“Round the Fire” by Catherine Crowe

Catherine Crowe was influential in the development of two movements in the mid-nineteenth century: spiritualism, and the ghost story. Although she produced a number of acclaimed non-supernatural works, she found her greatest success with translating Justinus Kerner’s German biography The Seeress of Prevorst (1845), about a young mystic named Friederike Hauffe; and 1848’s The Night-Side of Nature, a collection of ghost lore which sold 65,000 copies shortly after publication. The latter book was published the same year that the Fox sisters heard “spirit rappings” in their house in Hydesville, New York, and so started spiritualism. Later devotees often noted the importance of Crowe’s work to their religion.

Crowe’s “Round the Fire” first appeared in her 1859 collection Ghosts and Family Legends: A Volume for Christmas. We ended up not using it in Weird Women partly because it feels like a collection of existing ghost stories, and partly because we already had so many other ghost stories…but it retains enough power to chill to make it worthy of the attention of modern readers.