As the song says, there will be “scary ghost stories” during the most wonderful time of the year, but what on earth does that lyric actually mean? If anything, we’re telling ghost stories on Halloween, or on camping trips, but Christmas? Well, as it turns out, telling Christmas ghost stories goes back hundreds of years, when the cold and dark weather was all but inescapable, especially before electricity. In Victorian England, though, it became a Christmas tradition to tell these stories, especially as they became more and more available in print, due to the printing press. Here are four classic Christmas ghost stories you can tell if you’d like to get into the old-time holiday spirit.
A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (1843)
The most well-known Christmas ghost story is that of Ebenezer Scrooge and his visitation on Christmas Eve by four ghosts, if you count his old business partner, Jacob Marley. The book itself is humorous, especially for a Victorian book about poverty and the downfall of the greedy. It has inspired numerous imitators and a host of classic Christmas films, with a new take on it coming out practically every year since films have existed. There’s no better ghost story to get you in the Christmas mood, especially since the ghosts are instrumental in restoring Christmas spirit to Scrooge, and he finally learns how to do good with all he has held on to for himself.
The Old Nurse’s Story, by Elizabeth Gaskell (1852)
Charles Dickens himself invited author Elizabeth Gaskell to write this story. Like so many great ghost stories and horror films, the story involves someone telling someone else a scary story at first. In this story, the ghosts are not the great danger, either, representing misguided fear. The actual fearful beings in the story are the cruel people who populate it. It’s dark and spooky, but like the best ghost stories, it lets us reflect on who we are and how we treat those around us.
The Kit-Bag, by Algernon Blackwood (1908)
Originally published in Pall Mall Magazine, this is yet another London-based Christmas ghost story. This one features a young man working for a lawfirm who starts to see and hear things after his attorney begins work on a murder trial. It has all the hallmarks of a great horror movie – lights turning out, spooky noises, a bag moving on their own. Instead of a morality tale, though, there’s something more sinister about the bag – it may actually be haunted.
Smee, by A.M. Burrage (1831)
Smee is a ghost story that is appropriate enough for the whole family, about a game of hide and go seek that is supposed to take place in a haunted house. Taking place over Christmas Eve, a bunch of friends try to get their friend Tony Jackson to play along, but he doesn’t want to. Instead, he tells them the story of why - years ago a game of “Smee,” similar to hide and go seek – went badly, because a young girl died.