Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood. – Jerome K. Jerome, Told After Supper (1891)
Christmas is a time for ghost stories. It’s true! The tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmas time probably came before the holiday itself and definitely before the commercialized version of today. The origins, as Kat Eschner writes, are “about darker, older, more fundamental things: winter, death, rebirth, and the rapt connection between a teller and his or her audience. But they’re packaged in the cozy trappings of the holiday.” The tradition never really made it over to America (Puritans ruin the party again), but ghost stories around Christmas were especially popular in 19th Century British books, periodicals, homes, and theatres. In 2017, Ghostland author Colin Dickey made a call to resurrect the tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas, so I’m challenging y’all to read 25 ghost (or just scary) stories this Christmas season (or 12). Maybe you’ll read them in your comfy chair with hot chocolate or wassail. Maybe you’ll read the stories aloud around the fire with family and friends. Whatever you need to do to bring this tradition back to life and hopefully start a new spooky tradition in your home. (To learn more, please check out the articles below that ground this tradition in interesting historical research.)
If you participated in #31SpookyStories, it is basically the same thing. You’ll read 25 spooky short stories each day this December until Christmas. Or, you can choose to read 12 spooky short stories (for the 12 Days of Christmas).
Below I have provided some books and FREE sites where you can find some spooky Christmas stories (I’ll continue to update this list throughout December). Feel free to read whatever spooky stories you want, Christmas-themed and otherwise.
Your reading style and availability may be different than mine, so I gave the challenge additional options:
- You might read from one anthology/story collection or multiple anthologies/story collections.
- You might double, triple, or quadtrouple stories on slow days or makeup days. You could read 25 (or 12) stories in one week.
- You might choose to read fiction and/or nonfiction spooky stories.
The goal of this? To have fun, resurrect an old tradition, and to introduce yourself to new writers. Below are some progress sheets, social media information, some sources on the history on the tradition, and possible stories to read.
Documenting Your Reads
There are many ways to keep track of your stories, whether privately in a notebook or publicly on social media. This year spooky artist Sian Ellis was kind enough to create printable progress sheets for both challenges. I recommend printing the sheets!
And, what better way to save your page than with one of Sian’s bookmarks (though you’ll find yourself putting multiple items in your cart). Make sure to follow my cohost Sian on Instagram (@thisissianellis)!
Join the Fun on Instagram
Some challenge readers (me included) will be sharing our daily reads on social media. Follow me (@notebookofghosts) for fun Story templates, my daily reads, available anthologies from some of my favorite online sellers, and more!
Some History About the Tradition
- “A Plea to Resurrect the Christmas Tradition of Telling Ghost Stories” by Colin Dickey (Smithsonian)
- “Why Do People Tell Ghost Stories on Christmas?” by Kat Eschner (Smithsonian)
- “Getting into the spirit: how Christmas makes us think of ghosts” by Rachel Burge (The Guardian)
We’ll be using the hashtag #25SpookyStories!
Books You Might Purchase
- The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories (I love this press and I LOVE this three-volume series so very much. And, they just released a fifth book! Valancourt produces anthologies with stories you will not find in any other anthology. I recommend reading the introductions as they provide some excellent historical context.)
- The Shrieking Skull & Other Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories by James Skipp Borlas (Another Valancourt book!)
- Ghosts of Christmas Past: A chilling collection of modern and classic Christmas ghost stories (I love the story “Dinner for One” by Jenn Ashworth.)
- Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings (Tales of the Weird)
- Chill Tidings: Dark Tales of the Christmas Season (Tales of the Weird) (Free if you have Kindle Unlimited)
- Sunless Solstice: Strange Christmas Tales for the Longest Nights (Tales of the Weird) (Free if you have Kindle Unlimited)
- A Ghost Story For Christmas is a series with classic spooky stories with beautiful illustrations. I know these are sold at local, independent bookstores (both online and in store).
- I have purchased so many vintage Christmas anthologies from LaCreeperie, so give them a follow!
FREE Reading List
Below are links to some anthologies online. I haven’t read all of these, so I’m sorry for the lame ones! 🙂 Please note: Most of these links take you to Project Gutenberg, which gives you multiple formats to read it in. HTML is best for reading on your computer. You can also send it to your Kindle (I use this email method).
- 5 Holiday Ghost Stories That Are Actually Surprisingly Creepy, Bustle
- 4 Eerie Olde Holiday Ghost Stories, The Lineup
- 5 Forgotten Christmas Ghost Stories, Paris Review
- The 7 Best Christmas Ghost Stories To Scare Yourself With This Winter, Bustle
- Guardian Weekend magazine’s Christmas ghost stories
- Told After Supper by Jerome K. Jerome
- Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M. R. James (“Lost Hearts” is one of my favorite stories!)
- Three Ghost Stories by Charles Dickens
- A Christmas Carol in Prose; Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens
- “The Ghost” by William Douglas O’Connor
- There is a free list from the Halloween reading challenge if you want to check it out.