I love horror.
Which is, when you think about it, an absurd thing to say. Horror is, by definition, the feeling of being terrified and disgusted simultaneously. How can you enjoy fear and revulsion?
I was insufferable at parties for about two months after my art philosophy lecturer first explained the 'paradox of horror' to me. Sure bro, drinking in a car park is cool, but thinking about how enjoying disgust and fear should logically be impossible is way cooler!
I didn't get invited to many parties, just in case me studying philosophy of art didn't tip you off.
I don't have any answers to the paradox, I just think some kids check under the bed for monsters and hope to find one. I always did.
Books, movies, television, manga - I've taken horror any way I could find it ever since I can remember. Read this free piece by Neil Gaiman if you want a short, perfect shiver up your spine.
But only one story ever made me feel something worse than horror. One story, to this day, makes me feel not just scared but borderline insane.
House of Leaves is, most simply, a book about a family slowly driven mad by one impossible fact. Their house is larger on the inside than the outside.
That's it. Every awful thing that follows comes from that stubborn reality. There's no monster, no psychopath, just a house that slowly becomes more terrifyingly strange. I've always been more scared of evil places than evil creatures so that's probably what drew me to it in the first place.
The perspective shifts between three unreliable narrators, and it would spoil the surprise to tell you much more than that. Suffice to say House of Leaves doesn't follow many of the standard conventions for being a book, let alone narrative structure.
Even physically it's a marvel. Words wander out of formation, occasionally requiring you to read upside down. The front cover doesn't quite cover the first page (bigger on the inside than the outside you see). Fonts, formats, even language can change chapter to chapter.
Since you can't trust this book to act like a book, it's also harder to trust that the horror is over just because you stop reading.
I'm hyper aware of where the book is in my house. It's under my bed currently and I don't quite feel comfortable picking it up to put it back on the bookshelf. Like a spider I've trapped underneath a glass but haven't quite mustered up the courage to take outside.
I'm not writing this to convince you that House of Leaves is the scariest piece of horror ever made. I'm sure you roll your eyes at headlines like "Is the new Netflix horror TOO scary?" as well.
All I can say is I've consumed every horror I could find across any medium for about 20 years and nothing else ever made me feel this kind of dread.
Maybe most people who read this strange novel go on with their lives with nothing but a faint sense of unease every time they're alone in a house.
But, maybe you're like me. Maybe after you read it, certain sentences will start sticking in your memory like rusty nails for your thoughts to snag on.
Maybe you'll start obsessively checking your room is empty before bed each night. The edge of your vision might start feeling menacingly full at odd moments. You'll whip your head around and laugh at empty space. Of course there's nothing there (right?).
Then maybe one day you won't be able to stop thinking about how every time you open a door in your home, it's an act of faith that what's on the other side is what you remember.
Then the nightmares will begin.
Finn Hogan is the host of NerdsPLUS, Newshub's pop culture discussion podcast.