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9 Genuinely Scary Haunted Buildings in Horror

Written By Vanessa Maki

Vanessa Maki is a queer Blerd and artist. She has written for a variety of publications including The Pink Advocate, The Gay Gaze, Dread Central, Horror Movie Blog and many more. She is weirder than you realize.

The fact remains that haunted spaces, especially houses, are scary as hell because the threats aren’t easily vanquished. In horror, when the threat is corporeal, there is a chance of defeating said threat. If your home or a building is haunted, those chances decrease. There’s also the subtext surrounding entities being manifestations of fear.

People often cite the films Poltergeist (1982) and The Amityville Horror (1972)  as the perfect examples of haunted houses in horror. But I’m not going to do that today (primarily because I haven’t seen either of those in full); instead I’m diving into some of the other scariest haunted buildings in horror. Television series included? Absolutely. So grab your sage and get ready to run.

Overlook Hotel – The Shining          

There’s something about a large, open area that’s even more frightening than an enclosed one. Despite how there are more places to hide, it also appears to be more stressful. The Shining (1980) is a Stephen King adaptation that people often flock to. The film focuses on a family that stays in the Overlook Hotel as caretakers, only for the hotel to cause Jack (Jack Nicholson) to lose his mind due to ghostly influences. The Overlook Hotel is just as much of a character in the film as the human beings and ghosts. It’s massive and has a history (much like everything does) surrounding Native American burial grounds. It’s hard not to be frightened by this hotel when the ghosts are insane. Not to mention the secluded location that makes the haunting more perilous.

Alpha Delta House – Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 4, Episode 4

Failing to mention the Alpha Delta House from Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 4, episode 4 (“Fear Itself”) would be nonsense. The series is known for having more than a few episodes that actually scare the shit out of people. “Fear Itself” is absolutely one of those, and for good reason. The episode is one of several Halloween episodes in the series and follows Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the gang as they try to survive a frat house that becomes accidentally haunted. Everyone’s fears manifest because of a demon, and there are many unsettling moments, including corpses crawling after Buffy. It’s an effectively creepy episode and deserves to be on this list.

Murder House – American Horror Story: Murder House

It might not be the best season for some, but American Horror Story: Murder House did deliver as far as haunted houses go. The first season follows the Harmon family and their descent into madness upon moving into the “Murder House,” in which many disturbing deaths and occurrences took place over time. The ghosts range in terms of how dangerous they are. And the haunting only becomes increasingly disturbing as the season rolls on. Not only is the haunting not cleared up, but the season doesn’t end happily. No ghost hunters come in to clear the problem. Knowing there’s no normal for the house itself is part of what makes it being haunted so damn scary. The ghosts have no problem killing or terrorizing anybody.

Riverview Hospital – Grave Encounters (2011)

Exploring haunted houses by way of found footage makes everything feel more authentic. And that’s kicked up a notch when it’s a haunted asylum where people willingly stay overnight. Grave Encounters (2011) follows a crew of paranormal hunters that stay in an abandoned psychiatric facility that’s said to be haunted. And they soon discover how big of a mistake that was.  The ghosts might not be that terrifying, but not being able to leave somewhere and possibly dying in strange ways is awfully scary. Considering patients were tortured in that facility, that only adds to why this building landed on the list.                                                                                                                                                            

Katie and Kristi –  Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

The Paranormal Activity franchise is incredibly popular, and people might be more inclined to cite the house from the first film as the scariest. But Paranormal Activity 3 ups the scares and doesn’t fuck around with placing the characters in peril. The film follows Katie (Chloe Csengery) and Kristi (Jessica Tyler Brown)’s childhood and what happened to their mother, as well as her boyfriend, Dennis (Chris Smith). A kitchen being essentially destroyed, a demon playing around with a bedsheet, and more, shouldn’t be as scary as it is. But that falls into how effective found footage is. The ending also shows how inescapable some entities are. As well as how a dead quiet home that has a demon problem is a certain kind of hell.

Abaddon Hotel – Hell House LLC (2015)

There’s so much to love about Hell House LLC (even the franchise as a whole is worth watching) and one of those things being it feels so incredibly real. The film follows a group of friends that run a haunted house attraction called “Hell House” and what led up to the tragedy that killed fifteen people. If you don’t get scared easily, Hell House LLC will absolutely scare the shit out of you. The characters feel like real people just struggling to survive in a hotel that has an insidious past. Revealing all the scares will dampen the experience of watching for the first time. But what I will say is that it’s a refreshing found footage with genuinely scary moments.

Roanoke House- American Horror Story: Roanoke

American Horror Story: Roanoke is undoubtedly one of the most underrated seasons of the series. The season is one part paranormal documentary and one part found footage, and the second part is bone chilling. When a haunting is incredibly malevolent and violent, that’s when you know you’re in for a hellish ride. The chances of survival decrease when you come up against spirits that fully intend to murder. Nothing and nobody is safe throughout the season. If you love hauntings that are unpredictable and unstable, you will have the best time with Roanoke. Put it on at night and try not to be paranoid when looking out the window.

Hill House – The Haunting of Hill House

Mike Flanagan’s universe is pretty spectacular, and he deals in hauntings more than anything else with his work. The Haunting of Hill House is a series that follows a traumatized family and uses ghosts to amplify issues. Hill House is another example of a building being its own character. The family adamantly avoids Hill House after the events that shattered their lives in ‘92. But, of course, unforeseen events lead them back to the house eventually. The spirits that reside in Hill House aren’t kind, and they aim to manipulate and create misery. It’s safe to say that nobody would want to stay there overnight.

The Carmichael Manor – Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor (2023)

A fourth sequel in a found footage franchise shouldn’t be as good as Hell House LLC Origins: The Carmichael Manor (2023). The film follows queer couple Margot (Bridget Rose Perrotta) and Rebecca (Destiny Leilani Brown) and Margot’s brother, who look to uncover the mystery of the Carmichael Manor murders. It’s set in the same universe as the other Hell House LLC films and does unveil details about the previous films. Not only that, but the manor is haunted by unhinged spirits, including those creepy-ass clowns. And with the film making it clear nobody survives is even more eerie. The manor itself is very creepy and no place in it is safe.