13 female horror writers you should read

9 of 14

Full length portrait of Edith Wharton reading, circa 1905. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).

8.) Edith Wharton

Seriously, Edith Wharton. She’s rightfully well known for works such as The Age of Innocence or Ethan Frome. Yet, neither of those works would lead you to believe that Wharton could write some of finest Victorian ghost stories around.

The young Edith Wharton was actually traumatized by frightful tales. Despite her fear, she worked hard to channel her terror and subsequent obsession into a succession of chilling, eerie tales. Wharton claimed not to believe in ghosts, though she was frightened of them. Despite this, Wharton thought long and hard about the aesthetics of horror in her quest to write the perfect ghost story. She wrote that:

"The “moral issue” question must not be allowed to enter into the estimating of a ghost story. It must depend for its effect solely on what one might call its thermometrical quality; if it sends a cold shiver down one’s spine, it has done its job and done it well. But there is no fixed rule as to the means of producing this shiver, and many a tale that makes others turn cold leaves me at my normal temperature. The doctor who said there were no diseases but only patients would probably agree that there are no ghosts, but only tellers of ghost stories, since what provides a shudder for one leaves another peacefully tepid. Therefore one ought, I am persuaded, simply to tell one’s ghostly adventures in the most unadorned language, and “leave the rest to Nature.”"

Where to start
Wharton’s ghostly short stories have been collected in numerous editions. Her 1910 collection, Tales of Men and Ghosts, is in the public domain and so is freely available online. Check it out on Project Gutenberg or listen to a free audio version on Librivox. “Afterward” and “The Eyes” are some of her most discussed stories, so try starting there.