1854 – 1909
Born in Italy, Crawford is nonetheless considered to be an American novelist, of American parentage, although his writings tend not to fall within the perimeters of the American literary currents. His formal education was extensive and cosmopolitan, while his personal endeavors involved extensive travelling and touring the world.
He was encouraged by his parents to pursue a professional career as a baritone, but was told by the conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra that he would never be able to sing in tune. At his uncle’s behest, Crawford turned to writing, attempting to document a strange experience he’d had in India; the pursuit gave birth to his successful first novel, Mr. Isaacs (1882), quickly followed by Dr. Claudias (1883); numerous other novels, short stories and historical volumes commenced, many of which were set in Italy. Crawford is noted for introducing the Mafia story into popular culture (in his novel Corleone, 1897).
His work is characterized by a combination of realism and romanticism, and he approached his work with a mass audience, his market, in mind.
“The Upper Berth” was one of his many short stories in the horror genre; the story tells of a cabin on a ship in which the occupants, on their first night, have all felt mysteriously compelled to end their lives. The captain of the ship and one Mr. Brisbane (a resident of the lower berth), decide to occupy the cabin for a night, and are met with a spectral revelation.
Other popular, often anthologized short horror stories by Crawford include “The Dead Smile” (1899) “For the Blood of Life” (1905), and “The Screaming Skull” (1908).