The penny dreadful was a 19th-century Victorian publishing phenomenon. The term typically referred to stories published in weekly parts, each costing one penny. The subject matter of these stories typically, focused on,criminals, ghosts, mysteries or supernatural entities are were commonly sold at public executions.
Famous known stories included Sweeney Todd the demon Barber, The Flying Dutchman, House of Frankenstein , Spring Heeled Jack, Feast of Blood and many more..and perhaps the most famous one of all…Penny Dreadful.
These stories in part were an escape for the working class . No wonder highwaymen such as Dick Turpin proved such a popular character whose exploits ran for over 254 penny dreadfuls! Turpin wasn’t executed until page 2207 and even then there was a huge stink about it.
Many in the 19th century believed that the stories were corrupting the youth of their day…the penny dreadfuls offered access to a world of murderous baronets, ladies addicted to studies of toxicology ,gypsies and brigands, men with masks and women with daggers, stolen children, withered hags, nefarious rouges, foreign princesses, gravediggers, body snatchers, lunatics and ghosts. Were Penny Dreadfuls the internet of the 19th century? As journalist James Greenwood put it in 1874, they were nothing less than “penny packets of poison”. The great unwashed had been taught how to read, the argument went, but not what to read.