The Best Advice From Horror Novels to Help You Survive Your Vacation

By Julia Bergen

There is a reason why I expect to be less freaked out by Ari Aster’s new horror film, Midsommar, than I was by his last one, Hereditary. And it’s quite simple: I can’t change who I’m related to or keep people who might be crazy cult members from approaching me, but I can totally avoid vacationing in Sweden. It’s super easy to avoid; you just don’t go to Sweden.

Likewise, there are many things you can avoid doing on vacation that will lead to both great memories and minimal body count. Using the knowledge I’ve gained from horror stories, I’ve laid out some examples based on the type of vacation you’re going on. And if you decide not to go on vacation at all? Can’t say we’d blame you.

Don’t go on any scary bridges

Case in point: The Toll by Cherie Priest

One of the biggest reasons to go on vacation is because you just got married. It’s time to connect with your new spouse, right? Well, if you’re not careful, it could be time to get murdered in a swamp. Titus and Melanie Bell decide to spend their honeymoon canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. Before they even get time for staring into each other’s eyes and making memories that will last a lifetime, they come to a mysterious, one lane bridge. As they go over it, Titus passes out. When he wakes up Melanie is missing, along with the bridge. So, if you’re going on a honeymoon, watch out for mysterious bridges that don’t appear on maps. Spending the first week of married life trying to unravel the mysteries of a strange bridge in a swamp is not going to make your marriage stronger. Especially if one of you doesn’t survive.


Don’t take the shortcut through the woods

Case in point: The Ritual by Adam Nevill

This one was made into a Netflix Original, which is perfectly safe to watch, but if you’re going on vacation to reconnect with friends, you’re going to need a few safety precautions. Four men went to university together, and years later decide to reconnect for a Scandinavian hiking trip. Not only do they find new tensions between them, but when they try to take a shortcut through the woods, they also find dead animals hung from the trees and the remains of pagan rituals that haunt their sleep. So just remember, those woods could be full of cute animals, or they could be full of blood sacrifices. And honestly, if you start missing your college friends, just remember that maybe there’s a reason you lost touch in the first place. 


Don’t ignore any psychic visions

Case in point: Don’t Look Now by Daphne du Maurier

You may think a vacation will help you forget bad times, but it may just give you new bad times to remember forever (unless you die first). In Daphne du Maurier’s seminal story, a British couple takes a vacation to Venice after their daughter dies of meningitis. But whoops, Venice is under the terror of a serial killer. They still try to enjoy their trip, even though the elderly twin sisters at their hotel warn them that they’re in danger and John, the husband, is clearly gaining psychic abilities. So, just remember, should you find yourself on vacation, and you begin having psychic visions, maybe it’s time to cut the trip short. Venetian canals are pretty, but so are photographs of canals, and they’re right there on Google Images.


Don’t go looking for ghosts

Case in point: Ghost Summer by Tananarive Due

People always talk about “getting away” for the summer, but there’s a good chance you’ll just find bad things in new places. When a family decides to spend the summer with their grandparents in a seemingly idyllic Florida summer town, they’ve got a shot at fun in the sun. Too bad their whole motivation is to see some ghosts on this trip. If you’re going somewhere because you want to see a ghost, rethink how you make decisions. You’re doing it wrong. In most circumstances this would just be a bad idea, but since the grandparents live in a town riddled with the supernatural, it’s a downright terrible idea. Leave the ghosts alone; they are not more scared of you than you are of them.


Don’t go to a haunted house for a college break

Case in point: The Twilight Pariah by Jeffrey Ford

If you absolutely must leave your home for college break, go somewhere safe. Like a lamp store. Or maybe a dentist’s office. Unfortunately, college students Maggie, Russell, and Henry weren’t planning ahead, so they rent a creepy old house in the woods for their college break. If you were to somehow, despite everything you have learned in this article, wind up on vacation in an old house in the woods, I expect every one of you reading this to know that if you find a bottle of red liquid and the skeleton of a child with horns, that you would leave those things right where they are and immediately make your way to the nearest exorcist.

In conclusion, should you want to spend a few of your hard-earned vacation days away from the office this summer, take precautions against ghosts, ghouls, and curses. You know, the usual horror story fodder. And seriously consider staying home and reading (the five stories on this list are a great start) instead of going anywhere that may or may not be haunted. 

Spoiler alert: Wherever you’re thinking, it’s definitely haunted.

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