A marvellously spooky collection of festive stories from the late 19th century to the 1950s. Quite appropriately there are 13 stories, all with supernatural themes. They were all worth reading and a few of them were excellent (marked with asterisks below).
‘A Strange Christmas Game’ by Charlotte Riddell is a good traditional ghost story.
‘The Old Portrait’ by Hume Nisbet has tones of Dracula and The Picture of Dorian Gray. *
‘The Real and the Counterfeit’ by Louisa Baldwin – long-winded tale of ghost monks and a prank gone wrong.
‘Old Applejoy’s Ghost’ by Frank R Stockton is a sweet rather than spooky story which has hints of A Christmas Carol.
‘Transition’ by Algernon Blackwood – the right side of sentimental and a twist on the traditional ghost story. *
‘The Fourth Wall’ by A M Burrage – theatrical-themed story in which sceptics of the supernatural end up changing their minds.
‘The Festival’ by H P Lovecraft is a typically Lovecraftian story with added snow – for me, the stand-out of the collection because of his unique style and the strongly pagan theme. *
‘The Crown Derby Plate’ by Marjorie Bowen – an unusual ghost story with a great twist at the end. *
‘Green Holly’ by Elizabeth Bowen has a war-time setting and engages with perceptions of the romantic past.
‘Christmas Re-union’ by Andrew Caldecott – M R James-inspired mystery of a murderous Santa Claus.
‘A Christmas Meeting’ by Rosemary Timperley is a very short ghost story about being alone at Christmas.
‘Someone in the Lift’ by L P Hartley is a horror story told from a little boy’s perspective.
‘Told After Supper’ by Jerome K Jerome – a fabulous satirical novelette of ghost stories told by a group of friends around a fire – gently poking fun at the conventions of the genre. *
If you’re looking for darker seasonal reading, I recommend this book.
Published in 2020 by the British Library as part of their Tales of the Weird series.