This is always one of my favorite posts to put together each year, so here for the seventh time is this year’s Christmas Horror Suggested Reading List. Each of these stories takes place during the festive Christmas season. After the list, I’ve included links to each previous year’s lists. Merry Christmas!
1. “Markheim” by Robert Louis Stevenson (1885) – After murdering a pawn broker in order to rob him during the Christmas season, Marheim encounters a dark presence at the scene who offers to aid him in escaping capture. This entity possesses knowledge about both Marheim as well as where the broker hid his money and who may be on their way to discover him. Believing it to be the Devil incarnate, Marheim debates whether he’s actually a good person or not in this classic tale written by the author of Treasure Island and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
2. “The White Raven” by Dick Donovan (1899) – An engaged young woman moves into a place called Moorland Grange in Devonshire with her father while she awaits the return of her fiancée from abroad. Having received a good price for the 400 year old property, he decided to purchase it despite its dark history. The grange was once the site of a tragic murder where the unfortunate woman’s body was left to rot away in a bedroom for many years before her skeleton was finally discovered. Since then, the room is said to be haunted by a white raven which foretells doom for any that see it. During the Christmas holiday someone becomes the first in many years to stay in that room unaware of its history. They see and attempt to catch the white raven causing it to release a sorrowful sigh whenever it’s touched. This is an excellent, creepy and at times brutal short story.
3. “The Spider” by F. McDermott (1951) – After becoming lost in Cornwall on Christmas Eve, a man comes across a secluded old mill house where he seeks shelter. The owner of the house, an elderly blind man, invites him in to share a festive meal. During the meal the host talks about a period of years he spent as a captive to a Peruvian tribe who practiced the art of shrinking heads. Afterward, the old man enthusiastically takes him to see his collection of unique treasures.
4. “Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Most Men” by John Whitbourn (1990) – A man convinces his friend to attend Midnight Mass for Christmas, despite neither of them being religious. He’s very insistent that they arrive early. When they get there, they wait outside as they hear a strange hymn being sung by a choir of strange voices. Once they enter, they find the service regularly disturbed by troublemakers who are promptly escorted away down into the church crypts where the sounds of loud eating can be heard. This is a fun, rather tongue-in-cheek Christmas ghost story.
5. “A Christmas Card” by Reggie Oliver (2005) – A divorced, antique collector with few friends finds a vintage, pristine Christmas card for sale at a market. The dealer gives him a deep discount when he inquires about the cost. Even with this great deal of an acquisition, he can’t take joy in it as he’s in deep mourning following the loss of his beloved nine year old daughter in a car crash. This leads him to decide he has nothing to live for any longer. This unique card, however, proves to be more than it seems when he reaches his darkest hour during the Christmas season.
6. “I’ll Have a Blue, Blue Christmas” by David Niall Wilson (2010) – A musician ventures out toward an alleyway crossroads where he meets up with Willie, a blues harmonica player who tells him a grim tale that happened during a Christmas long ago. As the musician plays his guitar along to Willie’s story, he experiences the tragic events in this atmospheric tale.
7. “The Yule Log” by Willie Meikle (2011) – Grieving the loss of his beloved Jacqueline, a man begins preparing a Christmas ritual to reconnect with her in this flash fiction piece. You can read it here: https://www.thisishorror.co.uk/read-horror/flash-fear/the-yule-log-by-william-meikle/
8. “Midnight Service” by Paul Finch (2012) – When the bus he’s ridding on is forced to stop in a remote British town due to a bad winter storm on Christmas Eve, a man disembarks in search of someplace lively to spend the evening. The town is eerily quiet, but he eventually comes across a lit up old church. As he isn’t properly dressed for the weather, he goes seeking shelter. The aged priest there offers him a free room for the night if he’d be willing to play the part of something called The Derby Ram in a play they are about to put on for a local group of orphans. He reluctantly agrees, a decision he soon comes to regret. You can read this story for free at Paul’s website ( https://paulfinch-writer.blogspot.com/2013/12/midnight-service-festive-spook-story_13.html ).
9. “Do You Hear What I Hear” by Jim Moon (2016) – After a chance encounter with an old friend named Quintus while Christmas shopping, Jim Moon learns about how he inherited the house of a beloved aunt which has recently begun displaying signs that it’s haunted. Quintus relates how he’s been hearing strange sounds and footsteps at around 3:00 a.m. every morning but that the sounds stop whenever he goes to investigate. He’s concerned not only due to the interruption in sleep but because the specter’s elusiveness displays a sign of intelligence. Being an expert on the supernatural, Jim agrees to go help his friend get to the bottom of the haunting. What unfolds is a superb supernatural investigation whose finale is both unique and very satisfying. You can listen to this tale for free here: http://hypnogoria.libsyn.com/from-the-great-library-of-dreams-28-do-you-hear-what-i-hear .
Previous Christmas Horror Reading Lists:
Article by Matt Cowan