Gertrude Atherton was born in California in 1857. She wrote extensively during her lifetime, producing novels (one of which was adapted into a silent film), short stories, essays and magazine articles. She never shied away from expressing her opinion on such controversial subjects as politics and feminism in an age when it was uncommon for a woman to do so. Here we will take a look at some of her macabre stories.

1. “The Caves of Death” (1886) – A sleeping woman watches thousands of spectral hearses driving into a cave on Christmas Eve. Following them inside, she witnesses despondent spirits suffering fates brought upon themselves by choices made during they lifetime.

2. “The Striding Place” (1895) – A man goes out searching for his best friend who’s gone missing. The search takes him to a dangerous waterfall in the forest called The Strid from which many have fallen and drowned. There he discovers something most terrifying. This story is made by its surreal final line and contains fascinating speculations as to what would happen to a spirit traveling free from its body if it couldn’t find its way back.

3. “The Greatest Good of the Greatest Number” (1905) – A doctor wrestles with the dilemma of allowing the drug addicted wife of a prominent friend to die under his care, knowing that her passing would vastly improve the lives of his friend, their children, and the woman the husband would marry if his wife were gone.

4. “The Bell in the Fog” (1905) – A semi-famous author buys an English estate after inheriting a fortune from a deceased aunt. This lonely man becomes obsessed with the portrait of a young boy and girl in the manor’s gallery. He’s so inspired by these children that he begins envisioning them as his own and writes a novel about them which is later hailed as a masterpiece. One day he encounters a girl near his house that’s the spitting image of the girl in the picture. Instantly taking a keen interest in her, he lavishes her with gifts and time spent with her, but there’s something odd about the girl. She seems to know things she shouldn’t and is able to get anyone she meets to immediately adore her. This story is filled with hints that there is something supernatural about the girl. Is she perhaps the reincarnation of a former young woman who used to live in the house?

Article by Matt Cowan

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