The holidays bring images of cheerful songs, feasts and gifts, but as you sit by your yule log, don’t forget your Christmas Eve ghost story. W…what?! When I first discovered this historical tradition a few years ago, I found something lovely and nostalgic about people gathering to eat, drink, make merry and then try scare the pants off each other.
Most readers associate holiday ghosts with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but the tradition went back long before then, probably related to long winter nights when people had little to do but tell one another stories. If you enjoy a little holiday shiver with your eggnog, here’s a few tales to toast to (but remember to lock your doors and keep a light on):
The Night Strangers by Chris Bohjalian: After a piloting a plane that crashes and kills 39 passengers, Chip Linton moves with his family to New Hampshire, trying to escape the sorrow and shame. Settling into their old Victorian house, he discovers a door in the cellar sealed shut and begins to hear ghostly voices. Is it coincidence that the door has 39 bolts? What happened to one of the young boys who previously lived there? Filled with creepy characters and a mounting sense of dread, this story is a page-turner.
My Best Friend's Exorcism by Grady Hendrix: After Gretchen spends the night in a decrepit cabin, she starts acting out in ways that puzzle then frighten her best friend Abby. The adults think it's two high school friends drifting apart, but Abby knows it’s more serious—Gretchen is demon-possessed and plans to destroy everyone around her. A sunny 1980s setting, juxtaposed against the dark intensity of adolescence is reminiscent of a David Lynch film. This novel asks how far we will go to save our friends.
Disappearance at Devil's Rock by Paul Tremblay: Elizabeth’s son Tommy disappears in the woods, and people around the area start reporting a dark figure peering in windows, then the pages of Tommy’s journal start mysteriously appearing. As the story slowly unfolds, more disturbing details emerge and soon it's hard for Elizabeth to tell truth from fiction as the characters struggle to hide things from themselves and from each other.
The Suicide Motor Club by Christopher Buehlman: These vampires drive endlessly on Route 66, causing horrific car crashes then drinking the survivors dry, but this time they have chosen the wrong victim. Judith Lamb lost both her son and husband to these strange creatures who glamour humans so no one can see their pointed teeth and dead eyes. Leaving the cloister she has joined, she begins a journey to hunt them down and destroy them. The violence and psychopathic tendencies are not for the faint of heart, but the story is gripping and action-packed. Definitely for fans of the cult classic Near Dark.