Christmas time has returned again and with it, a new list of suggested holiday-themed horror stories have been assembled. This marks the fifth annual batch of such recommendations, so if you want more, just click on the links provided at the bottom of this post. I hope you all have a very merry Christmas!
1. “A New Christmas Carol” by Arthur Machen (1924) – A reformed Ebenezer Scrooge finds himself visited by the Ghost of the Christmas of 1920 in this brief, tongue-in-cheek story.
2. “Christmas Reunion” by Sir Andrew Caldecott (1947) – A wealthy, young man who’s staying at a friend’s house for the holidays becomes noticeably upset after receiving a mysterious telegram from Australia. He inherited his fortune from his affluent uncle whom he claimed he was forced to abandon in Australia to die due to an unfortunate accident. The young man becomes even more unsettled when the visiting store Santa the family hired arrives with tidings he doesn’t seem to appreciate. A section from “Stories I Have Tried to Write” by M.R. James is directly referenced here, likely a nod as to the genesis of this story by Caldecott.
3. “Florinda” by Shamus Frazer (1956) – A young girl talks about her “friend” Florinda whom she met lurking in a thicket of bramble by a pond. This is how the girl describes Florinda, “She’s like a doll, I think, only larger, large as me. And she never talks – not with words anyway. And her eyes can’t shut even when she lies down.” The girl says Florinda won’t like her father’s plan to have the brambles cleared out. She later reveals that Florinda is no longer her friend and appears terrified by the suggestion she might get a Florinda for Christmas.
4. “The Christmas Present” by Ramsey Campbell (1969) – A peculiar college student attaches himself to some friends who are celebrating on Christmas Eve and offers them a present that he insists can’t be opened until midnight. They reluctantly feel obligated to invite him back to their house to continue their celebrations. Everyone becomes unnerved when the lights along thier path begin going out, and they start hearing voices they assume must be carolers coming from the location of an old, transplanted graveyard.
5. “O, Christmas Tree” by Jessica Amanda Salmonson and W. H. Pugmire, Jr. (1979) – A man, whose father had recently died, travels into the Sesqua Valley to spend Christmas with a grandfather of which he recently became aware existed. He’s surprised to discover that none of the unfriendly locals, nor his affable grandfather, have any interest in Christmas what-so-ever. Still, he’s determined to celebrate the season as he goes to cut down a beautiful red spruce tree he found in a nearby well-trodden clearing to bring back to serve as their Christmas Tree. This affront arouses the ire of dark forces he didn’t even suspect existed. This is an excellent, well-written story.
6. “The Christmas Eve’s of Aunt Elise” by Thomas Ligotti (1983) – During a Christmas Eve family gathering at his wealthy Aunt’s house, Jack listens in on her true tale of the house that used to exist across the street but was torn down brick-by-brick at the former reclusive owner’s orders following his death. Later, a young antiquarian, who’d always been fascinated by the place and didn’t know it had been removed, returns to town and notices it all decked out in Christmas lights during a heavy fog. Unfortunately for him, he accepts the oddly smiling former owner’s invitation to come inside for a look around. This is an outstanding, very eerie story. Highly recommended!
7. “The Grotto” by Alexander Welch (1988) – A department store Santa encounters a strange, childlike apparition while closing up for the night. It’s terrifying to look at and turns out to be a very unusual type of ghost in the end.
8. “Wish You Were Here” by Basil Copper (1992) – This novella follows a successful writer who’s working on repairs to the ancient Hoddesden Hall he recently inherited from a reclusive aunt he only met once in his youth. To his dismay, he begins receiving musty smelling, Victorian era postcards in the mail with obscured postmarks and a hint of women’s perfume to them. Each card from this mysterious sender is from a European destination that grows steadily nearer to him saying she’ll be there by Christmas. While delving into this mystery, he discovers that the aunt from which he inherited the place disappeared and has never been found, and the cousin who took possession of it before him fell down an open well and drowned. The increasing nearness and frequency of these postcards unsettles his sanity as Christmas approaches. Although long, this is an intriguing Christmas horror/mystery with a great finale.
9. “Granny’s Grinning” by Robert Shearman (2009) – An ill-tempered grandmother comes to spend the holiday with her son and his family. She is opinionated and blunt until the kids open their presents, which are a werewolf and zombie costume that actually transforms their wearer into the beasts for real but with their mind remaining intact. The girl was hoping for a vampire but played along to keep Granny happy. Indeed, Granny seems thrilled by the transformation. It’s easy to identify with these characters and the idea of costumes turning you into what they portray is a fun one. The ending of the story is both touching and unsettling.
10. “Ornaments” by Christopher Miron (2013) – A young woman purchases a pair of antique ornaments shaped like elves and brings them home to adorn her and her roommate’s Christmas tree only to notice their painted faces have changed as she begins to hear the word “naughty” repeatedly whispered in her ear.
Here are the links to the previous Christmas Horror Story Reading Lists :
Article by Matt Cowan