The 20 Best Horror Books Like The Witching Hour

Move over, Dracula, there are new vampires in town. One of the oldest legends in folklore, with some variant persisting through almost every culture, vampires have lived in the shadows of literature for centuries.

The 20 Best Horror Books Like The Witching Hour

Dracula isn’t on the list, ironically. While Stoker’s prose is great and the character is legendary, it doesn’t make for modern enjoyment or easy reading necessarily. 

Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles have also been excluded, with these picks leaning more toward the horror aspect than Rice’s romance-centric plots.

No, these vamps are going to range from the aristocratic sophisticated type to mindless minions occupied by bloodlust. We’ve got some of everything, including blood type…

Salem’s Lot by Stephen King

'Salem's Lot (Movie Tie-in)

Salem’s Lot is arguably King’s best work (personally, outside the Bachman books) and it earns a place among the scariest books of all time. The story of a vampire arriving and slowly taking over a small town is a little played out by now, but Salem’s Lot did it with finesse years before others.

There’s a scene in this book that haunts me, taking place as the vampires are slowly feeding throughout the town and the effects become apparent. A child returns from the grave to turn his parents into vampires. Reading this as a new parent can be pretty stressful.

Buy it on Amazon

30 Days of Night by Steve Niles

30 Days of Night Omnibus, Vol. 1

A landmark in horror graphic novels, 30 Days of Night centers on a small Alaskan town just as the sun goes down for a month. Instead of quiet and calm while the snow rages outside, the remaining townsfolk are beset by a hungry group of vampires.

Vampires in 30 Days of Night are the stuff of nightmares, with rows of sharp teeth, black eyes, and long, long nails for ripping skin. There’s a lot of carnage as the vampires work their way through the town, the survivors’ efforts to live are inventive and a constant feeling of suspense pervades the pages.

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Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Carrion Comfort

Not everyday bloodsucking vamps, Dan Simmons goes with psychic vampires in Carrion Comfort, which are somehow even more terrifying. There’s a massive conspiracy at play, but the core concept is vampires that can mind-control humans while feeding on their life force using their powers to commit horrific events. Almost anything beyond a basic description is a spoiler, but trust that this novel is a rollercoaster of paranoia.

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The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires: A Novel

Grady Hendrix is just a giant horror nerd at heart like the rest of us, and his love shows in The Southern Book Club. Taking a quaint southern neighborhood and smacking a vampire in the middle of it makes for blood-soaked horror and humor that only Hendrix can pull off like this.

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Vampire Hunter D by Hideyuki Kikuchi

Vampire Hunter D Omnibus: Book One

The best way to describe Vampire Hunter D is to take the human-vampire hybrid archetype that hunts supernatural terrors. Next, set it in a post-apocalyptic world where humans have just overthrown the vampire nobility. Now, take creatures and terrors from every possible genre from Lovecraft to Steampunk, and interpret them through the most hallucinatory substance possible.

That’s it. Forty novels worth of Vampire Hunter D are ready and waiting with action, horror, romance, and unspeakable terrors. It’s a long ride so buckle up.

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Graham Smith

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

I laughed at the title before picking this book up, but it blew me away by just how deceptive it was. It looks like a goofy horror sendup on the outside, but what it really is amounts to a fine blurring of fiction and reality, presenting Honest Abe’s real-life trials and celebrations while inserting a story about vampires during the Civil War.

That sounds like a massive undertaking, and it is but this book is so charmingly witty while being surprisingly touching. Just a wildly inventive story with the heart to back it up.

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Trinity Blood by Sunao Yoshida

Trinity Blood, Vol. 1

This sounds ridiculous on paper, but Trinity Blood somehow makes ancient vampire viruses, space travel, a human-vampire war, and a vampire that feeds on vampires fighting for the Catholic church all mesh together in some of the coolest ways possible. The books follow Abel, the aforementioned vampire who feeds on other vampires. Abel fights for the Vatican in a war against a race of vampires that’s raged for 900 years.

There are twelve volumes in the series, and each one is packed with some of the coolest action and worldbuilding I’ve ever read.

Bonus: There are also manga spinoffs and an anime from the mid-2000s that was very well done.

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Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Let the Right One In

A modern vampire classic, Let the Right One In is a coming-of-age love story where one of the couple is an immortal bloodsucker. While that might sound like the plot of half the vampire romances spawned from Twilight, this takes a darker approach, showing what vampire Eli has to go through just to survive.

The culmination is shocking and bloody, but somehow touching despite the violence. As if that’s not enough there are not only one but two film adaptations that were both very well done.

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I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend: And Other Stories

I could write you an essay about how I Am Legend has been done dirty by every film adaptation it had. We’ll clear up the big thing now though- these are vampires, despite what the movies made them look like. These creatures have every hallmark of vampire lore- aversion to light, garlic, crosses, and silver but otherwise, still look somewhat normal, if not a little undead.

The horror of I Am Legend was seeing last man alive Robert Neville slowly, psychologically break down as his undead friends and family taunt him every night. Seriously, read the book and ask yourself how in the world a faithful adaptation hasn’t been made yet. 

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Hellsing by Kouta Hirano

Hellsing Deluxe Volume 1

My one manga allowance for the list, and probably the most out-of-pocket, everything but the kitchen sink horror manga ever made. Hellsing follows Alucard, a powerful vampire serving the Hellsing organization by hunting down supernatural threats. 

Said threats include but are not limited to Nazi vampires, werewolves, cyborg vampires, and Vatican priests. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, with some of the coolest art ever put to page.

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Fevre Dream by George RR Martin

Fevre Dream: A Novel

Sure, Martin proved he can do fantasy with Game of Thrones, but before that he was making moves in the horror scene with Fevre Dream. A post-Civil War horror about a riverboat captain taking on a strange charter and ending up in a bizarre underworld of vampires and hunters.

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NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2: A Novel

An alternate dimension, a vampire child-murderer, and revving engines about sums up NOS4A2, one of Joe Hill’s standout works. The story’s killer is terrifying and the narrator is unreliable at best after being affected by taking frequent steps through an alternate reality.

Everything becomes a frantic chase of death and blood that’s nonstop until the end.

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Nightblood by Chris T. Martindale

Nightblood (Paperbacks from Hell)

The Paperbacks From Hell project Grady Hendrix has been undertaking is awesome and brings so many pulp classics like Nightblood to a new audience.

Rambo moves to Salem’s Lot about sums this up, but it’s such a pulpy, ridiculous ride full of camp and scares that it’s hard not to love. It’s a great cool-down read between more serious books.

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They Thirst by Richard McCammon

They Thirst

The perfect example of a writer being too rough on their work. McCammon kept this one out of print for the longest time because he didn’t feel like it was good enough. I can tell you it is good enough.

A private eye investigating a serial killer witnesses the city of Los Angeles crumble to a vampire overtaking. The book relies on the underlying darkness of Hollywood for a lot of the horror, with the cold creep of the vampires coming in slow and ominous. 

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The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage (TV Tie-in Edition): A Novel (Book One of The Passage Trilogy)

As is the tradition in fiction, when a government agency finds a new virus they will try to make supersoldiers out of it. Depending on the book this will either go very right or very wrong. The Passage is a case of it going very, very wrong.

A young girl infected early with a vampire virus attempts to bring humanity back from the brink almost a hundred years after the infection takes place. These vampires are terrifying, with some possessing psychic powers in addition to the standard vamp enhancements.

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The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

The Strain

The Strain trilogy has the most disgusting descriptions of the. vampirization process in history. Seriously, it gets downright gross when some of the main POV characters, in the beginning, are slowly going through the stages of infection, losing body parts, and undergoing terrible body horror.

The vampire apocalypse is thrilling though, with Del Toro and Hogan subverting ancient vampire legends from Eastern Europe for their disgusting bloodsuckers.

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The Lesser Dead by Chris Buehlman

The Lesser Dead

Inner-city vampire turf wars, scary vampire children, and an unreliable narrator made this a hilarious yet disturbingly creepy read. The child vampires are the stuff of nightmares, and I won’t spoil anything more but I dropped the book after finishing it. There’s such an amazingly smart ending here that begs to be read by everyone.

Bonus: Buehlman wrote a semi-sequel called The Suicide Motor Club that’s an amazing ode to horror punk. It feels like a Misfits album coming to life.

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The Light at the End by John Skip  and Craig Spector

The Light at the End

The birth of splatterpunk is housed in these pages. A punk gets turned into a vampire and goes on a blood-soaked odyssey through New York City, gaining a following of hunters and followers alike.

When I say this book is bloody, I mean B-L-O-O-D-Y. There’s a reason it spawned a genre called splatterpunk. Subway cars painted red along with entire New York alleyways flooded with blood are commonplace.

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In the Valley of the Sun by Andy Davidson

In the Valley of the Sun: A Novel

A modern western with the threat of vampires set in 1980. The story follows a serial killer who chooses the wrong victim one night, falling under her curse and control even as he meets someone who could potentially stop his killings. 

Davidson does such an amazing job of humanizing an absolute monster (metaphorically and physically) that it leaves you unsure of who to root for. It’s like Cormac McCarthy suddenly decided he wanted to write a vampire story. I mean that in the best possible way.

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Already Dead by Charlie Huston

Already Dead (A Joe Pitt Novel)

A fun read to close out. Already Dead is a neo-noir detective story where the detective happens to be a vampire. One of many vampires as Manhattan is full of them as lead vamp Joe has to journey through the dark alleys and underground tunnels of the city to find a missing girl. 

The book is dark but has a sense of humor to match, with Joe telling the story from his perspective through a dry wit as he’s forced to deal with the ultimate horror for vampires and humans- intercity politics.

Buy it on Amazon

Feeling that rush of blood yet? Pulse pounding in your ears? Sounds like the perfect time for a vampire to bite. Hopefully, these books will keep you fed for a while, especially considering the length of some series listed. Meanwhile, remember not to invite any strangers in, especially after dark.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a vampire?

Strange question all things considered, but just in case- vampires are bloodsucking creatures of folklore and legend, usually caused by some form of curse or virus.

Are there different kinds of vampires?

Hundreds! Vampires persist in almost every culture, whether it’s just by a common theme like feeding on blood or just an aversion to sunlight. Vampires from all over the world have influenced our modern-day conception of the legend.

So there’s more to vampires than the pretty brooding bloodsucker stereotype?

Yes, despite the image Stephanie Meyer or Anne Rice have popularized with their writing, vampires can be deadly, mindless things just as well as the genius, handsome immortals. The Strain’s vamps are pale humanoids with long tongues and Hellsing has vampire abominations that transform into hulking beasts. Variety is the spice of life (or the absence of it).

Where do I even start with vampire fiction?

Most will tell you to start with Dracula, which is understandably a classic but also reads horribly by modern standards. Seriously, it can be a struggle. I would say start with Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu. It predates Dracula yet reads infinitely easier than Stoker’s take.

I scare easily. Any recommendations that won’t keep me up at night?

If you like vampire mythology but don’t want to get too scared, the Anno Dracula series by Kim Newman is a great alternate-history sci-fi/adventure series. It has tons of fun twists on classic horror, along with some great writing.

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Ross Tyson