Top 5 Scariest Gothic Horror Stories In Literature


Gothic Horror. A topic close to the hearts of many horror
fans–yet more importantly, the original seed of why we’re fans of this genre in the first
place. You see, it is often the case with any creative
medium where it’s important to pay our dues to the founding works of the form. After all, you need to understand the rules
before you can break them. Perhaps, in some alternate timeline–there
were other motifs and conventions that laid down the foundation for horror–but the point
remains the same. Fear came to the forefront of fiction–and
Gothic Horror of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries were the bricks that paved the way. So, let’s take a look. Hello horror fans, what’s going on–and
once again welcome back to the scariest channel on YouTube–Top 5 Scary Videos. As per usual, I’ll be your horror host Jack
Finch–as today, we curiously take a look at the Top 5 Scariest Gothic Horror Stories. Roll the clip. For the curious amongst you–of course, that
scene was from Francis Ford Coppolas’ 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula–one
of many cinematic depictions of the legendary work of gothic horror–and yes, certainly,
you would expect that particular tale to find its way onto that list–but today it is resigned
as our most honorable of honorable mentions. Talking of honorable mentions–we also have
to pay homage to the 1764 novel by Horace Walpole, The Castle of Otranto–widely considered
to be the first ever gothic novel, laying down the foundations for haunted castles in
the mountains and evil counts. But, let’s take a little closer look. Kicking off at Number 5 — House of Leaves,
Mark Z. Danielewski And you may well be thinking–what the EFF
Jack?! House of Leaves?! I’m expecting some 200 year old novels at
the least–I want some tophat and cane style gothic horror, or at least a mad monk of sorts. Hey–listen, Gothic Horror is a tried and
test medium. But like I said at the start of this video–you
need to know the rules in order to break them, and Mark Danielewski’s phenomenal novel
is as mind-boggling and intriguing as it is terrifying. I don’t say this lightly, but House of Leaves
is a work of art–it really is–and whilst on the surface, and then some, this is certainly
a horror novel–it is also far, far more than that. Written by Mark Z. Danielewski, and released
back in the year 2000 as his debut novel–House of Leaves is a story unlike any that you’ve
ever read before. It is told by a frame within a frame… within
a frame, kind of. It is told initially through the eyes of Johnny
Truant–a tattoo artist and professed unreliable narrator. As he is searching for a new apartment, he
stumbles upon the home of the recently deceased Zampano, a blind and elderly man who lived
alone. There–he finds Zampano’s old belongings–one
of them being a manuscript of a documentary film called The Navidson Record. And here is where we hit the Gothic of Gothic
Horror. The film is, in fact–the documentation of
a young family, the Navidsons–who after returning home from a trip–notice something strange
about their house. It’s gotten bigger. And not just in the feng shui type of deal–but
it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside–and then, it can’t stop growing. Now, I’ll say no more–because reading House
of Leaves is akin to *being* a detective–getting absorbed by these strange, terrifying layers
of information–told through the eyes of characters who are as perplexed as we are. And this is where the Gothic Horror is subverted
by this novel–it takes that trope, the Haunted House–and it delivers it in a completely
alien and… impossibly foreign way. It irks on cosmic horror–but never quite
goes there, allowing us to get as lost in the same maze as it’s many narrators. Reading this novel is a task in itself–it
is ergodic in it’s execution–but that’s part of it’s appeal. It’s claustrophobic at best–and paranoid
at it’s worse. You wanna dissect gothic horror in the 21st
century? Read this book. Swinging in at Number 4 — The Woman In Black,
Susan Hill And of course–this novel has to appear on
our list–and truth be told, I thought long and hard about the best in class of the traditional
haunted house ghost story. Of course, this same novel could stand amongst
Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, The Mysteries of Udolpho, or even Jane Austen’s
Northanger Abbey–but, I think it terms of pure execution, as well as a genuinely terrifying
example of gothic horror–Susan Hill’s 1983 novel, The Woman In Black, stands above the
rest. And again, you might be thinking–come on
Jack, I want some 18th century stuff–stop playing games. But I’d say–hey! Gothic Horror is alive and well, and 1983
was a pretty terrifying year. Written by Susan Hill, the remarkable author
who has released several brilliant works of horror–The Woman In Black tells the tale
of a man named Arthur Kipps–a retired solicitor, who one night–is telling ghost stories with
his Wife and four stepchildren. But when he’s asked for his scariest story–he
snaps back to a time in his younger days and turns white as a sheet. You see, many years earlier–Kipps is summoned
to a small market town on the North East coast of England–to attend the funeral of Mrs.
Alice Drablow–an elderly and reclusive widow who lived alone in the desolate and secluded
Eel Marsh House for many years. Which, obviously if you’ve seen the 2012
Movie starring Daniel Radcliffe, or perhaps the long running stage adaptation–you’ll
certainly be familiar with. But the truth of the matter is–the spirit
of this novel captures something truly Gothic in its approach, something that is otherwise
difficult to do on screen. As we peel through the pages of Hill’s novel,
we are just as curious and confused as Arthur Kipps himself–willing him to leave town but
at the same time, unable to stop turning the page. With The Woman In Black–Hill held a mirror
to many of the traumas found in Gothic Literature–and applied them to an otherwise completely modern
retelling. It’s almost as if Hill took all of the tropes
laid out by her predecessors–and then decided to turn the fear factor up a notch. Next up at Number 3–The Picture of Dorian
Gray Oscar Wilde And I was umming and ahhing about our 3rd
spot on this list–and so let it be known that this was a close toss up between this
entry, and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell Tale Heart–a posthumous collection of his many
brilliant short stories–but, I think it’s probably best that we include full novels
here. Just a little side note–but know that Poe
is well and truly recognised. Anyway–talking of a gothic portrait of a
man’s life in literature–let’s talk about The Picture of Dorian Gray–which, horror
aside, is just a remarkable novel by all accounts–as well as being a deeply philosophical musing
on the nature of the individual. Who would know it then, that at the time of
its publication in 1890–The Picture of Dorian Gray was pretty much trashed by critics. Really, it was well and truly torn to shreds–as
well as being massively censored by Wilde’s editor without his knowledge. But, come on guys–of course it was gonna
take a few decades for people to realise the importance of a horrifying portrait and a
well kept secret. The tale–which many of you will be familiar
with, is an observation on hedonism in the pursuit of pleasure–and yet the eternal price
that we all pay for a life of decadence. And also, well, you know–selling your soul
to the Devil for the price of immortality–but that kind of goes without saying. Obviously, we’re talking about the metaphorical
Devil–because this is Gothic Horror–and Heaven and Hell don’t serve too much of
a purpose on the mortal plane. The novel details the young aristocrat, Dorian
Gray, whose portrait is painted by the artist Basil Hallward which through supernatural
means, ages the painting instead of himself. His body retains perfect youth and vigor–whilst
the portrait grows into a hideous record of evil that he must keep hidden away from the
rest of the world. Now, listen–this tale is sprawling in it’s
approach, and takes perhaps a little bit more work than some of the rest of the novels on
this list–but there’s no other way about it–the very essence of The Picture of Dorian
Gray *is* Gothic Horror. Coming in at Number 2–The Monk, Matthew Lewis Alright guys–I’m pretty sure that some
of you jumped into this video with the intention of discovering something truly messed up. And yeah–this is that novel. And for a story written in 1796–yes, 1796–this
story could give most modern horror movies a run for their money. Written by Matthew Gregory Lewis when he was
just 20 years old–The Monk, in many ways, exemplifies how and why Gothic Horror first
came about. In the oversaturation of Romanticism and literature
of the time–in the many tales of love, loss and sweeping–domineering landscapes–many
writers and readers were bored. They were just straight up bored man. Well, I mean–the aristocracy were bored,
because come on guys, we plebs were too busy working the fields and fighting wars to read. And particularly, in regard to the birth of
the male Gothic–this audience wanted some scandal. Now, it probably goes without saying–but
The Monk was absolutely savaged by critics at the time, mainly for it’s obscenity–incest,
murder, eroticism. Yeah, you get the picture. It tells the tale of a man named Ambrosio,
an incredibly devout monk–who as a small child, was left on the doorstep of a monastery
and was perceived as a gift from the Virgin Mary by the monks that lived there. In other words–this man is piety incarnate. And guess what?! He succumbs to the temptations of a young
girl–who enters the monastery disguised as a young boy–and then leads him down a path
of sorcery, murder and torture–generally tearing down all pillars of purity and goodness
with every turn. Obviously, The Monk is very much a tale of
its time–and from an analytical perspective, it offers an incredibly narrow worldview–but
this novel pretty much defined many motifs of Gothic Horror–as well as the perception
of the Church later down the line in horror fiction as a whole. I mean, the reason behind the success of this
novel was down to the scandal that it caused–and the sensationalism that it later garnered–but
in the actual bones of this tale, The Monk, in many ways, is a masterpiece of gothic fiction. It’s approach is widely psychological–and
it’s execution is the very tactile fear of the physical. And finally–coming in at our Number 1 spot–Frankenstein,
Mary Shelley And this is a rare moment where I hold up
the obvious choice at the very tip-top of the pile. There is no other way to say it. Frankenstein is the finest gothic horror novel
ever written–still, to this day. And as I briefly mentioned at the opening
of this video–this spot should certainly be reserved for the greats, Bram Stoker’s
Dracula included–but even when compared to that particular novel, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
is in a league of its own. Let me put it this way. Whilst Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto certainly
was the first depiction of Gothic Horror in literature–and whilst Matthew Lewis’ The
Monk fleshed out those very same themes–it was this novel that truly defined them. And how did all of that start? In a lakehouse in Geneva, surrounded by renowned
writers, Lord Byron–her future husband Percy B. Shelley, John Polidori and several others–they
decided to see who could create the scariest horror story. And Mary Shelley, who had never written a
novel before–blew them all out of the water. Frankenstein. And I don’t need to tell you about this
tale–because without a doubt, you’ll all be familiar with it–but really, if you haven’t
actually sat down and read this novel–I implore you to do so. You see, not only did this novel give life–literally,
to the ongoing pursuit of Gothic Horror–it also gave rise to science fiction in horror–as
well as sci-fi as a whole. Frankenstein was the start of many things. Mary Shelley took the themes of the Gothic–the
sweeping landscapes, the base exploration of the forbidden, and the breaking of cultural
and societal taboos–and she said, we can go one further. We don’t have to be resigned to the fact
that horror is simply a pursuit–or a simulation of the things that we should or shouldn’t
do–it isn’t *just* about surface morality. Gothic Horror is much more important than
that. It asked–what does it mean to be human? How far can civilization go in tampering with
nature? What is the ultimate price of creating a monster
in pursuit of pretending to be a god? Whilst it may not seem it, through her novel’s
immortality–Mary Shelley continues to challenge us by asking these questions–and now, in
many ways–this story is more relevant than ever before. Well, there we have it horror fans–our list
for the Top 5 Scariest Gothic Horror Stories. What do you guys think? Do you agree? Disagree? Have any more to add to this list? Then let us know your thoughts down in the
comment section below, as well as any choice picks that you may have of your own. Before we depart from today’s video–let’s
first take a quick look at some of your more creative comments from over the past few days. First up, Horror Movie Mom says– I live by one rule for Horror movies–don’t
listen to the critics, listen to Jack and Lucy! —Awww. You know what? Thank you Horror Movie Mom, that means a lot. But wait, does that make us critics? Hm. And finally, Kamil Bogdanski says– If you get a shout out here, does that make
you kind of famous? — And yeah–sure, why not. Look at you Kamil, you’re famous bud! Well, on that note–unfortunately that’s
all we’ve got time for in today’s video–cheers for sticking around all the way until the
end. If you were a fan of this video, or just Top
5 Scary Videos in general, then please–be a dear and hit that thumbs up button, as well
as that subscribe bell, and I’ll be seeing you in the next one. As per usual, I’ve been your horror host
Jack Finch–you’ve been watching Top 5 Scary Videos–and until next time, you take it easy.

77 Replies to “Top 5 Scariest Gothic Horror Stories In Literature

  1. Great channel, great list. I am a writer, and this one of my favorite genres to read that I never quite (yet) worked up the courage to write in, myself. If you ever do a Part II, some I might consider checking out/ adding, from the top of my head: "The Terror," Dan Simmons. "Bone Clocks," Davis Mitchell. "We Have Always Lived in This Castle,' Shirley Jackson. "The Secret History," Donna Tarrtt. "The Collector," John Fowles.
    Thanks for all that you do!

  2. In 15 years. If you truely immerse. I have never found a more frightening story than Mary Shellys Feinkenstein…… movie with Robet Deniro was good also, at me.

  3. jack and lucy… regarding your response to horror movie moms' comment- you're well beyond being mere critics… i'd say you two are more like horror historians. love, love, love your channel. thank you so much for all the creepy fun! looking forward to see what you scare up for us in october👻👽☠️

  4. For me, it's a tie between Doran Gray and the Telltale heart.

    But I love all those books. It's different books for different moods.

  5. Ok I've put The House of Leaves on hold at the library but there a 7 holds on 4 books ahead of me so it will be a bit before I can read the book.

  6. I always loved horror movies and media but I never realized how little I knew u til I started watching you guys a few years back. With your guys knowledge I feel I could because a horror movie director 😂

  7. Of course having your name said here makes you famous, i'd quit my day job if that happened and go out selling autographs and leading seminars. Btw great list, but have you included 1992 Dracula on other lists? It's my favourite horror movie, next to the Exorcist <3

  8. Kudos Jack, your choice for #1 is, as always, spot on. I read Frankenstein in high school, and I've been a fan of horror ever since.

  9. In case you do further vids on this subject, might I also suggest "Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You My Lad," by M.R. James? Its 1968 adaptation into a BBC tv movie was no slouch either.

  10. Jack and Lucy you both are just straight up awesome. Id love life a little bot more if i was able to conversate about horror with youz in person !!!! #wishfulthinking

  11. Jack, I love this list!
    I have read all these books except, House Of Leaves. And I agree with you that, Marry Shelly's Frankenstein is truly the first and real crown to gothic horror literature.
    Another great job on yours (and Lucy's) wonderful channel. Please never stop. I am so addicted to this wonderful place that you two have created.
    I watch and learn something new every day at 'Top 5 Scary Videos'
    Thanx Again and Cheers,

  12. I think it would have been a good idea to tell a bit about Frankenstain's plot, since it's actually a bit different than how it is typically portrayed in media.
    The monster for instance, actually looked quite handsome, but had creepy eyes, and also proved to be very intelligent.

  13. The only reason I want to be in a shout out is because I just really want to hear Jack or Lucy (or both!) – in the words of the immortal Lord of Chaos himself, Loki – "Say my name!"

    +bows+ thank you

  14. I love Frankenstein, it's one of my favorite novels. I remember having to do a book report on it once. 📚 The best of literature makes us think and question the actual meaning of "genre". For me, Frankenstein is a drama, horror, love story and tragedy all in one! Love it!

  15. I love the way you take a broad subject and organize it into specific sub-groups. Ask any bibliophile or cinephile for their favorites, and this is the kind of discussion you'd actually have. You don't just list things off. You compare it with appreciation to other works. Personally, these list give me a much better idea what to watch or read next.
    I wish more list channels would do this, thank you. Lucy does this as well, and she's very good. Jack, you don't get enough love, and I think you do this slightly better then even the dark queen.

  16. Wonderful list!
    My suggestion, if you produce a part 2 – "The Beetle" by Richard Marsh. Sure, it leans into the xenophobia that ran rampant in much of Western Literature of the day but it is also creepy as Hell!

  17. I am happy you mentioned Austen's Northanger Abbey. It was such a clever send up, and lovably mocking ode, of the gothic genre at the time, such as the Monk and the Castle of O, as well such forgotten gems as The Necromancer, (the tale of the black forest) by Ludwig Flammenberg (aka Carl Friedrich) , several by Eliza Parsons and many others. One of the most telling things about the early stories of the genre is they were works that women actually put their names on and were not as pilloried for as many other types of writing that was not deemed fitting 🙂

  18. I love psychological and gothic horror. Stephen king was who got me into it with the shining and it. Along with Poe, lovecraft, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hermann Melville, Milton and William Peter Blatty's novel the exorcist. I basically grew up on horror.

  19. Indeed, absolutely agreed, no other novel could possibly be on the top of the heap but Frankenstein, it is the greatest gothic horror novel of all time.

  20. To me, Frankenstein has always asked 2 questions that are sides of the same coin: What makes a monster? What makes you human? (Body? Intentions? Way of coming into being? Actions? Emotions? Drives? Hope? Love?) What do YOU think, Jack?

  21. I just saw the scp mobile units vids. Do you think Jim Butcher would fit in one? If yes which? My money is on Pi 1.

  22. Dracula is not a true gothic novel. While it has the horror it lacks the idea of sin and the following redemption and this is the only thing that connects all the gothic literature. The others in this list all have it – especially Frankenstein. Dracula is a great horror adventure novel, but not a gothic novel.

  23. While i am genuinely saddened not to see Vathek by William Beckford appear on this list, it warms my heart to know that Mary Shelley's Frankenstein made the list while Bram Stoker's Dracula did not. Having read Dracula twice, i can honestly say there are few novels as overrated and overhyped as Bram Stoker's Dracula (i will gladly debate anyone who disagrees).

    Mary Shelley's Frankenstein on the other hand, though regrettably dwarfed by the legacy/stereotype of the film adaptation starring Boris Karloff, some how comes off as a wonderful secret when you begin to turn the pages. A person diving into the novel for the first time, whose only knowledge of Frankenstein's monster is of that lumbering stereotype, is suddenly bewitched by the methodically paced and thought out story that Mary Shelley crafted.

    Also please please please give Vathek it's due. It clashes with every notion we have of what Gothic means. You don't expect a gothic story to be colorful and exotic. Much like The Monk, it covers the pursuit of vice and debauchery. I would liken the depth of the story to the Kentaro Miura's Berserk in the way that things become completely unhinged. Beckford inadvertently wove the fabric of Cosmic Horror into Vathek long before cosmic horror entered the realms of literature. If you take the best elements of Arabian Nights and drizzle Hedonism all over it, and then tell Stephen King to get kinky with it, you have yourself William Beckford's Vathek.

  24. Poe's best example of Gothic literature has to be The Fall of the House of Usher. It is a perfect blueprint for making the setting and atmosphere a vital, almost living, breathing character in the story. With its' masterful descriptives of the morose and melancholy nature of the house itself it sets a high standard for everything that ever followed in the genre. This is not to disparage The Tell-Tale Heart mind you, I just feel strongly that 'Fall' does a far better job of setting the atmosphere of dread which is all important to Gothic literature.

  25. If you could be so kind as to post the top 5 in your descriptions cuz that makes it easier to find the books/movies you've mentioned in the videos , I'd very much appreciated it.

  26. Disagree with Frankenstein being top of the list. It read so dry for me and had so many moments of Mary Shelly sharing just how well-read she was that the only thing with more long winded digressions from the main story was Victor Hugos' unabridged Hunchback of Notre Dame, where he would have nearly full chapters of him figuratively masturbating to the architecture of the Cathedral. Bram Stoker's Dracula was better as the whole book read as though you were peering through numerous journal entries and articles from the era, piecing together the story from multiple angles.

  27. Gothic Lit is one of my favorite genres, so excited to find this video around Halloween!
    -I will say regarding the Monk that the point of the story is that Ambrosio isn’t REALLY devout—he was just brought up to display that attitude, enjoying the accolades of being perceived as a wise holy man. There’s nothing really substantial to his faith, so the moment temptation comes around he succumbs pretty quickly, because in reality his whole life was centered around making himself feel good.
    But anyway, cool list! And yes, Frankenstein will always be a masterpiece.

  28. Wholeheartedly agree with #2 & #1 on your list, Jack, but I was saddened that Henry James' "The Turn of the Screw" didn't make the top 5. It is one of those great Gothic novels, like "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde" or "Frankenstein," that holds up to repeated readings.

  29. I found “The Portrait of Dorian Gray” more Romantically dark than horror. And Frankenstein is more philosophical than anything else.

  30. I won't argue that Shelly isn't Gothic horror, but i also think that she birthed sci-fi……which you just said….lol. Anyway, it's a fantastic story. Though it is a short book, I think Carmilla by Joseph Le Fanu is a great Gothic horror story which should be read by anyone who likes this sort of thing. Carmilla not only predates Dracula, but it is the sensual and erotic vampire 100 years before Anne Rice did it. It is definitely one of my personal favorites.

  31. I had to study what made Gothic literature what it was for an essay in school and it's really a fascinating topic that I think would be a little more difficult to do in this day and age. You seemed to find stories that fit the rules, however!
    The story I read specifically for my essay was Wieland by Charles Brockden Brown, considered the first Gothic work of North America. It's a little slow to build up, honestly, but it's a wonderful read and the entire story is seeping with such a dark atmosphere!
    I was also thinking the other day and one good modern work that's actually a movie that could very well be a Gothic work is Crimson Peak! If y'all ever do a movie version of this list, perhaps keep that particular film in mind!

    Please make more lists such as this one, I actually love adding books to my 'to read' pile…. As if i don't already have a ton to go lmao…

  32. I've seen the movie 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' but haven't read the book. Now I can't wait to! Reading 'Frankenstein' now and it's very slow. If you get bored easily, you'll never make it through the first five or so chapters.

  33. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy. I don't know if you can call it gothic; I don't know if you can call it horror. But i do know that it is the best American novel ever written.

  34. The Elementals by Michael MaDowell is one of the best gothic horror tales I've read recently. I only just discovered it even though it was published in 1981. There's an ebook version available.

  35. The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein is a great novel to read after reading the original Frankenstein. It’s from Elizabeth Lavenza’s point of view.

  36. Frankenstein is one of the greatest novels of all time. It defined horror for generations and was the first scifi novel ever. One of the most influential books ever.

  37. I had to skip no. 5 bc I literally just started House of Leaves last night and don't want to know anything! Already pleased and even more excited to read this novel now that it's on this list

  38. I have copies of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Phantom of the Opera, a book of all of Edgar Allen Poe's works….We had to read Frankenstein in high school & I for one loved it. Needless to say, when I found one of the cardboard bound paperbacks at Walmart, I snatched it up.
    I had a paperback version of Dracula in high school, but lost it. 🙁 Ironically enough, the hardcover version I ordered from amazon is thicker….
    I've only read Phantom twice, but that's because it's also paperback & I don't want to ruin the spine.
    I'm hoping to find a leather-bound copy of Edgar Allen Poe's collected works.
    Also, I'm glad you used a clip from the 1992 version of Dracula; the 1931 version … made me cringe: Mina was not Seward's daughter; her name was Murray before marrying Jonathan Harker. Harker didn't even go to Transylvania in the movie; that was all Renfield. John Seward, while he was still running an asylum in the movie, was one of Lucy's suitors in the novel & gave a blood transfusion after Dracula attacked her many times (Van Helsing, Quincey P. Morris, & Arthur – Lucy's betrothed – also gave their blood); I only saw that movie once, but I believe Lucy was only attacked once & died right away. There was also no crypt scene, with Lucy being beheaded, stabbed with a stake, & having garlic stuffed in her mouth. Needless to say, I was as disappointed with that film version as just about anyone was with the film version of Queen of the Damned.

  39. Hey Jack/Lucy or anyone…curious where you'd put The Legend of Hell House by Matheson….has it made any of your lists? Book is amazing and the Belasco house 'the mount Everest of haunted houses' was as good as Hill House IMO

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