Showtime’s Penny Dreadful is a show promising to deliver a retelling of some of the greatest gothic tales of all-time and putting a new spin on some of the scariest stories known to man. With characters like Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Harry Treadaway) and Dorian Gray (Reeve Carney), it’s well on its way to becoming an amazing addition to the horror genre — but what stories do we think should be tackled in the future? Here are our suggestions:
1. The Castle of Otranto (1764), by Horace Walpole
With Penny Dreadful depicting various gothic stories, it seems only fair that it pay homage to what is considered the first gothic novel. Sure, you’ve got to hit all of the tales that are huge in today’s pop culture, but if you can add in the creepy tale that started it all, that gives you tons of street cred.
The Castle of Otranto — which gives many nods to Shakespeare — has quite the complicated plot, so if you’re interested in knowing what this genre-starter is about, consult here. Basically, it’s got death, ancient prophecies, super old guys deciding to marry each other’s daughters, and surprising family relations. In other words, there’s enough drama in this one novel to fuel an entire show.
2. The London Monster
This creepy tale is not based on a book but rather is the name given to an alleged attacker of women in London between 1788 and 1790. Apparently The Monster went around stabbing women (most of them from wealthy families) in the buttocks, with an obvious fascination with piquerism. Even creepier, other claims say he would have women smell a fake collection of flowers only to stab them in the face with a hidden spike.
More than 50 reports were linked to this attacker in just two years. In the end, a 23-year-old unemployed man, Rhynwick Williams, was arrested on suspicion of being The Monster. He had two trials and was eventually sentenced to six years in prison, though historians question whether the conviction was sound or not.
3. Carmilla (1871), by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Many think Bram Stoker's Dracula was the first to kick off the vampire crazy in literature, but Carmilla was published almost two decades before the classic tale. Though much shorter than Bram’s novel, Le Fanu’s novella was very much an influence for Dracula. This story has been adapted for film a few times, but hasn’t gotten nearly as much love as Bram’s tale.
Laura, who lives alone with her father, crosses paths with another young woman named Carmilla, who is secretly a vampire. What begins as a friendship quickly evolves into a tragic love story. Why do Dracula when you can go a more authentic route and pay homage to an even more classic tale? Sounds like a perfect fit to us.
4. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886), by Robert Louis Stevenson
This classic novella tells the tale of London lawyer Gabriel John Utterson and the strange happenings between him and his old friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. This tale is commonly associated with the rare mental condition called “split personality.” That is exactly what it sounds like, with two different personalities residing within the same individual — hence how Gabriel’s one friend can have a nice side and an evil side.
How awesome would it be to have a character that exhibits these symptoms and takes everyone for a ride? This is one of the quintessential gothic/horror tales and would make for a killer storyline on the show.
5. Jack the Ripper
Another real-life tale that would be a perfect fit for Penny Dreadful is the tale of Jack the Ripper, an unidentified serial killer who went around slashing female prostitutes in impoverished areas of London back in 1888. Other names for this killer are “The Whitechapel Murderer” and “Leather Apron.”
Generally the cases attributed to Jack the Ripper report the gory neck-slashing of sex workers in poor parts of London. Tales of Jack the Ripper have become folklore and there are hundreds of theories as to who he was since his identity was never revealed. This would be a perfect fit, especially since this John Doe is one of the most famous slashers of all-time.
Did we leave out a horror story you’d love to see on the show? Hit the comments and sound off!
Penny Dreadful airs Sunday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.