Friday, 22 December 2017

Ghost Stories For Christmas

'The Trial for Murder'

Christmas is traditional a time for etcetera. We all know the drill. But which ghost stories are best for the festive season? There are lots of lists out there, so I thought I'd scrutinise a few and see just what the trend young folk* are pushing as suitable Yuletide fare.

First, there's an item from the Independent about the tradition of telling ghost stories are Christmas. The author, Keith Lee Morris, ranged rather widely, putting the gang at the Villa Deodati into the tradition. Admittedly 1816 had a miserable summer, but their stories were written in June. And nobody will ever call 'Frankenstein' a Christmas ghost story, will they? Still, it's an interesting piece.

Onward to the lists. Here The Paris Review lists '5 Forgotten Christmas Ghost Stories'. The stories are: 'Between the Lights' by E.F. Benson; 'The Kit-Bag' by Algernon Blackwood; 'A Strange Christmas Game' by J.H. Riddell; 'Christmas Re-union' by Sir Andrew Caldecott; and 'Smee' by A.M Burrage. Well, they're not really forgotten, are they? Tales by Burrage, Blackwood, and Benson are all quite well-known to ghost story fans. The other two are found in quite a few collections of Victorian supernatural fiction. The Riddell story has just been released as part of a Christmas special by the audio-book publisher Audible, in fact, narrated by Simon Callow and Sally Phillips. But it's a nice list, nonetheless.

Interesting Literature has a list of ten Victorian ghost stories, and I have no quibble with the quality of their selection. 'Lost Hearts' by M.R. James squeaks in under the line, dating from 1895. Charlotte Riddell's 'The Open Door' rubs shoulders with works by Le Fanu, Stevenson, and Kipling (though I doubt that 'The End of the Passage' is really a ghost story). Another good list, but inevitably leaving out some excellent 20th century pieces.

Finally, here's a list of the seven best ghost stories by Dickens - not including 'A Christmas Carol'. Again there are some interesting ones here, reminding us that Dickens was prolific and perennially obsessed with the macabre. Guess which story is rated No. 1? Sadly, I can offer no prizes for the correct answer...

Image result for the signalman charles dickens

So that's a short list of lists. I will be reading and watching a lot of ghost stories in the dark weeks to come, of course.

*People who makes lists of stuff on the internet

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