If you’re a horror fan, or even if you’re not, the word possession often conjures images of an exorcism. You think Regan, taken over by Pazuzu right under her parents’ noses in The Exorcist or the subway scene in Possession. It makes sense, when these movies were, and still are, staples in the body possession sub-genre.
And, really, the appeal of the sub-genre isn’t that strange when you think about it. There’s nothing that makes you appreciate the control of your body more than watching a fictional character struggle, and sometimes fail, to regain theirs.
I think the sub-genre is definitely wider-encompassing, too. It’s not just demons and exorcisms, though plots like that do still feature heavily. But, think of the body takeover in The Fly, the parasites of Puppet Masters, the thing in The Thing. Venom is a sort of possession, though the buddy-cop schtick works for them eventually. Possession can look like a lot of different things, just as long as control of the body is compromised, often first by something else getting in.
And the sub-genre in novels reflects much the same variety. You can get your possessions and your body sharings in many different flavors. Here are eight to get you started!
Leech by Hiron Ennes
After a doctor working in an isolated region dies, the Institute sends another in their place. What’s worrying, however, is how the doctor managed to escape detection by the other doctors, who share their every thought and sight and even their bodies, using the common knowledge to save lives. But when an isolated mine and a persistent parasite converge on the chateau as the snow traps the town from the outside world, the doctor is left struggling between shared consciousness and body autonomy.
Helpmeet by Naben Ruthnum
Louise’s husband is wasting away. Literally. With her experience as a nurse, Louise tends to her husband and prepares to move him to his childhood home in Buffalo. But a shadow in the corner of a picture and an unfaithful past reveal something sinister in the cavities made of her husband’s body. This novella is definitely not for a queasy stomach. Those who love body horror, 1900s settings, and beautiful writing, this one’s for you.
Come Closer by Sara Gran
Amanda has dreams of opening her own architect firm and she thinks one last project, the Fitzgerald House, will finally let her do just that. The strange tapping in her apartment is annoying, sure, but she won’t let it get in her way. But when she starts getting into arguments with her husband about things she can’t remember and old habits she long ago quit start again during blackout episodes, Amanda is rattled. Is something happening to her body or is this all in her head and, either way, will she get back the control she once had over her life?
Seed by Ania Ahlborn
When Jack was a kid, a shadow followed him home. But, now, that’s all behind him. He’s happily married with two little girls. But after the family gets in a car accident one night, Jack sees the shadow and its glowing eyes. And one of his daughters does too. As she starts acting strangely, Jack has to face what happened in his childhood and what the shadow made him do in time to figure out how to stop it happening from his daughter too.
My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix
High school makes everyone act a bit different, right? At least, that’s what Abby tells herself after her best friend, Gretchen, starts behaving weirdly after a party. She says unseen things are touching her and chaos seems to follow wherever she goes. Desperate to find out what’s happening to her best friend, Abby comes to the conclusion Gretchen is possessed and must find out how to save her before it’s too late.
Goddess of Filth by V. Castro
What’s the harm in a little seance fueled by a little bit of alcohol and a lot of laughter? In the middle of the summer, five girls join hands to bring out their inner witch. But when Fernanda starts speaking another language and acting strangely, Father Moreno is called to help. But the priest soon grows obsessed and might just be doing more harm than good and the girls don’t know where to turn to next.
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Fifteen years ago, Marjorie and her family became a reality TV sensation, the world watching as the family reckons with the suspected demonic possession of the teenager. A Catholic priest and medical bills led the family to agree. But, now in the aftermath, Marjorie’s younger sister Merry agrees to be interviewed for a book. As memories resurface and questions are asked, Merry struggles with the reality of what happened to her and her family as an audience watched it happen.
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
After her murder hundreds of years ago, Okiku goes on a rampage, killing whoever she likes however she likes. She particularly likes getting revenge against men who kill children because she knows what it’s like to be betrayed like that. When she discovers Tarquin, a boy with strange tattoos and a battle for control waging inside of him, her murderous tendencies take a backseat. She will do anything she can to save him, even if it means turning to rituals and exorcisms to do it.
In the mood for more horror? Check out these free horror short stories you can read online or these psychological horror novels!