Ginger Nuts of Horror
As the days grow shorter, the nights get darker and the Christmas preparations get more frantic, there’s nothing better than to unwind with some Christmas ghost and horror stories. Here at Ginger Nuts, horror and Christmas fan, Charlotte Bond, has her top recommendations for Christmas chills. There’s something for the whole family, even the littlest members!
Recommended Christmas reads
In A Deep, Dark December by Paul Finch
This collection of three stories and one novelette is top of my list of recommendations. That said, I felt that it began rather weakly: even with Finch’s excellent writing, I just can’t find Christmas ornaments scary. Nevertheless, “The Christmas Toys” was an entertaining if not a frightening read. “Midnight Service” was a little better; I could see what was coming almost from the first but I enjoyed the ride anyway. “The Faerie” held my interest well and by the end I was strongly sympathising with the protagonist’s desperate plight.
“The Mummers” was by far my favourite story. It is well worth buying this book for this story alone. In the previous three stories, the threat had been present almost from the start, but in this one it doesn’t materialise until the end. Finch spends the pages leading up to this building a sense of unease and tension. I envisaged several twists at the end – which one did Finch choose? All of them! Yet the ending didn’t feel clumsy or confused, a testament to his storytelling skills.
“The Killing Ground” was much longer and it was a joy to see Finch giving himself time and space to create atmosphere and develop characterisation. This final novelette was a real page-turner.
Winter Ghosts: Classic Ghost Stories for Christmas by various
If your tastes are for truly classic scares, then this book will be worth your investment. There’s a good range of famous authors here. It started strongly with “The Phantom Coach” by Amelia B Edwards, and what follows is the naturally mixed bag of the anthology. For example, I felt that “Wolverden Tower” wasn’t exactly scary but was an interesting premise.
It will likely come as no surprise that one of my favourites was MR James’ “The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance”. However, I also fell in love with the mischievous tale by Charles Dickens called “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton”. With a similar theme of redemption at Christmas as found in “A Christmas Carol”, Dickens really lets his imagination run riot in this fun little piece.
Desperate Circumstances: Victorian Ghost Stories for Christmas by Kevin Ground
If you’re looking for period chills but find the prose of the classics a bit cumbersome, you might prefer Ground’s collection. These stories have the same settings and atmosphere, but are told with modern, fast-paced prose.
“I Do Love Them” was a brilliant choice for the first story: tense, with a constant edge of terror of the unknown. “Hide and Seek” seemed a bit out of place, being neither particularly Christmassy, nor particularly scary. “The Emporium of Misery” followed a traditional theme and was good fun.
However the standout story of this four story collection was, for me, the last one, “Come To Me, Daughter”. It takes great skill to relate a story which captures the reader’s imagination; it then takes even more skill to retell that exact same story in a way which is equally as engaging, but that’s just what Grand managed in this last story. Brilliantly atmospheric and chilling.
Christmas Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley
In its synopsis, the book claims to be “stories which can be enjoyed by the whole family”, and I think that’s an accurate assessment. If you have an older relative who doesn’t like anything too gory or terrifying, or younger teenagers looking for something to while away the hours, this is a great book for them.
The stories are reasonably predictable, but that doesn’t mean they are dull. They are engaging and very evocative of the festive atmosphere. However, Preistley has a habit of leaving the monster or the fright until the very end of the story, which works well for some people but I found it a bit dull after a while. A bit more variety of pace would have been appreciated, but if you like the “final sting in the tail” kind of story, then this is the book for you.
There are seven stories in total, with a taster of his novel “The Dead of Winter” at the end. I was sufficiently impressed by the writer and intrigued by the taster to consider buying the book, if I wasn’t already up to my ears in Ginger Nuts books to read!
The Horrors of Christmas by Michael Whitehouse
I must admit: I looked at the cover of this one, and found it rather off-putting. However, I was sufficiently interested by the synopsis to chance it. The first story “A Christmas Feast” was a bit disappointing. As I said above, although I’m open to a good “sting in the tail” story, I prefer mine with atmosphere. I was entertained by the way Whitehouse built up the Cardinal family, but not particularly scared. The twist was good, but I’d have preferred to trade it on for a few more chills on the way.
“The Advent Calendar” was another thing completely: I loved it. The idea of opening a door each day and seeing something unspeakable coming to get you was just brilliant. And the protagonist’s nightmares pulled no punches, being truly disturbing. Another “sting in the tail” story but a very satisfying one that had built up suspense and terror on the way.
The final story “The Christmas Tree” was also good, and I think would have deserved first place in the collection really. The way he described the wood and the trees was brilliantly evocative.
Most of those above are adult horror stories, but what about our younger Ginger Nutters? I have a couple of recommendations for them too.
A Christmas Horror Story by Sebastian Gregory
If you have teenagers at home, bored over the holidays, this little novella would be a good purchase for them.
The story revolves around Katie, the oldest of three kids. When her mother is unexpectedly absent just before Christmas, Katie is tasked with looking after her little sister, Emily, and little brother, Jake. All of them are having nightmares as something quite terrible draws closer to them, its hunger growing at every step.
This story was good once it finally kicked in. At the beginning, the author chose to illustrate the monster’s long history by flashbacks/nightmares of its previous appearances. While the brief cutaways were interesting in and of themselves, I found that it made the beginning of the novella a bit scattered. It took me a while to sympathise with the main protagonists and settle into their story and their fears. Some readers might lose interest in the early stages, but if you can get through that, the story based around the three children is quite good once it finally gets into its stride. The monster is interesting and unusual (at least based on my own reading), and it was refreshing not to read something that was about Krampus again this year!
Worth a read, although maybe not a reread.
Krampus: A Christmas Tale by Scott McKenzie (art by Phil Ives)
Everything seems to be about Krampus this year, but this tale by McKenzie can be forgiven as it was published in 2012. It’s very short at only 16 pages and one verse on every page, but if you have very young children, it might be a good little story to share with them. Each page also has a fun illustration by Phil Ives.
Haunting/ Chilling/ Mysterious Christmas Tales by various
Last, special mention has to go to the Hippo series of horror stories published in the early nineties. I own these, and I still read them every Christmas, without fail. They are good for twelve year olds up I would say and have a mixture of ghost and horror stories. They boast a wealth of famous names, like Joan Aiken, Susan Price, Garry Kilworth and Robert Swindells.
“Haunting Christmas Tales”, the first of the three books to be published, focussed mainly on ghosts. My favourites are the first and the last: “Jingle Bells” where the visiting ghost has terrifying physical consequences for those involved, and “Across the Fields” where a girl must win back her brother’s soul from the dead.
Next comes “Chilling Christmas Tales”, which expands the remit from just ghosts to include vampires, fairies and the hideous Megowl. I can’t pick a favourite from this anthology as I love every single one!
Finally there is “Mysterious Christmas Tales”. This is very mixed offering in terms of subject, not quality. There are tragic tales like “Cloud Cover” and “The Crossing”, and viciously dark tales like “Christmas Game” where Wotan makes an appearance, and “The Dark Shaft”.
It may be that I’m seeing these stories through rose-tinted spectacles, but why not buy yourself or your kids a copy and decide for yourself?
Merry Christmas and happy reading!
It's the night before Christmas when a teenage girl receives an unexpected visitor who brings with him dark secrets from the past. What starts out as the perfect Christmas Eve soon turns into a nightmare with devastating consequences.
A short horror story in rhyme, based upon the poem "A Visit from Saint Nicholas" or "Twas the Night Before Christmas".
Suitable for adults and teenagers, but a little scary for younger readers.
"Imagine if Dr Seuss had a nasty streak bigger than his whimsy streak and you would pretty close to describing this great little tale. - GNOH "
Purchase a copy here