WIHM 2022: Ten Great Ghost or Spooky Stories written by Women

Ten Great Ghost or Spooky Stories written by Women

by Alyson Faye


Here’s a little known fact to ponder:- between the 1830s and the onset of World War I (1914) – the so-called ‘Golden Age’ of the ghost story – 70% of the ghost stories were written by women. There was a huge market and public appetite for these supernatural tales in the literary magazines and they were both a fun outlet for writers and a steady way of earning income.

Any of these names ring a ghostly bell? Mary E Wilkins Freeman? Evelyn Henty? Olive Harper? Elinor Mordaunt? Lettice Galbraith? BM Croker? Probably not.

But Edith Wharton, and Edith Nesbit? Ah, maybe now the bell is tingling faintly? I will include these two Ediths, as I think of them, in my personal selection below as well as a few more recognisable or even downright famous femme writers of this genre.

But briefly, as an interesting sidebar – why have these ladies been ghosted from history?

Here’s the view of Dr Melissa Edmundson, a specialist in 19th- and early 20th-century British women writers, from an article in The Guardian newspaper.

“So while these women were well known in their day, their work wasn’t included in many anthologies of supernatural and weird fiction. Then (often male) editors relied on the work of other (often male) editors, not doing the research themselves. This caused the same, relatively small selection of mostly male-authored works to be republished and republished yet again.” The brackets are my addition for clarification and fit in with Edmundson’s view.

Edmundson goes on to say :- “Women focus on women’s experience in these stories, so their writing was conveniently labelled too ‘domestic’ to be included alongside the men … the home can be the scariest place of all, because it’s supposed to be the place where we feel safest or where we have the most control.”

So, having set the background, here’s my personal selection of women-authored ghost stories of the last 150 years and where you can read them – often online, for free ( always a bonus). The list is in no particular order except mainly by the year of publication – oldest to latest.