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"Scary ghost stories" for Christmas?

As the old song says, it's the most wonderful time of the year. But every year at this time, that very song (It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, for those of you lagging a bit today) perplexes me thanks to one line. I guess it was back before Christmas 2004 when it first happened.

Back then I was working at a TV station in Lexington, KY, and was out on a story with a photographer named Brian Gilbert.  As we drove around rural Kentucky one of the station's live trucks, we listened to Christmas music on the radio. I think it was Brian who first questioned the strange line in It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year that goes "There'll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmas long, long ago." Huh?

In our glut of free time that day, Brian and I racked our brains trying to figure out what that line means. Now, we are far from the first or only people to wonder this same thing. Comedian Lewis Black even went off on a rant about the line in one of his performances. The only explanation Brian and I could come up with, and the only one I've been able to find so far, is that the classic Charles Dickens story A Christmas Carol is about three ghosts visiting Ebeneezer Scrooge to teach him the meaning of Christmas. But that's not good enough for me. That's just one story. And the song specifically says, "There'll be scary ghost stories" plural!

I discussed this dilemma of reasoning the other night with my fiancee and her parents. My fiancee suggested it was because perhaps the writers could not come up with anything else to rhyme with "tales of the glories." I've heard other people suggest this, but again, I don't buy it. How about "religious-themed stories" or "treasured old stories" or "family love stories" or "favorite gift stories," etc.? I could go on and on. The point is that there surely were other options to rhyme the line. So there must be a basis for it.

I have searched the Internet for answers. All I've been able to find out is that Eddie Pola and George Wyle (who also wrote the theme for Gilligan's Island) wrote the song in 1963 for singer Andy Williams. Alas, I can find no explanation about the scary ghost stories. If you have any answers or suggestions, please let me know. Until then Brian and I and so many other fans of Christmas song will go on wondering who is telling ghost stories as part of their yuletide celebration.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo

“Whenever five or six

“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.

Traces of this now-forgotten tradition occasionally appear in noticeable places at Christmastime, although their significance is generally overlooked.

It is, in fact, due to

It is, in fact, due to Charles Dicken's story. He made the tradition popular through A Christmas Carol.

Scary Ghost Stories

See The Traveler, a story written more than 100 years ago by RH Benson. It's another historical Christmas story with ghosts. Ghosts and "tales of the glory of Christmases long long ago."

And on that note! Tis the Season!


Twas the night before Christmas and Haunted was the house.
Dark creatures were stirring, as I clicked on my mouse.
The Quads were all hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that apparitions of spirits soon would be there.

The Team, how they wrestled, with their equipment and gear.
While night vision cameras brought images more clear.
And one of us in kerchief and the others with Team caps,
Had just settled down for a long night without reruns of TAPS.
When out of the basement, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter.

I began taking pictures, using my Infra-Red flash.
Tore open my pants, as I tripped on some trash.
The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the luster of midday to the dark cellar below.

When what to my wandering eyes should appear,
But a Dark Shadow Figure becoming more and more clear.
With little old minions so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment I just crapped a brick!

More rapid than eagles his course when he came,
As he growled and he hissed and called them by name.
Now Thrasher, now Lasher, now Trancer, now Vixen,
Now Vomit on stupid o’er yonder, time’s ticken.
To the top of the stairs to the top of the wall,
Now fade-away, fade-away, fade-away all.

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
My feet, they left skid marks as I started to cry.
So up to the stair top the courses I flew,
With my drawers full of bricks and whimpering too!
And then in a twinkling, I heard even more proof.
The prancing and clawing of each minions hoof.

As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Down the attic steps, Shadow Figure came with a bound.
He was dressed all in soot from his head to his tri-talon feet,
And his clothes were undistinguishable, as I ran for the street!

A bundle of spikes, he had showing from his back,
And he looked like a rattler and smelled of butt crack.
His eyes how they glowed, the aroma how stinky,
His cheeks were like wrinkles made by a slinky.

His drawl little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the horns on his head were beginning to glow.
The stump of a leg, he held tight in his teeth
And the foulest of odor, encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad horrid face and a round little belly
That shook when he screeched and man, was he smelly!

He was see-through and dark, a right ugly old form.
I thought when I saw him, this sure ain’t the norm.
A wink of his red eye and a crackling twist of his spine,
Soon gave me the yearning to squeak out a whine.

He left no EVPs but went straight to his work.
Draining all of my batteries which aren’t cheap you dark jerk!
And laying a talon alongside, what likely used to be a nose
And giving a nod, up into the attic he rose.

He sprang into the darkness, to his minions, gave a whistle.
And away they all flew while chewing on someone’s freakin gristle.

But I heard him exclaim as he faded out of sight,
Happy Christmas to all, and to me ...“That’s a goodnight!” ~Gary Price~

Ghost Stories at Christmas

I wrote a lot about this very subject on my blog recently. It started with the Victorian English--sitting around fires on Christmas Eve and sharing ghost stories. Read my blog post if you want to know more:

They both talk about this old tradition.

In the 1970's the BBC even did a whole series of ghost stories at Christmas, which are still remembered with fondness today.


In a somewhat related (and amusing) footnote. Currently on Amazon, apparantly because because it's the only category available for ghosts, A Christmas Carol is listed in the Horror section!

"scary ghost stories"

Europe has " Krampus" he's pretty scary,lol

Ghost Stories For Christmas

Dear Mr. Wuzzardo;

Doing some research online I stumbled onto your blog questions from 2007. I think the explanations given are to the point, but I wanted to add a side comment that might interest you.

I am a professional storyteller that specializes in ghost stories. I've performed in venues across the United States in character as Carpathian, a ghostly figure. Naturally enough I am extremely busy during the month of October, but I always wanted to do the traditional Christmas show of ghost stories. Three years ago I started doing an annual event in my home town.

I mus tell you that as popular as my Halloween performances are, the Christmas audience dwarfs the Halloween crowd! People who know the tradition do seem to be hungry for it, and those who are not aware seem to take to it immediately. It's also interesting to point out that, in my experience, ghost stories taking place specifically at Christmas seem to be either humorous or heavily moral and spiritual, rather than simply frightening with a "Boo!" (Look at some of Rod Serling's Christmas work, and at Dickens' "Christmas Carol itself.)

I'm pasting the press release for this year's celebration, in case anyone in your area happens to be visiting Humboldt County CA and wants to experience and unusual but extremely festive holiday event. It also gives a little more background on the tradition itself.

I hope you enjoy a scary story or two this season, and I wish you all my very best!


Bob Beideman


Everyone knows that Christmas is a time of holly wreaths, mistletoe, caroling, tall trees with bright colored lights, presents and cards and family dinners and celebrations. What some may not know is that Christmas is also the time for gathering around the fireplace or living room and sharing a ghostly tale or two!

Jerome K. Jerome, the English author perhaps best known for his work “Three Men In A Boat”, was also a writer of macabre short stories. His collection “Told After Supper” contains several anecdotes specifically told after a Christmas Eve dinner, and as the narrator of the novella explains in the introduction:

“Christmas Eve is the ghosts' great gala night. On Christmas Eve they hold their annual fete. On Christmas Eve everybody in Ghostland who IS anybody--or rather, speaking of ghosts, one should say, I suppose, every nobody who IS any nobody--comes out to show himself or herself, to see and to be seen, to promenade about and display their winding-sheets and grave-clothes to each other, to criticize one another's style, and sneer at one another's complexion…

Ghosts never come out on Christmas night itself, you may have noticed. Christmas Eve, we suspect, has been too much for them; they are not used to excitement…Ghosts with no position to maintain--mere middle-class ghosts--occasionally, I believe, do a little haunting on off-nights: on All-hallows Eve, and at Midsummer; and some will even run up for a mere local event… But these are the exceptions. As I have said, the average orthodox ghost does his one turn a year, on Christmas Eve, and is satisfied.”

As much as Halloween is celebrated in Europe, it is Christmas time that revelers choose to share a tale of spookiness, humorous or hair-raising; filled with ghouls, ghosts, goblins and other assorted denizens of the night. Perhaps it’s because December has the longest night of the year in it; perhaps it’s because the Winter season represents the end of life before the rebirth of Spring.

Whatever the reason, it's no coincidence that that most famous Christmas story of all features four spectres: Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Future. Many English authors, including M. R. James and Charles Dickens, published books of ghost stories particularly to be read at Christmastime. And as late as 1963, the tradition was still alive in the United States, with that seasonal favorite, "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year", featuring the following verse:

"There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of
Christmases long, long ago…"

Fortunately, the tradition of dark merriment has been kept alive here on the North Coast, thanks to a spectral wanderer known to haunt the streets and alleyways of Humboldt County. Once again Carpathian the wandering storytelling spectre will be bringing his Holiday presentation to Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on Saturday, December 18, at 7:00 pm. This year’s performance is titled THE WEATHER OUTSIDE IS FRIGHTFUL – Stories & Songs For A Spooky Holiday Celebration! and will once again feature special guest appearances by local artists Paul Woodland and Seabury Gould.

In addition to their silly and scary supernatural stories, the show will feature legends and folktales of the Christmas holiday, as well as unusual and rarely heard seasonal songs and music for an evening guaranteed to rouse the Christmas spirits in everyone…all pun intended.

Carpathian is a professional storyteller who has appeared at numerous venues, film festivals, Renaissance Faires, haunted attractions, libraries and conventions throughout the United States. He was a featured presence for ten years at The Six Flags America FRIGHT FEST in Largo, MD, leading his company The Patient Creatures. Carpathian was nominated in 2003 for a Rondo Hatton Award for Special Presentation and in 2002 for Outstanding Media Presentation for his CD, “3 Tales of Carpathian”. His stories run the gamut from classic campfire tales and spooky shaggy-dog stories to macabre fables and urban legends. He is equally at home before a mixed family audience, a midnight crowd of adult enthusiasts, or a gaggle of giggling children.

Paul Woodland is known as the Mad River Raconteur and Arcata’s Garrison Keillor to the faithful listeners of his popular radio storytelling program “Once Upon a Tune”, heard every Saturday morning at 11:30 on KHSU 90.5 FM or on the internet at Paul has been storytelling professionally at hospitals, schools, senior centers and national parks for over 16 years. His apprenticeship included dozens of classes, workshops and seminars under the tutelage of fabled storytellers Gay Ducy, Ed Stivender, Joel Ben Izzy and Ruth Stotter, and he gained valuable storytelling experience while working in Sonoma County as a park ranger, creating compelling campfire programs.

Seabury Gould is a storyteller, eclectic musician and recording artist, and of late lead on of Humboldt County’s premier Celtic music ensembles Scatter The Mud. His storytelling CD "Times and Places" is a collection of traditional stories with musical accompaniment. Seabury has performed extensively at schools in California as well as in India. His repertoire offers stories for both children and adults and includes fairytales, Celtic stories, tales with humor, tales of enchantment and tales from various parts of the world. You can learn more about his interest and talents on his website

So gather your holiday cheer and join the Yule celebration at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates December 18. But bundle up warmly; some of the chills of that night may not be attributable to the weather outside!

Old Town Coffee & Chocolates is located at 211 F Street in Old Town Eureka. Admission is free; this is an all-ages event! For more information please call 707-445-8600 or log onto

Ghost Stories at Christmas...

This wondering about Christmas and ghost stories all seems to come out of a general ignorance many Americans have about the very spiritual nature of the holiday in Europe, and the common practice of telling ghost stories, particularly in the British isles, during the Christmas season. In fact, engaging in a variety of supernaturally-related activities and rituals (wassailing) has, traditionally, been part of the British season. In "December Will Be Magic Again," Kate Bush sings, "Light up the candle lights to conjure Mr. Wilde in to the silent night..." a reference, also, to reading Oscar Wilde's fantasy tales on Christmas eve. The writers of "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" knew what they were writing about. Might do for some Americans to "get out more"--other than to Walmart for junk Christmas gifts--and pick up a book or two to learn a few things about the history of the Christmas holiday and its pagan roots.

Actually, his response only

Actually, his response only sounds pretentious because it takes on that tone after using the word "ignorant." It sounds like he's calling Americans stupid. But ignorant actually means "uninformed". Everyone is ignorant of something, because even the greatest brains can't be informed about everything. If meant in this way, his response isn't rude at all. It is easy to misread a writer's tone, and detect sarcasm and snarky intent where none is intended. If you give him the benefit of the doubt, it's an accurate and insightful comment. The UK does practice ghost stories around Christmas, and although it is obvious to almost everyone over there, very few of us would know (or should know) anything about it.

Wow! I am sure you, like

Wow! I am sure you, like all Europeans, are aware of every single other culture's traditions for every holiday. I mean, if you weren't, that would mean you are as ignorant as those Americans you seem to despise (even though they write local news articles that Europeans somehow find irresistible.)

Well, aren't you a

Well, aren't you a pretentious little twit?

ghost stories

i believe they do mean the Dickens just because song writers tend to alter words to fit songs. Yes it would sound right if they said story and changed glories to glory, but they probably wanted to keep glories plural so they had to change story into stories. Also even though A Christmas Carol is only one story they have 3 different ghost so i would imagine it could be broken up into "stories" . But this is just my opinion.

Old American Tradition

An old American tradition was to spend Christmas Eve sitting at the fireside with your loved ones telling stories and accounts that needed to be handed down from generation to generation. It was believed then that Christmas Eve, being a magical night was the given chance a spirit had to visit those who would be missed the most. This is portrayed in A Christmas Carol.


Okay, but what about "marshmallows for toasting"? Was it an old Celtic pagan ritual to toast marshmallows during the winter months too?

THREE ghosts in "A Christmas Carol?"

Forgetting the ghost of Jacob Marley, are we?

Ghost stories at Christmas

Historically, it was a tradition to tell ghost stories at Victorian Christmas Parties. I am not sure of the origin of that tradition, but that's why the reference. It possibly relates to the pagan traditions that predate our currents ones. Almost all the traditions we have predate Christianity in Europe (Christmas tree, Yule log, on and on)

"Ghosts for Christmas" - Richard Dalby, editor :)

"Ghosts for Christmas" edited by Richard Dalby

"There'll be scary ghost stories, and tales of the glories, of Christmases long, long ago." - from the song: "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

And here is where you'll find the best of those tales from Victorian and Edwardian England, when flickering gaslight made ghosts seem a very real possibility indeed.

Here are English country houses with dark pasts, wronged young women who return from the grave, haunted groves in the forest where you should never cut down a tree, elevators that should be empty but aren't, Christmas parties with uninvited guests you only meet when the lights are out, and ghostly children you do not want to follow out into the snow.

Plus a couple of more recent items from our own century.

All perfect for a long, dark winter's night by the fireplace. (Or the space-heater.)

Enjoy! :)


"Our Ghost Party" - Jerome K. Jerome

"The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton - Charles Dickens

"The Ghost Detective" - Mark Lemon

"The Dead Sexton" - J. Sheridan Le Fanu

"Markheim" - Robert Louis Stevenson

"The Ghost of Christmas Eve" - J.M. Barrie

"The Real and the Counterfeit" - Mrs. Alfred Baldwin

"Number Ninety" - Mrs. B.M. Croker

"Thurlow's Christmas Story" - J.K. Bangs

"Their Dear Little Ghost" - Elia W. Peattie

"Wolverton Tower" - Grant Allen

"A Ghost-Child" - Bernard Capes

"The Kit-Bag" - Algernon Blackwood

"The Shadow" - E. Nesbit

"The Irtonwood Ghost" - Elinor Glyn

"Bone To His Bone" - E.G. Swain

"Transition" - Algernon Blackwood

"The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance" - M.R. James

"The Sculptor's Angel" - Marie Corelli

"The Snow" - Hugh Walpole

"Smee" - A.M. Burrage

"The Prescription" - Marjorie Bowen

"The Demon King" - J.B. Priestly

"Lucky's Grove" - H. Russell Wakefield

"I Shall Take Proper Precautions" - George H. Bushnell

"Christmas Meeting" - Rosemary Timperley

"Someone In The Lift" - L.P. Hartley

"The Christmas Present" - Ramsey Campbell

"Christmas Entertainment" - Daphne Froome

"Gebal and Ammon and Amalek" - David G. Rowlands

...and an Introduction by Richard Dalby, arguably the world's leading expert on the classic English ghost story.

Not Halloween but Christmas!

Haha I also came to this page because Andy Williams' lyrics made me wonder! I'd expect it to fit with Hallowe'en, but now I know better! ^^

Ghosts at Christmas

The classic novel A Turn of the Screw begins at Christmastime and there is mention of telling ghost stories as part of the tradition.

Christmas Ghost Stories and Celtic Spirits

Even better put: Christmas Ghost Stories and Celtic Spirits By Karen Michelle Nutt Last edited: Friday, November 17, 2006 Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2006 Ghost stories at Christmas, seems out of place or is it? We have enjoyed the classic, The Christmas Carol, and Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas? In Celtic times, there were spirits ghost, and mystical beings that were associated with the fire festival. The Winter Soltice, Alban Arthuan, or better known as Yuletime Season is a time of death and rebirth of Nature and our souls. It is said the Old Sun dies at dusk of December 21st. and when the Sun of the New Year is born at the dawn of December 22. The New Sun is thought to rejuvenate the aura of the Earth. It is like a mystical cleansing to the spirits and the souls of the dead. Samhain is considered the most haunted time of the year in the Celtic calendar; Yule is the second. Haunting starts on December 6th to December 20th. The spirits are more active as they wait for the rebirth of the Sun’s powers. This haunting is not the same as during Samhain, where the veil is thinned so that the dead can walk among us. The spirits of Yule are connected with the mystical and the psychic logic of the Solstice Season. However, one can be visited from their ancestors, relatives, spirit guides or their soul friends (anamchara). A Yuletide story called the Sluagh-Sídehe of Brug na Bóinne. It translates people of the mound or barrow where the dead have been buried. All sídehe in the Celtic mythology and traditions are haunted. It is said that they are the gateway for the souls and spirits of the dead. It is also a gateway for living mortals so that they can pass back and forth to each world. On the other side the sídehe is the Otherworld or the Land of the Youth, the Isle of the Blessed. This is where the living soul continues the quest for wisdom. The people of the Sídhe are the Faeryfolk. They live forever beyond the sídhe in the ráths, which are submerged roundhouses or Faery fortresses, which are their magical castles in the Otherworld.

Ghost stories a Celtic Tradition

This line probably takes its roots from old English traditions that started in pre Christian eras where winter is seen as time of death before the reawakening of springs thaw. Lesser known but adapted from many pagan traditions that carried over to modern Christmas such as mistletoe, used as a sign of peace over ancient battlefields, yule logs, the tree inside the home, feasts, gathering of friends and family to celebrate the ancient Yule and the telling of stories about the other world which was so close in earths deep winter slumber, faery tales (NOT Fairy tales) and the afore mentioned ghost stories. Magic was a deep part of the Pagan life and Druid culture as was the idea of spirits and other beings. These ideas are still very much alive in today's England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland even the belief in the "little people" most modern ideas of Christmas are even younger then the founding of America so most traditions have far older roots, as Americans post revolution we abolished many of our English connections and for many of us perhaps the tradition of Christmas Ghost tales also faded.

Here via Google search for "Christmas and ghost stories!"

Hi Kevin, I think the ghost stories must be an old English tradition. The British TV series "League of Gentlemen" did a Christmas special once, and it was all horror stories, in their own inimitable fashion. And I guess CHRISTMAS CAROL would be part of that tradition. But if you find out anything more, let us know!

I never knew...

Dear Kevin, I too have struggled with very subject. The idea of scary ghost stories at Christmas wasn't something I had ever really considered. Until tonight, that is, when I heard for the first time that line in this famous song, which I have heard countless times throughout the years, the line unnoticed. When I came across your article, I was thankful on so many different levels. For one, I was only 10 minutes into my internet search for answers. Unfortunately, I do like the idea and hope to institute this tradition with my own family this year and for every Christmas to come. I wish everyone out there the best of luck in the quest to understand what exactly it means to frighten your family with terrifying stories about ghosts duriing the holiday season.

"Scary ghost stories" for Christmas?

Hi! I've been wondering the same thing for quite a while. I found this though that might explain: Scoutmaster R. Gary Hendra from Milpitas, California has collected ghost stories over the years, and invites readers to send more. One story, written by Lord Baden-Powell, Chief Scout, is reprinted from the December, 1932 Christmas issue of "The Scouter" in England. In Britain, reading ghost stories (such as Dickens's "Christmas Carol") in front of a flickering hearth are part of the Christmas tradition. In this country, of course, we tell ghost stories around the campfire or at Halloween. Maybe, it was that inspired the writer of the song. Take care! And Merry Christmas! Richard Quebec, Canada

Ghosts at Christmas

Wuzz, I am still puzzled about that song. There is a ghost in "The Polar Express," but again I think the song came first. Mix 94.5 is of course already playing the Christmas music here in Lexington. Good luck to the Dawgs in the BCS!!! Merry Christmas, Brian

definately a british

definately a british tradition dickens wrote many a ghost story for the season. and the bbc frequently broadcast dramatisations of ghost stories at this time and it has always been so winter means ghosts, and did so long before shakespeare told us "There was a man dwelt by a Churchyard.

If the department stores

If the department stores keep on, an old tradition will take on a new meaning. We are already seeing Christmas decorations out before Halloween.

Just made me think

I've figured it out! I know this is a bit late but anyway... Scrooge, was visited by the 3 ghosts - Christmas past, present and future :D

Is that anything to do with what you were thinking if not sorry :D