How Louisa May Alcott Disappointed Me

I have 49 detectives on my Chronological Bibliography of Early Occult Detectives.


I want the 50th to be the creation of a writer who nobody would have thought dabbled in occult detective fiction. Someone like, oh, Louisa May Alcott.

Louisa May AlcottIt’s become fairly well known that, besides writing classics such as Little Women, Alcott wrote a number of sensationalist thrillers and used the pen name A.M. Barnard. One of these is The Abbot’s Ghost; or, Maurice Treherne’s Temptation (1867). There is a mystery in this story. And there is a ghost. Sadly, there’s no detective.

We come a bit closer with a short story written under Alcott’s own name, “Jerseys; or, The Girl’s Ghost” (1884). Here, a ghostly event occurs at “Madame Stein’s select boarding-school” for girls. Sally, one of the students there, spots it first. Her sighting is corroborated, and this prompts the stalwart girl to do a more thorough investigation. I’ll just say that, sometimes, things are not what they appear to be — and that this tale is a very kid-safe kind of ghost fiction.

I was surprised to learn that Alcott (using her initials, L.M.A.) penned a mummy story! It’s a pretty good one, too, though critics have pointed out there are a number of earlier mummy stories that appear to have served as her model. Titled “Lost in a Pyramid; or, The Mummy’s Curse” (1869), this is conventional horror fiction in that it follows the victim of a supernatural entity — and one might easily argue that the supernatural entity is victimized first — but there’s no investigation into the case by any character serving as a detective.

So, unless I missed a story, Alcott disappointed me in regard to finding an unexpected 50th occult detective for my list. However, it was interesting to learn that she came close!

2 thoughts on “How Louisa May Alcott Disappointed Me

    1. I’m not too surprised that Alcott wrote at least a couple of ghost(ly) stories, since they were so popular in the mid-to-late 1800s.

      The mummy startled me — as mummies are wont to do. I thought mummy/Egyptology fiction came a bit later.

      But now I know better.

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