Folk Horror Reads for the Summer Solstice

Published on June 11, 2024

An illustrated head of a rabbit is surrounded by flowers.

By Carrie S. 

Earlier this year I learned of an annual winter tradition in Custer, SD, where hundreds of people carrying torches set fire to a giant wooden beetle effigy to raise awareness of the destructive impact of the mountain pine beetle. I was captivated. This seemed like the premise for some brilliantly unsettling horror story and felt akin to some of the strange and wonderful traditions I grew up with in England such as Maypoles, The Green Man and the ritual folk spectacle that is Morris Dancing. I credit the omnipresence of folklore and history in my formative years with inspiring my love of folk horror novels.

Decorative head of a green man's face, surrounded by foliage.A man blows into a pipe, while hands around him raise wooden batons.

Folk Horror can seem like a difficult genre to define, and while our brains might stray to a Wicker Man-esque nightmare of ancient ceremony and sacrifice, the truth is the genre is much broader once you start digging. Typically, there are some common threads that bind these stories: folk religion, nature, superstition and ancient lore can all weave their creepy tendrils through the narrative landscape and frankly, I cannot get enough!

So, for all the horror aficionados among you, pull up a chair at the altar and explore these library offerings.

Lute by Jennifer Thorne Lute by Jennifer Thorne

Lute is an idyllic island community but sometimes the good life may just come at a price. This book is a real page turner, ESPECIALLY when the deaths start! 




Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

The cover art drew me in and I then I fell in love with the concept. A group of friends travel to the place that inspired their favorite book and discover truth is not only stranger but far scarier than fiction. Barley Day is coming, my friends and we must beware, the animals have something to tell us. 



Shirley Jackson Novels and Stories: The Lottery, The Haunting of Hill House, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Other Stories and Sketches The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

Immerse yourself in the chilling ritual of this classic read. Don’t we all understand the importance of a good harvest?  





Small Angels by Lauren Owen Small Angels by Lauren Owen

An atmospheric ghost story set in a village filled with old secrets. Do not venture into Mockbeggar woods alone, for something sinister and ancient is stirring.  




Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

This is a brilliantly unnerving little read at 130 pages. A teenager is on a historical reenactment vacation with her family and something is very wrong indeed. The dread builds so well it’s hard not to devour this in one sitting. 



Slewfoot by Brom Slewfoot by Brom

If you’re partial to a witchy tale then look no further than Slewfoot. A wonderful tome filled with ancient power and female rage. Containing stunning illustrations, this is one to savor. 



Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley

Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley

To distract himself from an unfathomable loss, a father begins a somber search for the roots of an ancient Oak tree and turns up something else entirely. Steeped in grief with a gloomy rural 70’s aesthetic, I can’t wait to see how this translates to screen when the movie comes out later this year.  



The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones

American Indian folk horror cut with visceral social commentary. Four men from the Blackfeet Nation must be punished for a youthful transgression. Let this be a warning to all those who seek to break with tradition. 



Jackal by Erin E. Adams Jackal by Erin E Adams

Something lurks in the Appalachian darkness, intent on taking young Black girls. Can you unravel this twisty and terrifying summer solstice mystery? There are so many complex and horrifying elements to this story, it will likely keep you guessing until the very end. Bonus folk horror points must also be given for the inclusion of an ominous warning rhyme.