Gilman's intent in writing "The Yellow Wallpaper" was, "...to save people from being driven crazy." She seems to have done this quite effectively by exposing the myths about women and the medical community's attitudes towards them.
While Gilman's intent in writing the piece is clear, there's no rule that states a reader can't interpret the story in an entirely new way, that they cannot see something in the story that may not necessarily be there. If one were to read "The Yellow Wallpaper" while being unaware of the purpose of the story and the response to it, would they see something that no one else had before? Would they see it as more than a pro-feminist piece of literature, designed to debate the ills of a sexist society?
Perhaps. It would be difficult to entirely miss the message of the story, but perhaps not impossible. There are certain aspects to Gilman's short story that, considering we disregard what we already know and have read about the piece, lend itself to being read as a ghost story.
It's not unlikely that Gilman should try her hand at writing a ghost story since other literary works were touching on the same popular theme at the time.
"The Yellow Wallpaper" was written in 1892, at the end of the Victorian Period. During this period in time, belief in the supernatural and curiosity in the spiritual realm was prevalent.
As Ronald Pearsall wrote in The Table Rappers, "The Victorian Period was not only a haunted age, it was also a hallucinatory age, lending itself to every type of illusion" (Dickerson 12).
Few people realize that "The Yellow Wallpaper" was not Gilman's sole foray into supernatural fiction. Like that tale..."The Giant Wistaria" combined the supernatural with real or perceived aberrant psychology, framed by sexual politics (Lundie 123).
"The Giant Wistaria," in fact, begins in much the same way as "The Yellow Wallpaper," with a couple looking to buy a summer home only to be met with a very strange feeling about the place. In fact, Jenny, the main character almost immediately exclaims, "What a lovely house! I am sure it's haunted!" (Gilman 125).
And so the story goes that despite a mysterious past, a young married couple moves into the house. While entertaining some friends one weekend, all persons involved begin having dreams and hallucinations about the house and the mysterious well in the cellar. Upon some investigation of this well, the group discovers that the house's past is not only mysterious, but was also deadly. The house is, in fact, haunted.
The similarities "The Giant Wistaria" has with "The Yellow Wallpaper" are evident. The way the characters merely stumble across the oddities of their new home, the prevailing sense of the supernatural to convey Gilman's overall message of female mistreatment and ultimately, the personification of inanimate objects, (the Wistaria vine in "The Giant Wistaria" and the wallpaper in "The Yellow Wallpaper.")
The prominent role inanimate objects play in each story is quite striking. In "The Yellow Wallpaper" it is the wallpaper itself that seems to take on the role of tormentor. It is supposedly the wallpaper that drove the narrator mad. In "The Giant Wistaria," the Wistaria vine takes on a lesser role, but each mention of it produces an ominous sense about the home enough to suggest what hidden evil has lurked inside of it: "The trunk, it was too large to call a stem, rose at the corner of the porch by the high steps, and had once climbed its pillars; but now the pillars were wrenched from their places and held rigid and helpless by the tightly wound and knotted arms."