This is a work-in-progress. Stop by in the coming months to find more information. Feel free to suggest additional works, but they must have been first published before 1925 and feature fictional characters hunting for ghosts. For a tentative definition of “ghost hunter fiction,” click here.
Madame Deshoulieres investigates a room in the anonymous “Madame Deshoulieres, French Poetess,” published in The Literary Gazette (No. 46, Dec. 6, 1817, pp. 363-64). Skeptical Deshoulieres insists on sleeping in her host and hostess’s haunted bedroom, where she finds an unexpected cause of the nightly visitations. In that Deshoulieres was a real person, the fictional status of this piece is debatable.
Mr. Henley investigates a room in Rebecca Edridge’s “The Haunted Castle,” first published in The Scrinium (Vol. 1. London: G. & W.B. Whittaker, 1822, pp. 305-18). Henley reluctantly agrees to sleep in a castle’s “dreaded chamber,” but the strange events he witnesses there then spur him to solve the ghostly mystery. Since this character exhibits such hesitation in sleeping in the haunted room, he does not fit my guiding definition of a ghost hunter. Still, he provides an excellent contrast to characters such as Madame Deshoulieres above or those below, thereby illustrating how they are ghost hunters.
Dolph Heyliger investigates a house in Washington Irving’s “Dolph Heyliger,” first published in in Bracebridge Hall (London: John Murray, 1822; New York: C.S. Van Winkle, 1822). To appease his boss and to satisfy his own interest in the supernatural, Heyliger spends a few nights at a house alleged to be haunted, where a curious dream forecasts his adventurous future.
The stranger investigates a room the anonymous “The Haunted Chamber,” first published in The Waste Book (1.1 [Feb., 1823] pp. 23-32). The ghost of a barber is said to haunt a room at an early American inn, a notion scoffed at by a traveling stranger, who then investigates the legend. For a discussion of this and subsequent variations, read this post.
An unnamed speaker investigates a room in the anonymous “The Haunted Chamber: A Poetical Epistle from a Young Gentleman in the Country to His Brother in London – Founded on Fact,” first published in The Kaleidoscope (5.211 [Jul. 13, 1824] p. 12). A rhyming, slightly naughty retelling of Rebecca Edridge’s “The Haunted Castle” (1822).
Cuthbert Forster investigates a house in Charles May’s “The Haunted House,” first published in The Pocket (2.6 [Dec, 1831] pp. 253-259). A skeptical soldier, stationed in Ireland, discovers that a local mansion might be left untenanted for good reason. (Read B.M. Croker’s “Number Ninety,” from 1895, for an interesting retelling of this tale.)
An unnamed character investigates a cemetery in Samuel L. Knapp’s “The Spectre Beauty,” first published in The Bachelors, and Other Tales, Founded on American Incidents and Characters (New York: J. and W. Sandford, 1836, pp. 165-80). A divinity student spends the night in a graveyard to confirm or disprove reports of a ghost there in this tale that offers plenty of history on believing in ghosts along with a sermon on the subject.
An unnamed narrator investigates a crypt in the anonymous “The Vault of L—,” first published in The Dublin University Magazine (7.38 [Feb., 1836] pp. 144-49). An especially determined ghost hunter witnesses a scene more ghastly than ghostly.
Tom Ingoldsby investigates a room in Richard Harris Barham’s “The Spectre of Tappington,” first published in Bentley’s Miscellany (1.2 [Feb., 1837] pp. 191-207). Determined to discover if it’s really a ghost that’s stealing Charles Seaforth’s pants, Ingoldsby stakes out the legend-haunted room in which the victim has been sleeping. This comical tale is among the earliest works I’ve found to use the term “ghost hunter.”
Ferdinand Huwald investigates a room in the anonymous “The Silver Lady,” first published in The Keepsake (London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838, pp. 159-92). In search of a livelihood, Huwald has a dream that leads him to employment at a house with a strange history and a foreboding yet intriguing room.
Midas Oldwyche investigates a house in the anonymous “A Night in a Haunted House,” first published in The Dublin University Magazine (185.31 [May, 1848] pp. 553-70). After hearing a clergyman’s account of having lived at a haunted house, Oldwyche arranges to stay at the place and see if he can explain the mystery without resorting to the supernatural.
John Basford investigates a room in William Howitt’s “The Haunted House in Charnwood Forest,” first published in The Country Year-Book; or, The Field, The Forest, and the Fireside (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1850, pp. 343-53). Basford, a Quaker, faces a moral dilemma after probing the mystery of an allegedly haunted room at a farmhouse.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Henry S. Doane’s “Shot through the Heart: A Tale of Boston,” first published in Ballou’s Dollar Monthy (1.5 [May, 1855] pp. 421-30). The sentimental far outweighs the supernatural as a boy and his friends look into reports of strange sightings at a house reputed to be haunted, only to stumble upon a stormy romance.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in William S. Lawrence’s “The Dark House,” first published in Ballou’s Dollar Monthly (10.4 [Oct., 1859] pp. 361-67). A medical student inherits a Virginia house reputed to be haunted. Two ghost hunters meet mysterious fates before the narrator finally unravels the haunting. (Lawrence’s depiction of a witness reflects the era’s racism.)
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s “The Haunted and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain,” first published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (86.526 [Aug., 1859] pp. 224-45). A friend’s experience at a haunted house in the middle of London inspires the narrator to probe its mysteries — and to unveil an evil far worse than ghosts.
Lance Walters investigates a room in Emerson Bennett’s “The Haunted House,” first published in Wild Scenes on the Frontiers; or, Heroes of the West (Philadelphia: Hamelin, 1859, pp. 269-84). A frontiersman known for his unwavering bravery visits Alabama, where he agrees to spend the night in a haunted room — and there, he learns what fear is.
A. Wynter Knight investigates a house in the anonymous “Midnight at Marshland Grange,” first published in Once a Week (9.230 [Nov. 21, 1863] pp. 597-601). As the character’s name suggests, this is a comical tale about the secretary of the Supernatural Investigation Society going on a ghost hunt with a man seemingly misplaced in time.
Berrington investigates a house in M.A. Bird’s “The Haunted House,” first published in Spell-Bound (London: John Maxwell, 1865, pp. 72-99). Ghostly and temporal mysteries mingle after Berrington leaves his friend at an inn to see what’s what at the house said to be haunted.
An unnamed narrator investigates a room in the anonymous “The Ghost of Stanton Hall,” first published in New Monthly (142.565 [Jan., 1868] pp. 86-102). An antiquarian is as interested in reports of a ghost as he is in old records when visiting a castle — but his courage wavers after he hears the story behind Stanton Hall’s haunted room.
Robert Pritchard investigates a cabin in Samuel Williams’ “Hu Hirwan’s Ghost,” first published in Overland Monthly (2.1 [Jan., 1869] pp. 83-96). After a series of disappointing ghost hunts across Wales, Pritchard finds terrible success in the title spirit’s cabin.
Madge Weston and Jenny Floyd investigate a house in Margaret Hosmer’s “A Ghost Hunt,” first published in The Lady’s Friend (6.5 [May, 1869] pp. 360-65). On the day of Madge’s poetry recitation, she and Jenny learn that ghost hunting can be a dirty, muddy, and even bloody business.
Paul Dover and Lawrence Burt investigate a house in Stanley Curtis’s “The Ghost of Perley Hall,” first published in Ballou’s Monthly (30.2 [Aug., 1869] pp. 150-58). Two seminary students, seeking adventure, explore Perley Hall for alleged phantoms and stumble upon a different mystery.
Phil Glossop investigates a tower in the anonymous “The Haunted Tower of Silvery,” first published in Boys of England (7.161 Christmas Supplement [Dec.13, 1869] pp. 10-13). To win a box of cigars, Glossop endures a night not quite alone in the title tower.
Maggie and Maud Eaton, Robert Norman, Guy Halifax, and others investigate a house in the anonymous “The Haunted House,” first published in The Ladies’ Treasury and Treasury of Literature (8.2 [Feb., 1870] pp. 52-55). When Maggie inspires a jolly group to spend the night in reputedly haunted Leslie House, the lark turns tragic.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Arthur L. Meserve’s “The Haunted House at Wicklow,” first published in Ballou’s Monthly 31.3 [March, 1870] pp. 269-75. The narrator investigates a house where a bloodstain resumes its red color when ghosts walk. He quickly learns that paint accounts for the color — but who painted it?
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Maurice Davies’ “A Night in a Ghost-Chamber,” first published in Belgravia (Vol. 19 [Jan., 1873] pp. 377-85). The narrator, accompanied by four colleagues and a dog, learns that even an unassuming, working-class residence can evoke a chilling reaction if it’s thought to be haunted.
Vaughn Noble and Alf Trafford investigate a house in “The Midnight Lady,” first published in Frank Leslie’s Pleasant Hours (17.2 [Sep., 1874], pp. 101-06). Before Vaughn and his sister move into Owlswood Mansion, he and a friend hold a midnight vigil to quell the rumors that it’s haunted. Despite an appearance of the titular figure, the adventure leads to a conventional solution.
Ned investigates a room in E.W.P.’s “Uncle Bob’s Haunted Room,” first published in Bow Bells (20.494 New Series [Jan. 21, 1874] p.18). For permission to marry his cousin, a skeptic agrees to sleep in his uncle’s room and to solve the riddle of its haunted reputation.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Henry James’ “The Haunted Rental,” first published in Scribner’s (12.5 [Sep., 1876] pp. 664-79). While on a walk, a divinity student is intrigued by a house he discovers and comes to learn the guilty secrets that haunt it.
Superintendent Pryse and Captain Glyn investigate a bridge in Anne Beale’s “Mad Mattie,” first published in Argosy (29.6 [June, 1880] pp. 458-65). Gwynant Bridge is said to be haunted. Glyn thinks it might be while Pryse is doubtful. Only one of them can be right.
Lady Julia Spinner investigates a house in the anonymous “Wanted–An Explanation,” first published in four parts in Household Words (Chapters 1 and 2 in 1.6 [June 4, 1881] pp. 104-06; Chapters 3 and 4 in 1.7 [June 11, 1881] pp. 124-27; Chapters 5 and 6 in 1.8 [June 18, 1881] pp. 143-47; and Chapters 7 and 8 in 1.9 [June 25, 1881] pp. 164-66). Lady Julia investigates Hunt House, reported to be plagued by someone — or something — that lures young wives to madness and, sometimes, to their deaths.
An anonymous narrator and Mr. Yule investigate a house in Julian Hawthorne’s “The House Behind the Trees,” first published in Our Continent (1.3 [Mar. 1, 1882] p. 38). Intrigued by the supernatural, two men explore a house where a terrible murder is alleged to have taken place. After Mr. Yule recounts that crime, the pair hear what sounds like a spectral recreation of it.
Theophilus “Phil” Edlyd investigates a house in Mrs. J. H. Riddell’s “The Open Door,” first published in Weird Stories (London: J. Hogg, 1882, pp. 48-103). Financially strapped, the career-challenged Edlyd agrees to become a ghost hunter.
Father Ambrosio Martinez investigates a house in Eliot Ryder’s “The Mystery of the Cathedral of Chihauhau,” first published in Ballou’s Monthly (56.5 [Nov., 1882] pp. 461-65. An unnamed narrator records Martinez’s narrative of a case that involves ghostly footprints, a terror-striken assistant, an ill-fated dog, a formless figure with eyes, and other elements blatantly plagiarized from Edward Buwler-Lytton’s “The Haunted and the Haunters; or, The House and the Brain.” (See 1859 above.)
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Angelo J. Lewis’s “My Only Ghost,” first published in Mayfair (No. 3 [Feb., 1884] pp. 289-300). The narrator encounters a hungry yet congenial “Presence” in this comical tale.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in George Downing Sparks’ “The House on the Corner,” first published in The Australian Journal (23.272 [Jan., 1888] pp. 243-44). A traveler excitedly accepts the chance to sleep in a haunted house — despite his cousin’s warnings.
Henry Saylor investigates a house in Ambrose Bierce’s “An Assignment,” first published in the San Francisco Examiner (June 24, 1888). It was later re-titled “A Fruitless Assignment.” Saylor, an investigative reporter, has very strange experiences after being assigned to spend the night at the house on Vine Street.
Graham, Davis, and Scrope investigate a house in the anonymous “The Ghost of Merveil Hatch,” first published in Pick Me Up (1.7 [Nov. 17, 1888] pp. 80-81). Two believers and a skeptic spend Christmas in a reputedly haunted house, where they encounter an improbable being.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in the anonymous “The Haunted House: An American Sketch,” first published in Guersey (18.4 [April, 1890] n.pag.). Two brothers, home from college, figure out why a house in Derby, New York, is reported to have more than its usual share of unearthly visitations in this fortunately short sketch.
Tim McCarthy investigates a castle in E.J. Goodman’s “The Haunted Ghost,” first published in Atalanta (4.45 [June, 1891] pp. 576-81). To help his colonel (while earning fifty pounds towards getting married) Tim braves the warrior specter of Ballykillin Castle — and devises a clever way to evict it.
Tom Whitman and Bill investigate a house in A.E. Benson’s “How We Routed the Ghosts,” first published in Harvard Advocate (51.1 [Mar. 13, 1891] pp. 4-6). There’s a whiff of Scooby-Doo in this light adventure about two college boys who go ghost hunting in a property owned by Whitman’s brother.
Peter Van Voort investigates a house in T.R. Sullivan’s “Under Cover of the Darkness,” first published in Scribner’s (13.6 [June, 1893] pp. 716-28). Washington Irving meets Edgar Allan Poe as the lovelorn Van Voort, visiting rural New York, discovers a dark secret after he agrees to spend a night in a weird house said to haunted.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Ralph Adams Cram’s “No. 252 Rue M. le Prince,” first published in Black Spirits and White: A Book of Ghost Stories (Chicago: Stone & Kimball, 1895, pp. 3-30). Four men explore a odd house that belonged to a woman who practiced the dark arts.
John Hollyoak investigates a house in B.M. Croker’s “Number Ninety,” first published in Chapman’s (Vol. 2, Christmas Number [Dec., 1895] pp. 442-51). Challenged to spend the night in a house with a notorious reputation for being haunted, the skeptical Hollyoak encounters several strange inhabitants on his first night — and then returns for a second. (This tale has interesting parallels to Charles May’s “The Haunted House” from 1831.)
Otto von Kleist and Rupert investigate a castle in Ralph Adams Cram’s “In Kropfsberg Keep,” first published in Black Spirits and White: A Book of Ghost Stories (Chicago: Stone & Kimball, 1895, pp. 33-52). Two brash young travelers decide to disprove the ghostly tales surrounding a castle in Germany.
An unnamed narrator investigates a room in H.G. Wells’ “The Red Room,” first published in The Idler (9.2 [Mar., 1896] pp. 290-95). A ghost hunter finds something worse than a ghost in the title room.
Colonel Vansittart and Stanley investigate a room in Ivy Hooper’s “The Baron’s Room,” first published in Lucifer (17.102 [Feb. 15, 1896] pp. 490-97). The Colonel declines an invitation to sleep in a haunted room, explaining why by recounting his experience of having done so once before.
Miss Erristoun and Mr. Calder-Maxwell investigate a room in Lettice Galbraith’s “The Blue Room,” first published in McMillan’s (76 [Oct., 1897] pp. 467-80). To debunk its rumors about ghosts, Erristoun and Calder-Maxwell take turns sleeping in the Blue Room in this story exploring the fear of female sexuality.
Dr. Hardarce investigates a laboratory in Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Brown Hand,” first published in The Strand (17.101 [May, 1899] pp. 499-508). The doctor’s uncle claims that the ghost of a man whose hand the uncle had amputated has followed him from India to England.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in John Swinton’s “The Ghost that He Saw,” first published in The Independent (53 [Dec.5, 1901] pp. 2892-95.) Poor plotting, a disappointing conclusion, and the era’s racism mar this tale about a boarder who offers to prove that ghosts don’t exit in a South Carolina house where, long ago, a slave-trader murdered his wife.
John Holcomb and Wilson Merle investigate a house in Ambrose Bierce’s “At Old Man Eckert’s,” first published in the San Francisco Examiner (Nov. 17, 1901). After the disappearance of Mr. Eckert, rumors of supernatural manifestations surround the house he left behind, so a small team of the townspeople look into the matter.
An unnamed narrator and “the ghost hunter” investigate a town in Francis Tracey Moreland’s “Grimbyville’s Last Boom,” first published in Argosy (40.4 [Nov., 1902] pp. 692-98). A reporter and amateur ghost hunter look into reports of an ever-growing ghost baffling — yet benefiting — the rural town of Grimbyville in this comical tale.
Darby and Joan investigate a mill in Josephine Dodge Daskam’s “The Maid of the Mill,” first published in Whom the Gods Destroyed (New York: Charles Scribner’s, 1902, pp. 191-217). A complaint about ghost stories in which the screams of the haunted party go unheard prompts a stranger to tell a tale showing that, sometimes, the haunted party is unable to scream at all.
Charlton investigates a room in A.M.H.’s “The Unexpected,” first published in The Pastoralists’ Review (13.7 [Sep. 16, 1903] pp. 505-06). On the Australian plain, a pistol-packing ghost hunter confronts what seems to be a bullet-proof phantom.
J.H. Armstrong investigates a house in L.C. Burden’s “The Secret of Hatfield House,” first published in Wide World (16.96 [Mar., 1906] pp. 573-79). A skeptical surveyor accepts the challenge of unraveling the mystery of Hatfield House in a tale that echoes ghost hunter fiction as old as Rebecca Edridge’s “The Haunted Castle” (1822). Though presented as non-fiction, this work’s fictional status is suggested by its timeworn solution to the mystery and the dubious graphics (of both Armstrong and Hatfield House, the latter mismatched with the description in the text).
Dr. Lascelles investigates a room in Fergus Hume’s “The Ghost’s Touch,” first published in The Dancer in Red and Other Tales (London: Digby, Long, 1906, pp. 151-83). A fairly predictable story of a doctor, invited to spend Christmas at Ringshaw Grange, being intrigued by a bedroom said to be haunted by a vengeful and deadly ghost.
Phil and Tom McIvor investigate a castle in Singleton Carew’s “The House of Fear,” first published in Novel (2.10 [Jan., 1906] pp. 501-08). Two boys spending their summer on an island in the Hebrides discover a castles reputed to haunted, but their investigation suggests otherwise when they find the place booby-trapped.
Jim Shorthouse and his aunt Julia investigate a house in Algernon Blackwood’s “The Empty House,” first published in The Empty House and Other Stories (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1906). Shorthouse must manage his own fear as well as that of his aunt after she ropes him into exploring a neighborhood house with a sinister reputation.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in Algernon Blackwood’s “The Woman’s Ghost Story,” first published in The Listener and Other Stories (London: Eveleigh Nash, 1907, pp. 337-50; New York: Alfred Knopf, 1917, pp. 337-50). One of the very few female ghost hunters — albeit, a decidedly male author’s female ghost hunter — overcomes her fear to help a haunted ghost.
Douglas investigates a house in Harris Symmes’ “In the Hands of Fear,” first published in The Scrap Book (4.1 [July, 1907] pp. 63-66). Pressured into spending the night in a house alleged to be haunted, the skeptical Douglas learns how fear can mislead a man.
Lester, White, Meagle, and Jack Barnes investigate a house in W.W. Jacobs’ “The Toll-House,” first published in Sailors’ Knots (New York: McKinlay, Stone & Mackenzie, 1909, pp. 147-66). Sharing a walking holiday, four men test the truthfulness of tales about a haunted house that takes a life as its toll when people stay there.
“Mr. Perseus” investigates a room in Rudyard Kipling’s “The House Surgeon,” first published in Harper’s Magazine in two parts (119.712 [Sept., 1909] pp. 489-97; and 119.713 [Oct., 1909] pp. 720-26). It’s not a ghost so much as the weight of psychological depression that weighs anyone staying in a mansion called Holmescroft.
An unnamed narrator investigates a house in C. Ashton Smith’s “The Ghost of Mohammed Din,” first published in Overland (56.2 [Nov., 1910] pp. 519-22). In India, a skeptic is challenged to spend a night in the bungalow of a murdered merchant, where the victim’s ghost is said to linger.
Mr. Addison investigates a house in Sax Rohmer’s “The Haunting of Low Fennel,” first published in The Haunting of Low Fennel (London: Pearson, 1920, pp. 11-60). Major Dale calls upon Addison to explain a curious, “influential” vapor that takes an almost human shape in his house, Low Fennel.