The 13 Ghosts of Christmas edited by Simon Marshall-Jones
Christmas – a season of goodwill given to all mankind, and of snowbound winter wonderlands; a time for the gathering of families and friends to share in a bounteous harvest of good cheer, of sparkling decorations and roaring fires lighting up the parlour; and of glittering presents strewn beneath the glorious fir tree, and of excited children full of boundless joy in their hearts. And the time when the ghosts of those long gone, of the restless, the unhappy and the bitter are closest to the living, walking abroad in the frozen landscape outside the cosy living-room window.
Here are thirteen seasonal tales of those lonely, wandering spirits, guaranteed to bring delicious thrills to all aficionados of the ghostly and the supernatural. Inside these pages you will find, amongst others, stories of eerie urban myths, age-old rituals, lost invaders from history, haunted weather phenomena, strange spirits, and creatures of myth and legend, told by some of the finest and most exciting writers working in the field today.
So, this Christmas, stoke the fire in the grate, pour yourself a glass of fine port, dim the lights and settle down in your favourite armchair, then sit back and relax, and prepare to have your spine well and truly chilled by these ghostly seasonal tales!
Tis the season to be jolly, and also scared out of your wits if Spectral Press have anything to say about it. The dark overlord of Spectral has brought together thirteen tales guaranteed to add an extra chill to any winter’s evening.
An Odd Number at Table by John Costello – A newcomer attends his girlfriend’s family Christmas gathering for the first time. Event are marred by the arrival of an unwelcome visitor. A classic ghost story to get things started.
Concerning Events at Leinster Gardens by Jan Edwards – An ex-serviceman finds himself gate crashing a strange masked ball. There is a marvellous sense of impending doom that builds throughout this story and the final paragraphs leave you with little doubt about the main character’s eventual fate.
Carnacki: A Cold Christmas in Chelsea by William Meikle – Expert in all things paranormal, Carnacki, finds himself in possession of a very special ring that demands his attention. A ‘chiller’ in the most literal sense of the word.
A Taste of Almonds by Raven Dane – A cautionary tale for anyone who decides to do away with his or her partner. Beware the Green Fairy, oh and cyanide as well. Yes, definitely beware cyanide. Murder and madness are perfect bedfellows and this story blends them together seamlessly.
Where the Stones Lie by Richard Farren Barber – A desolate old cottage is always going to be the perfect lure for the inquisitiveness of children. Another tale that has a wonderfully creepy tone.
All That is Living by Nicholas Martin – An inherited house and a descent into madness. I don’t think I’m ever going to be able to look at snowmen in quite the same way every again, or axes.
And My All Your Christmases… by Thana Niveau – Everyone loves snowy weather don’t they? But what if it was a sinister, mindless entity that never stopped hunting you down. Not such a big fan now are you?
Now & Then by Martin Roberts – A short sharp shock of a tale that describes the same family coming home for Christmas over two consecutive years. Unexpected and very effective. This story is small but perfectly formed.
December by Paul Finch – The Christmas tree a symbol of everything that’s wonderful about this time of year….except when it’s not. (I knew there was a reason why we don’t have a tree in the house).
Ritualism by Gary McMahon – The hell of Christmas shopping, the fear of telling someone you love them and a new urban myth that is going to freak out anyone that ever has nightmares about being smothered.
We are a Shadow by Neil Williams – With a referential nod to The Wicker Man this moves away from the modern meaning of Christmas and explores something far, far older. This story taps into the primal traditions of the winter equinox. Less of a ghosts story but still undoubtedly horrific I think this was one of the standout tales of the collection for me.
The Green Clearing by John Forth – Two families meet to share Christmas in a secluded cabin. Unbeknownst to some there is a dark secret waiting to be rediscovered amongst the trees. You can’t go far wrong with a cabin in the woods when it comes to scares.
Lost Soldiers by Adrian Tchaikovsky – The path to hell is paved with good intentions. A couple of well-meaning paranormal investigators attempt to help a lost spirit find his way home. Needless to say they get way more than they bargained for.
As an added bonus this collection ends with an excerpt from Whitstable by Stephen Volk, which will be published by Spectral in 2013.
I can’t think of a better book to celebrate the milestone reaching my 100th review of 2012. This collection has the ideal mixture of traditional and modern ghost stories. Each author has brought their own unique perspective of the festive season and the darkness that can sometimes come with it. I felt entirely spoiled for choice. I’d be hard pressed to tell you which was my favourite as they are all so much fun. If you can think of nothing better than to be sat in front of a roaring fire enjoying a fright or two then this is the anthology for you.
For more details about The 13 Ghosts of Christmas check out Spectral’s website.