We wish you a creepy Christmas, we wish you a creepy Christmas, we wish you a creepy Christmas and a Spooky New Year!
These days, Christmas tales primarily consist in the campy and cute. A Christmas Story, National Lampoon, saccharine sweet TV releases, cartoons, and short versions of blockbuster kids movies (like Shrek’s Christmas, for instance): we ring in the holidays with comedic pathos. This, however, was not always the case.
Victorian England prepared for the season by reading ghost stories. That’s right. It’s not just for Halloween; people would cozy around open fires, sip mulled wine, and prepare to be scared out of their wits. A Christmas Carol might be the most famous Christmas ghost story, but it certainly isn’t the only one. In Hemingford Grey, England, they still carry on the tradition; this year, the Nunkie Theatre Company read the stories of MR James by candlelight in the manor house’s frosty attic. So for a moment, let us step away from the plastic tinsel, noise and bustle of a commercial season and instead seek the creature comfort of good friends, good spirits, and tales of terror and intrigue.
You should start with the classics, I think: Charles Dickens, MR James, E. A. Poe… But I wouldn’t want you to miss any new possibilities. This is the Friday Feature after all! Below you will find the latest collection of fun, care of Tabatha Hanly, research assistant extraordinaire. Creepy Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!
A lovely story of a happy and cheerful Christmas…and then the real story begins in Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw
“The Turn of the Screw” is an intense psychological tale of terror. It begins in an old house on Christmas Eve. It is the story of a Governess who comes to live with and take care of two young children. The Governess loves her new position in charge of the young children, however she is soon disturbed when she begins to see ghosts.
More Christmas spirit, with some unquiet spirits in Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill
Aging, self-absorbed rock star Judas Coyne has a thing for the macabre — his collection includes sketches from infamous serial killer John Wayne Gacy, a trepanned skull from the 16th century, a used hangman’s noose, Aleister Crowley’s childhood chessboard, etc. — so when his assistant tells him about a ghost for sale on an online auction site, he immediately puts in a bid and purchases it. The black, heart-shaped box that Coyne receives in the mail not only contains the suit of a dead man but also his vengeance-obsessed spirit. The ghost, it turns out, is the stepfather of a young groupie who committed suicide after the 54-year-old Coyne callously used her up and threw her away. Now, determined to kill Coyne and anyone who aids him, the merciless ghost of Craddock McDermott begins his assault on the rocker’s sanity.
For a more normal turn, we bring you Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry, a story of a bored and whiny teenager who so does not want to work with his brother slaughtering zombies… what a drag.
In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.
Now more teenagers (because what makes Christmas spirit like soulless teenagers), in Another Faust by Daniel Nayeri, Dina Nayeri, Katherine Kellgren. One night, in cities all across Europe, five children vanish – only to appear, years later, at an exclusive New York party with a strange and
elegant governess. Rumor and mystery follow the Faust teenagers to the city’s most prestigious high school, where they soar to suspicious heights with the help of their benefactor’s extraordinary “gifts.”
But as the students claw their way up – reading minds, erasing scenes, stopping time, stealing power, seducing with artificial beauty – they suffer side-effects of their own addictions. And as they make further deals with the devil, they uncover secrets more shocking than their most unforgivable sins. At once chilling and wickedly satirical, this contemporary reimagining of the Faustian bargain is a compelling tale of ambition, consequences, and ultimate redemption.
It is important to remember those less fortunate at this holiday spirit, like Jake, the last of an endangered species in Glen Duncan’s The Last Werewolf.
“Then she opened her mouth to scream–and recognised me. It was what I’d been waiting for. She froze. She looked into my eyes. She said, “It’s you.”
Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you–and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.
Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide–even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.
Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend–mesmerising and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century–a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.
And last but not least, is a lovely holiday love story (just don’t tell Johnathan). Dracula in Love by Karen Essex
In this wonderfully transporting novel, award-winning author Karen Essex turns a timeless classic inside out, spinning a haunting, erotic, and suspenseful story of eternal love and possession.
From the shadowy banks of the river Thames to the wild and windswept Yorkshire coast, Dracula’s eternal muse, Mina Murray, vividly recounts the intimate details of what really transpired between her and the Count—the joys and terrors of a passionate affair that has linked them through the centuries, and her rebellion against her own frightening preternatural powers.
Mina’s version of this gothic vampire tale is a visceral journey into Victorian England’s dimly lit bedrooms, mist-filled cemeteries, and asylum chambers, revealing the dark secrets and mysteries locked within. Time falls away as she is swept into a mythical journey far beyond mortal comprehension, where she must finally make the decision she has been avoiding for almost a millennium.
Bram Stoker’s classic novel offered one side of the story, in which Mina had no past and bore no responsibility for the unfolding events. Now, for the first time, the truth of Mina’s personal voyage, and of vampirism itself, is revealed. What this flesh and blood woman has to say is more sensual, more devious, and more enthralling than the Victorians could have expressed or perhaps even have imagined.