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Ghost Stories at Christmas

If you’re hesitating to set aside the spooky tales you didn’t get to read on Halloween now that the snow is starting to fall and the bell-ringers are out, have no fear! (Or rather, do!)

Supernatural “winter stories” have long been told to ward off boredom and safely channel fears during the cold, dark months, especially on the winter solstice and longest night of the year. It’s only natural that as Christmas became a more widely celebrated holiday in Victorian England, the public enthusiastically embraced the habit of gathering before a comforting fire on Christmas Eve to share ghost stories along with the roasted chestnuts, steaming wassail, and good cheer.

Charles Dickens’s familiar trio of Christmas spirits are only one example of this midwinter tradition. From Shakespeare (A Winter’s Tale) to Andy Williams (“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” which includes the line “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”), you’ll find many literary and pop culture references to the pairing of ghost stories and winter.

Washington Irving, author of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” loved a good ghost story during the holidays and eagerly contributed to the genre. So did M. R. James, author of the supremely creepy “O, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad,” who often invited students and friends to candlelit Christmas Eve readings of his own tales of spectral terror. Even comedic writers, like Jerome K. Jerome with his Told After Supper anthology, have gotten in on the Yuletide goosebump-giving fun.

If you watch It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, or The Canterville Ghost every December, you’re already bringing a little haunting to your festivities. So this year, as you ladle out the eggnog and build up the fire, why not reconnect with the traditions of winters past and pick up some classic, shiver-inducing, spine-tingling chills to keep you and yours warm this holiday season?

 

 

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

 

 

 

 

The Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas by Edward Gorey

 

 

 

Collected Ghost Stories by M.R. James

 

 

 

 

The Phantom Coach: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Ghost Stories edited by Michael Sims

 

 

 

The Best Ghost Stories of J.S. Le Fanu edited by E.F. Bleiler

 

 

 

 

The Best Ghost Stories Ever Told edited by Stephen Brennan

 

 

 

 

The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce edited by Michael Newton

 

 

 

Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories edited by Roald Dahl

 

 

 

"Ghost Stories for Christmas"* by Joyce Saricks

 


* Library card required for use outside the Library

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