The arrival of uninvited strangers (particularly in storms at night) is a Gothic method for disturbing the domestic tranquility and stability of the family. Perhaps the earliest example of this trope is presented by Regina Maria Roche in her 1798 novel Clermont. In this case, the heroine Madeline receives a visit from a mysterious stranger, who drops enough hints to set Madeline on a quest to reveal her father's secrets. In this case, the mysterious visitor provides the call to action kicking off the plot.
One Victorian example is Ellen Price Wood's (1857) "Mysterious Visitor," in which a mysterious person appears at the home of Mrs. Louisa Ordie, and she assumes it is her husband, who is supposed to be in India at the time. There is much confusion as Mrs. Ordie and other characters run around the house in the middle of the night trying to figure out where he has gone. In the end, they ascribe this to Mrs. Ordie's imagination, but later it is revealed that Captain Ordie and Louisa's entire family in India have all been killed, and Louisa believes this mysterious visitor was her husband's spirit appearing at the time of his death.
Courtesy of Wendy Fall, Marquette University
Voller, Jack G. "Ellen Price Wood." The Literary Gothic. 10 Nov. 2011. Web. 20 June 2014.