Setting the Mood for Horror

Horror is one of the few literary genres that becomes an experience as you read it.  Great horror will get your heart rate up, have you glancing over your shoulder, or suspiciously watching dark corners even after you’ve put the book down.  You can intensify this by surrounding yourself with a horror themed ambiance to make it a truly spine tingling experience.  Here are some suggestions to set the mood for reading (or writing) horror!

Music & Sound

The ambient sound in the room plays a big part in your immersion experience.  For horror, especially, music or sound effects are often very important for setting the right tone.  For reading, however, many people prefer to have the least intrusive of music or noise.  So finding the right balance between creepy background music which sets the right mood and something which doesn’t distract from the pages before you is important.  There are plenty of options out there for ambient sounds like thunder storms, cursed caves (, and haunted houses (  These more “natural” sounds are likely best for those who are distracted easily because they are meant to blend into the background while still creating a nice bit of spooky white noise.  With sound mixers ( you can take the basic storm or forest noises and add some disembodied whispers, footsteps, wolf howls, and screams.

For those less prone to being distracted from their reading, there are literally thousands of options for horror themed music.  Plenty creepy instrumental pieces available can be found in hour long loops, which can be played back to back, avoiding the interruptions of having to change songs or jarring stops.  Options include creepy doll music, dark carnival, or sad vampire inspired music.  Check out our horror playlist on YouTube ( for even more spooky music!

Lighting & Decorations

Having the right lighting is very important for reading to be sure you don’t put too much strain on your eyes.  However, horror stories are often filled with dark and gloomy settings so it can be difficult to find the right balance.  We recommend having a very good light source right next to you so you can see clearly, but the rest of the room can be in total darkness if you like.  Having some candles or flickering lights scattered throughout the room can add a highlight to your favorite creepy décor without spoiling the overall mood.  If you have access to a fireplace, a roaring fire or strategically placed candles there will certainly help the ambience.  And while none of us can control the weather, a thunderstorm always helps to set a creepy vibe, so having a lightning strobe and a sound machine can help create a faux storm of your own!

Once you have your lighting situation squared away, you’ll want to get some spooky décor set up.  There really is no limit to what you can do with decorations, and with so many horror sub-genres you’ll have some opportunities to explore.  If Victorian horror is what you’re reading, you can grab some old tintype pictures ( in ornate frames, some amber glass apothecary bottles ( with mysterious contents, and flowing, black mourning material.  Or, if Lovecraft is your current read, you can get some specimens in glass (, black books full of unreadable runes, and something with tentacles (  Of course, for nearly any horror sub-genre, you really can’t go wrong with skulls!  Here are some other suggestions for your creepy décor.

Oil lantern (, an old fashioned style oil lantern will not only offer fantastic reading light, but will help set the mood for some old fashioned horror.

Candelabra (, for a more overtly creepy light source, without the worry of an open flame.

Storm machine ( ), who needs to wait for the weather to cooperate with your haunting reading atmosphere?  You can make your own thunderstorm with one of these machines so you can have that perfect dark and stormy night while you cozy up with a good ghost story.  This machine can also make your own lights flicker to thunder (or any other sounds, which can really add to the haunting ambience, but make sure you still have a steady light to read by!

SFX Ghosts ( ), these ghostly apparitions can be projected onto walls, windows, and even a holo-screen you can put up in a door way or hall!  There are several options to choose from, so these ghosts are sure to offer a nice, haunting ambience you can have looping in the dark corners behind you or in a nice window next to you while you read!

SFX Haunted Portraits ( ), like the ghosts, these portraits will animate with various scary actions such as slowly rotting over time or jumping out to scare passer-by.  You can disguise a flat screen tv as a painting by putting a frame around it, and then set one of these creepy portraits to idle above the mantle while you read.  

Skull ( ), a realistic human skull is always a good choice when creating a creepy setting.

Fog machine ( ), because fog is creepy, no doubt about it.  Just be sure to have it on a low setting so you can still read without straining your eyes!

Scents & Candles

One of the best ways to set an immersive atmosphere is with scent.  Scent associations can have a strong connection to memories or evoke powerful images.  There are several different ways you can add to your dark and creepy ambiance with scents such as incense, oils, diffusers, and candles.  The latter two have the added benefit of also providing mood lighting.  Want to conjure images of a dark, haunted wood?  Go for a musky, woodsy scent like cypress, cedarwood, or sandalwood.  How about summoning the scent of phantoms?  Airy scents like stargazer lily, moonflower, and amber can add that haunting quality.  

There are plenty of pre-made candles and oils that possess these creepy qualities, so there are likely to be options for any sub-genre of horror you happen to be reading (or writing).  Here are a few of our favorites.

Voodoo (, a soy candle with wood, citrus, and patchouli notes to help set that magic mood.

Spooky Mansion (, a musky scent with cedar wood and sage adds to that creepy, abandoned feeling of an old mansion full of secrets and ghosts.

Edgar Allan Poe (, a rosewood and black currant candle to help evoke that perfect mood of Victorian suspense.

Alternatively, you can get some strong oils, and add a few drops to water in an oil diffuser to fill your house with your choice of creepy scents.  Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab ( offers many complex, unique oils inspired by death, the occult, and many different books, movies, and comics.  Here are some examples that are sure to fit your desired ambience.

The Phantom Wooer (, with notes of stargazer lily, bone dust, tomb mosses, and honey myrtle, this scent offers the perfect “melancholy of the grave” vibe for any ghost story.  

Embalming Fluid (, a lovely, clean, clinical scent with aloe, citrus and musk notes, perfect for murder mysteries and mad scientists.  

Fairy Tales and Lies (, part of BPAL’s Crimson Peak series; lilac water, amber, and Italian bergamot pair perfectly with any grim dark fairy tale of happily never after.  

These really are a very small selection of options, with so many types of horror, there is no limit to how far you can go in creating your own reading environment!  We hope this inspires you to turn your home into your personal, cozy nightmare, and if you do, we’d love to see it so please share!