I Read a Grocery Store Haunted House Book

I love buying books at the grocery store. It’s one of my favorite things. I go do a weekly chore and get to pick up a new romance novel.

The grocery store doesn’t have a massive selection and they really only carry a few genres. Mainly romance, thrillers, and some horror. Every once in a while you’ll see a memoir or a beloved classic if a movie adaptation is about to come out.

A couple of years back, I started noticing a lot of one specific type of horror novel: Haunted House horror.

Every time I go to the grocery store, I see these damn things. The covers are nearly identical. A good deal of them are pumped out by Poisoned Pen Press.

I don’t know what’s up with it. Has the Haunted House subgenre experienced some sort of weird resurgence?

Mass market books are all about what sells. What sells quickly and what sells a lot. Mass marketing publishing gained popularity in the 1930s. Pocket Books was the company that truly popularized this business model. They made paperback versions of popular genres available in drugstores and newsstands (UNC).

From the inception of mass market books, it’s all about selling the popular genres. The genres that literary snots turn their pretentious noses up at. The stuff that people are likely to buy on impulse.

For me, that usually means a swoony bodice ripper that I can’t resist grabbing on my way from trail mix to iced coffee.

But I guess for a lot of people, that impulse buy is a haunted house story.

So I bought myself a grocery store haunted house book and gave it a read to see what the fuss is all about.

Here is the book I purchased fall of 2020.

So, it took me a while, but I finally finished reading this haunted house book that I bought at the supermarket.

Look, this isn’t life-changing literature or anything, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s solid for what it is: a light, fluffy spooky story. It’s not a page-turner or anything, but it’s entertaining enough.

This book consists of one longer story and then three short stories. I actually think the short stories were a lot scarier than the main Gillespie House story. Especially the mannequin story! That one really freaked me out. And a mall is such an unusual place to set a horror story. I think it was really neat.

As for the main story, as I said, it was good for what it was. Of course, the main character is an absolute idiot putting herself in all kinds of dangerous, crazy situations. Like running around a creepy possibly-haunted house, exploring hidden passages in the middle of the night. But that’s part of the fun of horror. Having an idiotic unnecessarily risk-taking protagonist gives readers a masochistic thrill.

And none of the characters in any of these stories are all that complex. They don’t have hardly any distinguishable characteristics and half the time you can’t even tell what age or gender they are. But I’m going to argue, for stories like this, it’s fine. Not every story needs to do every single thing.

Remember Goosebumps? I loved reading those as a kid. The protagonists of those books were always very bland too. Because fluffy horror stories are far more about plot than character. We don’t need a fully-fleshed out main character or a character arc. That’s not what most people are reading for.

So, I really don’t have the same complaints as many of those who have rated this book so low.

But I will say I thought some aspects of Gillespie House could have been improved. The cult aspect was very interesting at first, but that sub-plot just wasn’t explored as much as it could have been. I would have loved more details about that. I also think the haunting would have seemed more sinister if the father had truly starved to death and died inside of the mausoleum his daughter locked him in. That could have been so creepy. This girl hearing the pounding of her father as he slowly weakens and dies. but, he doesn’t have that torment, and he doesn’t die (or does he??…It’s all a little unclear). Because when our protagonist finds him, he’s still moving around inside of the mausoleum. He seems to be living in some kind of walking zombified state. This is all supposed to be because of some pact with evil he made through his skull-on-the-wall cult thing (not entirely sure-this really could have been explained better). But if his pact with evil kept him living on inside the tomb….eh, just not as horrifying as a human being locked up to slowly die. him just being this supernatural thing made the climax fall a little flat for me.

All of that said, I did still enjoy this book. It took me over a year to finish it, because it became my pick-it-up-and-read-when-I-don’t-feel-like-reading book. It’s not a page-turner, but it is entertaining enough, so I had on my shelf as my go-to reading slump book.

It’s a very tropey haunted house story, with some incredibly eerie bonus short stories at the end.

I’ll be picking up another supermarket haunted house book now that I’m finally done with this one 🙂

Some of my writing friends have told me they do not have haunted house books in the grocery store, so this may be regional.

Do you have half an aisle of haunted house books in your grocery store? Have you read any of these mass-market haunted house books?

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