Publishing history and contents
Cover of the November 1929 issue
Fantasy and occult fiction had often appeared in popular magazines prior to the twentieth century, but the first magazine to specialize in the genre, Weird Tales, did not appear until 1923. Ghost Stories, which was launched by Bernarr Macfadden in July 1926, was one of Weird Tales' earliest competitors. Macfadden also published true confession magazines such as True Story; Ghost Stories followed this format, with the contents mostly produced by the publisher's staff writers, and attributed in print to a first-person narrator. The magazine was initially printed on slick paper, which was sufficiently good quality to allow photographs to be used, and many of the stories had accompanying photographs purporting to be of their protagonists. These were replaced by line drawings when the magazine switched to pulp paper in July 1928. Ghost Stories occasionally printed contributions from outside writers, including "The Apparition in the Prize Ring", by Robert E. Howard, under the pseudonym "John Taverel". Popular writers such as Frank Belknap Long, Hugh B. Cave, Victor Rousseau, Stuart Palmer, and Robert W. Sneddon all sold stories to Ghost Stories, though the quality suffered because of the limited scope the magazine's formula gave them. Carl Jacobi's first published story, "The Haunted Ring", appeared in the final issue.[note 1]
In addition to original material, Ghost Stories included a substantial number of reprints, including well-known Victorian ghost stories such as "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, and "The Open Door" by Mrs. Oliphant. Agatha Christie's "The Last Seance" appeared in the November 1926 issue, under the title "The Woman Who Stole a Ghost", and six stories by H.G. Wells were reprinted, including ghost stories such as "The Red Room" and stories with less obvious appeal to Ghost Stories' readership, such as "Pollock and the Porroh Man". Arthur Conan Doyle's "The Captain of the Polestar" appeared in the April 1931 issue, and he also contributed a non-fiction piece, "Houdini's Last Escape", which appeared in March 1930.
Macfadden set up an arrangement with Walter Hutchinson, a U.K. publisher, to exchange suitable material with The Sovereign Magazine and Mystery-Story Magazine, two of Hutchinson's U.K. genre pulps, and many stories appeared on both sides of the Atlantic as a result.
The magazine was initially fairly successful, but sales soon began to fall. In March 1930 Harold Hersey bought the magazine from Macfadden and took over as editor, but he was unable to revive the magazine's fortunes. In 1931 the schedule slipped to bimonthly, and three issues later the magazine ceased publication, probably because readers grew bored: the limited scope meant that the contents of the magazine eventually became predictable. The final issue was dated December 1931/January 1932.