Gothic fiction or the gothic novel is a literary genre of fantasy, the mid-18th century in England originated and flourished in the early 19th century.
In the guise of the horror novel, English literature at the end of the eighteenth century resumed the supernatural and unconventional superseded by the rationality of the Enlightenment. At the same time, the horror became a deliberately created aesthetic commodity that sold well. The compilation was done according to rules based on Burke’s theory of the sublime and literary models such as the Jacobean drama or the medieval romance.
Notable English 20th-century writers in the Gothic tradition include Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson, M. R. James, Hugh Walpole, and Marjorie Bowen. In America pulp magazines such as Weird Tales reprinted classic Gothic horror tales from the previous century, by such authors as Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Edward Bulwer-Lytton and printed new stories by modern authors featuring both traditional and new horrors. The most significant of these was H. P. Lovecraft who also wrote a conspectus of the Gothic and supernatural horror tradition in his Supernatural Horror in Literature (1936) as well as developing a Mythos that would influence Gothic and contemporary horror well into the 21st century. Lovecraft’s protégé, Robert Bloch, contributed to Weird Tales and penned Psycho (1959), which drew on the classic interests of the genre. From these, the Gothic genre per se gave way to modern horror fiction, regarded by some literary critics as a branch of the Gothic although others use the term to cover the entire genre.
New Gothic Romances
Gothic Romances of this description became popular during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, with authors such as Phyllis A. Whitney, Joan Aiken, Dorothy Eden, Victoria Holt, Barbara Michaels, Mary Stewart, and Jill Tattersall. Many featured covers depicting a terror-stricken woman in diaphanous attire in front of a gloomy castle, often with a single lit window. Many were published under the Paperback Library Gothic imprint and were marketed to a female audience. Though the authors were mostly women, some men wrote Gothic romances under female pseudonyms. For instance the prolific Clarissa Ross and Marilyn Ross were pseudonyms for the male writer Dan Ross, and Frank Belknap Long published Gothics under his wife’s name, Lyda Belknap Long. Another example is British writer Peter O’Donnell, who wrote under the pseudonym Madeleine Brent. Outside of companies like Lovespell, who carry Colleen Shannon, very few books seem to be published using the term today.
The genre also influenced American writing to create the Southern Gothic genre, which combines some Gothic sensibilities (such as the grotesque) with the setting and style of the Southern United States. Examples include William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, Davis Grubb, Anne Rice and Harper Lee.
Other contemporary Gothic
Contemporary American writers in this tradition include Joyce Carol Oates, in such novels as Bellefleur and A Bloodsmoor Romance and short story collections such as Night-Side (Skarda 1986b) and Raymond Kennedy in his novel Lulu Incognito.
The Southern Ontario Gothic applies a similar sensibility to a Canadian cultural context. Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, Barbara Gowdy, Timothy Findley and Margaret Atwood have all produced works that are notable exemplars of this form.
Another writer in this tradition was Henry Farrell, whose best-known work was the 1960 Hollywood horror novel What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Farrell’s novels spawned a subgenre of “Grande Dame Guignol” in the cinema, represented by such films as the 1962 film based on Farrell’s novel, which starred Bette Davis versus Joan Crawford; this subgenre of films was dubbed the “psycho-biddy” genre.
Many modern writers of horror (or indeed other types of fiction) exhibit considerable Gothic sensibilities—examples include the works of Anne Rice, Stella Coulson, Susan Hill, Poppy Z. Brite and Neil Gaiman as well as some of the sensationalist works of Stephen King Thomas M. Disch’s novel The Priest (1994) was subtitled A Gothic Romance, and was partly modelled on Matthew Lewis’ The Monk. Many of these writers, such as Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen King and particularly Clive Barker have focused on the surface of the body and the visuality of blood. The Romantic strand of Gothic was taken up in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) which is considered by some to be influenced by Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Other books by du Maurier, such as Jamaica Inn (1936), also display Gothic tendencies. Du Maurier’s work inspired a substantial body of “female Gothics”, concerning heroines alternately swooning over or being terrified by scowling Byronic men in possession of acres of prime real estate and the appertaining droit du seigneur.
Educators in literary, cultural, and architectural studies appreciate the Gothic as an area that facilitates the investigation of the beginnings of scientific certainty. As Carol Senf has stated, “the Gothic was (…) a counterbalance produced by writers and thinkers who felt limited by such a confident worldview and recognized that the power of the past, the irrational, and the violent continue to hold sway in the world.” As such, the Gothic helps students better understand their own doubts about the self-assurance of today’s scientists. Scotland is the location of what was probably the world´s first postgraduate program to exclusively consider the genre: the MLitt in the Gothic Imagination at the University of Stirling, which first recruited in 1996.
The themes of the literary Gothic have been translated into other media. The early 1970s saw a Gothic Romance comic book mini-trend with such titles as DC Comics’ The Dark Mansion Of Forbidden Love and The Sinister House of Secret Love, Charlton Comics’ Haunted Love, Curtis Magazines’ Gothic Tales of Love, and Atlas/Seaboard Comics’ one-shot magazine Gothic Romances.
There was a notable revival in 20th-century Gothic horror films such the classic Universal monsters films of the 1930s, Hammer Horror films, and Roger Corman’s Poe cycle. In Hindi cinema, the Gothic tradition was combined with aspects of Indian culture, particularly reincarnation, to give rise to an “Indian Gothic” genre, beginning with the films Mahal (1949) and Madhumati (1958). Modern Gothic horror films include Sleepy Hollow, Interview with the Vampire, Underworld, The Wolfman, From Hell, Dorian Gray, Let The Right One In, The Woman in Black, and Crimson Peak.
The 1960s Gothic television series Dark Shadows borrowed liberally from the Gothic tradition and featured elements such as haunted mansions, vampires, witches, doomed romances, werewolves, obsession, and madness.
The Showtime TV series Penny Dreadful brings many classic gothic characters together in a psychological thriller that takes place in the dark corners of Victorian London (2014 debut).
20th-century rock music also had its Gothic side. Black Sabbath’s 1969 debut album created a dark sound different from other bands at the time and has been called the first ever “Goth-rock” record. Themes from Gothic writers such as H. P. Lovecraft were also used among gothic rock and heavy metal bands, especially in black metal, thrash metal (Metallica’s The Call of Ktulu), death metal, and gothic metal. For example, heavy metal musician King Diamond delights in telling stories full of horror, theatricality, satanism and anti-Catholicism in his compositions.
Various video games feature Gothic horror themes and plots. For example, the Castlevania series typically involves a hero of the Belmont lineage exploring a dark, old castle, fighting vampires, werewolves, Frankenstein’s monster, and other Gothic monster staples, culminating in a battle against Dracula himself. Others, such as Ghosts’n Goblins feature a campier parody of Gothic fiction.
In role-playing games (RPG), the pioneering 1983 Dungeons & Dragons adventure Ravenloft instructs the players to defeat the vampire Strahd von Zarovich, who pines for his dead lover. It has been acclaimed as one of the best role-playing adventures of all time, and even inspired an entire fictional world of the same name. “World of Darkness” is another RPG set in the real world, with the added element of the existence of a multitude of supernatural creatures such as the Werewolf, Vampire, and others. It contains sub-games, allowing you to play as a human, or as one of the inhuman creatures in the setting.
Elements of Gothic fiction
Virginal maiden – young, beautiful, pure, innocent, kind, virtuous and sensitive. Usually starts out with a mysterious past and it is later revealed that she is the daughter of an aristocratic or noble family.
Matilda in The Castle of Otranto – She is determined to give up Theodore, the love of her life, for her cousin’s sake. Matilda always puts others first before herself, and always believes the best in others.
Adeline in The Romance of the Forest – “Her wicked Marquis, having secretly immured Number One (his first wife), has now a new and beautiful wife, whose character, alas! Does not bear inspection.” As this review states, the virginal maiden character is above inspection because her personality is flawless. Hers is a virtuous character whose piety and unflinching optimism cause all to fall in love with her.
Older, foolish woman
Hippolita in The Castle of Otranto – Hippolita is depicted as the obedient wife of her tyrant husband who “would not only acquiesce with patience to divorce, but would obey, if it was his pleasure, in endeavouring to persuade Isabelle to give him her hand”. This shows how weak women are portrayed as they are completely submissive, and in Hippolita’s case, even support polygamy at the expense of her own marriage.
Madame LaMotte in The Romance of the Forest – naively assumes that her husband is having an affair with Adeline. Instead of addressing the situation directly, she foolishly lets her ignorance turn into pettiness and mistreatment of Adeline.
Theodore in The Castle of Otranto – he is witty, and successfully challenges the tyrant, saves the virginal maid without expectations
Theodore in The Romance of the Forest – saves Adeline multiple times, is virtuous, courageous and brave, self-sacrificial
Manfred in The Castle of Otranto – unjustly accuses Theodore of murdering Conrad. Tries to put his blame onto others. Lies about his motives for attempting to divorce his wife and marry his late son’s fiancé.
The Marquis in The Romance of the Forest – attempts to get with Adeline even though he is already married, attempts to rape Adeline, blackmails Monsieur LaMotte.
Vathek – Ninth Caliph of the Abassides, who ascended to the throne at an early age. His figure was pleasing and majestic, but when angry, his eyes became so terrible that “the wretch on whom it was fixed instantly fell backwards and sometimes expired”. He was addicted to women and pleasures of the flesh, so he ordered five palaces to be built: the five palaces of the senses. Although he was an eccentric man, learned in the ways of science, physics, and astrology, he loved his people. His main greed, however, was thirst for knowledge. He wanted to know everything. This is what led him on the road to damnation.”
They appear in several Gothic novels including The Romance of the Forest in which they kidnap Adeline from her father.
Clergy – always weak, usually evil
Father Jerome in The Castle of Otranto – Jerome, though not evil, is certainly weak as he gives up his son when he is born and leaves his lover.
Ambrosio in The Monk – Evil and weak, this character stoops to the lowest levels of corruption including rape and incest.
Mother Superior in The Romance of the Forest – Adeline fled from this convent because the sisters weren’t allowed to see sunlight. Highly oppressive environment.
The plot is usually set in a castle, an abbey, a monastery, or some other, usually religious edifice, and it is acknowledged that this building has secrets of its own. This gloomy and frightening scenery sets the scene for what the audience has already come to expect. The importance of setting is noted in a London review of the Castle of Otranto, “He describes the country towards Otranto as desolate and bare, extensive downs covered with thyme, with occasionally the dwarf holly, the rosa marina, and lavender, stretch around like wild moorlands (…) Mr. Williams describes the celebrated Castle of Otranto as ‘an imposing object of considerable size (…) has a dignified and chivalric air’ (…) A fitter scene for his romance he probably could not have chosen.” Similarly, De Vore states, “The setting is greatly influential in Gothic novels. It not only evokes the atmosphere of horror and dread, but also portrays the deterioration of its world. The decaying, ruined scenery implies that at one time there was a thriving world. At one time the abbey, castle, or landscape was something treasured and appreciated. Now, all that lasts is the decaying shell of a once thriving dwelling.” Thus, without the decrepit backdrop to initiate the events, the Gothic novel would not exist.
Elements found especially in American Gothic fiction include:
Night journeys are a common element seen throughout Gothic literature. They can occur in almost any setting, but in American literature are more commonly seen in the wilderness, forest or any other area that is devoid of people.
Evil characters are also seen in Gothic literature and especially American Gothic. Depending on either the setting or the period from which the work came, the evil characters could be Native Americans, trappers, gold miners etc.
American Gothic novels also tend to deal with a “madness” in one or more of the characters and carry that theme throughout the novel. In his novel Edgar Huntly or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker, Charles Brockden Brown writes about two characters who slowly become more and more deranged as the novel progresses.
Miraculous survivals are elements within American Gothic literature in which a character or characters will somehow manage to survive some feat that should have led to their demise.
In American Gothic novels it is also typical that one or more of the characters will have some sort of supernatural powers. In Brown’s Edgar Huntly or Memoirs of a Sleepwalker, the main character, Huntly, is able to face and kill not one, but two panthers.
An element of fear is another characteristic of American Gothic literature. This is typically connected to the unknown and is generally seen throughout the course of the entire novel. This can also be connected to the feeling of despair that characters within the novel are overcome by. This element can lead characters to commit heinous crimes. In the case of Brown’s character Edgar Huntly, he experiences this element when he contemplates eating himself, eats an uncooked panther, and drinks his own sweat. The element of fear in female gothic is commonly portrayed through terror and supernatural fears, while the male gothic uses horror and physical fear and gore to create feelings of fear in the reader.
Psychological overlay is an element that is connected to how characters within an American Gothic novel are affected by things like the night and their surroundings. An example of this would be if a character was in a maze-like area and a connection was made to the maze that their minds represented.
Role of architecture and setting in the Gothic novel
Gothic literature is intimately associated with the Gothic Revival architecture of the same era. In a way similar to the Gothic revivalists’ rejection of the clarity and rationalism of the neoclassical style of the Enlightened Establishment, the literary Gothic embodies an appreciation of the joys of extreme emotion, the thrills of fearfulness and awe inherent in the sublime, and a quest for atmosphere.
The ruins of Gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations—thus the urge to add fake ruins as eyecatchers in English landscape parks. English Gothic writers often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterized by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic, and superstitious rituals. In literature such Anti-Catholicism had a European dimension featuring Roman Catholic institutions such as the Inquisition (in southern European countries such as Italy and Spain).
Just as elements of Gothic architecture were borrowed during the Gothic Revival period in architecture, ideas about the Gothic period and Gothic period architecture were often used by Gothic novelists. Architecture itself played a role in the naming of Gothic novels, with many titles referring to castles or other common Gothic buildings. This naming was followed up with many Gothic novels often set in Gothic buildings, with the action taking place in castles, abbeys, convents and monasteries, many of them in ruins, evoking “feelings of fear, surprise, confinement”. This setting of the novel, a castle or religious building, often one fallen into disrepair, was an essential element of the Gothic novel. Placing a story in a Gothic building served several purposes. It drew on feelings of awe, it implied the story was set in the past, it gave an impression of isolation or being cut off from the rest of the world and it drew on the religious associations of the Gothic style. This trend of using Gothic architecture began with The Castle of Otranto and was to become a major element of the genre from that point forward.
Besides using Gothic architecture as a setting, with the aim of eliciting certain associations from the reader, there was an equally close association between the use of setting and the storylines of Gothic novels, with the architecture often serving as a mirror for the characters and the plot lines of the story. The buildings in the Castle of Otranto, for example, are riddled with underground tunnels, which the characters use to move back and forth in secret. This secret movement mirrors one of the plots of the story, specifically the secrets surrounding Manfred’s possession of the castle and how it came into his family. The setting of the novel in a Gothic castle was meant to imply not only a story set in the past but one shrouded in darkness.
In William Thomas Beckford’s The History of the Caliph Vathek, architecture was used to both illustrate certain elements of Vathek’s character and also warn about the dangers of over-reaching. Vathek’s hedonism and devotion to the pursuit of pleasure are reflected in the pleasure wings he adds on to his castle, each with the express purpose of satisfying a different sense. He also builds a tall tower in order to further his quest for knowledge. This tower represents Vathek’s pride and his desire for a power that is beyond the reach of humans. He is later warned that he must destroy the tower and return to Islam or else risk dire consequences. Vathek’s pride wins out and, in the end, his quest for power and knowledge ends with him confined to Hell.
In the Castle of Wolfenbach the castle that Matilda seeks refuge at while on the run is believed to be haunted. Matilda discovers it is not ghosts but the Countess of Wolfenbach who lives on the upper floors and who has been forced into hiding by her husband, the Count. Matilda’s discovery of the Countess and her subsequent informing others of the Countess’s presence destroys the Count’s secret. Shortly after Matilda meets the Countess the Castle of Wolfenbach itself is destroyed in a fire, mirroring the destruction of the Count’s attempts to keep his wife a secret and how his plots throughout the story eventually lead to his own destruction.
The major part of the action in the Romance of the Forest is set in an abandoned and ruined abbey and the building itself served as a moral lesson, as well as a major setting for and mirror of the action in the novel. The setting of the action in a ruined abbey, drawing on Burke’s aesthetic theory of the sublime and the beautiful established the location as a place of terror and of safety. Burke argued the sublime was a source of awe or fear brought about by strong emotions such as terror or mental pain. On the other end of the spectrum was the beautiful, which were those things that brought pleasure and safety. Burke argued that the sublime was the more preferred to the two. Related to the concepts of the sublime and the beautiful is the idea of the picturesque, introduced by William Gilpin, which was thought to exist between the two other extremes. The picturesque was that which continued elements of both the sublime and the beautiful and can be thought of as a natural or uncultivated beauty, such as a beautiful ruin or a partially overgrown building. In Romance of the Forest Adeline and the La Mottes live in constant fear of discovery by either the police or Adeline’s father and, at times, certain characters believe the castle to be haunted. On the other hand, the abbey also serves as a comfort, as it provides shelter and safety to the characters. Finally, it is picturesque, in that it was a ruin and serves as a combination of both the natural and the human. By setting the story in the ruined abbey, Radcliffe was able to use architecture to draw on the aesthetic theories of the time and set the tone of the story in the minds of the reader. As with many of the buildings in Gothic novels, the abbey also has a series of tunnels. These tunnels serve as both a hiding place for the characters and as a place of secrets. This was mirrored later in the novel with Adeline hiding from the Marquis de Montalt and the secrets of the Marquis, which would eventually lead to his downfall and Adeline’s salvation.
Architecture served as an additional character in many Gothic novels, bringing with it associations to the past and to secrets and, in many cases, moving the action along and foretelling future events in the story.
Female Gothic and the supernatural explained
Characterized by its castles, dungeons, gloomy forests and hidden passages, from the Gothic novel genre emerged the Female Gothic. Guided by the works of authors such as Ann Radcliffe, Mary Shelley and Charlotte Brontë, the Female Gothic permitted the introduction of feminine societal and sexual desires into Gothic texts.
Female gothic differs from the male gothic through differences in narrative technique, plot, assumptions of the supernatural, and the use of terror and horror. Female Gothic narratives focus on topics of the persecuted heroine in flight from a villainous father and in search of an absent mother, while male writers tended towards a plot of masculine transgression of social taboos. The emergence of the ghost story gave female writers something to write about besides the common marriage plot, allowing them to offer a more radical critique of male power, violence and predatory sexuality.
It has been said that medieval society, on which some Gothic texts are based, granted women writers the opportunity to attribute “features of the mode [of Gothicism] as the result of the suppression of female sexuality, or else as a challenge to the gender hierarchy and values of a male-dominated culture”.
Significantly, with the development of the Female Gothic came the literary technique of explaining the supernatural. The Supernatural Explained – as this technique was aptly named – is a recurring plot device in Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest. The novel, published in 1791, is among Radcliffe’s earlier works. The novel sets up suspense for horrific events, which all have natural explanations. However, the omission of any possible explanation based in reality is what instills a feeling of anxiety and terror in both character and reader.
An 18th-century response to the novel from the Monthly Review reads: “We must hear no more of enchanted forests and castles, giants, dragons, walls of fire and other ‘monstrous and prodigious things;’—yet still forests and castles remain, and it is still within the province of fiction, without overstepping the limits of nature, to make use of them for the purpose of creating surprise.”
Radcliffe’s use of Supernatural Explained is characteristic of the Gothic author. The female protagonists pursued in these texts are often caught in an unfamiliar and terrifying landscape, delivering higher degrees of terror. The end result, however, is the explained supernatural, rather than terrors familiar to women such as rape or incest, or the expected ghosts or haunted castles. The female gothic also discusses women’s dissatisfactions with patriarchal society, addressing the problematic and dissatisfying maternal position and role within that society. Women’s fears of entrapment within such elements as the domestic, the female body, marriage, childbirth, and domestic abuse are commonly portrayed through the female gothic. The female gothic formula is said to be “a plot that resists an unhappy or ambiguous closure and explains the supernatural”.
In Radcliffe’s The Romance of the Forest, one may follow the female protagonist, Adeline, through the forest, hidden passages and abbey dungeons, “without exclaiming, ‘How these antique towers and vacant courts/ chill the suspended soul, till expectation wears the cast of fear!”
The decision of Female Gothic writers to supplement true supernatural horrors with explained cause and effect transforms romantic plots and Gothic tales into common life and writing. Rather than establish the romantic plot in impossible events Radcliffe strays away from writing “merely fables, which no stretch of fancy could realize.”
English scholar Chloe Chard’s published introduction to The Romance of the Forest refers to the “promised effect of terror”. The outcome, however, “may prove less horrific than the novel has originally suggested”. Radcliffe sets up suspense throughout the course of the novel, insinuating a supernatural or superstitious cause to the mysterious and horrific occurrences of the plot. However, the suspense is relieved with the Supernatural Explained.
For example, Adeline is reading the illegible manuscripts she found in her bedchamber’s secret passage in the abbey when she hears a chilling noise from beyond her doorway. She goes to sleep unsettled, only to awake and learn that what she assumed to be haunting spirits were actually the domestic voices of the servant, Peter. La Motte, her caretaker in the abbey, recognizes the heights to which her imagination reached after reading the autobiographical manuscripts of a past murdered man in the abbey.
“‘I do not wonder, that after you had suffered its terrors to impress your imagination, you fancied you saw specters, and heard wondrous noises.’ La Motte said.
‘God bless you! Ma’amselle,’ said Peter.
‘I’m sorry I frightened you so last night.’
‘Frightened me,’ said Adeline; ‘how was you concerned in that?’
He then informed her, that when he thought Monsieur and Madame La Motte were asleep, he had stolen to her chamber door (…) that he had called several times as loudly as he dared, but receiving no answer, he believed she was asleep (…) This account of the voice she had heard relieved Adeline’s spirits; she was even surprised she did not know it, till remembering the perturbation of her mind for some time preceding, this surprise disappeared.”
While Adeline is alone in her characteristically Gothic chamber, she detects something supernatural, or mysterious about the setting. However, the “actual sounds that she hears are accounted for by the efforts of the faithful servant to communicate with her, there is still a hint of supernatural in her dream, inspired, it would be seem, by the fact that she is on the spot of her father’s murder and that his unburied skeleton is concealed in the room next hers”.
The supernatural here is indefinitely explained, but what remains is the “tendency in the human mind to reach out beyond the tangible and the visible; and it is in depicting this mood of vague and half-defined emotion that Mrs. Radcliffe excels”.
Transmuting the Gothic novel into a comprehensible tale for the imaginative 18th-century woman was useful for the Female Gothic writers of the time. Novels were an experience for these women who had no outlet for a thrilling excursion. Sexual encounters and superstitious fantasies were idle elements of the imagination. However, the use of Female Gothic and Supernatural Explained, are a “good example of how the formula [Gothic novel] changes to suit the interests and needs of its current readers”.
In many respects, the novel’s “current reader” of the time was the woman who, even as she enjoyed such novels, would feel that she had to ” down her book with affected indifference, or momentary shame,” according to Jane Austen, author of Northanger Abbey. The Gothic novel shaped its form for female readers to “turn to Gothic romances to find support for their own mixed feelings”.
Following the characteristic Gothic Bildungsroman-like plot sequence, the Female Gothic allowed its readers to graduate from “adolescence to maturity,” in the face of the realized impossibilities of the supernatural. As female protagonists in novels like Adeline in The Romance of the Forest learn that their superstitious fantasies and terrors are replaced with natural cause and reasonable doubt, the reader may understand the true position of the heroine in the novel:
“The heroine possesses the romantic temperament that perceives strangeness where others see none. Her sensibility, therefore, prevents her from knowing that her true plight is her condition, the disability of being female.”
Another text in which the heroine of the Gothic novel encounters the Supernatural Explained is The Castle of Wolfenbach (1793) by Gothic author Eliza Parsons. This Female Gothic text by Parsons is listed as one of Catherine Morland’s Gothic texts in Austen’s Northanger Abbey. The heroine in The Castle of Wolfenbach, Matilda, seeks refuge after overhearing a conversation in which her Uncle Weimar speaks of plans to rape her. Matilda finds asylum in the Castle of Wolfenbach: a castle inhabited by old married caretakers who claim that the second floor is haunted. Matilda, being the courageous heroine, decides to explore the mysterious wing of the Castle.
Bertha, wife of Joseph, (caretakers of the castle) tells Matilda of the “other wing”: “Now for goodness sake, dear madam, don’t go no farther, for as sure as you are alive, here the ghosts live, for Joseph says he often sees lights and hears strange things.”
However, as Matilda ventures through the castle, she finds that the wing is not haunted by ghosts and rattling chains, but rather, the Countess of Wolfenbach. The supernatural is explained, in this case, ten pages into the novel, and the natural cause of the superstitious noises is a Countess in distress. Characteristic of the Female Gothic, the natural cause of terror is not the supernatural, but rather female disability and societal horrors: rape, incest and the threatening control of the male antagonist.
Source from Wikipedia