Far and away, the most famous Christmas ghost story is, of course, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol .
If Dickens had never written another word, he would be famous for that story alone. Perhaps he was destined to be renowned for his unearthly tales, for from childhood, Dickens was told ghost stories . He was both terrified and enthralled by them at the same time.
Ironically, there is a strong possibility that Dickens himself is a Christmas ghost. How and why he may be himself a Christmas Spirit is a curious tale unto itself.
To start with, only five days after his death in England, Dickens appeared at a séance in America. Ever since, the old boy’s shade has been reappearing at various times and in various places.
By no means did Dickens invent the tradition of telling ghost stories at Yuletide. In ancient times the period from Semaine to Beltane was the time one gathered around the hearth in the dark of the night and related dark and uncanny tales. Whether they were true or not mattered little; but by the flickering of the wood fire stories took on a life all their own, and many things that might be scoffed at during the day, were easily believed in the long winter’s nights. For one take on this and on Dickens’ role as popularizer of Chirstmas ghost stories see: “A Ghost for Christmas? Charles Dickens, Pudding, and Spooky Stories Around the Yule Log.”
Charles Dickens, despite his great fame in life, desired a quiet funeral in his native city of Rochester (England, not New York). However, his adoring public would have none of it; like all great British writers, it was demanded that he be buried in Westminster Abbey with elaborate pomp and ceremony. So, with all the ornate and elaborate ritual as befitted a Victorian funeral, Charles Dickens’s body was entombed in the great English cathedral.
But despite the funeral, Dickens was not laid to rest.
It is said that, at Christmastide, the shade of the great author returns to his home in Rochester and walks again among the living, like old Marley in his famous tale. People passing by the former home have sworn to have seen a ghostly gent dressed in antique dress walking past it.
Such then, is the strange tale of Charles Dickens, who may well, himself, be a Dickens of a ghost.
There are those who scoff at this account; others swear by its veracity. Either way, have a Dickens of a Christmas season!
Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee: More true tales of the Unknown, the Unexplained and the just plain Spooky in the Mid-South. Read it with the lights left on, otherwise the author can accept no responsibility for the consequences.