You simply can't beat a good old-fashioned ghost story. There's nothing quite like immersing yourself in a chilling tale, but all great ghost stories come with an added extra – a dark secret shrouded in mystery, perhaps, or a tragic tale waiting to be uncovered.
You can witness this kind of haunting ghost story when The Little Stranger arrives in Cineworld on 21st September. Adapted from Sarah Waters' novel, and directed by Room filmmaker Lenny Abrahamson, it's the story of Warwickshire country doctor Faraday (Domhnall Gleeson), whose acquaintance with the wealthy Ayres family at the forbidding Hundreds Hall leads to dark revelations and possible supernatural phenomena.
However, if you can't wait until then to get your horror fix, scroll down to discover five chilling ghost stories to see that'll send a shiver down your spine…
1. The Haunting (1963)
Before films like Insidious or The Conjuring took paranormal investigation to the forefront of horror, there was one film that did it even better over half a century ago: The Haunting.
Directed by the multi-Oscar-winning Robert Wise (who also gave us The Sound of Music and West Side Story) and adapted from Shirley Jackson's novel The Haunting of Hill House, this creepy classic follows a scientist (Richard Johnson) researching paranormal activity with three companions, including Theo (Claire Bloom) and Eleanor (Julie Harris), in an old house with a horrific history.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of strange happenings and things that go bump in the night to be found within the walls of Hill House. However, what makes this film so unsettling is the subtle manner in which it approaches the ghostly goings-on alongside the ambiguity of these events. Is the house actually haunted or is it all in spinster Eleanor's head as she gradually loses her grasp of reality?
2. Ringu (1998)
With classic horror hits like Ju-on: The Grudge, The Eye, Pulse, and Dark Water coming from Japan, it's no wonder that J-horror has acquired a huge following of devout horror fans and saw a wave of American remakes in the early 2000s. There's one film we can thank for all of this: Hideo Nakata's Ringu.
Adapted from the novel of the same name by Koji Suzuki and hailed as one of the scariest films ever made, Ringu follows investigative reporter Reiko Asakawa (Nanako Matsushima) alongside her ex-husband (Hiroyuki Sanada) on the hunt to solve the mystery of a cursed videotape that kills whoever watches it after seven days.
Grounded within a distinctly Japanese style and rooted in the folklore of vengeful spirits that populate Japanese culture, Ringu is a ghost story unlike anything you'd see in Western horrors. With an unrelenting foreboding atmosphere, a gripping mystery and a finale guaranteed to haunt your nightmares for life, Ringu is arguably one of the best ghost stories ever told.
3. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
Oscar-winning filmmaking legend Guillermo del Toro is perhaps best known for his visually stunning fantasies like Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water (which netted him the Best Picture and Best Director Oscars). He has an affinity for the supernatural and monstrous, and this eerie atmosphere courses through The Devil's Backbone.
As much as we adore his creepy Gothic romance Crimson Peak, it's his third feature film, The Devil's Backbone, that gets its place on this list. Set during the Spanish Civil War, the film follows Carlos (Fernando Tielve), a young boy sent to a boys' orphanage in rural Spain, who uncovers a mystery surrounding the ghost of a young boy who haunts the orphanage.
While The Devil's Backbone is brimming with nerve-shattering tension and atmosphere, it's the deeper themes of war, trauma and death del Toro explores throughout the film, all set against a conflicted chapter in Spain's recent history, that makes this a masterful ghost story.
4. The Woman in Black (2012)
Based on Susan Hill's 1983 novel, the 2012 film adaptation of The Woman in Black ticks all the right boxes when it comes to delivering a downright spine-chilling tale of ghosts, secrecy, and revenge.
When young solicitor Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is sent to a remote village to sort the affairs of a recently deceased woman, he soon meets the ghostly resident who's been enacting her vengeance on the locals. It's therefore up to Kipps to solve the mystery of the titular veiled woman to put her spirit to rest.
A textbook example of Gothic horror, The Woman in Black is a macabre mystery full of tragedy. There's no happy ending here; only endless nightmares and chills await in this timeless tale.
5. Ghost Stories (2018)
When professional sceptic and debunker of the paranormal Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman) is tasked with solving three unexplained cases, he's thrown into a series of increasingly terrifying and unsettling events as he begins to question everything he once believed.
This is the premise of recent British anthology horror Ghost Stories, a film adaptation of the acclaimed play of the same name. One of the things that makes ghost stories so enthralling is their sense of mystery and intrigue. Anything can happen in a supernatural tale and, as much as we tell ourselves ghosts aren't real, a great ghost story will always make us question that.
This is exactly what Ghost Stories gets right as we, too, experience the same feelings of uneasiness hearing these tales as Goodman. Not only is each case utterly terrifying, but what sets this film apart from any other supernatural outing is how each tale combines to deliver an even more unsettling climax – which we won't spoil for you here.
Andy Murray is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.