Everyone I know enjoys a good Christmas ghost story.
There are many folktales and myths attached to this season, stretching back almost into the dawning of time. For example, Yule and Sol Invictus (the birthday of the Unconquered Sun) both celebrated the winter solstice — the longest night, which marks the death of the old year and birth of the new. Over Britain’s long history, not only did the Lords of Misrule reign at this time of year, but Winter Solstice was also the one night when the veil between the living and the dead was thinnest: a time for ancestors to come calling to settle old disputes before they moved on.
Christmas is just the latest in a long line of events that celebrate the longest night, when thoughts are drawn to those darker elements. The Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell went so far as to attempt a ban on Christmas celebrations, arguing that there is no evidence to support its authenticity as Christ’s natal day.
In Victorian England, it was also Christmas, and not Halloween (Autumn Solstice), when ghosts were thought most likely to walk the earth. It was a time when stories would still be told around a Yule fire as entertainment for the family. Dickens, James and many other eminent writers of the period all took a great delight in translating (rather than inventing), this oral tradition into print.
This year the Spectral Press has further enriched this tradition with an anthology called The Thirteen Ghosts of Christmas. The theme for which is, of course, a “Victorian/Edwardian era Ghost Tale”.
Knowing how many people subbed stories for this anthology I have to admit I am excited to find myself in the final line-up. It looks to be a very fine anthology and I’m looking forward to reading it.
The 13 Ghosts of Christmas, 2012, edited by Simon Marshall Jones, Spectral Press
Where the Stones Lie – Richard Farren Barber
A Taste of Almonds – Raven Dane
All that is Living – Nic Martin
And May All your Christmases – Thana Niveau
Carnacki: A Cold Christmas in Chelsea – William Meikle
Concerning Events in Leinster Gardens – Jan Edwards
December – Paul Finch
An Odd Number at Table – John Costello
We are a Shadow – Neil Williams
Lost Soldiers – Adrian Tchaikovsky
Ritualism – Gary McMahon
Now and Then – Martin Roberts
The Green Clearing – John Forth
(Also rumoured to contain a preview from the forthcoming novella Whitstable by Stephen Volk)
Notes from Spectral Press on editions as of 29th oct:
HARDBACK EDITION: Limited, numbered edition, with an introduction on the ghost story by Johnny Mains, followed by the thirteen stories, each of which will have a brief intro written by Simon Marshall-Jones. Cover image will feature artwork by Vincent Shaw-Morton, framed by a silver foiled design, making it somewhat reminiscent of the Victorian/Edwardian Annuals which provided the inspiration for the anthology (along with Scott Harrison’s Twitter remark which sparked things off!). There will also be coloured endpapers and a silk ribbon bookmarker to set things off nicely, plus some exclusive bonus material will also be included – more details soon on that! Edition size TBD.
PAPERBACK EDITION: As above, but without the silver-foiling and bonus material.