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Why the Heck Does That Christmas Song Talk About Telling Ghost Stories?

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The Christmas season is upon us, and more than likely, while you’ve been out shopping or listening to the radio, you heard some rendition of the 1963 Andy Williams song, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” And if you’re like me, you’ve probably always been perplexed by the song’s mention of ghost stories. In it, Williams sings, “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago,” a concept that seems more fit for Halloween than Christmas. So I did a little research on Christmas traditions, and it turns out ghost stories were as much a part of Christmas as they were Halloween up until about the turn of the 20th century.

To understand the concept of telling ghost stories at Christmas time, you first have to understand the origins of Christmas. While Christmas is widely recognized as being a Christian-based holiday, celebrating the birth of Jesus, it was born of the pagan Winter Solstice celebrations and Yule festivals that pre-dated both Jesus and Christianity. It is widely believed that while the Christian church tried hard to distinguish itself from pagan beliefs and practices, creating a day of religious importance around the same time as traditional Winter Solstice festivals would increase the chances that Christmas and ultimately Christianity would be embraced.

One of the traditions that carried over from these pagan beliefs was telling ghost stories in winter. Winter nights are longer, darker, and lend themselves to spooky tales. Many pagan beliefs suggested that during the Winter Solstice, the dead could more easily cross into the living world, while others used tales of ethereal beings, gods, and monsters to explain the darkening of the days. This practice spanned centuries. The telling of ghost stories, or “winter’s tales” as many referred to them, was referenced as early as 1589 in Christopher Marlowe’s play “The Jew of Malta,” which muses “Now I remember those old women’s words, who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales, and speak of spirits and ghosts by night.” Even Shakespeare’s “The Winters Tale,” tells of the tradition when Mamillius proclaims, “A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one. Of sprites and goblins.”

But the Christmas ghost story didn’t really hit the mainstream until the Victorian era when an author named Charles Dickens penned a story you may have heard of, titled “A Christmas Carol.” First published in 1843, the Dickens holiday classic kicked off an annual tradition of releasing ghost stories at Christmas. As the editor of Household Worlds and later All the Year Round, Dickens would go on to release several other Christmas ghost stories, making him the godfather of the tradition, a tradition that would have a stronghold on the Christmas holiday through the 19th century.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote in his 1891 collection, Told After Supper . “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

But the tradition of Christmas ghost stories in America would fade after the turn of the 20th century. While ghost stories could still be found in magazine Christmas annuals as late as 1915 and were sung about by Andy Williams in 1963, the tradition failed to keep its stronghold. Eventually, it was forgotten, leaving all of the spooky fun to Halloween.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

While Americans turned their back on the tradition, Christmas ghost stories continue to be embraced in Europe. In fact, the tradition evolved with technology, and many of the popular Christmas ghost stories were adapted for radio and then ultimately television.

In 1923, BBC Radio aired its first dramatic reading of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” by Cyril Estcourt that featured Carol interludes sung by a church choir. In the 1970s, the BBC aired a series of annual television plays under the title of “A Ghost Story for Christmas,” which adapted Christmas ghost stories from both Charles Dickens as well as M.R. James, a British author who wrote a series of short Christmas ghost stories to entertain family and friends and later published them in a four-volume series in the early 1900s. Today, the tradition continues on British television with new adaptations still being released and ghost stories finding their way into Christmas specials of shows like “Downton Abbey.”

So for those of us who like to inject a little spooky into our Christmas, we’re apparently not all that weird. We’re just tapping into the traditions of our ancestors and the Christmases of old. And in our current times that often feel a bit more chaotic and a bit more hateful, there might be some benefit in revisiting these old ghost stories. As William Dean Howell lamented in a Harper’s editorial in 1886 about the decline of the Dickens ghost story and the morals they carried:

“It was well once a year, if not oftener, to remind men by parable of the old, simple truths; to teach them that forgiveness, and charity, and the endeavor for life better and purer than each has lived, are the principles upon which alone the world holds together and gets forward. It was well for the comfortable and the refined to be put in mind of the savagery and suffering all round them, and to be taught, as Dickens was always teaching, that certain feelings which grace human nature, as tenderness for the sick and helpless, self-sacrifice and generosity, self-respect and manliness and womanliness, are the common heritage of the race, the direct gift of Heaven, shared equally by the rich and poor.”

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The “Scary Ghost Stories” of … Christmas?

You've heard Andy Williams sing about "scary ghost stories" in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." And while that might make you think of "A Christmas Carol," the Dickens story is only part of a spooky holiday tradition.

Troy Brownfield

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The Christmas holiday season boasts traditions that run the gamut from ancient and obvious to modern and mystifying. How exactly, for example, did the ugly sweater thing start? But one frequently overlooked tradition does get a mention in the popular holiday standard “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and that is the telling of “scary ghost stories.” Sure, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is built on specters, but tradition runs deeper than that. In fact, ghosts may have helped save modern Christmas. Here’s some history along with some recommended holiday chillers.

Modern culture celebrates Christmas with a mix of traditions, including pre-existing non-Christian holidays like Yule and other celebrations of the winter solstice. Some of these traditions had notions of death and rebirth baked into them. Also, with the winter solstice being the longest night of the year, its very nature invited gathering around the fire to tell stories. In many European nations, Yule, Christmastide, and Christmas have associated legends that include a number of monsters . From there, it’s only a few short steps to storytelling on the long, cold night turning to ghostly tales.

Washington Irving

While the midwinter ghost story survived as an oral tradition, the scary yarn and the very notion of modern Christmas would get a boost from a man that more people acknowledge for his contributions to Halloween. That’s American writer Washington Irving. Though best known for The Legend of Sleepy Hollow , Irving made major contributions to the idea of Santa Claus in his 1809 book, A History of New York . In the book, Irving relates a story of shipwrecked Dutch sailors that found future New York based on a recommendation from a passing St. Nicholas. Further writing from Irving promoted a pre-Rockwell Rockwellian vision of Christmas, with feasts and singing and decorating. That influence was not lost on one particular writer; across the pond, Charles Dickens was paying attention.

Portrait of Charles Dickens

The England of the 1830s and early 1840s was at a sort of Christmas crossroads. The country was beginning to embrace Christmas in a new way for a variety of reasons. Queen Victoria had made Christmas trees newly popular. Seasonal songwriting was on an upswing and clever new mailings called “Christmas cards” had begun to grow in notice. With the holiday and Irving’s endorsement of it on his mind, Dickens started writing short stories about Christmas around 1835. One of those stories, 1836’s “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” appears to be a rough draft for the idea of a person being changed by supernatural forces during the holiday. Dickens started his new novella in October of 1843, driven in part by money troubles. A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was complete by the beginning of December, and went on sale on the 19th of that month. Its first printing sold out in five days; its popularity was such that it went back to print twelve more times by the end of 1844. Dickens stared doing public readings of his classic in 1849 and continued until his death in 1870, delivering his tale at a total of 128 speaking engagements.

The ghost of Jacob Marley visits Ebenezer Scrooge in a scene from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Dickens’s work didn’t just boost ghost stories; it boosted Christmas in general. So much of the modern conception of classic Christmas can be found in both his and Irving’s pages. And yet, the ghost story aspect fell off a bit in American culture despite the fact that Carol became extremely popular here and includes Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come . Were it not for Carol and the mention in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” it’s fair to say that very few Americans would even know there’s a bond between the holiday and spooky tales. With that in mind, here are a few cold weather classics to put the jump-scare in jingle bells.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens: Naturally.

Various stories by M.R. James: The British scholar started writing his ghost stories specifically for Christmas, reading them to entertain his guests and Cambridge students. BBC One and BBC Four have adapted several since the 1970s. Among the most famous are “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad,” “A Warning to the Curious,” “The Stalls of Barchester,”and “Lost Hearts.”

The cover for the book Ghost Story by Peter Straub

Ghost Story by Peter Straub: A bestseller upon its 1979 release and one of the best horror novels of that decade, Straub’s masterwork is intrinsically about storytelling. At the center of the tale is a group of old friends, the Chowder Society, who tell ghostly tales to one another. The major characters have last names like Hawthorne, James, and Wanderley, all of which are hat tips to important figures in American and English traditions of supernatural literature. When the sins of their past come back to (literally) haunt them, it’s up to a younger generation to stop the rising horror amid a mounting blizzard.

Cover for the book Snowblind

Snowblind by Christopher Golden: With this entry from the Post’s list of the best horror novels since 2000, Golden delivers a gut-wrenching tour de force, weaponizing grief into a blunt instrument of horror. The winter setting echoes the desolation of the characters’ emotional landscape, as their loved ones seemingly return from the grave.

The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories : Compiled by editor Tara Moore in 2016, this collection brings together thirteen classics by writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Elizabeth Gaskell, Sir Walter Scott, and more. If you want to capture the feeling of what the early tradition might have felt like, this is the one for you.

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Thanks for this! I’ll also recommend British writer Ramsey Campbell who is a big admirer of M. R. James. Start with his collection “Waking Nightmares,” which includes at least one ghost story written especially for Christmas. M. R. James is emulated and the author is an offstage character in the story “The Guide.” Campbell’s Liverpool is not quite the same as the one the Beatles sang about.

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Why Do People Tell Ghost Stories on Christmas?

Christmas ghost stories are a tradition going back much farther than “A Christmas Carol”

Kat Eschner

marley.jpg

Ebenezer Scrooge wasn’t the first fictional character to see ghosts around Christmas time. The tradition of holiday ghost stories goes much, much farther back—farther, perhaps, than Christmas itself. When the night grows long and the year is growing to a close, it’s only natural that people feel an instinct to gather together. At the edge of the year, it also makes sense to think about people and places that are no longer with us.

Thus, the Christmas ghost story. Its origins have little to do with the kind of commercial Christmas we've celebrated since the Victorian age. They’re about darker, older, more fundamental things: winter, death, rebirth, and the rapt connection between a teller and his or her audience. But they’re packaged in the cozy trappings of the holiday.

“Christmas as celebrated in Europe and the U.S. was originally connected to the 'pagan' Winter Solstice celebration and the festival known as Yule. The darkest day of the year was seen by many as a time when the dead would have particularly good access to the living,” religious studies professor Justin Daniels  told   Omnia , a University of Pennsylvania blog. 

And Christmas as a holiday has a cocktail of elements that invite ghosts,   writes  Colin Fleming for  The Paris Review.   “These are the short days of the year, and a weird admixture of pagan habits and grand religiosity obtains.”

Between all that and the rum punch, well, a few tall tales are bound to come out. This was particularly true in the days before TV.  As we’ve discussed before , by the time Charles Dickens came along with his Carol (1863), the tradition of Christmas was fading. “In fact, for most people it was still a work day,” writes antiquarian bookseller Tavistock Books. “The Industrial Revolution meant fewer days off for everyone, and Christmas was considered so unimportant that no one complained.”

The decline of the holiday came courtesy of Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell, the Lord and Protector of England in the seventeenth century and a Puritan, was “on a mission to cleanse the nation of its most decadent excesses,” writes Clemency Burton-Hill for The Guardian . “On the top of the list was Christmas and all its festive trappings.” Prior to this, he writes, Christmas was celebrated in much the way that a modern Christmas is: lots of food and drink, decorations and singing (Cromwell famously banned Christmas carols). Medieval people from Britain and elsewhere also had Christmas ghost stories, writes author and ghost story expert Jon Kaneko-James on his blog.  

But with A Christmas Carol occurring around the same time as the invention of the commercial Christmas card and nineteenth-century businesses looking to create a new commercial holiday, Christmas saw a resurgence in Britain. And with it came the ghost stories that British Christmas is now known for. Terrifying tellers like E.F. Benson , Algernon Blackwood and J.H. Riddell laid the groundwork for twentieth-century tales by the likes of A.M. Burrrage and M.R. James .

The ghost story tradition has even made it some way into modern times, preserved in places like the  lyrics  to Christmas classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” which talks about “scary ghost stories.” 

Though to modern eyes, Halloween might be a more appropriate holiday for ghosts, Christmas makes sense. As Dickens wrote, the ghosts of Christmas are really the past, present and future, swirling around us in the dead of the year. They're a reminder that we're all haunted, all the time, by good ghosts and bad, and that they all have something to tell us. 

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Kat Eschner is a freelance science and culture journalist based in Toronto.

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Why Are ‘Scary Ghost Stories’ In A Christmas Song?

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There'll be parties for hosting Marshmallows for toasting And caroling out in the snow There'll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago

- "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Edward Pola & George Wyle

That line always stuck out to me. In a song largely constructed of fun, positive, joyous, happy things, "scary ghost stories" sticks out like the sorest of thumbs. Not only that it doesn't quite fit the tone, because unless you're The Addams Family, scary ghost stories are none of those aforementioned adjectives. But also how are scary ghost stories a Christmas tradition? That's Halloween! We just did that for a month. What's going on here?

The fact of the matter is it goes back not only to Charles Dickens and Victorian era celebrations of Christmas, but even further to some the European solstice celebrations.

Some of the modern traditions of Christmas borrow from old Norse, German & Celtic celebrations of the solstice, including the tree, lights, stockings, gift giving, Saint Nicolas, and that includes the telling of ghost stories. The night of the winter solstice is the longest duration of nighttime of the year, and early Europeans believed this marked the blurring of the barrier between the worlds of the living and the dead. It's kinda like that line from Game of Thrones, "The night is dark and full of terrors." Stories would be told ghosts and spirits haunting the night and thus a tradition was born.

Fast forward through Christianity's rise to prominence in Europe, there was a strong, successful push by the Puritans to abolish the celebration of Christmas, as the celebrations of the day are not explicitly outlined in the Bible, only the Lord's Day, the Sabbath. The decline in the celebration and observance of Christmas continued as Europeans colonized the Americas, so the tradition, or lack there of, continued on both sides of the Atlantic. In fact, Christmas has been banned and unbanned several times over the past 350 years, depending on who was sitting on the throne in England, and it wasn't even an officially recognized holiday in the United States until the 1850s .

Christmas just wasn't a thing, at least not as we now know and celebrate and observe it. It wasn't until 1843 when Charles Dickens reignited the Christmas spark, and indeed the ghost story tradition, with A Christmas Carol .

The tradition lived on while Queen Victoria held the crown until 1901 and then slowly faded over the years until now when we just watch whatever happens to be our favorite version of A Christmas Carol . Me? I prefer either the Patrick Stewart version or Scrooged with Bill Murray. The Muppet Christmas Carol is also really good. Michael Caine's a great Scrooge.

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Scary Christmas Stories: A History of the Holiday’s Ghostly Tradition

Season's screamings! We look at the long history and tradition of telling scary Christmas stories involving ghosts, goblins, and more.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

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“It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story” – Jerome K. Jerome, 1891

In the English countryside, dinner had ended, and the company retired to the drawing room. They gathered around the fire as the parson, who sat in a high-backed oak chair, proceeded to tell of goblins and ghosts. The squire, not a superstitious man himself, listened intently  as the parson spoke about the crusader who rose from his tomb for a nighttime ride. The old porter’s wife added to the tale with her own of the crusader’s march on Midsummer Eve, when fairies became visible.

Such was Christmas Night at Bracebridge Hall, England, in 1820.

The story set in the fictional manor was written by American author Washington Irving, and published in 1820 in the fifth installment of The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent . This was less than three months before the world was introduced to the Headless Horseman in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” prior to the start of the Victorian era – and when Charles Dickens was only seven years old.

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Twenty-three years before Ebenezer Scrooge changed his ways on the holiday in 1843, and 143 years before Andy Williams first sang about the most wonderful time of the year in 1963, Christmas had already been established as the season for telling scary ghost stories.

Irving’s English countryside story reminded readers of the idea of the paranormal and Christmas connection, but he didn’t invent it by a long shot.

Before it was “Christmas,” it was midwinter, solstice, Saturnalia, Sol Invictus, and Yule. It was the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. It represented death, and rebirth, and was a time when the veil between worlds was thin. And it took place around December 21. 

Prior to the emergence of what we know as the seasonal mascot Santa Claus , there was Sinterklass, and Saint Nicholas before him. There was the long-bearded Odin who would lead a band of hunters, or fairies, or armies of the dead across the sky during Yuletide on the Wild Hunt of Old Norse and Germanic Pagan beliefs. And much like Odin, and solstice, were appropriated, or enveloped, into Christmas, so were seasonal pagan songs turned into carols .

As Christianity spread, folklore incorporated the supernatural with the religious holiday. The anti-Claus Krampus is possibly from a pre-Christian era, but the beast of Germanic and Eastern European origins became a counterpart to St. Nick, and appeared as a hairy goat-like demon with horns and cloven hooves. Written in the 9 th -11 th century, the Sagas of the Icelanders has some pretty heavy duty spectral action during the season, including revenants. And the underworld race of goblins known as kallikantzaroi emerged in Southeastern Europe in (approximately) late 14 th Century with a mission to wreak havoc during the 12 Days of Christmas.

The idea of paranormal stories told during the winter had already been documented in fiction by 1589, when Christopher Marlowe wrote of the season’s tales of “spirits and ghosts” in The Jew of Malta . Shakespeare shortly thereafter wrote of a sad story best for winter, “of sprites and goblins” in 1623’s The Winter’s Tale — nearly two decades ahead of Oliver Cromwell banning, or trying to, Christmas celebrations in 1644 during the English Civil War.

Meanwhile, in the colonies, the Puritans rejected the pagan trappings and revelries of Christmas. Stephen Nissenbaum, author of The Battle for Christmas , writes that from 1659 to 1681, Massachusetts made public celebrations of the holiday a criminal offense carrying a fine. Notably, Captain John Smith of Jamestown celebrated the holiday in 1607, but festivities in America weren’t widespread. Christmas wasn’t even a national holiday until 1870.

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By the time Irving came to write of English Christmas traditions, which also involved “mumming” and hanging mistletoe, it was a romanticized notion, and not likely being observed with much fanfare outside the countryside. In the industrial areas, December 25 was just another day of work.

But Irving’s story nonetheless connected with Charles Dickens. In his book Dickens , Peter Ackroyd writes the author had lived an idyllic life in the country until that happy existence abruptly ended, and his father was sent to a debtor’s prison when young Charles was just 12. So Irving’s Bracebridge — a setting familiar to Dickens, and based on the real-life Watt Family at Astor Hall — must have stirred up nostalgia for his childhood lost.

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In time, Dickens and Irving became friends, and the former credited the American author with influencing his own Christmas writings. A Christmas Carol, in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was published December 19, 1843, but Dickens’ previous work The Pickwick Papers had already included a story about a Christmas Eve with ghost stories, reminiscent of Irving’s “Old Christmas.” He likewise introduced a proto-Scrooge in “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole A Sexton” in 1836 as a chapter of Pickwick .

Interestingly, from a paranormal perspective, Dickens’ “ghosts” in Carol are more inhuman entities than traditional spirits of those who have passed. Christmas Past is described as an “it” with a bright flame atop its head; Present is described as quite large with a wreath of holly and icicles; Christmas Yet to Come is the Grim Reaper-esque figure in a black shroud without a discernible face and body. The ghost of Marley is a familiar sort of ghost, though trapped in chains, returning when the veil is thin much like the old pagan tales suggested.

If Irving’s successful Sketch Book reminded English readers of the ghost story tradition, it was Dickens’ blockbuster hit that made it mainstream. Like any good creator, he gave the audience more, and wrote four additional Christmas books , and several essays on the topic – many of which involved supernatural elements, and promoted Dickens’ “Carol Philosophy” and themes of generosity.

After Jesus and Santa, Dickens gets a lot of well-deserved credit for how we celebrate Christmas. He helped remind the urban English population of the good ol’ days of Christmases of yore, and popularized the holiday as a secular charitable observance (and he coined the phrase “Merry Christmas”).

Though Dickens didn’t create the idea of Christmas ghost stories, he helped make it quintessentially British. Victorian magazines and newspapers took to publishing these themed stories for holiday fireside reading, and readers ate it up. Not surprisingly, other authors wanted in on the trend, even if they didn’t echo the Carol Philosophy.

Elizabeth Gaskell contributed the ghost yarn “The Old Nurse’s Story” to Dickens’ 1852 collection, A Round of Stories by the Christmas Fire . The list goes on: John Burwick Harwood’s “Horror: A True Tale” (1861); Ada Buisson’s “The Ghost’s Summons” (1868); Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Markheim” (1885). Even American Edgar Allan Poe set his 1845 poem “The Raven” in “bleak December,” and American ex-pat Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (1898) begins on Christmas Eve.

By 1891, English humorist Jerome K. Jerome commented on the popular tradition in Told After Supper :

“It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story. Christmas Eve is the ghosts’ great gala night. On Christmas Eve they hold their annual fete. On Christmas Eve everybody in Ghostland who IS anybody…comes out to show himself or herself, to see and to be seen, to promenade about and display their winding-sheets and grave-clothes to each other… Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

This popularity of ghost stories in Christmas was aided by the fascination with the paranormal, and the rise of Spiritualism in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. As seances and the use of spirit boards became more vogue, so did the holiday trend. When the religious movement faded from the spotlight in the 1920s, the ghost story tradition stuck around even if the English slightly cooled on it during the early-to-mid war-torn 20 th century.

M.R. James, the medieval scholar, and one of the best ghost story writers ever, took to telling fireside tales of the supernatural while he served as Provost at Eton College from 1918-1936. In North America, Canadian novelist Robertson Davies would do the same at Massey College, according to bibliographers Carl Spadoni, and Judith Skelton Grant . Meanwhile, American horror author (and racist) H.P. Lovecraft set his 1925 Necronomicon story “The Festival” during Christmastime.

Anecdotally, it seems Halloween now dominates when it comes to the season of the ghost, even in the United Kingdom. But the Christmas tradition has not entirely faded. The 1970s BBC special A Ghost Story for Christmas has returned in recent years, and The Guardian published five such stories over the course of as many days in 2013.  

Contrary to the “scary ghost stories” lyric of classic American Christmas carol “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” the U.S. didn’t take to the Christmas ghost story in the same way our British cousins did in the late 19 th century  (which makes it especially peculiar the song was written by two New York City kids, Edward Pola and George Wyle, and sung by Iowa’s own Andy Williams).

Rather, Christmas in America became especially defined by the jolly (but also supernatural) Santa Claus character presented in the 1931 Coca-Cola advertisement, painted by Haddon Sundblom, and inspired by Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” The folklore of Christmas in America in the early 20th Century was candy cane sweet. Lacking was the ominous spookiness that reminds us to seek the light.

(The indigenous peoples of North America also celebrated solstice, such as with the Iroquois Haudeshaune; the Passamaquoddy tribe’s belief that frost giants returned north during this time; the general idea across different native nations that this time is a celebration of light returning to turtle island (Earth). These traditions were never incorporated into American culture, and were instead purged by colonization.)

Still, America has gradually been making up for its absence of Christmas ghosts and goblins. The angelic 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life , directed by Frank Capra and starring Jimmy Stewart, espouses enough of the Carol Philosophy of goodwill to make Dickens proud. In Dr. Seuss’ 1957 book, and 1966 animated special, How The Grinch Stole Christmas , the creature on Mount Crumpit is a modern-day Krampus. Rod Serling toyed, somewhat literally in one case, with the notion of magic and ghosts in his 1960-62 Christmas episodes of The Twilight Zone (“Night of the Meek,” “Five Characters in Search of an Exit,” and “Changing of the Guard”).

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These days the holiday horror subgenre of film has channeled the scary nature of Victorian tales. Santa -as-slasher is well-tread territory thanks in large part to 1974’s Black Christmas , directed by Bob Clark (who also co-wrote and directed A Christmas Story ).  More than ghosts, the monsters of Christmas in American cinema has included Gremlins , Krampus , Jack Frost , Gingerdead Man , and the zombies of Anna and the Apocalypse . And the “real” Santa and his creepy elves themselves become the monsters in the Finnish film Rare Exports .

But perhaps with the exception of A Nightmare Before Christmas , and some of the more effective adaptations of A Christmas Carol , such as Scrooged , the sentimentality of Irving and Dickens is mostly absent from modern holiday tales of the supernatural. Yet they certainly bring us right back to the monsters and undead of the pagan tales.

However, with the seemingly nonstop demand for “content” across streaming platforms — and the seasonal English tradition gaining fresh attention on media outlets — we might be on the threshold of a new age of December-set stories populated with spirits and goblins.

Perhaps once more in the near future, every Christmas Eve will be a great gala night for ghosts.

Aaron Sagers

Aaron Sagers | @aaronsagers

Aaron Sagers is a New York City-based journalist, author, and researcher of the weird, pursuing the cross-cultural connections of the paranormal across the globe for more…

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Have you ever wondered why the popular Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” has a line about telling “scary ghost stories?” Doesn’t this seem like some kind of mistake? Didn’t we just have a whole month of telling ghost stories in October?   

Truly, this 1963 Christmas carol , which was written by Edward Pola and George Wyle and made famous by Andy Williams, is not mistaken. There is a long history involved in the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas time , and while it is mostly lost in the United States, it’s something that’s been involved with the winter holiday season for a long, long time, perhaps longer than Christmas itself.   

Scary Stories to Tell During Yule

As many people already know, a number of the most beloved Christmas traditions—yule logs, mistletoe, and even the Christmas tree itself— actually have their origins in pagan worship.   

Yule was—and still is—the celebration of the winter solstice , which is the day of the year when it is darkest for the longest period of time . Because of its long, cold night, Yule was also considered by many to be the day when spirits and ghosts were most likely to be able to interact with the living. As such, the tradition of telling ghost stories during this time of the year might go all the way back to Yule itself, even before it was transformed into Christmas .  

christmas ghost stories

The Man Who Invented Christmas  

Most of us know how these pagan traditions were reformulated to become Christmas traditions , but what’s funny is that Christmas itself wasn’t always the all-important holiday it is today . In fact, Oliver Cromwell, a 17 th century Puritan and political leader, had particularly targeted Christmas during the height of his power as a time of frivolity and decadence that he felt needed to be eradicated from hardworking English society . By the mid-1800s, Christmas was a day during which most people worked , and the holiday wasn’t considered important enough to celebrate in most homes.     

Enter Charles Dickens, who not only saw the way his society was more focused on the almighty dollar… er , pound… than on helping those less fortunate but also understood the eerie link between the Christmas holiday and the end of the year, which often causes people to muse about death and those they have lost. He merged these concepts together in order to create a tale about a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge who learns the error of living a life for personal and financial gain only after being visited by four specters on Christmas Eve. The 1863 no v el A Christmas Carol was an instant classic , and as such, the celebration of Christmas became much more significant in European society .   

This led to ghosts and their stories becoming a staple of Christmas traditions yet again, especially in England. By the time 1891 rolled around and humor writer Jerome K. Jerome published his collection of Christmas ghost stories, Told After Supper , it was a common custom . “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve,” he wrote, “they start telling each other ghost stories.”   

So… What Happened?   

If you’re still wondering why so many other Christmas traditions carried over from the Victorian Era but this one didn’t, it actually might have to do with the rise in popularity of another holiday: Halloween .   

When Scottish and Irish immigrants began coming to America, they attempted to bring their own customs, traditions, and holidays with them. One of these was Samhain, which eventually became what we know today as Halloween. The immigrant people of the time hoped to keep the focus of the day on their heritage, but the lure of demons, spirits , and thoughts of the afterlife became much more popular in mainstream culture , cementing Halloween as the time for ghost stories and possibly removing that custom from Christmas, which fell so soon after .   

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

Petition for Christmas Ghost Stories to Thrive Again  

Still, can we really hold Halloween completely responsible for pushing the creep out of Christmas? Are people really so fatigued by ghost stories in October that they can’t tell a few more on the most festive night of the year?

Christmas isn’t just a time of frivolity and merriment. Christmas Eve especially holds an eerie, nervous energy about it  that even adults can feel. And on a cold night where everyone is drinking, staying up late, and thinking about the year gone by, don’t ghost stories seem like the absolute ideal addition to time spent by the fireside with your loved ones ?   

So, this Christmas Eve, we recommend families and friends alike tell ghost stories to one another as the evening grows dark and the weather outside grows frightful. And if someone has the audacity to tel l you this isn’t the time of year for ghosts and goblins, remind them that Christmas is the perfect moment to get a little chilling . It’s what Charles Dickens would have wanted.    

By Julia Tilford, contributor for Ripleys.com

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most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

I wanna read a yuletide ghost story, and Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens doesn’t count.

News Nation

News Nation

Christmas ghost stories: Once a tradition, where did they go?

Posted: December 21, 2023 | Last updated: December 21, 2023

( NewsNation ) — It just may be the spookiest time of the year — though more associated with Halloween , sharing scary ghost stories is also within the Christmas spirit .

Spooky storytelling during the winter is a hallowed tradition . According to Smithsonian Magazine, it stretches back centuries when families would fill winter nights with tales of spooks and monsters. 

The tradition, based on folklore and the supernatural , was frowned upon by the Puritans, so it never gained much traction in America, yet the stories were once a Christmas staple in Victorian England .

Though “scary ghost stories and tales of the glories” still seem out of place in present-day American holiday celebrations, this tradition dates to Christmas celebrations in pre-Christian times, and some believe that the tradition pre-dates Christmas itself.

During the winter solstice , sitting around fires built to ward off the darkness with the Yule Log was a tradition. The Yule Log and the Yule season are often linked to pre-Christain solstice celebrations in pagan traditions.

The reaction to hearing a ghost story around the fire became a tradition, filled with warmth and group bonding at the coldest and darkest time of the year.

The tradition lasted for hundreds of years until Puritans stopped Christmas celebrations, according to the Carnegie Museum, though many traditions were revived during the Restoration (1660 to around 1688). Many Christmas traditions were seen as old-fashioned during the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution.

However, Charles Dickens created a small resurgence of the Christmas spirit with publications that weren’t just winter-themed but explicitly linked to Christmas, helping forge a bond between the holiday and ghost stories.

He popularized the notion of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve with the publican of “A Christmas Carol” in 1843. According to the Carnegie Museum, the story helped reinvigorate traditions focusing on the more humanistic aspects of the holiday — global peace and forgiveness and goodwill towards humanity through good works.

Dickens also edited Christmas issues of magazines: “Household Words”  and, after 1859, “ All the Year Round ,” which regularly included ghost stories.

Additionally, Dickens published “The Chimes and The Haunted Man,” which also features an unhappy man who changes his way after being visited by a ghost. In “The Seven Poor Travellers,” published in 1854, he claimed Christmas Eve is the “witching time for Story-telling,” according to Smithsonian Magazine.

Other than Dickens’ publications, in “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Yea r,” first recorded by Andy Williams in 1963, the song lists “scary ghost stories” as one of the highlights of the holiday season.

While it’s unclear why the songwriters included the tradition, Sara Cleto, a folklorist specializing in British literature, told the History Channel the lyric may reference Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

“It’s only the one text,” she said, “but it’s such a big deal here in the U.S. and the U.K., and is pretty much all that Americans know about Christmas ghost stories in isolation.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to NewsNation.

Christmas ghost stories: Once a tradition, where did they go?

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most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

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The Story Behind Those Christmas Carols You Can't Stop Singing

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Choir group singing Christmas carols

'Tis the season for an assault of Christmas songs, in public, in private, online and over the airwaves. And whether you're absentmindedly humming along while grinding through that morning commute or actively caroling around a piano at a holiday party, chances are good that — whether Christmas is your thing, or not — you're able to sing along to Christmas songs. But as you sing about trolling the ancient yuletide carol, have you ever stopped to wonder what that even means?

We've pulled together a quick explainer on a few of the terms you'll encounter while singing those Christmas tunes.

The 12 Days of Christmas

Hopalong boots, scary ghost stories, parson brown.

Advertisers and marketers love to co-opt the idea of a period leading up to Dec. 25, because the Christmas season comprises nearly 20 percent of all annual U.S. retail sales. Many jingles on television will take the tune — a song reportedly with French origins that first showed up in England in 1780 — and use it as an anticipatory song. But in most Christian traditions, Christmas Day — Dec. 25 — is actually the start of the Christmas season, which lasts all the way until the Epiphany on Jan. 6. That's the day many Christians associate with the birth, and specifically the baptism, of Jesus, and some traditions exchange gifts (lords a-leaping and otherwise) on that day, not on Dec. 25.

After its introduction in the 1944 musical "Meet Me in St. Louis," when it was sung mournfully by Judy Garland , the song "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" found its way into the Christmas song canon. (That's partially thanks to a classic 1957 version by Frank Sinatra .) But when the singer pleads to the listener to "make the yuletide gay," what does that mean? In this context, gay is a synonym for happy or cheerful. But yuletide? That's come to mean Christmastime. Yule is an ancient Germanic festival held in midwinter, and tide is an Old English word for a season or era.

And speaking of yuletide, what does it mean to "troll the ancient yuletide carol"? After all, that's one of the lines carolers sing when they get about a third of the way through "Deck the Hall(s)." It's got nothing to do with a mythical creature who lives under a bridge. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, one of the meanings of troll as a verb is to "sing (something) in a happy and carefree way." Older meanings include moving about in a circular way, or singing songs in a cyclical fashion — as you might do with "Deck the Hall(s)."

And here's some holiday trivia for you: The melody of "Deck the Hall(s)" comes from a traditional Welsh song called "Nos Galan" ("New Year's Eve") that goes back to at least the early 1700s. It was a drinking song, and the lyrics "Don we now our gay apparel" used to be sung as "Fill the mead cup, drain the barrel."

The song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" documents a small town's transformation in the time leading up to Christmas. Shops start to put out decorations, the mood of people turns convivial, and children start to dream about presents they might like:

Dolls, OK. And a toy pistol? Sure. But what the heck are Hopalong boots? When the song was released in 1951, Western movies were big, and a popular character was Bill Cassidy, a heroic cowboy dressed all in black who favored drinking sarsaparilla. He survived a gunshot to the leg, which left him with an idiosyncratic walk and the nickname "Hopalong." Around the time the song was written, Hopalong Cassidy's boots were a popular kids' item.

Christmas tunes, at least in the modern United States, tend to come mostly from the mid-20th century — when radio and television could fix notions of Christmas more easily and broadly — and from northern Europe in the 1700 and 1800s. And the mid-19th century song "Here We Come A-wassailing" endures today. But what does wassailing mean? The first thing to know in decoding these lyrics is that wassail is an alcoholic beverage — served hot, usually a mulled cider or punch. It gets its name from " waes hael ," an Old English term meaning "be well."

And wassailing? That's an English tradition performed most often on the 12th night of Christmas. A band of singers would go door to door around their neighborhood, singing Christmas songs and offering drinks from a massive bucket of wassail they'd carry with them. In return, homeowners would give the wassailers a bite to eat, some sweets or a small gift. This tradition, though unfamiliar to most Americans, still shows up in a song they should know: "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Look to the end of that song, when the singers demand the listener "bring [them] some figgy pudding," and that they "won't go until [they] get some."

If the lyrics of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" are to be believed, during the Yuletide "there'll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting / And caroling out in the snow." And all that seems to line up with what happens at this time of year. But the song continues: "There'll be scary ghost stories / And tales of the glories / Of Christmases long, long ago." It's a fair bet to say that this line raises a few questions with modern listeners, who associate telling ghost stories more with Halloween, or a night around a campfire. But what is the Charles Dickens classic "A Christmas Carol" if not a ghost story? In fact, telling ghost stories at Christmas is an English tradition that would seem completely normal to people from the Victorian era, according to historical accounts from the Paris Review and the Smithsonian . After all, what better way to spend a dark midwinter night when all your friends and family are around?

In the 1934 song "Winter Wonderland," two lovers stroll through a picturesque winter scene. The singer suggests that "In the meadow we can build a snowman / And pretend that he is Parson Brown." OK, so ... who is this guy Parson? And when the lyrics continue "He'll say, 'Are you married?' / We'll say, 'No man,'" why is he asking personal questions? If you didn't know that "parson" is a title and not a first name (comparable to, for instance, Darth Vader), the clue comes at the end of the verse: "But you can do the job, when you're in town." A parson is a Christian clergy position among some Protestant churches comparable to that of a vicar in the Catholic tradition. So a parson, as head of a regional parish, would be in a position to perform a marriage. And those of you making your snowmen at home, for marrying or otherwise, just remember — Frosty the Snowman himself had a button nose, as immortalized in the 1950 song. Carrot noses are for wannabes.

Although it's now a popular Christmastime — sorry, Yuletide — song, "Jingle Bells" was likely originally written as a drinking song for Thanksgiving.

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most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

10 Spooky Ghost Stories for Christmastime

December 17, 2019

A few weeks ago, a Smithsonian article by Colin Dickey called “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories” was making the rounds on Facebook. To our surprise, it seemed like most people weren’t aware that Christmas ghost stories were a thing in Victorian England… a BIG thing! This is what happens when you forget not everyone has an unhealthy obsession with 19th-century Britain :P. And while there are a few little hints of it in today’s world – mainly via the many, MANY adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (we maintain The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best) and scraps of lyrics like “there’ll be scary ghost stories” in the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” – the vast majority of the Western population no longer connects Christmas with ghost stories at all. And our man Colin is right – that’s really a shame. So, we are BRINGING THEM BACK!

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

To understand why Christmas was traditionally a time for ghost stories you have to look at the various connections the celebration of Christmas has to the Celtic celebration of Yule, the winter solstice and the darkest night of the year. While, like Halloween and Samhain, these connections are not perfect (and Yule certainly didn’t “turn into” Christmas), there are still significant borrowings that should be considered. What’s most important here, however, is that the winter solstice is yet another liminal time, a time of the year when the veil between worlds is thin – this makes it, therefore, a perfect time for ghosts. This belief, coupled with the fact that it simply gets darker earlier, makes the end of December the prime (and traditional) haunted storytelling time.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

While telling ghost stories in the dark of the year has been popular for centuries, Christmas ghost stories were wildly popular in Victorian England, especially in periodicals and as part of oral tradition. Dickens’ classic work was by no means the only ghost story going (though it was, as Dickey argues, perhaps the most sentimental and therefore lasting.) But ghost stories appeared all over the place, some much better than others of course, but all intending to inspire at least a small shiver. Dickens was also a huge editor of Christmas ghost stories. He believed that “Christmas Eve [… is the] “witching time for Story-telling” and frequently included ghost stories in the magazines he edited. Interestingly, women contributed a huge proportion of these Christmas ghost stories. Scholars have estimated that as much as 50-70% of all nineteenth-century ghostly fiction was written by women (Carpenter and Kolmar, Ghost Stories by British and American Women )!

So why were the Victorians so obsessed with ghosties? (And it wasn’t just ghost stories – they also had fads for holding seances, picnicking in cemeteries, and forming spiritualist and occult societies.) Part of it was the development of a middle class – more leisure time and higher literacy means more people reading! And part of it was that ghost stories offered fantasies of destabilization of the powerful, at a time when the British empire was at its height. And part of it is simply that legends are powerful ways of dealing with anxiety AND having fun, and they always have been!

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

So here are a few of our favorite Christmas-y ghost stories, some from the Victorian age, some from a bit after. We, like Dickens, believe that this can be a “witching time” for these kinds of tales, and we invite you to join us in just a bit of terror for the season…  

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843)

The most famous Christmas ghost story of them all! Obviously we have to start with this one. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is thoroughly haunted by three ghosts until he is scared into embracing the Christmas spirit!

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“ The Old Nurse’s Story ” by Elizabeth Gaskell (1852)

A classic gothic Victorian ghost story, replete with ancestral secrets, organ music, and a seriously haunted house.

“I turned towards the long narrow windows, and there, sure enough, I saw a little girl, less than my Miss Rosamond, dressed all unfit to be out-of-doors such a bitter nightcrying, and beating against the window-panes, as if she wanted to be let in. She seemed to sob and wail, till Miss Rosamond could bear it no longer, and was flying to the door to open it, when, all of a sudden, and close up upon us, the great organ pealed out so loud and thundering, it fairly made me tremble; and all the more, when I remembered me that, even in the stillness of that dead-cold weather, I had heard no sound of little battering hands upon the window-glass, although the Phantom Child had seemed to put forth all its force; and, although I had seen it wail and cry, no faintest touch of sound had fallen upon my ears. Whether I remembered all this at the very moment, I do not know; the great organ sound had so stunned me into terror; but this I know, I caught up Miss Rosamond before she got the hall-door opened, and clutched her, and carried her away, kicking and screaming, into the large bright kitchen, where Dorothy and Agnes were busy with their mince-pies.”

“Horror: A True Tale” by John Berwick Harwood (1861)*

The slow-burning suspense of this tale is enough to make your hair curl–or turn white overnight, just like the narrator! 

“I have heard since then of the Scottish belief that those doomed to some great calamity become fey, and are never so disposed for merriment and laughter as just before the blow falls. If ever mortal was fey, then, I was so on that evening.”

“Bring Me a Light!” by Jane Margaret Hooper (1861)* 

Snow White’s stepmother’s got nothing on the vengeful Lady Henrietta. The story details how her evil deeds poisoned her family home for generations. 

“She paced to and fro, turning and returning with savage, stealthy quickness. The day waned, and night began. Her servant came to see if she were wanted, and was sent away with a haughty negative. ‘She is busy with some wicked thought,’ murmured the old woman.”

“The Ghost’s Summons” by Ada Buisson (1868)*

A doctor is hired to witness a man’s final hours.

“Would you be willing to earn a thousand pounds?”

A thousand pounds! His words seemed to burn my very ears.

“I should be thankful, if I could do so honestly,” I replied with dignity. “What is the service required of me?”

A peculiar look of intense horror passed over the white face before me; but the blue-black lips answered firmly, “To attend a death-bed.”

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“ The Kit-Bag ” by Algernon Blackwood (1908)

Sara saw the title of this story and thought “Pfft! ‘The Kit-Bag’?” and then read it only to find herself shrieking “Aaaaaargh! ‘THE KIT-BAG!’” This story is a great reminder why it’s a bad idea to defend a murderer. 

“It is difficult to say exactly at what point fear begins, when the causes of that fear are not plainly before the eyes. Impressions gather on the surface of the mind, film by film, as ice gathers upon the surface of still water, but often so lightly that they claim no definite recognition from the consciousness. Then a point is reached where the accumulated impressions become a definite emotion, and the mind realizes that something has happened. With something of a start, Johnson suddenly recognized that he felt nervous–oddly nervous; also, that for some time past the causes of this feeling had been gathering slowly in his mind, but that he had only just reached the point where he was forced to acknowledge them.”

“ Between the Lights ” E. F. Benson (1912)

Christmas croquet and hallucinations! What’s not to love?

“Well, let us say for the moment that it was not a dream, exactly, but a hallucination.

Whichever it was, in any case it haunted me; for months, I think, it was never quite out of my mind, but lingered somewhere in the dusk of consciousness, sometimes sleeping quietly, so to speak, but sometimes stirring in its sleep. It was no good my telling myself that I was disquieting myself in vain, for it was as if something had actually entered into my very soul, as if some seed of horror had been planted there. And as the weeks went on the seed began to sprout, so that I could no longer even tell myself that that vision had been a moment’s disorderment only. I can’t say that it actually affected my health. I did not, as far as I know, sleep or eat insufficiently, but morning after morning I used to wake, not gradually and through pleasant dozings into full consciousness, but with absolute suddenness, and find myself plunged in an abyss of despair.”

“The Dead” by James Joyce (1914)

Though technically no ghosts appear, the story is haunted by the memory of a young man long since dead.

“A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

“Smee” by A. M. Burrage (1931)

A variation of hide-and-seek goes awry when twelve players find themselves counting their number as thirteen. 

“Have you met the Sangstons? They are cousins of mine, and they live in Surrey. Five years ago, they invited me to go and spend Christmas with them. In was an old house, with lots of unnecessary passages and staircases. A stranger could get lost in it quite easily.”

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“ Dark Christmas ” by Jeanette Winterson (2013)

In this contemporary tale, an idyllic Christmas vacation is troubled by the appearance of a manger and footsteps in the empty attic.

“We are lucky, even the worst of us, because daylight comes.

It was a brooding day that 21st of December. The shortest day of the year. Coffee, coat on, car keys. Shouldn’t I just check the attic?

The second set of stairs was narrow – a servants’ staircase. It led to a lath and plaster corridor barely a shoulder-width wide. I started coughing. Breathing was difficult. Damp had dropped the plaster in thick, crumbling heaps on the floorboards. As below, there were three doors. Two were closed. The door to the room above my room was ajar. I made myself go forward.” * These stories, and many more, can be found in the wonderful collection The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories , edited by Tara Moore. As of today, it’s $7.99 on Amazon Kindle, so grab it there or get it from your local library! There are also TWO more volumes after the first!

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

So which one of these tales did you find the spookiest? Tell us your favorites in the comments, and feel free to share your own favorite ghost stories as well!

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One of my favorite authors, Robertson Davies, was – among other things – a scholar of Elizabethan theatre, a writer of literature with magical, mystical, folkloric themes, and also a creator and teller of Christmas ghost stories (many of them take place in an academic setting, such as “The Ghost Who Vanished by Degrees”). See his collection “High Spirits” for the winter ghost tales, but I think I love them more simply because Davies wrote them, as opposed to the stories being inherently wonderful. Still, they are amusing and worth a read but his best work (I think) is the amazing Cornish Trilogy: The Rebel Angels; What’s Bred in the Bone; The Lyre of Orpheus.

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Ohhh my gosh, Brittany here, I totally forgot about “The Ghost Who Vanished by Degrees,” I love that one!! I haven’t read any of his other work, but I will absolutely check it out – it sounds great!!

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This writer sounds wonderful! Thank you for sending your comment!

Hi, Thank you for sending this list! I have already read “The Old Nurse’s Story” by Elizabeth Gaskell, which I really like! I would like to add another story of hers that is both ghost story and collection of fairy tales all in one — “Curious, If True” — at http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24879 . It’s not Christmas-specific, but it’s still lovely. I’m in the habit of thinking of fairy tales (and ghosts) with Christmas, and this has it all. I would not call it scary, but it has an eerie part.

Ahhh! This is Brittany, and I love “Curious, If True”!! I wrote about it a little bit in my dissertation :). It seems so ahead of its time to me!

Yes, I totally agree! She really is advanced.

Regarding academics and ghosts (in addition to Michelle’s great comment on Robertson Davies), I want to add the ghost stories of M.R. James. He wrote his stories (beginning with Ghost Stories of an Antiquary) particularly for Christmas entertainments for the students and fellow instructors. I believe the BBC made a series based on them, and the series was called A Ghost Story for Christmas.

Wonderful! Thanks for your post, Daylan, definitely going to check out James’ stories.

Ah yes, we love M.R. James! In retrospect I’m surprised none of his made this list… an oversight I’m glad you corrected!!

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I’m only familiar with the Dickens story. My favorite ghost stories are The Beckoning Fair One -Oliver Onions, The Demon Lover -Elizabeth Bowen, and the song- She Moves Through the Fair. I’ll have to check these others out!

Nice choices, thank you for sharing!!

This is fun–I think I’m on a roll! For a very different story, the Middle English poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a ghost story (the green knight carries his head) that opens at Camelot during Christmas season festivities. Also, the frame story to Henry James’s disturbing The Turn of the Screw takes place on Christmas Eve.

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I absolutely adore both of those! Sir Gawin and the Green Knight is just…incredibly bizarre and wonderful, and Turn of the Screw is TERRIFYING! It’s been written about as a kind of failed Cinderella story, which is a fascinating angle.

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I’m going to have to purchase these books. I love a good ghost story. The question is, do I wait until it’s winter here or do I just read them now at Christmas even though it’s the middle of summer? Hmm I think I’ll do both

Ha! I like the way you think 🙂 Enjoy!

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While not technically a ghost story I would think that Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Markheim” deserves a mention given its subject matter and its Yuletide setting and dark subject matter. And given that there are more modern titles included on this list Susan Hill’s “The Woman in Black” might also qualify, given that it is precisely this tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas time that led to the narrator relaying his story to the reader.

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Christmas ghost stories: A history of seasonal spine-chillers

​as the chill of these dismal days begins to bite and you settle in front of a roaring fire, apparently safe from harm, it's the perfect time for a terrifying tale or two. keith lee morris, himself a master of the dark art, looks at , article bookmarked.

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Dark deeds: in Dickens’s work, as this illustration from 'Little Dorritt' shows, winter nights are a time for skulduggery

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Possibly the most famous story about telling stories in all of English literature begins on Lake Geneva, Switzerland, in June 1816. During a historically wet, cold and gloomy summer – 1816 would become known, in fact, as "The Year Without a Summer" – two of the leading poets of the age, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, were vacationing near each other, Shelley with his then-future wife Mary and her stepsister Claire Clairmont (who was, in fact, pregnant with Byron's child at the time), and Byron with his friend and physician John Polidori (who would go on to write what is now often referred to as the world's first vampire novel).

There were no excursions in the woods or on the lake, no romps through fields. The days were cold and dreary and spent indoors, and Byron, inspired by a volume of ghost stories he had received from a friend, decided that each of his companions should write a ghost story. Polidori struggled with one about an old woman who peeks through keyholes on unspeakable acts. There is no record of Claire Clairmont even trying. Percy Shelley was never really one for narrative and he, too, quickly gave up the ghost, so to speak. Byron came up with a partial tale about a vampire that would eventually serve as the basis for Polidori's novel.

Only Mary Shelley succeeded, with a tale that began: "It was on a dreary night of November…" When the story later became the novel Frankenstein, the author changed the story's opening to "December 11th, 17--." Clearly, in spite of the inspiration coming in summer, the frigid weather had a dramatic effect on her, transporting her and her tale to the depths of winter. And so the novel begins in the Arctic, with "stiff gales" and "floating sheets of ice", and ends with Frankenstein's monster, doomed to a slow death, receding into the distance on an ice floe. Frankenstein is, in essence, a winter's tale.

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The notion that cold, snowy days are the best for stories designed to frighten and appal us goes back at least to the early 17th century. In Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale, written in 1611, Mamillius says: "A sad tale's best for winter. I have one / of sprites and goblins." But it was in the Victorian era that telling ghost stories became an indispensable custom of the Christmas season – indeed, the genre's popularity had been dwindling somewhat until writers such as Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell breathed new life into it. Families relished the chance to gather around the hearth on Christmas Eve to try to scare one another half to death with tales of mysterious, menacing apparitions or, in one story by MR James, a master of the genre, a "vengeful ghost boy… with fearfully long nails". The practice even finds its way into Christmas songs. A verse in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" mentions "scary ghost stories" right alongside singing to neighbours and hanging mistletoe as the very substance of the season.

One of the most familiar examples of the Christmas ghost story is Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, which he wrote in 1843 as a way of cashing in on the renewed demand for the form. The novel amounts to an acknowledgement of the ghost story's seasonal ubiquity. It's not just a ghost story that one could tell at Christmas, but – with Scrooge sitting in his armchair as his life's story is unfurled before him – it is a story about ghost stories at Christmas, a kind of meta-Christmas ghost story, if you will.

The Turn of the Screw, the US Anglophile Henry James's own take on the Christmas tale, published in 1898, operates in much the same fashion, structured as it is to position its readers by the Yuletide hearth listening to tales of horror. It begins: "The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as on Christmas Eve in an old house a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to note it as the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child." If the last words of that sentence don't cause your hair to stand on end, you're probably simply not susceptible to ghost stories.

The tale, which relates a series of strange events that befall a young governess, centres on the supposed – and that word is key – possession of a boy by the spirit of a hostile figure named Peter Quint. To begin with a recounting of the telling of the story around a fire on Christmas Eve would, James decided, be the most effective context for the story's macabre twists and turns, part of a framework designed to make the whole somehow more believable, more unsettlingly so – to ensure that the chill sinks deep down into the reader's bones.

Maybe the impulse to thrill each other with these tales of the grisly and supernatural is spurred by Halloween; as the leaves die off and fall to the ground before disappearing, we observe a holiday that features witches, ghosts and demons – a veritable festival of the dead. That sets the mood and liberates the spirits which accompany us through the following months as the days get colder, and Jack Frost stretches his fingers across the window pane. Winter is tantalisingly terrifying, and it's undoubtedly to do with its nearness to death – for, in the days before antibiotics, these were the months that would claim the most lives.

We relish the sense that our warm, happy homes, with their firmly closed doors and crackling fires, can keep death's frigid hand from our throats. So the writing that truly haunts us is almost always set in cold, barren landscapes. Consider this from Edgar Allan Poe's narrative poem "The Raven", the tale of a lover's death and the agonising chant of an avian visitor, who tells the narrator, over and over, that his departed love will appear to him "nevermore": "Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December / And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor." Or this, from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's long poem "Christabel", ostensibly about a ghostly visitor and replete with unnerving omens, which served as an influence for Poe's eerie tales: "The night is chill; the forest bare / Is it the wind that moaneth bleak?" The list goes on.

One of my favourite winter tales is the short story "Silent Snow, Secret Snow" by Conrad Aiken, published in 1934. It is about a boy who lapses into a state of schizophrenia, a condition which – due to new and deeper scientific investigations in the early 20th century – captured the public imagination with stories of hallucinatory voices and "unnatural" behaviour. The dream world into which Aiken's protagonist slips becomes – silently, slowly, inch by inch – engulfed in bright white. The most terrifying aspect of the story is how quietly it proceeds, how the snow seems literally to settle in the reader's mind, exerting a chilling, mesmerising pressure much like that experienced by the boy himself: "The hiss was now becoming a roar – the whole world was a vast moving screen of snow – but even now it said peace, it said remoteness, it said cold, it said sleep."

And we're all familiar with the story told in The Shining – whether in Stephen King's original novel or Stanley Kubrick's film adaptation – with the vast blanketed spaces surrounding the Overlook Hotel, and their eerie, transforming solitude. As Jack Torrance loses his grip on reality, the mood darkens and the tension increases in line with the dropping temperature and the rapidly layering snow. The result is perhaps the world's most celebrated case of "cabin fever".

Even a story that isn't intended to be scary, such as James Joyce's "The Dead", from 1914's Dubliners, distils haunting effects from its winterscape. The final scene is the telling of a story, narrated by the main character's wife, about her first love, a man named Michael Furey, who died for her love by standing outside her window in a snowstorm and contracting pneumonia. The main character, Gabriel Conroy, listens to the melancholy story, in which his wife reveals that she never truly loved him, while he stands at a window himself and watches the snowflakes "falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead". So apt is Joyce's tale for this time of year that, until 28 December, the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe in London is staging a candlelit reading of the short story as part of its Winter's Tale season, with Joyce's words, read by the actor Aidan Gillen, set to an unsettling piano score played by Feargal Murray. This is the second year in a row that the Wanamaker has hosted an adaptation of the tale; it's becoming something of a tradition.

How many other scenes have we read in which characters observe the snow through a window? Time and again, writers have called on wintry images to evoke feelings of dread, emptiness, loss, and isolation. But the trope can also be used to reverse effect – to emphasise the warmth of the fire and the comforts of the home, as in this passage from the French writer Jean Giono's Joy of Man's Desiring, published in 1936: "The fire roared. The water boiled. The shutter creaked. The pane cracked in its putty with the cold… There was a beautiful morning over the earth. The sun was daring to venture into the sky… The enlightenment was coming from the warmth, the fire, the frost, the wall, the window pane, the table, the door rattling in the north wind…"

Winter's ability to capture our imagination is at its strongest precisely when we are the farthest removed from its more harmful aspects. Take this passage from Eowyn Ivey's 2011 story The Snow Child, set in a frozen Alaskan landscape in the early 1900s: "Through the window, the night air appeared dense, each snowflake slowed in its long, tumbling fall through the black. It was the kind of snow that brought children running out their doors, made them turn their faces skyward, and spin in circles with their arms outstretched." The jovial imagery belies its melancholy context, for Ivey's novel is about an elderly man and wife who are unable to conceive a child and who live with their grief in a hostile landscape – often brutally so. In a rare moment of levity and togetherness they construct a little girl out of snow. The next morning, they find that she has become real – as if by magic. The story, which combines one of nature's most deep-seated anxieties about fertility, or its lack, with a primitive distrust of intruders and that which cannot be rationalised, is based on an old Russian folk tale; Ivey's retelling demonstrates how enduring the appeal is of these icy tales, for writers and readers alike.

In some ways, the stories by which we love to be unsettled are also a form of preparation – often for the very worst. Curled up in a favourite armchair, we still ourselves against the things we know can harm us. When the weather outside turns gloomy or threatening, we can crank up the heating and lighten the burden of our thoughts by turning to fantastic tales designed to mask the things that scare us most.

That summer of 1816, during which Mary Shelley and the others invented ghost stories, would turn out to be the party's final carefree season. The travellers returned to England to find that Mary's half-sister had committed suicide; Percy Shelley's first wife, pregnant with his child, drowned herself a few months later. Shelley's son from his first marriage died of a fever in 1818. In the next few years, Percy and Mary Shelley would have two children, neither of whom would reach their second birthday. Percy Shelley and Lord Byron themselves would both die within the next 10 years. Sometimes, the frightening stories we tell each other are not nearly as horrifying as the events that real life holds in store for us. In this sense, the effect is twofold: the tales transport us from our everyday anxieties at the same time as they enable us to confront them, however obliquely; they are a means to exorcise our demons by acknowledging them – in a homely environment.

But the secret lure of these tales – of the horrifying creatures we call into being, the ghosts that stalk us, and the demons that we discover at work within our own minds – is that, while the stories themselves are fictions, the underlying dangers they conjure up, and the thrill that we feel in confronting them, are in the end quite real. Think of that on a winter's night.

Keith Lee Morris's novel 'Travelers Rest' is out next month.

shakespearesglobe.com

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The Coal Speaker

The Coal Speaker

FROM THE DEEP DARK MINES OF THE EAST

The Coal Speaker

There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

The popularity of ghost stories was strongly related to economic changes. The industrial revolution had led people to migrate from rural villages into towns and cities, and created a new middle class. They moved into houses that often had servants, says Clarke, many taken on around October or November, when the nights were drawing in early – and new staff found themselves “in a completely foreign house, seeing things everywhere, jumping at every creak”. Robbins says servants were “expected to be seen and not heard – actually, probably not even seen, to be honest. If you go to a stately home like Harewood House, you see the concealed doorways and servant’s corridors. You would actually have people popping in and out without you really knowing they were there, which could be quite a freaky experience. You’ve got these ghostly figures who actually inhabit the house.”
Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

Christmas has long been associated with ghosts, says Roger Clarke, author of  A Natural History of Ghosts: 500 Years of Hunting for Proof . Just before Christmas 1642, for instance, shepherds were said to have seen ghostly civil war soldiers battling in the skies. This connection continued in the Victorian era through Dickens’s story, and through the ghost stories he later published at Christmas in his periodical All the Year Round, with contributors including  Wilkie Collins  and Elizabeth Gaskell. It would also continue in the tradition started by  MR James , the provost of King’s College, Cambridge, who would invite a select few students and friends to his rooms each year on Christmas Eve, where he’d read one of the ghost stories he had written, which are still popular today. They include Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book (1895), in which an ancient holy book brings forth a demonic presence, first announced by a hand covered in “coarse black hairs, longer than ever grew on a human hand; nails rising from the ends of the fingers and curving sharply down and forward, grey, horny and wrinkled”. The popularity of ghost stories was strongly related to economic changes. The industrial revolution had led people to migrate from rural villages into towns and cities, and created a new middle class. They moved into houses that often had servants, says Clarke, many taken on around October or November, when the nights were drawing in early – and new staff found themselves “in a completely foreign house, seeing things everywhere, jumping at every creak”. Robbins says servants were “expected to be seen and not heard – actually, probably not even seen, to be honest. If you go to a stately home like Harewood House, you see the concealed doorways and servant’s corridors. You would actually have people popping in and out without you really knowing they were there, which could be quite a freaky experience. You’ve got these ghostly figures who actually inhabit the house.”
Fascinating it is that a number of mystics through the centuries have cited Christmas Day — not All Souls’ Day, or any other time — as when the greatest number of souls are released from purgatory. This was stated, we are informed, by the great doctor of the Church, Saint Teresa of Avila

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

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Forget Halloween, Bring Ghost Stories Back to Christmas

If your idea of festive joy is being haunted by past memories or driven insane by mysterious specters, have we got the tradition for you.

An actor in costume as Jacob Marley emerges from the shadows, lit by a sharp, neon green light. He is in tattered Victorian-era clothing, and carries weights and chains. He has a white beard, and his hair is sticking straight up.

By Isabella Kwai

Reporting from London

At the most wonderful time of the year, there is one tradition that John Maguire remembers fondly: his Liverpudlian grandmother trying to scare the daylights out of him.

Without much money for Christmas celebrations, he and his family leaned instead on a centuries-old form of festive entertainment on the cold and dark evenings.

“We’d turn all the lights off, and put the candles on, and she’d tell us a story,” Mr. Maguire said. Not nice stories — ghost tales and other myths. “It used to keep me awake at night.”

Now a grown-up, 46-year-old creative director at Arts Groupie, a group that promotes theater and other arts, he wants more people to have that painful pleasure. This year he revived the tradition , popularized during Victorian times, of sharing ghost stories at Christmas. He and other authors read chilling Victorian tales aloud to a quiet, dim library, lit by (electronic) candles.

“Dickens didn’t have the luxury of television,” he said. He still holds a belief that, at a time when green screens can manifest every potential horror, “nothing is more chilling than your own imagination.”

Christmas can be a time of cheery joy, family fun and romantic high jinks, as many a Hallmark Christmas film suggests . But if that doesn’t do it for you — Bah! Humbug! — there is another way. Perhaps your idea of a getting into the holiday spirit is the haunting of past memories, a glimpse of a specter or being driven mad by former wrongdoings.

Families in Victorian England, where written ghost stories flourished in periodicals at Christmas, would have agreed. You know the most famous of them: the 1843 Dickens classic “ A Christmas Carol ,” in which ghosts help a miserly man change his ways. Its popularity is clear in the countless retellings onscreen and in theaters (including by The Muppets ).

But his other stories, many published specifically to be read at Christmas, may now feel more appropriate for Halloween. There is “The Signal-Man” (a railway worker is troubled by an apparition); “The Haunted House” (a group of friends renting a rundown manor realize they are not alone); and “The Trial for Murder” (the ghost of a man seeking justice haunts jurors at his own murder trial).

Plenty of others have contributed to the genre, including writers like Elizabeth Gaskell , Henry James and Montague Rhodes James. Editors populated their periodicals with stories of gothic horror, dreams and eerie events.

Though the origins are misty, experts say the tradition of telling ghost stories in the winter predates the Victorians. But mentions of the supernatural at Christmas became popular in the 19th century, as literacy rates improved and the traditions of the season as we know it were emerging — Christmas trees and cards were both introduced to Britain at the time. What else to do, on the long and dark nights as winter solstice closed in?

”The family would come together, they would play games, they would end the evening with a storytelling around the fire,” said Jen Cadwallader, a professor of English at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia.

The success of “A Christmas Carol” helped shift Yuletide ghost stories from the family parlor into the mainstream, and its publication prompted a flurry of Christmas novellas and short stories for a thirsty audience.

“It just reminded people that, hey, ghosts really sell at Christmas time,” said Tara Moore, a professor at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania.

(Though Americans share the fondness for “A Christmas Carol,” historians say Christmas ghost stories did not quite cross over with the same fervor, perhaps because such spookiness became more associated with Halloween there.)

Since 2005, the BBC has produced adaptations of ghost stories at Christmas; this year’s Christmas Eve entry stars Kit Harington of “Game of Thrones” in an adaptation of a tale by Arthur Conan Doyle. Theater companies have adapted ghost stories for stages like Shakespeare’s Globe .

But do people still want Christmas to be scary?

George Hoyle, who runs the South East London Folklore Society, thinks they do. Mr. Hoyle discussed the history of the tradition before reading a famous tale to audiences at a local cafe this month.

“It is a scary place, but it’s safe at the same time, because we are all together,” he said of contrasting the coziness of a warm cafe with the spooky tales. Mulled wine and minced pies were served.

Several of Mr. Maguire’s ghost story nights sold out, and the company also hosted a competition for locals to submit their own ghost tales to be performed.

“It’s mankind’s oldest form of entertainment,” he said. “It’s cold, it’s dark, and people want to have that kind of fear factor.”

Ghost stories tend to remind people to reflect on their morals, values and how precious time is spent, something that still resonates in today’s working world, said Professor Cadwallader. “We are as busy as the Victorians were — and we still find it comforting to step out of time for a little bit.”

So, gather some friends. Draw the blinds. Read some tried and tested chillers, like Elizabeth Gaskell’s “The Old Nurse’s Story,” or Montague Rhodes James’s “The Mezzotint.” Listen — what was that sound? A whisper? A guilty conscience? Or the sound of Christmas on its way?

Isabella Kwai is a breaking news reporter in the London bureau. She joined The Times in 2017 as part of the Australia bureau. More about Isabella Kwai

Dark Worlds Quarterly

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…

December 17, 2023 G. W. Thomas Christmas , Dark Worlds Quarterly , G. W. Thomas , Ghost Stories , Gothic , Horror , Horror Fiction , Radio 4

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” sung by Andy Williams came on my radio and I noticed something. It is the only American Christmas song that refers to the English tradition of telling ghost stories in the Yuletide. The line goes:

There’ll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

And, of course, it’s also that time of year for me to offer some of my favorite “scary ghost stories” for you to listen to. You know, in case Andy Williams, ain’t your thing.

What that old Christmas song doesn’t tell you is that the majority of ghost story writers were women. So in honor of all these great female writers , here is a selection of goodies to enjoy by the fire. Many of these authors were also the editors of magazines and writers of long, mainstream novels. But the Christmas season offered a chance to make a little extra money telling a tale or two about ghosts and other visitants.

Our authors break down by nationality like this: 13 British, 1 Welsh, 1 Scottish, 4 Irish, 5 American and 1 Canadian. (And one who is so obscure, she is unknown). Here’s a game we like to play in our house when we watch television: It’s called “Spot the Canadian”. Just about every US TV show has at least one Canuck in the mix. So go ahead: Spot the Canadian.

For more ghostly fun, check out the Quintessential Ghost Story Library, here .

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Ghosts and Family Legends: Preface” by Catherine Crowe (1803-1876)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Grey Woman” by Elizabeth Gaskell (1810-1865)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Reality or Delusion?” by Mrs. Henry Wood (1814-1887)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Last House in C—- Street” by Mrs. Craik (1826-1887)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Open Door” by Margaret Oliphant (1828-1897)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B. Edwards (1831-1892)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Ensouled Violin” by Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“A Strange Christmas Game” by Charlotte Riddell (1832-1906)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Cold Embrace” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1835-1915)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Dip in the Road” by Mrs. Molesworth (1839-1921)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Under the Cloak” by Rhoda Broughton (1840-1920)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Haunted Organist” by Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Number Ninety” by B. M. Croker (1848-1920)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Luella Miller” by Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman (1852-1930)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“In the Seance Room” by Lettice Galbraith (?-?)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Oke of Okehurst” by Vernon Lee (1856-1937)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Let Loose” by Mary Cholmondeley (1859-1925)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins-Gilman (1860-1935)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“On the Northern Ice” by Elia W. Peattie (1862-1935)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Kerfol” by Edith Wharton (1862-1937)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Nature of the Evidence” by May Sinclair (1863-1946)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Lame Priest” by S. Carleton (1864-1926)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Unbolted Door” by Mary Belloc Lowndes (1868-1947)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Intruder” by Majorie Bowen (1885-1952)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“Green Holly” by Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973)

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

“The Mistress in Black” by Rosemary Timperley (1920-1988)

If you didn’t pick our Canadian out of this line-up, it is S. Carleton (Susan Carleton Jones), author of “The Lame Priest”, a werewolf story . Canadian werewolves might seem funny to you if your idea of Canada is based on Mountie movies and ads for Tim Horton’s coffee. The remoteness of many communities, especially in the North, make great bottlenecks for Horror to happen. I should know. I’ve written a few, like the three in the book below. I call them Strange Northerns. (I recently found out Charles G. Waugh is coming out with a collection of Canadian Horror called Northern Darkness (out in January) which is pretty good name, too. More on that book, in the new year. This really is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year…for ghost story fans.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

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2 Comments Posted

Great post! I will be linking this up with next week’s Vary Dickens Christmas.

Glad you enjoyed it.

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most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

On the Lost Christmastime Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories

A christmas carol is the main vestige of this pastime, but it was once one of the most hallowed ways to celebrate the winter season.

Remember how Andy Williams sings about how “they’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmasses long, long ago?” when describing what the Christmas season will be like, in his 1963 song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?”

The song, written by Edward Pola and George Wyle, is referencing a nineteenth-century (mostly British) pastime of telling spooky stories to crowds of family and friends on Christmas Eve, a fad that largely died in the beginning of the twentieth century. But in the 1800s (and even earlier), this festive pastime was widely beloved. To modern readers, only one vestige of this tradition remains: Charles Dickens’s 1843 story A Christmas Carol , about how an old, cold-hearted miser is visited on Christmas Eve night by three ghosts who reveal to him the ways in which he has squandered his life and legacy.

Colin Dickey notes , in The Smithsonian Magazine , that the tradition of telling ghost-stories on Christmas Eve is largely English; the Puritanical culture of early America fairly dismissed this perceived-occult pastime. But Dickey assembles several primary sources dating back to England’s Early Modern period that confirm the longstanding appreciation for telling eerie tales on chilly winter nights. In Christopher Marlowe’s 1590 play The Jew of Malta , the protagonist Barabbas notes “Now I remember those old women’s words/ Who in my wealth would tell me winter’s tales/ And speak of spirits and ghosts by night.” And in Shakespeare’s 1611 play The Winter’s Tale , a character suggests some storytelling with “A sad tale’s best for winter. I have one. Of sprites and goblins.”

Still, no one turned it to an explicitly Christmastime staple until Charles Dickens. A Christmas Carol, or, to call it by its full title, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas , was not Dickens’s only holiday ghost story, just his first. In the 1850s, he edited a popular magazine called Household Words, and after 1859, another called All the Year Round , whose Christmas editions regularly featured ghost stories, many written by him and his protege Wilkie Collins. His contributions to the long cultural pastime of wintertime scary-storytelling turned the Christmas ghost story into a motivated genre, rather than a ubiquitous instance of seasonal folklore.

Nearly fifty years later, in 1891, as mentioned by Dickey, the humor-writer Jerome K. Jerome noted, “Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.”

In 1843, Dickens had been inspired to write A Christmas Carol after reading an account, published that same year, detailing the conditions of child labor in Britain. Dickens, a former child-laborer himself, was a passionate defender of childrens’ right to be children. Incensed, he penned a story about a greedy cheapskate who is transformed into a philanthropist, inspired and honored to donate his money and resources to those in worse conditions (especially children in need). Hoping the story would have a positive social effect, he wrote in the preface, “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”

But Dickens also needed A Christmas Carol to be a success, because he already had amassed a large debt with the publisher Chapman and Hall . It makes sense that Dickens made his story a ghost story, of all things, to capitalize on the appetite for such stories around the holidays. When the book was released on December 19th of that same year, in a gorgeous edition with lavish, colored illustrations by John Leech, it sold out its entire 6,000 print run in just a few days. (Though, the expenses it took to produce such a volume meant Dickens did not actually make as much as he had hoped.) The appearance of a pirated version the following year confirmed the demand for his spooky, reflective novel (as well as sent Dickens to court in what would be an extremely tedious and expensive copyright case).

Dickens and his writers produced tons of Christmas ghost stories for his periodicals. Many have morals rather like A Christmas Carol, while others, like “The Signal-man” from 1866, are just plain horror. After Dickens ceased writing holiday Christmas stories in 1868, many other writers took up the task.

Towards the end of the century, a young M.R. James, who would become a famed writer of spooky tales and the eventual provost of King’s College, Cambridge, took up the mantle passionately. Colin Fleming writes in The Paris Review, “ His thing was to write a tale for Christmas, invite some of his fellow Eton dons and favored students into his rooms, and read it over candlelight after everyone had been plied with eggnog. Readings for the season—but not really of the season.”

But once Dickens stopped writing Christmas ghost stories, things weren’t the same. William Dean Howells noted in Harper’s in 1886, that, Dickens’s own humanistic motivations gave the Christmas ghost story its true purpose; without him, they were nothing more than tales to shock and scare, as they had been before Dickens. “The ethical intention which gave dignity to Dickens’ Christmas stories of still earlier date has almost wholly disappeared.” While this was happening, Dickey notes in his article , the American holiday of Halloween began to gain cultural traction (brought over by Irish and Scottish immigrants), eventually but permanently shifting ghoulish content to the autumn.

Still, towards the end of the nineteenth century, ghosts were everywhere . Christmastime ghost stories arose in conjunction with an growing cultural interest in Spiritualism. New technologies (such as photography) and a growing middle-class which brought people from crowded homes into emptier, bigger ones, all provided opportunities for Victorians to ruminate about spirits lurking about. Ghost photography, in which artists would manipulate light and images to suggest that their cameras had captured visitors from the beyond, became a fad. By the end of the nineteenth century, ghost stories had become so popular that they seemed unavoidable and unoriginal. In her the 1887 story “The story of the Rippling Train,” the writer Mary Louise Molesworth had a character complain, upon learning of the presence of a ghost, “One hears nothing else nowadays.”

(Every year, the small press Biblioasis releases a small collection of classic holiday ghost stories, all illustrated by SETH: check them out here .)

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Telling ghost stories is a lost tradition on Christmas Eve

Jeffrey Peterson, For the Deseret News

Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge and Geraldine Chaplin as the Ghost of Christmas Future in a musical version of "A Christmas Carol." In the book's introduction, Charles Dickens himself calls it a "ghostly little story."

Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge and Geraldine Chaplin as the Ghost of Christmas Future in a musical version of “A Christmas Carol.” In the book’s introduction, Charles Dickens himself calls it a “ghostly little story.”

NBC Universal

Marley's Ghost confronts Scrooge in 1938's version of "A Christmas Carol."

Marley’s Ghost confronts Scrooge in 1938’s version of “A Christmas Carol.”

Deseret News

Kelsey Grammer as Ebenezer Scrooge and Geraldine Chaplin as the Ghost of Christmas Future in a musical version of "A Christmas Carol." In the book's introduction, Charles Dickens himself calls it a "ghostly little story."

While reading a list of all the modern Christmas traditions that were either borrowed from pagan winter festivals or invented by the English during the mid-19th century, it's remarkable to see how little Christmas has changed over the past 160 years.

People still send Christmas cards, decorate evergreen trees, go door-to-door caroling and stuff stockings with candy. Christmas, at least as most Americans celebrate it, really is a product of Victorian England.

In the last few decades, though, perhaps one of the most interesting Victorian Christmas traditions has been almost completely lost from memory.

“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” wrote British humorist Jerome K. Jerome as part of his introduction to an anthology of Christmas ghost stories titled “Told After Supper“ in 1891. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.”

The practice of gathering around the fire on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories was as much a part of Christmas for the Victorian English as Santa Claus is for us.

Traces of this now-forgotten tradition occasionally appear in noticeable places at Christmastime, although their significance is generally overlooked.

One verse of Andy Williams’ classic Christmas song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” for instance, clearly says, “There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.”

The most obvious example of how Victorian ghost stories have persisted to some degree in modern Christmas celebrations, however, is of course Charles Dickens’ own “ghostly little story” (as he calls it in the introduction) “A Christmas Carol.”

Some argue that Dickens’ Christmas ghost story single-handedly saved the winter holiday from dying out during the Industrial Revolution. At a time when England was no longer celebrating Christmas, Dickens reintroduced many centuries-old traditions with his instant holiday classic. It has become so much a part of Christmas in its various film adaptations and theatrical versions that people don't even wonder why Dickens chose, of all things, four spectral visitors to bring about Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from miserly curmudgeon to selfless philanthropist.

Isn’t there something inherently unseasonal about ghosts? Don’t ghosts belong with all the ghouls and goblins of Halloween? Not so for Victorian England.

“There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas — something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails… For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the twenty-fourth of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated,” Jerome wrote.

He continues, “So what is it about Christmas that goes so well with ghosts? Such a question inevitably brings up the issue of why we celebrate Christmas in December at all.”

As Lord Protector of England during the mid-17th century, Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell was perhaps not entirely without justification when he tried to abolish the celebration of Christmas. As he argued, nowhere in the Bible does it tell Christians to celebrate Christ’s birth on the 25th of December. Nor, in fact, does it mention any “holy day” other than the Lord’s Sabbath.

On top of that, the 25th of December was not an arbitrary choice for early Christians. Rather, it was selected because of its connection with pagan festivals like Yule and Sol Invictus (the birthday of the Unconquered Sun), both of which commemorated the winter solstice or the longest night of the year.

These festivals celebrated the death of light and its subsequent rebirth the following day. It was for the obvious symbolic connotations that early Christians adopted dates significant to pagan Romans and Northern Europeans.

In addition to being the longest night of the year, however, winter solstice was also traditionally held to be the most haunted due to its association with the death of the sun and light. It was the one night of the year when the barrier between the worlds of the living and the deceased was thinnest. On Christmas Eve, ghosts could walk the earth and finish unsettled business, as exemplified by the apparition of Marley in Charles Dickens' Christmas masterpiece.

In short, the Victorian Christmas celebration, which drew heavily on pagan symbols like yule logs, holly berries and Father Christmas himself, also embraced the winter holiday’s associations with the supernatural to create one of its most popular annual traditions.

Unfortunately, of all the traditions and rituals that have survived through the generations, the Victorian custom of recounting blood-curdling ghost stories with friends and family around the fire on Christmas Eve has been almost completely forgotten.

So if you decide to watch "The Others" or "The Sixth Sense" this Christmas Eve instead of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” or “Elf," you'll be keeping alive a Victorian Christmas Eve tradition.

most wonderful time of the year scary ghost stories

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How Ghost Stories Became a Christmas Tradition in Victorian England

By: Elizabeth Yuko

Published: December 15, 2021

An 1814 engraving depicts a boy scaring guests with a ghost at a Victorian Christmas party.

Towards the end of each year, as fireplaces are lit and hot cocoa is made, Americans have made it a tradition to revisit their favorite classic holiday books, movies and songs. And though ghost stories may seem out of place in present-day American holiday celebrations, they were once a Christmas staple, reaching their peak of popularity in Victorian England.

A Dark, Spooky Time of Year

Like most longstanding cultural customs, the precise origin of telling ghost stories at the end of the year is unknown, largely because it began as an oral tradition without written records. But, according to Sara Cleto, a folklorist specializing in British literature and co-founder of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic , the season around winter solstice , has been one of transition and change. “For a very, very, very long time, [the season] has provoked oral stories about spooky things in many different countries and cultures all over the world,” she says.

Furthermore, spooky storytelling gave people something to do during the long, dark evenings before electricity. “The long midwinter nights meant folks had to stop working early, and they spent their leisure hours huddled close to the fire,” says Tara Moore , an assistant professor of English at Elizabethtown College, author of Victorian Christmas in Print , and editor of The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories . “Plus, you didn’t need to be literate to retell the local ghost story.”

Effects of the Industrialization Revolution

It was in Victorian England that telling supernatural tales at the end of the year—specifically, during the Christmas season—went from an oral tradition to a timely trend. This was in part due to the development of the steam-powered printing press during the Industrial Revolution that made the written word more widely available.

This gave Victorians the opportunity to commercialize and commodify existing oral ghost stories, turning them into a version they could sell. “Higher literacy rates, cheaper printing costs, and more periodicals meant that editors needed to fill pages,” Moore says. “Around Christmas time, they figured they could convert the old storytelling tradition to a printed version.”

Thomas Bensley's printing press. (Credit: SSPL/Getty Images)

People who moved out of their towns and villages and into larger cities still wanted access to the supernatural sagas they heard around the fireplace growing up. “Fortunately, Victorian authors like Elizabeth Gaskell, Margaret Oliphant and Arthur Conan Doyle worked through the fall to cook up these stories and have them ready to print in time for Christmas,” Moore says.

Industrialization not only provided tools to distribute spooky stories, uncertainty during the era also fueled interest in the genre, says Brittany Warman, a folklorist specializing in Gothic literature and co-founder of The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic . Interest was driven, she says, by “the rise of industrialization, the rise of science, and the looming fall of Victorian Britain as a superpower. All of these things were in people's minds, and made the world seem a little bit darker [and] a little bit scarier.”

Stories Find a Wide-Ranging Audience

Telling horror-filled holiday tales continued to be a family affair in England, even when they were read rather than recited. “We know from illustrations and diaries that whole families read these periodicals together,” Moore says.

The popularity of Victorian Christmas ghost stories also transcended socioeconomic status, according to Moore. They were available to read everywhere from cheap publications, to expensive Christmas annuals that middle-class ladies would show off on their coffee tables.

Their broad audience was reflected in the stories themselves, which sometimes centered around working class characters, and other times took place in haunted manor houses. “These upper class settings were intended to invite readers from all classes into an idealized, upper-crust Christmas, the type todays’ fans of Downton Abbey still enjoy as entertainment,” Moore adds.

The Charles Dickens Effect

Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past soar over the moonlit town. From Dicken's Christmas Carol.

Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol has forever linked the British author with the holiday season, but his contributions to Christmas in Victorian England—including the tradition of telling and reading ghost stories—extend far beyond Jacob Marley’s visit to Scrooge.

In fact, Cleto says that Dickens played a “huge part” in popularizing the genre in England. “He wrote a bunch of different Christmas novellas, several of which involved ghosts, specifically,” she says, “and then he started editing more and more Christmas ghost stories from other people, and working those into the magazines he was already editing. And that just caught like wildfire.”

Dickens also helped shape Christmas literature in general, Moore says, by formalizing expectations about themes like forgiveness and reunion during the holiday season.

American Christmas Traditions: More Syrupy Than Spooky

Although countless trends made their way from England to America during the Victorian era, the telling of ghost stories during the Christmas season was not one that really caught on. A Christmas Carol was an immediate best-seller in the United States , but at the time of its publication, Dickens was arguably the most famous writer in the world, and already wildly popular . The novella’s success in the U.S. likely had more to do with Dickens’ existing (massive) fan base than it did Americans’ interest in incorporating the supernatural into Christmas. “American Christmas scenes and stories tended to be syrupy sweet,” Moore explains.

There were a few American writers of the period “trying to put Victorian-style Christmas ghost stories into American culture,” Warman says, including Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry James. Washington Irving made a similar and earlier attempt, slipping the supernatural into Christmas-themed short stories published in 1819 and 1820.

Warman theorizes that America’s reluctance to embrace the Christmas ghost story tradition had to do, at least in part, with the country’s attitudes towards things like magic and superstitions.

“In America, we generally had a bit of a resistance to the supernatural in a way that European countries didn't,” she explains. “When you came to America, you came with a fresh start. You came with a secular mindset, and the idea that you were leaving the past behind. And some of these spooky superstitions were thought of as being part of the past.”

Another reason telling spooky stories never took off as a Christmas tradition in the United States was because it became more firmly established as a Halloween tradition, thanks to Irish and Scottish immigrants. “That really impacted culture here, because they brought with them a concept similar to Halloween , and that became, for America, the time period for ghosts,” Warman explains.

Traces of the Tradition

Other than A Christmas Carol , there is another piece of pop culture that reflects the Victorian Christmas tradition: a single line from a song written and released in 1963 by American musicians. First recorded by Andy Williams, the song “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” lists “scary ghost stories” as one of the highlights of the holiday season.

Although it’s unclear why the writers of the song (Edward Pola and George Wyle) included the tradition, Cleto says that it’s possible that the lyric is a reference to Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. “It's only the one text,” she notes, “but it's such a big deal here in the U.S. and the U.K., and is pretty much all that Americans know about Christmas ghost stories in isolation.”

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  1. 11 Best Scary Ghost Stories

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COMMENTS

  1. Why the Heck Does That Christmas Song Talk About Telling Ghost Stories

    The Christmas season is upon us, and more than likely, while you've been out shopping or listening to the radio, you heard some rendition of the 1963 Andy Williams song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." And if you're like me, you've probably always been perplexed by the song's mention of ghost stories.

  2. The "Scary Ghost Stories" of

    December 10, 2021 Culture, Holidays The "Scary Ghost Stories" of … Christmas? You've heard Andy Williams sing about "scary ghost stories" in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." And while that might make you think of "A Christmas Carol," the Dickens story is only part of a spooky holiday tradition. Troy Brownfield (Shutterstock)

  3. Why Do People Tell Ghost Stories on Christmas?

    The ghost story tradition has even made it some way into modern times, preserved in places like the lyrics to Christmas classic "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" which talks...

  4. Why Are 'Scary Ghost Stories' In A Christmas Song?

    Brodie Published: December 8, 2017 TheGame4864 via YouTube There'll be parties for hosting Marshmallows for toasting And caroling out in the snow There'll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories of the Christmases long, long ago - "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" by Edward Pola & George Wyle That line always stuck out to me.

  5. Scary Christmas Stories: A History of the Holiday's Ghostly Tradition

    Twenty-three years before Ebenezer Scrooge changed his ways on the holiday in 1843, and 143 years before Andy Williams first sang about the most wonderful time of the year in 1963,...

  6. People Used To Tell Ghost Stories At Christmastime

    Ripley's Believe It or Not! — December 17, 2019 CHARLES JAY TAYLOR / LIBRARY OF CONGRESS Have you ever wondered why the popular Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" has a line about telling "scary ghost stories?" Doesn't this seem like some kind of mistake? Didn't we just have a whole month of telling ghost stories in October?

  7. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

    Among the activities included in the song is the telling of "scary ghost stories," a Victorian Christmas tradition that has ... dated November 28, 2009, the list of the "Top 10 Holiday Songs (Since 2001)" places the Williams recording of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" at number five. 2001 also marked the first year in ...

  8. Christmas ghost stories: Once a tradition, where did they go?

    Story by Taylor Delandro • 3d Christmas ghost stories: Once a tradition, where did they go? © Provided by News Nation ( NewsNation) — It just may be the spookiest time of the year —...

  9. The Story Behind Those Christmas Carols You Can't Stop Singing

    Scary Ghost Stories. If the lyrics of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" are to be believed, during the Yuletide "there'll be parties for hosting / Marshmallows for toasting / And caroling out in the snow." And all that seems to line up with what happens at this time of year. But the song continues: "There'll be scary ghost stories ...

  10. Ghost Stories of Christmas: A chilling Victorian tradition

    The novella about a chilling series of supposedly ghostly events that befall a young governess begins with men gathered around a fire sharing spooky stories on Christmas Eve. The American goth ...

  11. 10 Spooky Ghost Stories for Christmastime

    And while there are a few little hints of it in today's world - mainly via the many, MANY adaptations of Dickens' A Christmas Carol (we maintain The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best) and scraps of lyrics like "there'll be scary ghost stories" in the song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - the vast majority of the ...

  12. Christmas ghost stories: A history of seasonal spine-chillers

    A verse in "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" mentions "scary ghost stories" right alongside singing to neighbours and hanging mistletoe as the very substance of the season.

  13. There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases

    The most wonderful time of year, he concludes with his melody.. But that one line, that 'scary ghost stories' reference, has often been overlooked and ignored.. Some may think Williams is talking about Charles Dickens and his CHRISTMAS CAROL, Scrooge's ghosts of the past present and future coming to haunt in the dead of night.. ...

  14. Forget Halloween, Bring Ghost Stories Back to Christmas

    At the most wonderful time of the year, there is one tradition that John Maguire remembers fondly: his Liverpudlian grandmother trying to scare the daylights out of him. Without much money...

  15. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...

    December 17, 2023 G. W. Thomas Christmas, Dark Worlds Quarterly, G. W. Thomas, Ghost Stories, Gothic, Horror, Horror Fiction, Radio 4. "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" sung by Andy Williams came on my radio and I noticed something. It is the only American Christmas song that refers to the English tradition of telling ghost ...

  16. 5 Scary Christmas Stories That You Can Read Right Now

    Why else would Andy Williams promise that " there'll be scary ghost stories " in his hit Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"? Ghost stories at Christmastime may seem out of place amongst today's traditional holiday celebrations, but they were once a timeless Christmas ritual.

  17. On the Lost Christmastime Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories

    MYSTERY/HISTORY Remember how Andy Williams sings about how "they'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmasses long, long ago?" when describing what the Christmas season will be like, in his 1963 song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?"

  18. Telling ghost stories is a lost tradition on Christmas Eve

    One verse of Andy Williams' classic Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year," for instance, clearly says, "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago."

  19. Midwinter Ghosts: A Short History of Tall Tales

    Posted on 1 December, 2022 by Abby It's the most wonderful time of the year … There'll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories Of Christmases long, long ago …

  20. How Ghost Stories Became a Christmas Tradition in Victorian England

    Published: December 15, 2021 copy page link Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Towards the end of each year, as fireplaces are lit and hot cocoa is made,...

  21. "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" lyrics

    Marshmallows for toasting And caroling out in the snow There'll be scary ghost stories And tales of the glories Of Christmases long, long ago It's the most wonderful time of the year There'll be much mistletoeing And hearts will be glowing when loved ones are near It's the most wonderful time of the year There'll be parties for hosting

  22. It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

    There'll be scary ghost stories, And tales of the glories, Of Christmases long, long ago. It's the most wonderful time of the year. There'll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing, When loved ones are near. It's the most wonderful time of the year! There'll be parties for hosting, Marshmallows for toasting, And caroling out in the snow.

  23. Were There Really Scary Ghost Stories Told Around Christmas?

    There is a famous line in the song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" that has raised more than one eyebrow over the years. The popular Christmas song, performed by Andy Williams, often blares through speakers during the holiday season each and every year. ... Who tells scary ghost stories at Christmas time? Even in 1963, when ...