What could be more festive than getting round a roaring fire to chill your bones with some Christmas ghost stories?
The Christmas ghost story has been a British tradition for hundreds of years. Of course, today we primarily think of Charles Dickens and his redemptive spirits of past, present and future, but A Christmas Carol is just part of a rich heritage.
Here, we pick our five favourite ghosts to put a shiver in your December.
The Ghost of Christmas Present, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
“Come in and know me better man!” The second of Ebenezer Scrooge’s three spectral visitors in Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is the voice of social reform and goodwill to all men. In the Muppets’ sublime adaptation, he’s a merry, giant figure, who teaches an important lesson in song: “Wherever you find love it feels like Christmas”.
Austin the Twice-Born, “The Stalls of Barchester” – A Ghost Story for Christmas (1971)
Aside from Dickens, M.R. James is the most renowned teller of the festive spooky story. His position was affirmed in large part to the BBC’s 1970s adaptations of his work, which would traditionally be aired on Christmas Eve. The Stalls of Barchester was the first of these and is an atmospheric tale, in which a murderous Archdeacon gets his comeuppance under the influence of cursed carvings, crafted by the fantastically named Austin the Twice-Born.
Sir Roger Widdowson, “The Knocker” – Crooked House (2008)
A connoisseur of the creepy, Mark Gatiss has done more than anyone to revive Christmas ghost stories as a British seasonal tradition. In 2008’s Crooked House, illusionist Derren Brown made a rare acting appearance as a deceased necromancer whose evil influence reaches through time. Gatiss will again haunt the Christmas schedules this year with his take on M.R. James’ The Mezzotint.