These stories are my participation in the annual Advent Ghosts 100 Word Storytelling hosted by my friend Loren Eaton at I Saw Lightning Fall.
“Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories,” wrote British humorist Jerome K. Jerome as part of his introduction to an anthology of Christmas ghost stories titled “Told After Supper“ in 1891. “Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.”
The practice of gathering around the fire on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories was as much a part of Christmas for the Victorian English as Santa Claus is for us.Jeffrey Peterson, Telling Ghost Stories Is A Lost Tradition on Christmas Eve, Deseret News
The Plantation (2021)
It was an antebellum estate on 2.5 vestigial acres in the suburbs, sold in foreclosure after previous owners defaulted and disappeared. The realtor led with disclosures: Faulty sewer and gas lines, foundations of a slave shed, reports of haunting.
Conner had money, a bobcat, and materialism. Excavations began in August, and soon new utilities and a patio hosted raucous parties overtop the razed foundation.
But Connor was drinking alone in the pleasantly chill solstice night when misty shapes began to rise, along with the sound of dragging chains.
It was an antebellum estate, in foreclosure after the previous owner….
The Tramp (2018)
- Sallie startled at the knocking – tramps often traveled through, but not in December.
His coat wasn’t heavy enough, and was cut twenty years ago.
“Spare some bread? Maybe coffee?”
“Of course. Wait here a moment.”
There was no coffee, but soup was on the stove. She dipped out a cupful, automatically setting a tray, slicing bread… wait. Why was she making a charity tray?
Was there a tramp, in this weather?
Yes, she remembered the knocking. But why nothing else?
Sallie hesitantly stepped out the door, and found herself back inside; tray, cup, and memory all empty. She shivered.
The Camera Sees (2014)
Grandma was funny. She loved her family, being in pictures, and her home. Said when she died she was staying on as a ghost, “Until Jesus comes back.”
It’s Christmas Eve. Grandpa’s abed, and I’m fussing over her old decorations, taking pictures for a memory book.
I peer toward the kitchen, and my camera’s green “face recognition” blinks.
I shoot toward the fireplace. Face recognition again, and a sudden, cold draft.
Grandpa’s armchair. Stair-rail garland. Doorway mistletoe. Everywhere I point the camera, face recognition blinks. My hands are sweating, I can’t escape the drafts.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.
Olde Haunts (2013)
Fireplace embers glowed a complacent orange. Frost covered the windows with fingernail marks. A cold, malevolent wind stirred a line of snow across the rooftop, and moaned down the chimney.
It had been welcome here, once. Welcomed by bitterness, bound with blood.
A tendril of cold slipped down the chimney, and the embers dimmed. There was a draft in the room.
It found the house swept and put in order.
With a gust, it gathered brothers from the seven points of the compass, and they plunged together down the chimney. There was a shower of sparks. The house went dark.
The Madness of the King (2012)
The old astrologer won’t leave me alone.
Every night I start, gasping, from sleep, sure that he stands beside me; dull eyes staring, lentils in his beard, wheezing voice in my ear.
But he isn’t there.
If I catch him, I will kill him.
When I walk the balconies, his raspy mutterings follow me like an old wife.
I killed a village of peasant children to silence it.
Yet I hear him in every quiet place, repeating words just-read:
“But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from ancient times.”
Featured image: Ebenezer Scrooge visited by Marley’s Ghost, by John Leech, 1843. The British Library.