10 Classic Victorian Ghost Stories Everyone Should Read

Interesting Literature

The best ghost stories from the Victorian era to read for Halloween or Christmas

As the nights are drawing in, how about a ghost story? The Victorians loved a ghost story, and many of the most celebrated writers of Victorian novels had a go at this ghoulish genre, from Elizabeth Gaskell to Charles Dickens to Robert Louis Stevenson. Here are ten of our favourites. If you like the sound of these suggestions, more blood-curdling reading matter can be found in our pick of Edgar Allan Poe’s best stories.

Elizabeth Gaskell, ‘The Old Nurse’s Story‘ (1852). Gaskell is best known for writing such classic realist novels as North and South (which we include in our list of best Victorian novels), but she could also write spookily about the supernatural. ‘The Old Nurse’s Story’ was written for Charles Dickens’s magazine Household Words. The narrator – the old…

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4 thoughts on “10 Classic Victorian Ghost Stories Everyone Should Read

  1. Well, you already know I love this list, don’t you? ;-)

    I’m familiar with a few of the stories, even if I know some by reputation but haven’t read them yet. I love Le Fanu (well, I have a soft spot for Irish Victorian writers of speculation, I’ll admit). Never read this particular story, but read a few others.
    Stevenson is one of my favourite authors and Body Snatchers chilled my blood when I read it. Loved the opening episode in the put.

    I’ve been meaning to read Turn of the Screw for ages. I watched a film adaptation years back that I found truly scary No, I don’t remember anything about the film. At the time, I didn’t even know the title, because I just happened upon it on TV, only later I recognised the plot once I came in touch with James.

    I do think there’s something particular about Victorian ghost stories. They have a unique personality about them.

    (Yes, I’ve seen your compilation of ghost films. Took me well over one hour to go through your vampire post, so I’m waiting for a free moment to go through your ghost post too ;-) )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love ghost stories, but there is something special about Victorian ghost stories. For me, it is not only the locales but also the language. I’m not adverse to a ‘wordy’ sentence. There’s also the lack of technology. There is no internet. There are no smartphones. You can’t get from A to B quickly. The sense of isolation and loneliness is often complete.

      Of course, it’s all subjective and my reasons certainly do not apply to everyone.

      Both the stories you mention are great. R.L. Stevenson is one of my favourite authors (I love “The Suicide Club”). Another great ghost story by Stevenson that’s not on the list is “Thrawn Janet”. It’s very heavy with dialect, but a great read.

      I recommend “The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories”. From what I remember, it also has Amelia Edwards’ excellent “The Phantom Coach”.

      Thanks for taking the time to read through the “13 Vampires” post. I think you’ll enjoy the “13 Ghosts” as well. Don’t forget to stop by and have a look at the “13 Monsters” as well (the link went down, but it’s working again now).

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      1. I read Thrawn Janet, that’s really really creepy.
        I read it in Italian and I remember there was a note where the originale shifter from ‘standard’ English to Scottish English. There was of course no difference before and after in the Italian version. I thought, “I’m not reading it, what’s the point?” But then I did read it. I mean, it’s Stevenson :-)

        Never read The Suicide Club, have to track it down.
        The Penguin book also sounds interesting.

        You are probably right about the Victorian ghost stories. Those are all elements that are very unique to that kind of fiction.
        I also think there was something in the Victorian sosciety in general that made it particularly sensitive to the ‘hidden’. To the strange and the hidden. I don’t know how to explain it. Maybe because they were in a historic moment when science was gaining strenght, but only just – there seems to be a particular tention between rationality and spirituality in Victorian speculative fiction.
        Just my impression :-)

        Liked by 1 person

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