If you need a good scare and don’t want to pay for it, today is your lucky day!
If you are looking for something a little exciting and FREE in electronic format, check out some great ghost stories written by women.
Matilda, Mary Shelley
You’ve probably heard of Mary Shelley’s most famous novel, Frankenstein. She also wrote Matilda, which features an affiar with a poet and an incestuous relationship between a father and daughter…yup, not for the faint hearted.
Don’t forget that Mary Shelley was married to Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Curious, If True, Tales by Elizabeth Gaskell
Elizabeth Gaskell is primarily known for her books about social ills in Manchester, England, but she also wrote a lot of short ghost stories. She was interested in English folk tales as passed down from generation to generation, so they appear in her stories.
Elizabeth Gaskell is most famous for writing Cranford, which is a BBC series.
Most of her books are in the public domain and are free in electronic form, and her most famous books are on Kindle Unlimited at publication time.
The Blazing World and Other Writings by Margaret Cavendish
Margaret Cavendish was known as “Mad Madge” during her lifetime because of her absolutely over-the-top behavior. The Blazing World is an inventive fantasy that has been described as “steam punk.”
The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
Ann Radcliffe used gothic stories to expose the injustices women suffered in marriage. The Mysteries of Udolpho is considered her best book, but be ready to skim a bit through the first third if you aren’t a big nature lover. The action picks up.
Hauntings and other Fantastic Tales by Vernon Lee
Vernon Lee had a bohemian childhood and as an adult was both a cross dresser and was basically married to a woman…all during the Victorian era! In her ghost stories, she is interested in exploring what ghost stories say about the teller.
Clermont by Regina Maria Roche
Regina Marie Roche’s more important works focused on Irish social problems, but she was a very popular writer of gothic novels in her day. Clermont is even mentioned in Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
The Adventures of Aylmer Vance by Alice & Claude Askew
Shirley Jackson borrowed a character’s name for The Haunting of Hill House from this book, The Adventures of Aylmer Vance, which is described as sort of a Sherlock Holmes with weirder cases.
Of One Blood by Pauline Hopkins
Of One Blood is just one of the many books that Pauline Hopkins wrote that imagined a different reality for African Americans. The story mixes in mysticism and the occult with a trip to Africa for hidden civilizations.
The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton
Edith Wharton is known for her realistic novels which were written and set at the end of the 19th century. Some titles people know include Ethan Frome and The House of Mirth. In her short stories, however, Edith Wharton liked to go scary.
The Collected Supernatural & Weird Fiction of Amelia B. Edwards
Amelia B. Edwards was a writer of travelogues and ghost stories…and of course, sometimes, a combination of the two. This book has a combinations of her ghost stories and two novellas. Her writing is known for being “accessible”, so she might be a good place to start.
The Penguin Book of Short Stories
If you don’t know WHERE to start, the Penguin Book of Ghost Stories has a good range. This book is not free or even especially inexpensive, and the stories it has can be found for free from other sources. If you are really into these stories, it’s probably worth buying for the background information and footnotes.
Monster, She Wrote by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson
Monster, She Wrote, by Lisa Kroger and Melanie R. Anderson, is my source for this article. If you like these ideas, I highly recommend this readable and engaging book.
More from The Lois Level
Note on getting free books:
The versions pictured may or may not be free, so search Amazon carefully. When texts go into the public domain, numerous versions are published, and it can be hard to track them down.
The more expensive versions usually are better edited and have explanatory materials and footnotes that have been written by scholars, so that’s what you’re paying for.
The free versions have the text only, and there may be errors that occurred in the digitizing process, so you have to be patient. Check the comments on the book’s Amazon page; usually people will say if a version is bad enough to be unreadable. Usually, they’re fine.
Texts go into “public domain” a certain number of years after the death of the author if the estate/the author’s heirs do not renew it. Organizations such as Project Gutenberg have been working since the beginning of the Internet to digitize as many of these texts as possible and make them freely available (and also prevent loss). Amazon is smart about making them available on their site because it keeps consumers from going elsewhere (once they leave the page, Amazon can’t market to them), but they benefit is that it makes finding the free versions incredibly easy.
Once you start looking around, you will be amazed at what’s available.