We’re all familiar with cozy mysteries. They are mysteries where the violence, blood, and dead bodies are kept at arm’s length. Often, they feature characters who have quaint jobs — running a bakery, a tea shop, or maybe a bookstore — and live in quaint towns populated by quirky characters. Besides their day jobs, in their time off they also solve mysteries and crimes — sometimes with the help of a pet cat, dog, or bird.

What is cozy horror? Like its cousin cozy mysteries, blood, gore, and jump scares are kept at arm’s length or are only alluded to. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t any less spooky or atmospheric than more traditional horror stories.

What is Cozy Horror?

Jose Cruz in this blog post discusses what makes a horror story a cozy horror. He lists four elements that define the genre.

  1. Familiarity Most horror stories have an amount of the unknown and the fear it generates. In cozy horror the stories feature an aspect or aspects that put the reader in a safer, more knowable state.
  2. Sensuousness This is the tactile sensation created by written descriptions. In many horror stories this is the chills or tingling feeling one gets from a particularly well-written description. In cozy horror this “sensuousness” comes from a description of a warm, comfortable fire, fresh-baked cookies, or anything else you find pleasant and comforting. Cozy horror doesn’t traffic solely in pleasant sensations, but they can and do exist next to the ones that tingles your spine.
  3. Distance There is a sense within the story that what is happening to the characters could not possibly happen to the reader. Sure zombies, vampires, and werewolves may be scary, but we can reasonably expect not to run across them.
  4. Fun While cozy horror will contain its share of scares it’s not about jumping from one blood-thirsty clown to the next axe-wielding psychopath. Instead the stories contain elements that are fun. The story may be set in an abandoned house or graveyard, humor may make up part of the story as an ongoing theme or something to relieve the tension.

To you get you started on your journey of cozy horror, here is a sampling of some titles — both old and new.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. The classic tale of poor school teacher Ichabod Crane and his run ins with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. You can find copies at WPPL here and here. Copies are also available through Hoopla as an e-book and audiobook.

Irving’s class inspired several authors to offer their own take on this perennial favorite.

A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Is this one a cozy horror? It seems to me to check many of the boxes. Copies at WPPL can be found here and here. Other copies may be found in Hoopla as an e-book and audiobook, the library also has copies in CD format.

Dickens, like Irving, has inspired his fair share of retellings. Check out these titles below:

Further Reading

Some of these titles will be familiar, while others will be new. However, they are all worth a look.

For other horror recommendations check out Erin’s blog on Summer Scares.