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Oh, The Horror!: Horror Sub-Genres

Genre guide to horror.

Horror Sub-Genres

What are some common horror sub-genres?

Horror has many different sub-genres that can overlap with each other. There are other sub-genres that are not listed here, but below are some common sub-genres that you will find. We have also included examples of books that fall into these sub-genre categories. Maybe, one of these books will become your next favorite read!

Demonic Possession and Satanism

This sub-genre typically features four basic plots: demonic possession, satanic ritual, the curse or cursed object, and selling of one’s soul to the devil (Spratford, 2004).

Ghosts and Haunted Houses

One of the most well-known subgenres in horror fiction. Addresses the “unknown” of life after death. Addresses why the spirits of the dead cannot rest. The characters must understand why the haunting is happening. They will either do what needs to be done for the ghost to rest or they will defeat the spirit (Spratford, 2012). 


The gothic sub-genre is atmospheric, oftentimes featuring romantic terror. This sub-genre will typically evokes feelings of love and dread, as well as dark and dreary decay. The setting is usually a mansion with a storied history, or a mansion that has been in the family for generations. This is credited as being one of the first types, if not the very first, of horror novels published (Spratford, 2012).


The vampires in these stories are unlike the sympathetic vampires in paranormal romance. These vampires are decaying, grotesque, and terrifying. Their main purpose is to terrify the reader, not make them fall in love (Spratford, 2012).

Psychological Horror/ Suspense

Psychological Horror, sometimes referred to as Psychological Suspense, is a horror book that does not contain supernatural elements. The "monsters" are people that are very real, and that helps to create the tension necessary for a scary read (Spratford, 2012).


This sub-genre features gore, violence, sexual violence and shock value. Also known as splatterpunk, the descriptions and events in these books are deeply disturbing (Spratford, 2004).

Black Magic, Witches, Warlocks and The Occult

A character that practices occult. They can be called a witch, warlock, magician, conjurer, shaman, magus, dream-weaver, soothsayer, seer, or fortune-teller (Spratford, 2004). Generally feature religious characters who have either lost their faith or see their craft as an extension of their faith (Fonseca & Pulliam, 2009). 

Mummies, Zombies, and Golems

Undead beings who are capable of great evil. Monsters may come from magic, ancient myths, or cultural traditions. They may be reanimated from death or a science experiment gone wrong (Spratford, 2012).

Scientific and Biomedical

This sub-genre features technology or medical advancements beyond human control that may be murderous or used to control humanity.

Werewolves and Animals of Terror

Appeals to the fear of familiar animals such as domestic pets or wild animals that are commonly encountered could turn against humanity. Wolves, sharks, birds, cats, dogs, and spiders are often portrayed in horror fiction. Werewolves in particular are rooted in shape-shifting. The werewolf’s bite will turn a human into a beast that will abandon its humanity (Spratford, 2012). 

Serial Killers

Can be a human, spirit, or creature serial killer. Usually features the killer as a tangible threat or imminent danger. Characters are may be threatened by their guilt, past deeds, or imagined terrors (Spratford, 2004). The killer initiates the plot and the resolution may result in the killers’ destruction. Can have graphic depictions of sex and violence.