Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts

The Twelve Days of Christmas come to an end soon; just time for one more winter tale to close out the season. This particular story, I’m afraid, is not especially wintry, or scary. It’s a humorous folktale, no doubt derived from an oral telling, and well, I just like it.

Party skeletons guadalupe posada

Jeremiah Curtin (1835-1906) was an American ethographer and folklorist. He collected mythologies, folklore and other ethnological information from various Native American tribes, from various peoples of Russia and Eastern Europe, and (most relevant to us today), from Ireland. “Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts” comes from his 1895 folktale collection, Tales of Fairies and the Ghost World.

Daniel Crowley is a coffin-maker who claims to prefer the company of the dead to the living. One evening at a wake, he drunkenly extends an invitation that he probably didn’t expect anyone to take him up on. Surprise!

You can read “Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts” here.

This story has no connection to Christmas, New Year’s or winter, but it is a fun and festive tale, and I can imagine telling it to friends around a fire. It’s also the second year in a row that I’ve closed out Winter Tales season with a story about dancing skeletons. Maybe this will be a trend.

2021 marked the tenth year that I’ve been sharing Christmas ghost stories. The past decade has seen a revival of the tradition, it seems to me; or maybe I’m just more aware of it now than I was ten years ago. Sometimes my choices have wandered a bit outside the lines, but I hope that they’ve all added to your winter reading pleasure. I also hope that you’ve all enjoyed reading these tales as much as I’ve enjoyed finding and sharing them.

All the best to all of you, for 2022.


A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.

Featured image: El Jarabe En Ultratumba (loosely, Dancing in the Afterlife), José Guadalupe Posada (1910). Source: Wikimedia. Jarabe is a style of mariachi music; the Jarabe Tapatío is the national dance of Mexico. [Citation]

An elegantly dressed male and female skeleton arm in arm, José Guadalupe Posada (ca. 1890-1910). Source: metmuseum.org.

A Ghost’s Revenge

Today, a New Year’s Eve winter tale from Lettice Galbraith! Last year, I shared a Christmas tale of occult detection by this delightful author; this year’s story runs along more classical lines.

Standing windowsill 768

Gerald Harrison was a skeptic about the supernatural, until he encountered Mallowby Rectory. Now it’s a race against time. Can he save his best friend before an angry ghost takes its New Year’s revenge?

You can read “A Ghost’s Revenge” here.

In general, I consider Lettice Galbraith’s ghost stories rather modern for their era, which is part of what makes her interesting to me. “A Ghost’s Revenge” is more traditional than much of her other work — it’s a good old-fashioned haunted house yarn. But it’s also energetic and suspenseful, and just a lot of fun to read. I hope you like it.

May you all stay dry and warm, and please enjoy the last winter tale for 2021! There will be one more, in 2022, before the Twelve Days of Christmas end.

Wishing everyone a Happy and healthy New Year.


A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.

Featured Image: New Years New Moon, Theodor Severin Kittelsen. Source: WikiArt

Illustration by Émile Bayard for Contes et romans populaires by Erckmann-Chatrian (1867). Source: Old Book Illustrations.

Crowdy Marsh

In keeping with my tradition of the past few years, I’m sharing a lighter, less scary winter tale for Christmas Eve. As with last year’s Christmas Eve offering, this one is more of a fairy tale. It’s by the minister/scholar/folklorist Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924).

Thomas Rowlandson Bodmin Moor Google Art Project

The narrator goes hunting with a friend out on Bodmin Moor, in Cornwall. They get lost after sunset, and wander into the boggy mire of Crowdy Marsh. After being separated from his friend, the narrator stumbles upon a mysterious, lonely cottage on the edge of the Marsh.

You can read “Crowdy Marsh” here.

Like many of Baring-Gould’s supernatural stories, “Crowdy Marsh” has a bit of a moral to it, but it’s not heavy-handed, and it feels rather appropriate to the season. Baring-Gould also gives us a nice interpretation of the Wild Hunt, specifically the version of the Wild Huntsman named Dewer.

Here’s hoping you’re enjoying my winter tales in your cozy abode, not a cold damp marsh! I wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it, and a joyous day to all who don’t.


A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.

Featured image: A walk on Bodmin Moor, 30 Sept. 2010 by Phillip Capper (License CC-by-2.0). Source: Wikimedia. It’s not marked, but I believe that’s Brown Willy in the background.

Detail from Bodmin Moor, by Thomas Rowlandson (c. 1825). Source: Wikimedia

The Four-Fifteen Express

Since I have a little extra time, I’ve decided to post an “extra” winter tale this week: namely the one I meant to post the first week of December! I originally chose “The Four-Fifteen Express” as this year’s opening story, because it’s a good transition from the Classic Crime series to Winter Tales.

Clerkenwell tunnel 768

William Langford returns home from business abroad just in time to spend December with some old friends in East Anglia. A chance encounter on the train ride to his hosts’ home leads to a mystery, a scandal, and maybe more….

You can read “The Four-Fifteen Express” here.

Writer and Egyptologist Amelia Edwards (1831-1892) might be best known today for her ghost story “The Phantom Coach” (which is also set at Christmas). In addition to ghost stories, her short fiction includes “whodunnits,” as well as other types of crime stories and tales of the macabre. Many of her supernatural stories have a strong crime fiction sensibility. That’s a good combination, as far as I’m concerned. If you agree, then I hope you will enjoy “The Four-Fifteen Express.”

And be sure to look out for my Christmas eve tale, later this week.


A list (with links) of the winter tales I’ve shared in previous years is on my Winter Tales page.

Featured Image: Train in the Snow or The Locomotive, Claude Monet (1875). Source: WikiArt

Metropolitan Railway at Clerkenwell Tunnel, P. Broux, Illustration for Les nouvelles conquêtes de la science, vol. 2 by Louis Figuier. Source: Old Book Illustrations.

A Sworn Statement

Today’s winter tale is by California poet, translator, and author Emma Francis Dawson (1839–1926). She wrote it for the Christmas 1881 edition of The Wasp, a satirical weekly San Francisco periodical, at the request of The Wasp‘s editor, Ambrose Bierce.

The Grand Court of the original Palace Hotel, San Francisco c 1895
The “Grand Court” of the original Palace Hotel, San Francisco, c. 1895. Source: Wikimedia. The Palace Hotel is the scene of a key episode in this tale.

In “A Sworn Statement,” the valet Wilkins relates the story of his former employer, Mr. Audenried, and his relationship (or non-relationship?) with the mysterious silent woman who seems to co-inhabit their dwelling.

You can read “A Sworn Statement” here.

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Winter Tale Time! Croglin Grange

I’m a bit late getting started this year, for which I apologize. A combination of work and a terrible cold that hit me last weekend are to blame. But I hope my selections this year will make up for my tardiness!

Snow bound

Today’s tale isn’t actually set around Christmas, or even in the winter, but it’s a short and quite fun little story that I think would be delightful read aloud. Indeed, it’s set as a story told by one person to his friends around an evening fire, which makes it appropriate as a winter tale, in my opinion.

A young woman and her brothers rent a delightful one-story house in Cumberland, called Croglin Grange. At first things go swimmingly: they love the house, their neighbors love them. Then one sultry summer evening, the young woman sees something coming across the lawn–and straight to her window. Scratch, scratch, scratch… will it get in? And what will happen if it does?

You can read “Croglin Grange” here.

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A Christmas Crime from Mary Fortune

Winter Tales season is just about here, so it’s time to wrap up Classic Crime for 2021. What better way to finish up than with a Christmas Crime?

I’ve had “Christmas Eve, Long Ago” on my Winter Tales list for several years, and have always skipped it, because it’s not a ghost story. This year, with this new crime series, I’ve finally got a chance to share it!

Father Christmas in Australia

It’s Christmas Eve, Australia; Edward Woolston and his wife Soo have just sold their property, and plan to move back to England. Full of the spirit of the holiday, Woolston invites a man he just met to stop by for a drink and a cigar to celebrate the Woolston’s last Christmas in Australia. But “goodwill towards all” isn’t a sentiment that everyone follows, even during this special season.

You can read “Christmas Eve, Long Ago” here.

This story first appeared in The Portland Guardian (Portland, Victoria, Australia, that is) on Christmas Day, 1879, under the byline “Waif Wander”. The author’s real name was Mary Fortune (1833-1911), an Irish-born Australian writer known primarily for her crime fiction; she was one of the earliest women detective writers in the world. Her series The Dectective’s Album, narrated by detective Mark Sinclair, ran for forty years in the Australian Journal, from 1868 to 1908. During her career, the name Waif Wander was so well known that both a racehorse and a greyhound were named in her honor!

Sadly, Ms. Fortune died ill and in obscurity in 1911. I think she has been somewhat rediscovered, at least in Australia, and I do plan to check out some of her other crime and detective fiction for the Classic Crime series. But in the meantime, enjoy this Christmas tale!


Part of the Classic Crime Series.

Featured Image: Christmas in Australia, Frederick Grosse, engraver (1865). Source: State Library Victoria.
Father Christmas in Australia, from Illustrated Australian News, Christmas 1882. Source: State Library Victoria.

Classic Crime: Talma Gordon

Today: the second Lizzie Borden-inspired crime tale, and of the earliest (possibly the first) published mysteries by a black author. “Talma Gordon” appeared in the October 1900 issue of Colored American Magazine, an early literary and cultural journal for African-American readers. The author of “Talma Gordon,” Pauline Hopkins, was also the magazine’s editor, and one of its most profilic contributors.

Pauline Hopkins
Pauline Elizabeth Hopkins (1859-1930). Source: coloredamerican.org

I wrote about Pauline Hopkins for my Women Writers of Folklore and the Fantastic series, so I’ll quote what I said about “Talma Gordon” there:

Lovely golden-haired Talma Gordon is accused of the grisly murder of her wealthy father Jonathan Gordon, her stepmother, and her infant half-brother. During the investigation it comes out that Talma did not get along with her stepmother, that her father had forbidden Talma’s marriage to struggling artist Edward Turner — and that Gordon had been planning to leave the bulk of his wealth to his son, with only a small annuity to each of the two daughters of his first wife. Talma is acquitted legally, but not necessarily in the court of public opinion. What really happened?

You can read “Talma Gordon” here.

If you’ve read Hopkins’ fiction before, you’ll recognize the themes in “Talma Gordon.” On the plus side, it’s a crisp and engaging crime tale, and if there had been an American equivalent of The Strand Magazine at the time, “Talma Gordon” would have been right at home. On the other hand, I do have to give it a point off for a Deux ex machina ending, and some aspects of the story haven’t aged well—because some of the cultural attitudes of the time are, thankfully, no longer acceptable.

All in all, if you’re looking for a unique take on the Lizzie Borden story, as well as an interesting piece of literary and African-American history, do check out “Talma Gordon.” I hope you enjoy it!

Classic Crime: The Long Arm

Today’s Classic Crime is one I’ve shared before, but it’s a story I really like, by an author I admire. “The Long Arm,” by Mary Wilkins Freeman, is the first of two women-authored murder mysteries I plan to present that were probably inspired by the infamous Lizzie Borden case.

Mary Eleanor Wilkins Freeman
Mary Wilkins Freeman Source: Wikimedia

Sarah Fairbanks is an unmarried schoolteacher who’s been engaged to her beau for five years. But for some reason, her father disapproves of the relationship. Sarah argues loudly with him about her fiancé one night when she is home for summer vacation. The next morning, she finds her father in his bed — murdered. Suspicion falls quickly on Sarah, and soon she’s arrested.

At the trial, Sarah is acquitted (like Lizzie Borden was), but she is shunned by the community, which still suspects her guilt. So to clear her own name, Sarah decides to investigate the murder herself. Can she find the murderer and prove her innocence?

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Vincent Price’s The Price of Fear

Lately, I’ve been folding laundry while listening to the Vincent Price radio drama The Price of Fear. The episodes are excellently written, and often based on a well-known horror short story.

Not only does Price narrarate each episode, but he’s been folded into the adaptations as a character. Well acted, and fun to listen to. And each episode is the perfect length for a load of laundry!

So far, I’ve listened to four episodes, and I’m really enjoying it.

You can find the episodes at the Internet Archive.

Here’s another link, which includes short descriptions of each episode, as well.

Enjoy!