We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Penny Dreadful?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Beginning in the mid-1800s, lurid and largely fictionalized accounts of rogue highwaymen, professional criminals and other larger-than-life characters were often published in a cheaply-produced pulp magazine known as a dime novel in America or a penny dreadful in Great Britain. A penny dreadful's primary audience were working-class adolescent males who enjoyed reading melodramatic tales of over-the-top derring-do. American outlaws and legendary lawmen also became popular protagonista in serial dime novels reworked for a British audience.

A penny dreadful really did cost a British penny, and was generally filled with short articles and a serialized novel written especially for a young male audience. The cover art often featured action scenes with lurid title graphics. A typical penny dreadful was limited in size, rarely more than 10 pages per issue, but publishers would often release new issues weeks apart. The paper used to produce these books was notoriously cheap, which gave rise to the term pulp fiction, a genre which features the same sensational or melodramatic plot lines often found in them.

The British penny dreadful and the American dime novel were generally dismissed in their day as low-brow literature, but many future writers found inspiration in their pages. Many of the early silent films' plots and characters can be traced back directly to popular penny dreadful series. The idea of serializing adventure novels became popular with readers of these books, then became the template for serialized shorts often shown before the main feature films.

Because the quality of the publication was not high to begin with, and the paper used was prone to decay quickly, there are very few original penny dreadfuls in collections today. The first readers may have also formed informal reading clubs in which the same issue of a penny dreadful would have been passed from member to member. For many British boys from lower-class families, even earning a British penny would have been a challenge. It was not unusual for groups of boys to combine their funds in order to purchase the latest penny dreadful, much like the comic book culture of the following era.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick , Writer
As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By momothree — On Aug 29, 2010

@boathugger: There was also another Penny Dreadful movie. It was part of a horror anthology called “8 Movies to Die For”.

It was about a girl that was named Penny who encountered several urban legends similar to some of the hand me down stories from the old penny dreadful publications.

By CarrotIsland — On Aug 29, 2010

@boathugger: I remember a Penny Dreadful movie in 2005. It was about a couple from New Jersey who inherit a huge townhouse. Strange things start happening in the house. It was kind of like Poltergeist kind of stuff. Jessica, the character, isn’t scared of it. She embraces it.

Jessica thinks that it’s exciting to live in a haunted house. I don’t want to give it all away but things are revealed to Jessica on Halloween night. It’s a horror movie.

By BoatHugger — On Aug 29, 2010

Wasn't there a movie called Penny Dreadful?

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick


As a frequent contributor to Language & Humanities, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.