A Dickens of a Christmas


“Ideas, like ghosts, must be spoken to a little before they will explain themselves.”      Charles Dickens

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.

The Fezziwig Ball A Christmas Carol 1843 edition
Fezziwig’s Ball: Dickensian revelry at its finest

But despite the funeral, Dickens was not laid to rest.

THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT, Scrooge’s third visitor

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.

Like Marley's ghost haunting Scrooge, Dickens ghost is said to haunt the streets of Rochester England.
Like Marley’s ghost haunting Scrooge, Dickens ghost is said to haunt the streets of Rochester England.







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!

For more true ghost stories see: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Dixie Spirits and Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.

Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee                                                                              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.

Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground: True Tales from the Haunted Hills and Spectral Vales of the Mid South.


The Twelve Ghosts of Christmas, Part I Christmas among the Spirits


St. Nicholas is real; originally a Christian Bishop known for his generosity, he is the patron saint of children and his spirit serves as their protector. Sailors have also adopted him as their patron as well.13th Century icon from St. Caherine's Monestary.
Originally a Christian Bishop known for his generosity, he is the patron saint of children in both the Eastern and Western churches. His spirit serves as their protector. By the way, Sailors have also adopted him as their patron as well. (13th Century icon from St. Catherine’s Monastery).

 Before the Yuletide Season fades away, just bit about Christmas Spirits–I mean REAL spirits–apparitions, ghosts and assorted paranormal encounters associated with Christmas and the Solstice season.

First on the list?  Why Santa Claus of course! He goes by many names: Americans know him as Santa Claus, but also goes by Father Christmas, Papai Noel, Sinter Klaas, Babbo Natale, Pere Noel and a whole slew more monikers around the world.

Foremost among the Spirits of Christmas is St. Nicholas himself.

I know: you don’t think of Jolly Old Saint Nick as a ghost. .  While you may not think of him as a ghost per se, the truth is he is a spirit, and at one time was a living, breathing person who walked the earth.

So, to paraphrase the famous essay in the September 21, 1897, edition of The (New York) Sun, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  That, after centuries he is overlain with rich myth and legend and his duties have grown exponentially, is understandable; but he is very real.

St. Nicholas was born in Anatolia (modern Turkey) about 350 miles northwest of Bethlehem, in Patara, sometime around AD 270.  He was at one time bishop of Myra, another town in Asia Minor and he is first and foremost the patron saint of children.

For those unversed in Orthodox beliefs and practices, Christian saints are generally referred to in the present tense, for although their physical form is no more, their spirit continues to dwell among as, much as any ghost or spirit may. they are known to appear at various times and perform miracles–it’s what they do, after all.

Another thing about saintly apparitions: they can appear at two places at the same time. Given that knack, visiting every home where children reside in one night if you have no physical form is not so difficult a trick .

Even in ancient times St. Nick was known for his generosity. One story told of him was that, on hearing that three maidens were too poor to afford a dowry and therefore couldn’t get married, he anonymously threw a bags of gold through the window into their home.

After first two girls were married their father became curious as to whom he mysterious benefactor was and tried to watch out for him; so when the third was due to wed, to prevent his identity being found out, St. Nicholas threw the bag of gold down the chimney.

So, girls, if you’re very, very good, perhaps jolly old Saint Nick will throw a bag of gold down your chimney–wouldn’t that be better than a Barbie?

Of course, like the Blessed Mother (more about her and the BVM phenomena another time), Saint Nicholas adapts his clothing and customs to the particular country he’s in.

Our vision of him borrows a lot from German notions about Christmas, and some of his iconic imagery has more to do with Norse Mythology than Christianity. In more recent years, sadly, the formerly slender Jolly Old Elf seems to have gained way too much weight and seems to be doing a lot of commercial appearances for large corporations.

Nevertheless, despite all the naysaying and negativity about him these days, Santa is as real as any other saint.

So to all those cynics out there who scoff at ghosts and such things and would have you doubt Saint Nicholas as well; may you all get lumps of coal this Christmas.  Ho, ho ho!

For more authentic ghosts stories and true accounts of apparitions, go grab a copy or three of  Strange Tales of the Dark & Bloody Ground or Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee.