for purchase on Amazon here.
Carmilla is an 1872 gothic novella by author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, a leading author of ghost and horror fiction during the Victorian era. Carmilla is not as popular as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, but Carmilla is a vampire novel published twenty-five years after the latter.
The story follows Laura, a teenager living alone with her retired father. Castles, loss, and nightmares are all central themes in this classic gothic novel.
If you haven’t read Carmilla, it’s available for purchase on Amazon here.
Certain Dark Things
Silva Moreno-Garcia is a contemporary gothic novelist; she has helped the evolution of the genre with novels such as Certain Dark Things. The neo-noir novel looks at vampires in Mexico City.
The protagonist is a street kid by the name of Domingo who attempts to escape the fangs of vampires; however, he runs into a vampire that causes him to become mesmerized.
If you’re interested in a modern gothic novel, Certain Dark Things is definitely worth checking out. It is available on Amazon here.
Mexican Gothic is another novel by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This novel brings in the gothic theme of a living and haunted mansion that invades the dreams of a female protagonist.
The story follows Noemi, a woman who comes to help her cousin; however, Noemi soon becomes immersed in dark family secrets and nightmares caused by the High Place mansion.
What will Noemi unearth? Will she keep her sanity? Mexican Gothic is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Marilyn Ross authored Dark Shadows was published in December 1966 and follows the story of Victoria Winters in this modern gothic with a classical approach. If you’re interested in haunted mansions, you’ll like Widow’s Hill in Dark Shadows.
Many of the themes of classic gothic stories are present in Dark Shadows; Victoria Winters feels trapped within the Widow’s Hill Manor as horror and suspense are used to tell her story in the strange town of Collinwood.
Are you intrigued? If you haven’t already read Dark Shadows, the novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Stranger Diaries
The Stranger Diaries, written by contemporary gothic author Elly Griffiths puts a spin on the genre by adding many modern elements and locations. Griffiths does a great job of telling a unique story that will appeal to fans of the genre.
Protagonist Clare Cassidy is a high school teacher who specializes in gothic literature; however, her life begins imitating the art she loves. What twists and turns lie ahead?
If you want to see Clare’s story and what other gothic elements are at play, The Stranger Diaries is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
You probably didn’t expect to see Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Homes on a list of novels like Frankenstein, but here we are. The Hound of the Baskervilles blends mystery, supernatural, and more than meets the eye mansion to create a detective gothic fusion.
The novel follows Sherlock Holmes in three main locations, telling a captivating story that fans of detective and gothic novels will find a lot to enjoy. This is a must-read for those who have yet to experience this novel.
If you’re ready to uncover a mystery with Sherlock Holmes, The Hound of The Baskervilles is available for purchase on Amazon here.
Daphne du Maurier authored Rebecca, which entails many of the classic gothic themes from the supernatural to a spooky mansion. Rebecca is a title that leans heavily into traditional convictions of the genre.
Protagonist Rebecca enters a new marriage only for the supernatural to cause her life to take another dramatic turn. What lies ahead in Rebecca’s future?
If you’re captivated by Rebecca’s premise, the novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Ancestor: A Novel
Danielle Trussoni authored The Ancestor, a modern contemporary gothic novel. In The Ancestor, Trussoni cleverly blends modern elements with genre traditions.
Alberta Monte is the heir to an estate, Montebianco Castle — located in the Italian Alps. However, secrets wait in the mansion. Of course, supernatural elements also play a role in Alberta’s story.
Why not discover what secrets the castle holds along with Alberta? The Ancestor: A Novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Fell Of Dark
Author Caleb Roehrig takes a different gothic approach with The Fell of Dark. Those in search of a gothic novel that offers something different. A touch of comedy takes the edge off of a supernatural drama.
Auggie is the protagonist; he lives in Fulton Heights, a city often at the center of a battle that threatens Earth. How will Auggie manage to defend the planet if he can’t defeat algebra?
The Fell of Dark offers something a little different. Those interested can purchase the novel on Amazon here.
The Witch Of Tin Mountain
Paulette Kennedy has a creative take on the gothic genre, focusing on witches, supernatural elements, and tough choices. The Witch of Tin Mountain is a suspenseful read for those wishing to experience something a bit different in the gothic genre.
With the backdrop of depression-era Arkansas in 1931, there is a lot that goes on during The Witch of Tin Mountain. Gracelynn Doherty is faced with tough choices that will decide the fate of her town and family.
Hooked yet? The Witch of Tin Mountain is available for purchase on Amazon here.
The Widow’s House: A Novel
The Widow’s House blends elements of contemporary and classic gothic stories. Carol Goodman does a fantastic job of mixing the elements to create a captivating story.
The mansion of Riven House plays a central role in the arc surrounding Jess and Clare Martin. What will the couple learn about the estate, or will the estate take them first?
The Widow’s House is available for purchase on Amazon here.
Beloved is a chilling, haunting, and creative entry into the gothic genre. Author Toni Morrison uses the backdrop of slavery and an escaped slave to tell a suspenseful thriller that should excite fans of the genre.
The protagonist Sethe is an escaped slave, but she cannot escape the horrific memories of slavery. Sethe is literally haunted and must overcome the supernatural if she is to find peace.
If you want to read more of Beloved, the novel is available for purchase on Amazon here.
For those looking for something completely different in the gothic genre, Fangs is the novel for you. Sarah Anderson blends romance and the supernatural with a touch of endearing comedy.
Fangs follows the romance of Elsie, a vampire, and Jimmy, a lycan (werewolf). While the pair is an odd match, they seem to get along quite well. Why not go on the journey with Elsie and Jimmy?
For a little lightheartedness in the gothic genre, head over to Amazon and purchase Fangs here.
The Picture Of Dorian Gray
Oscar Wilde’s only novel happened to have quite a few gothic themes. The Picture of Dorian Gray tackles elements of a terrifying atmosphere, secrets, and evil. However, Wilde did not stop there.
The Picture of Dorian Gray also looks into the relationship between art and consequence. The Picture of Dorian Gray challenges the mind and conventional wisdom. Ready to take a critical look at society?
If you haven’t already read Wilde’s only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray is available for purchase on Amazon here.
How Many Film Adaptations Are There Of Frankenstein?
To date, there are over eighty film adaptations of Frankenstein.
Is Dracula More Famous Than Frankenstein?
Dracula allows for more creative freedom, so much so that the character holds the record for a literary character most portrayed in film. Frankenstein is a much more linear character.
Is The Definition Of Gothic Literature Too Broad?
I don’t believe so. The best part of art is how it can be adapted and molded into subgenres. While there are clear gothic themes, there remains a lot of room for creativity.
What Novels On This List Would You Recommend?
I’m going to leave Dracula out of it, as that’s a given for fans of gothic literature. Certain Dark Things, The Haunting of Hill House, and Beloved are all great choices.
What’s With All The Mountains?
Haunted mansions are a common theme in gothic horror. Be careful if you ever inherit an estate *evil laugh here*.
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