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A Christmas Full of Spirits

Since the start of the season, people have been sending me links to articles about the lost tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas. You are familiar with this tradition- one of the most famous of all the holiday tales is Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is, essentially, a tale of a man spending the night being tormented by three different ghosts. Andy Williams alludes that this tradition in his often-played “Most Wonderful Time of the Year” when he sings the lyrics “ they’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” One of my very favorite stories, Turn of the Screw, is framed around two characters sitting in front of a fireplace at a Christmas gathering recounting the chilling events at Bly. Western culture has long chosen those frigid nights when the winds howl and the moon creates sinister shadows on the frozen snow as the ideal time to tell a spine-tingling tale.

In the spirit of the Victorian tradition, I present to you a few popular Christmas ghost stories that will be perfect to read in front of the fire as you sip eggnog. For the remainder of 2018, I will tell ghostly holiday tales on my radio show, Haunted Heartland. Throw another log onto the fire, and read- or listen- to these popular tales that are likely to incite a shiver that is not due to a draft in the room.

Charles Dickens “The Signal-Man.” Originally published in 1866 in the Christmas Edition of All the Year Round, this is a popular holiday ghost tales. M. R. James, one of the most celebrated authors in this genre, wrote a slew of ghostly tales during the same era. You might enjoy his “Oh Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” Another often retold tale with resonate with anyone who has been in a rush to get out of town for the holidays, The Kit-Bag by Algernon Blackwood was published in Pall Mall Magazine in December, 1908. Lest you think spooky spirits are part of a lost Christmas tradition, here is a modern tale with a Gothic setting from contemporary English writer, Jeanette Winterson.


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