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Australian Horror History

Australia has a relatively short history in regards to the ‘horror' story, with the first ghost story only being published in 1836.

Even still, over the course of that ~170 years, many grim tales can be found. All it takes is a little bit of research...

Below are listed books/articles on Australian colonial horror and well as some recommended Australian horror/dark fiction stories published up to around 1950.

This is by no means a concise bibliography, but it should provide the interested reader with a useful starting point for exploring Australia's dark past, and give an insight into the fears and terrors of society at the times of publication. The list will be added to constantly (and for that we welcome your involvement).

If you have any questions or would like to offer comments or helpful information regarding old Australian horror story, please contact our Horror Historian James Doig on


  • Australia's Dark Past, regular column by James Doig (Black magazine)
  • Macabre: A Journey through Australia's Darkest Fears, edited by Angela Challis and Dr. Marty Young (Brimstone Press, forthcoming, 2009)
  • Australian Nightmare: More Australian Tales of Terror and the Supernatural, edited by James Doig (Equilibrium Books, 2008)
  • Colonial Ghosts and Modern Terrors: An Overview of Australian Horror Fiction, by Marty Young (Reading Down Under: Australian Literary Studies Reader, edited by Amit Sarwal and Reema Sarwal. New Delhi: Forthcoming 2008)
  • A Bibliography of Australian Fantastic Literature to c.1960, by James Doig (Australian Studies in Weird Fiction (Equilibrium Books)
  • Australian Gothic: An Anthology of Australian Supernatural Fiction, edited by James Doig (Equilibrium Books, 2007)
  • The Anthology of Colonial Australian Gothic Fiction, edited by Ken Gelder and Rachael Weaver (Melbourne University Press, 2007)
  • The Hunt for Australian Horror Fiction, by Bill Congreve, Sean McMullen, and Steven Paulsen (The Scream Factory #16, 1995)
  • The Oxford Book of Australian Ghost Stories, edited by Ken Gelder (Oxford University Press, 1994)
  • Australian Horror Stories, edited by Bill Wannan (Currey O'Neil, 1983)
  • Australian Stories of Horror and Suspense from the Early Days, edited by Gordon Neil Stewart (Australasian Book Society, 1978)


(SS = short story; N = novel) 

Fisher's Ghost: A Legend of Campbelltown by John Lang (Tegg's Magazine, 1836) - SS
     - This is the first published ‘horror' story written by an Australian. Lang wrote several different versions of Fisher's Ghost

The White Maniac: A Doctor's Tale by Waif Wander (aka Mary Fortune) (The Australian Journal vol.2 no.98, 1867) - SS
     - Mary Fortune was a prolific crime writer, one of the first female crime writers in the world. She also wrote several supernatural stories (eg, The Little Chap (The Australian Journal vol.30 no.356, 1895) and The Illumined Grave (The Australian Journal vol.3 no.111, 1867), often writing under the pseudonyms W.W. and Waif Wander

Hunted Down (aka The Haunted Author) by Marcus Clarke (The Australasian 6 May, 1871) - SS
     - Clarke wrote several other supernatural stories, including Human Repetends (The Australasian, 14 September, 1872), and Holiday Peak (The Australasian January, 1873)

The Goblin by Old Boomerang (aka John Richard Houlding) (Serialised in The Sydney Mail in three parts: 11 November 1871, 18 November 1871 and 25 November 1871) - SS

The Torture of the Clock by Lionel Sparrow (The Australian Journal vol.23 no.272, 1888) - SS
     - Lionel Sparrow wrote many horror stories, including The House in the Suburb (The Australian Journal vol.27 no.317, 1891), and In the North Wing (The Australian Journal vol.23 no.273, 1888)

Phosphor: an Ischian mystery by J. Filmore Sherry (Centennial Publishing Co., 1888) - N
     - A very rare but very strange novel about a man who ends up in a subterranean kingdom of bizarre prehistoric creatures and anthropoids who are both Latin-speaking and phosphorescent.  

The Bunyip by Rosa Campbell Praed (Coo-Ee: Tales of Australian Life by Australian Ladies, 1891) - SS

The Devil of the Marsh by HB Mariott-Watson (Diogenes of London and Other Fantasies, 1893) - SS
     - Mariott-Watson wrote several supernatural/horror tales, including the popular The Stone Chamber (1899)

A Haunt of the Jinkarras: A Fearsome Story of Central Australia by Ernest Favenc (The Last of Six: Tales of the Austral Tropics, 1893) - SS
     - Ernest Favenc wrote numerous horror stories, including Spirit-Led (also from the same collection) and The Land of the Unseen (Phil May's Annual (Winter) 14, 1902)

The Revenge of Macy O'Shea by Louis Becke (By Reef and Palm, 1894) - SS

The Haunted Station by Hume Nisbet (The Haunted Station and Other Stories, 1894) - SS
     - Hume Nisbet wrote numerous horror stories, including The Vampire Maid, and The Old Portrait, both from Stories Weird and Wonderful (1900)

The Secret Society of the Ring by Price Warung (Tales of the Early Days, 1894) - SS

The Red Cap Spectre of the Robertson by E. Downs (The North Queensland Register, 23 December, 1896) - SS
     - This is the first Australian short story to contain the ghost of an Aborigine

The Conquering Bush by Edward Dyson (Below and On Top, 1898) - SS
     - Dyson wrote several other horror stories, including The Trucker's Dream (from the same collection), and After the Accident (The Bulletin vol.16 no.821, 1895)

The Ghostly Door by Henry Lawson (Joe Wilson and his Mates, 1901) - SS
     - Lawson wrote several supernatural and horror tales, including The Bush Undertaker (Short Stories in Prose and Verse, 1894)

The Chosen Vessel by Barbara Baynton (Bush Studies, 1902) - SS
     - Bush Studies contains a number of horror stories, including A Dreamer, and Scrammy ‘and

A Strange Goldfield by Guy Boothby (The Lady of the Island, 1904) - SS
     - A prolific writer of novels and short stories, many with supernatural content

Dr. Grahame's Great Experiment by Arthur Bayldon (The Tragedy Behind the Curtain and Other Stories, 1910) - SS

Yara Ma Tha Who by David Unaipon, 1923 - SS
     - Australia's first indiginous writer of speculative fiction

The Devil's Ball by Dulcie Deamer (Vision: A Literary Quarterly, no.3 November, 1923) - SS
     - Another author who wrote several horror stories worth hunting down

The Gland Men of the Island by Max Afford (Wonder Stories, January, 1931) - SS

Giant Killer by Arthur Bertram Chandler (Astounding Science Fiction vol.36 no.2 October, 1945) - SS

And Not in Peace by George Whitley (aka Arthur Bertram Chandler) (Famous Fantastic Mysteries vol.8 no. 2, 1946) - SS
     - A. Bertram Chandler was a multi-award winning author who wrote many horror/dark science fiction short stories and novels

The Curse and the Fear by Jack McLaren (Stories of Fear, 1946) - SS

The Evil Sickness by Wolf Herscholt (aka Gordon Clive Bleeck) (Lightning Crime, by Belli Luigi, 1949) - SS
     - Gordon Clive Bleeck was a hugely prolific writer. He wrote many horror/science fiction/crime stories, for example Thought Thief (Thrills Incorporated vol.4, June, 1950) and Insectant Invasion (Thrills Incorporated vol.17, November, 1951), and often wrote under numerous pseudonyms.

Murder in Tomorrow by Roger Gerradine (aka Carter Brown) (Thrills Incorporated vol.6 August, 1950) - SS

Blinded They Fly: A Fantasy by Vol Molesworth (Futurian Press, 1951) - SS

Let There Be Monsters! By Vol Molesworth (Futurian Press, 1952) (originally appeared as a short story in Woomera no.1 February, 1951) - N