Horror Setting Ideas: An Imaginative List (Updated in 2024)

horror setting ideas

Looking for a list of horror story setting ideas? A playground where spirits of dead children lurk. A newborn ward haunted by an Eldritch creature. A wedding venue haunted by the spirit of a jilted bride. Read on for more!

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What’s a Setting?

A setting, also called a backdrop, is a literary element that specifies the time and geographic location of a story, which set the background, context and mood for the narrative.

In the subject of a story’s setting, consider this quote by Louis Sachar, the author of Holes:

I never think of an entire book at once. I always just start with a very small idea. In “Holes”, I just began with a setting; a juvenile correctional facility located in the Texas desert. Then I slowly make up the story, and rewrite it several times, and each time I rewrite it, I get new ideas, and change the old ideas around.

Horror Story Settings

I’m convinced even the most mundane setting has the potential to be a bone-chilling horror backdrop. Without further ado, below are an imaginative list of horror story settings!

Please note that the genders in the following entries are just placeholders and are not meant to enforce any hurtful stereotypes nor offend anyone.

Horror Stories in Workplace Settings

What’s more boring than the workplace? But with a little imagination, you can turn the most mundane setting into a chilling backdrop for your horror story. Consider these horror setting ideas relating to the workplace:

1. A car repair shop, a factory, a construction site, a dentist’s office, a farm, into which the restless spirit of an employee still goes everyday as if they’re still working there.

2. The President’s office, the Pope’s office, the high school principal’s office, a bank, a science laboratory, or other crucial place in which a painting that’s being possessed by a malevolent spirit resides and starts to influence the people who work there.

3. A seemingly dull place such as a little café, a vacuum cleaner shop, or a comic book shop around the corner, a bakery, a hotel, where a supernatural creature or a serial killer works.

Horror Stories in Public Place Settings

What if the public place you pass by everyday is the setting for some spooky happenings? Here are some setting ideas that involve public places.

1. An unremarkable public location such as a shopping mall, a high school compound, a public park, a public parking lot, a park bench, which could be a portal to another world.

2. An essential and unavoidable service provider such as a daycare, a laundromat, a post office, a grocery store, a car wash, or a gas station, in which the employees seem especially creepy.

3. The most unexpected public places such as a homeless shelter, a fitting room inside of a mall, a dog/cat shelter, a public library’s return hatch, a fountain in a public park, a public statue, which is perhaps a certain demon’s choice of dwelling.

Horror Stories in “Happy” Places

Subvert your readers expectation by setting your scary story in places that are typically connected to the idea of happiness. Here are some settings set in the typically “happy” places.

1. The spirit of a jilted bride who haunts a wedding venue or a popular vacation spot.

2. An eldritch creature that lurks in a hospital’s newborn ward to prey on newborn babies.

3. The spirits of dead children who haunt a local playground, or an amusement park, or a toy shop, or a circus tent, or a zoo, or a funhouse.

4. A skating ring, a bowling alley, a public swimming pool, a (movie) theatre, an opera venue, a bar, a dance club, or a horse/car racing track that turns into a place of nightmare once the light goes off.

Horror Stories in Eerie Places

Not all places are created equal. Whereas the last category is for “happy” places, this one is dedicated to places that are inherently eerie.

1. abandoned places
2. attics
3. art galleries
4. basements
5. Bermuda triangle
6. camp grounds, hiking routes, cursed forests
7. clinics where eerie experiments happen
8. graveyards and mausoleums
9. haunted houses
10. museums
11. psychiatric wards
12. the site of an accident

(Please click on the picture for more information about it.)

Horror Stories in Home Settings

Setting a horror story around the house tickles our imagination with the “what if” concept of the potential danger and horror hidden underneath all the mundane daily activities that we do there! Here are some ideas.

– An apartment complex is a great setting for a horror story because of the proximity of one neighbor to the other. We can hear things through the thin walls and thin ceilings, and there are things leaking from one floor to another, and there are the shared spaces such as the apartment lobby, the cluster mailboxes, the laundry room, the humongous trash bins…

– Your character is trapped inside a cupboard, or in the shed, or in the barn, or the garage, or the tree house, and strange things begin to happen.

Horror Stories in Confined Spaces

Confined spaces in which movements are limited can create a nerve-wracking backdrop where a looming horror awaits. Here are some ideas.

1. Eldritch happenings in a secluded island, or when diving in the deep sea, or when swimming in a lake, or in a jail.

2. Zombie outbreak in a jail, spaceship, inside a submarine, or abroad a commercial flight, on a cruise ship, a train, or during a car trip.

Consider this: A group of submariners discovers an abandoned, sunken submarine on the ocean floor. When they enter to investigate, they find themselves trapped with a crew of ghostly sailors, reliving their final moments at sea.

(Originally appeared in my post Haunted House Story Ideas: Unleash Your Imagination (2023))

Horror Stories in Fantasy Settings

Sky (and beyond!) is the limit when it comes to fantasy. We can even blur the lines between reality and virtual, imaginary and surreal, and comes up with a captivating setting with fantasy flavors. Here are a few of them.

1. Virtual realities such as getting sucked inside of an arcade game, computer game, or television.

2. Imaginary or surreal worlds, such as trapped inside of a dream, a hallucination, or inside of someone else’s body, or occupying other life form or even an object.

3. Alternate universes, including future or past timelines, mythical places, fantasy worlds, and dystopian/utopian worlds where the conventions and rules are a world away from our real one.

4. Distant planets, where the inhabitants, customs and technologies are completely alien to your characters.


More? Sure, why not! Here are some more unconventional horror settings that will have your wheels turning! What about:

1. A haunted dollhouse
2. A haunted mirror
3. A haunted zoo where the animals turn into something more sinister once night falls.
4. A haunted time capsule
5. A farmhouse where alien infestation takes place and causes all sort of eerie happenings.
6. A haunted art gallery cursed by an artist’s vengeful former muse.
7. An underground bunker where a dormant alive hive lives, and now it’s being awakened.
8. A haunted dreamscape.

You can find these ideas and more in my post Haunted House Story Ideas: Unleash Your Imagination (2023)!


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