CHRISTMAS HORROR READING LIST VI (2018)

Merry Christmas horror fans! Welcome to Horror Delve’s Sixth Annual Christmas Horror Story Reading List. Each of the stories listed below are eerie, mostly supernatural stories set during the Christmas holiday season. 

Here are the links to the previous Christmas Horror Story Reading Lists :

https://horrordelve.com/2017/12/11/christmas-horror-story-reading-list-v-20170/ 

https://horrordelve.com/2016/12/04/christmas-horror-stories-reading-list-4-2016/

https://horrordelve.com/2015/12/07/christmas-horror-reading-list-2015/

https://horrordelve.com/2014/12/05/christmas-horror-story-reading-list-2014/ 

https://horrordelve.com/2013/12/22/christmas-horror-stories-list-2013/

https://horrordelve.com/2013/11/28/christmas-ghost-stories-reviving-a-dead-tradition/

THE STORIES:

  1. “The Ghost’s Summons” by Ada Buisson (1868) -During the Christmas season, a struggling, young doctor is convinced to accompany a pale but otherwise healthy looking man to his house in order to attend his death bed by an offer of 1,000 pounds. The pale man claims he has received a summons from the dead saying he would join them that night. Not really believing the man’s claims, but in need of the money, the doctor agrees. What he sees there terrifies him. Later, he gains insight about the source of the dark events he witnessed.
  2. “The Old Portrait” by Hume Nisbet (1890) – A painter purchases an old, grime-covered painting for cheap in hopes of using its frame for his own work. While cleaning it on Christmas Eve, he discovers it hides another painting beneath it. The image he finds is both masterful and terrifying, but what is awakened by its uncovering is far worse. (You can listen to this story read by Jim Moon on his Hypnogoria podcast here: http://hypnogoria.blogspot.com/2017/12/great-library-of-dreams-40-old-portrait.html )
  3. “The Christmas Shadrach” by Frank R. Stockton (1891) – When a man realizes the girl who’s his best friend is developing romantic feelings toward him, he seeks the proper Christmas gift to discourage it. He settles on a paperweight made of a strange metal. The ore is constituted of material left behind in a smelting furnace which hasn’t been affected by the extreme heat, thus it was named after one of the figures in the Bible who God saved from burning in King Nebuchadnezzer‘s furnace. The metal is said to have the ability to cool the affections of anyone who possesses it. It seems to have the desired effect as the friend, named Mildred, begins to lose all interest in him, but after it goes too far, he takes it back and gives it to a rival male friend who’s pursuing the woman he’s actually interested in. Admittedly, this is not really a horror tale, but it does involve a cursed item, which as the Shadrach continues to be moved around, begins to adversely affect the man’s life.
  4. “The Transition” by Algernon Blackwood (1917) – A man is walking home with presents he purchased for his wife and kids when a pair of monsters leap out at him. He manages to avoid them, but when he finally arrives home he finds the house filled with people who don’t acknowledge his presence among them.
  5. “Visiting Star” by Robert Aickman (1966) – This novelette is set in a small town where the manager of an acting troupe plans to produce a play during the Christmas season which had been written by a writer who used to live there. He’s brought in a legendary actress named Arabella Rokeby to perform in it. The story is told through the viewpoint of a man named Colvin who’s in town to gather information on a book about lead and plumbago mining. Colvin meets a strange, vaguely sinister man named Mr. Superbus who arrives ahead of Miss Rokeby to make sure everything is in order for her. When Colvin later meets the famous actress herself, he’s taken by the seeming agelessness of her appearance and her strong personality. Miss Rokeby has a companion with her, a sickly-looking woman named Myrrha. As the Christmas Eve performance grows nearer, Colvin gets to know more about Miss Rokeby, Myrrah and Mr. Superbus as peculiar mysteries seem to surround the trio. The descriptions of Miss Rokeby and her attendants are masterfully portrayed here, painting a perfect mental picture through Aickman’s choice of words. This excellent story also presents a supernatural idea which isn’t often used but which is a favorite of mine. As I don’t want to spoil the story’s end, I’ll say no more about it. 
  6. “The Christmas Spirit” by Dorothy B. Bennett (1971) – A nurse working the Christmas Eve shift in a hospital ward finds a horror magazine with a horrific smell to it. A rotting, severed bat wing has been placed inside as a bookmark. It belongs to a comatose patient in the ward whose loathsome attending physician Dr. Kafter can’t find the cause of his condition. Black magic is at work in this story. 
  7. “The Night Before Christmas” by Robert Bloch (1987) – A struggling artist is hired to paint the portrait of the beautiful wife of wealthy man named Carlos Santiago. While Santiago is away on business, the painter and his subject fall in love with each other, but Santiago is a devious, dangerous man. There’s nothing supernatural in this story but its well written and contains a brutal finale.
  8. “Deck the Halls” by Chantal Boudreau (2013) – Anxious to inherit his elderly, ailing mother’s wealth, a man finds ways to accelerate her passing by not giving her her meds and destroying some of her beloved Christmas ornaments, but things don’t turn out the way he hoped in the end.

Article by Matt Cowan

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