#25SpookyStories: A 2021 Christmas Reading Challenge

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)

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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!

We’ll be using the hashtag #25SpookyStories!

Some History About the Tradition

Books You Might Purchase

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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! πŸ™‚  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). 

Happy Reading!

Santa Claude, A Hoosier Hero & Ghost

Claude Herbert, having just returned home from the Spanish-American War, desperately needed a job to care for his newly-widowed mother. Luckily, the Havens and Geddes Department Store was in need of a Santa Claus. Located on Fifth and Wabash in Terre Haute, Indiana, the store was the largest department store in Indiana and took up the entire block.

The Hero

On December 19, 1898, just a few days after being hired, veteran Claude Herbert (aged 18) found himself in the middle of a raging fire. He, along with about thirty children, were in the basement of the building when a incandescent light bulb exploded in a display window. The fire quickly spread.

Claude, while still in character, was successful in leading many children outside to safety. Stories differ on how many times Claude went back into the building, but witnesses can agree on his heroic deeds. According to one account, Claude ran back into the building after a mother screamed that her three-year-old child, Nettie Welch, was still in the building. Claude found the child in Santa’s Chair and carried her out to the safety of her mother.

After saving the children, Herbert shed his Santa Claus suit before going back into the inferno to save trapped sales clerks. On his second to last trip, a bystander shouted to Claude, “Come out, come out.” Claude responded, β€œNo, I’m going back. There’s plenty of time […] and maybe there’s someone down there.” Those he went to rescue in that final attempt had fled from another exit. He, a new employee unfamiliar with the store’s layout, was unable to find this exit before being overtaken by the flames.

Fellow soldiers of Claude’s regiment worked to find Claude in the rubble. What remained of this hero was buried in Highland Lawn Cemetery.

Three other people perished in the fire: firefighter John Osterloo, volunteer firefighter Henry Nehf, and store clerk Katie Maloney. The building was completely demolished (about $2 million in property damage) and other buildings were affected as well.

The Ghost

Visitors of the cemetery have reported seeing orbs around the Herbert family mausoleum, sometimes catching this supernatural phenomenon on camera. Is Claude continuing to protect the people of Terre Haute? I think so.


Sources

Bennett, Mark. “Fountain honoring sacrifice by life-saving Santa may return to site of his heroism.” The Tribune Star, 26 Dec 2012.

Hood, Ashley. Haunted Terre Haute. Haunted America, 2019.

Huntington Weekly Herald, Huntington, Indiana, 23 Dec 1898, p. 8.

Featured Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

Christmas #humpdayhaunts

December at Notebook of Ghosts is sure to be a spooky one! Along with my Patreon site, I have some blog posts planned for this blog. If you would like additional spooky content, I recommend following me on Instagram (notebookofghosts). Every Wednesday, I share haunted history in a series called #humpdayhaunts. This month will be everything CHRISTMAS.

I thought I might gather up past Christmas #humpdayhaunts for your “First Week of December” enjoyment.

Merry Christmas! πŸ‘»β˜ƒοΈπŸŽ…

Featured Photo by StΓ©phane Mingot on Unsplash