Disruptive returnees form a recurrent plot catalyst in Victorian sensation fiction. They are a useful narrative device, while the unsettling effects they have on the home draw attention to social and cultural anxieties in Victorian Britain. Since such returnees are regularly cast as failures, they embody the pervasive association of return with failed emigration. Their reappearance stirs up fears of what lengthy sojourns elsewhere might do to you and, conversely, what those who return might do at home. To some extent, back-migration might be so insistently scripted as a sign of failure in nineteenth-century fiction as a way to express the perceived threat of economically successful returnees. Yet no matter whether they arrive with immense riches, ready to buy up half the neighbourhood, or as embarrassing, ragged spectres of their former selves, their sudden appearance is always upsetting and mostly unwelcome. The Victorian sensation genre perfects their identification as an intrusive element that might, on a superficial level, seem to accentuate such reassuring binaries as here and there, home and abroad, self and other, but that more often questions or altogether eschews such reassurances. Fictional returnees, in fact, often do not so much infiltrate or break apart idealized Victorian homes as help to expose a domestic Gothic that is already there. What is more, when the depicted return is a settler's homecoming, the returnee's inability to fit back in signals the failure of empire-building, of successful expansion through settlement, as well as the controversial system of shipping out the ‘unwanted’ as a putative solution to problems at home. While dismantling the probably most notorious usage of emigration in nineteenth-century literature – the pat ending, which shows the exportation of troublesome characters – narratives featuring sensationalized returnees thus simultaneously harness anxieties about the empire's impact at home. When these returnees are irrevocably altered through their experience overseas, when they assume a different identity or turn out to be impostors, they articulate concerns about work abroad and fuel fears of what or who might come back from overseas. Sensational uses of returnees probe ideologies of empire, domesticity, and nationhood, while reworking already well-established fictional uses of emigration.