The past six years when I was writing for Vintage Horror, I would make a list of Christmas-themed horror stories to review during the holidays. With Vintage Horror gone, I intend to continue that tradition here. If you’re looking for more, I reposted a former VH one here near the end of November.
If you’d like to hear one of my own, “Here He Comes A Wandering” won the Pod of Horror Christmas Horror Story Competition in 2009. It’s read during the last 15 minutes of episode #58 of that podcast.
So, without further adieu, here is this year’s (2013) list.
1. “Christmas Eve on a Haunted Hulk” by Frank Cowper (1889) – A man visiting his friend in late 1800’s England goes out hunting in the marshlands on Christmas Eve to occupy himself while his friend is at work. Finding an abandoned duck punt, he rows out looking for more pheasant and comes across a large shipwreck stuck in the mud. He can’t resist exploring the vast derelict. When it begins to get dark, he decides to leave only to realize his borrowed duck punt has floated away with the tide, trapping him there. To make matters worse, it begins to rain, forcing him below deck to spend the night. He finds sleep elusive as he hears strange ghostly sounds moving about the ship.
2. “The Real and the Counterfeit” by Mrs. Alfred Baldwin (1895) – A man decides to play a prank on his pals while spending the Christmas holiday at a friend’s manor. He intends to pretend to be the ghost of a cloaked monk said to haunt the place. He gains the assistance of a young woman he likes to sew the habit for him. When the moon shines high through the window of the long hall, he makes a horrifying discovery.
3. “Their Dear Little Ghost” by Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1898) – This lyrical tale about a coquettish little girl who enchants those around her with her whimsical love of fairies and adventure is told from her godmother’s point of view. The girl dies just short of Christmas which she’d hoped to survive long enough to enjoy. What happens when her specter shows up on Christmas morning?
5. “Bone To His Bone” by E.G. Swain (1912) – On Christmas Eve a vicar uncovers something in his private garden led by a supernatural force moving the pages of a book.
4. “The Waits” by L.P. Hartley (1961) – A wealthy family is visited by two carolers on Christmas Eve, but when the daughter offers them money, they refuse it telling her it isn’t enough. This is repeated when other family members go and offer them more. They say they want the father to come see them and then sing a twisted version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. This is another strong supernatural Christmas tale from Hartley, who’s shown a propensity to get it right (“Someone in the Lift”).
6. “The Decorations” by Ramsey Campbell (2005) – A boy, visiting his grandparent’s house with his parents for the holidays, is disturbed by his grandmother’s obsession with the lighted plastic Santa on their roof. She seems to think something evil inhabits it which she calls “the worm”. This is a great Christmas horror tale with a fantastic ending!
7. “The Peddler’s Journey” by Ronald Kelly (2009) – A grandfather tells kids the legend of a civil war peddler who died in the Appalachian Mountains attempting to deliver a gift to a boy during a snowstorm. Death isn’t the end of this Peddler’s journey, however.
Merry Christmas to all,