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If you’re craving a heavy dose of suspense and spine-tingling chills, pick up one of these five psychological horror books guaranteed to satisfy.

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There is a quintessential difference between psychological thriller and psychological horror books. More often than not, people confuse the two genres and make erroneous judgments while selecting books (or films) that would best suit their tastes.

Psychological thrillers are essentially whodunits. They explore the human psyche, and the narratives involving murders and crimes are spun around the complexities of this psyche. Readers are required to identify the crime and solve the mystery as they make their way through the book. According to director John Madden, psychological thrillers focus on story, character development, choice, and moral conflict; fear and anxiety drive the psychological tension in unpredictable ways.

The genre known as psychological thrillers sometimes overlaps with the psychological horror genre, though the latter often involves more horror and terror elements. While psychological horror often includes more disturbing and frightening scenarios, there is typically little overt violence or gore. Instead, these stories make use of suggestion and paranoia to inspire fear. There may be mystery elements in psychological horror stories, as well as characters with disturbed psychological states used to enhance the suspense.

With psychological horror, however, the emphasis is on creating an unpleasant, unsettling, or distressing atmosphere.

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The goal is typically to create discomfort or dread in the reader, often revealing the darker parts of the human psyche that most people may repress or deny. Typical settings used in psychological horror stories are those that create a sense of realism and enhance a reader’s fear — sprawling mansions or big dilapidated homes, isolated woodland locations, abandoned warehouses, as well as schools, hospitals, and even casinos.

For a great psychological thriller with a casino setting, check out The Pachinko Girl by Vann Chow. An American businessman name Smith loves to linger in Pachinko parlors every night in his lonely life as a foreigner in Tokyo. He meets Misa, a young Japanese hostess working there by chance. He quickly discovers that Misa was entangled in a web of gang-controlled business operations that involve illegal drugs distribution, money laundering and prostitution beneath the harmless facade of Pachinko casinos. It’s part of a compelling murder mystery series. It’s also a great read in honor of Women in Horror Month.

If you enjoy a good gamble, check out the home of the most trusted payouts for Canadian casino players. But if you’re in the mood for a sure bet, read our list of the best and scariest psychological horror books of all time!

1. Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk

Haunted, written by Chuck Palahniuk, makes for one of the scariest psychological horror books of all time, and soon enough, you shall know why. The book is an anthology of short stories, connected at the core with an overarching narrative. The stories chronicle the lives of writers who are accepted into a retreat and have their ties to the world entirely snapped.

The writers try to carve a different survival experience for themselves in the retreat while being unaware that there are others trying to do the same. These macabre short stories have characters that bring their own hellish experiences to the table and leave you wanting for more.

2. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin

You have to admit that even the title of the book itself has an uncanny ring to it. The book was such a massive hit that it was also adapted into a movie by Roman Polanski. Ira Levin, speaking about the film, said it turned out to be exactly how he had imagined in his mind. Very few movies are successful in holding the same aura as the book, so that’s quite an achievement.

Rosemary’s Baby is one of those movies that has the same mystery and enigma as the book. That said, if you have already watched the movie and enjoyed it, it is time to move on and pick up the book.

3. The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris

One of the best and perhaps most popular psychological horror books of all time is The Silence of the Lambs. It had also been adapted into a movie, which was both a tremendous critical and financial success. The book has one of the most horrifying plots ever. Hannibal Lecter, a professional psychiatrist, manipulates his patients into becoming his dinner. But that is not the only scary part of the book. FBI trainee Clarice Starling also has to figure out a way to get Hannibal Lecter’s help in nabbing another serial killer.

If you think that is all the book has to offer, you could not have been more wrong. The novel is not based purely on fictitious events. It pulls much inspiration from the life of real life crimes of serial killer Ed Gein, as well as the lead investigator on his case who also consulted with Harris during the writing process. Are you scared yet?

4. Dracula, Bram Stoker

Written in the form of an epistolary novel, Dracula has all the elements that make it one of the best psychological horror books. The novel is Victorian, which makes it all the more interesting and dangerous. People, especially women, could not just come out and speak about the ills of society in the Victorian age.

Therefore, all the sexual violence in the novel might just go amiss if you fail to read it closely. The writing style of the book itself is enough to invoke paranoia in you. Plus, the sexual violence against an uncanny backdrop makes it one of those psychological horror books you cannot miss out on.

5. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind

One of the most blood-curdling books in the literary world, Perfume navigates the life of a man who is devoid of any body odor but has an extra-sensitive sense of smell. Obsessed by the body odor of a girl our protagonist accidentally killed, he sets out on a mission to reproduce the exact smell by killing different women.

The writing is impeccable and enough to make your hair stand on end. But what is particularly scary is that the novel received widespread recognition and was even made into a movie, despite giving out the message that men are allowed to obsess over women and create art at their expense. That is something to think about!

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