What are Penny Dreadfuls? Well, they a type of publication designed for the poor working class in Britain. These stories were mostly published around the mid-late 19th century.
The stories were in magazines, which were published with inexpensive material. Think about it, if the target audience was the “poor working class” you wouldn’t be making much money if your production costs were high. Most of the authors of these stories were viewed by society and their peers as low-quality or “hack” authors .
The stories really remind me of Tales from the Crypt type stories. They cover a variety of taboo subjects, from cannibalism to same sex marriage. The tale does not usually include heroes, mostly villains. Also common to the Tales from the Crypt theme, the Penny Dreadful tales often convey messages of morality. I guess you could kind of call them morality tales if you wanted.
The one difference to Tales from the Crypt is that the Penny Dreadful stories, or at least the ones I have read, include realism. There are no supernatural themed episodes. The characters and plot are all situated through events, that could possibly occur in real life.
I find that the stories are often narrated as testimonials, as if someone witnessed it first hand.
I will add a link to one of my favourite tales below.