13 female horror writers you should read

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Louisa May Alcott, American novelist.Authoress of ‘Little Women’. 29 November 1832 – 6 March 1888. (Photo by Culture Club/Getty Images)

3.) Louisa May Alcott

Yes, I’m talking about that Louisa May Alcott. You almost certainly know her for the classic, Little Women, in which headstrong Jo March and her family navigate life in the Civil War era. Though the cozy Little Women made Alcott’s reputation and led to a string of sequels, the writer had a secret. She wrote gothic horror.

Now, to be fair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a vampire or a werewolf in Alcott’s gothic short stories. Gothic horror is more concerned with creating a sinister, menacing atmosphere often devoid of the supernatural. Ghosts are typically revealed to be a scheming heir, for example, rather than the genuine article. The monsters in gothic stories are more often human than paranormal.

Because these stories were so different from her more wholesome fiction, Alcott wrote as A. M. Barnard. She never wrote a gothic fiction novel, though her short stories survive to this day and are occasionally anthologized. These include at least one ghost story,” The Abbot’s Ghost”, and even a mummy story, “Lost in a Pyramid”. She also wrote a novelette, Pauline’s Passion and Punishment, that took the gothic tradition to its extremes. She often called these works her “blood and thunder tales”.

Where to start
You only have one choice, really: Alcott’s short stories. Check out Behind a Mask: The Unknown Thrillers of Louisa May Alcott, which collects four of her stories.