The Legacy of Ghost Hunter Fiction is a bibliography (with links to online copies) of 1800s/early 1900s fiction dealing with ghost hunter characters. Some of the characters are skeptics, hoping to debunk a haunting. Sometimes they succeed, and sometimes they are frightened into rethinking their disbelief. Some of the characters are believers. Sometimes they find something a lot worse than they expected. Not all of the characters survive the ghost hunt.
It’s interesting to see the many twists and turns taken by writers contributing to this “forgotten” genre, and I just added another story. It’s “For Baby’s Sake,” by L. Knatchbull Hugessen, and it was published in Cassell’s in 1872. It features an anonymous narrator who’s one of the very rare female ghost-hunter characters — and I might be pushing the definition of “ghost hunter” here. Unlike many of the characters, she’s not particularly invested in proving or disproving the existence of phantoms. Instead, she’s motivated by providing for her fatherless baby. You see, if she’s able to spend a full month in haunted Fargate House, she’ll earn £10,000.
Unfortunately, the spooky residents of Fargate House prove to be real. And really dangerous! Well, at least, they’re real to the ghost hunter. More unfortunately, Hugessen’s story is framed in a way that leaves things ambiguous in regard to whether those phantoms haunt the house or the narrator’s head. That’s not a spoiler. The possibility is established right in the first few paragraphs.
“For Baby’s Sake” is a curious story with some unsettling images. Instead of enduring entertainment value, however, I found the tale to be more interesting for bucking the trend and featuring a female ghost hunter. You can decide for yourself by scrolling down to 1872 on The Legacy of Ghost Hunter Fiction page.