The Tale of a Gas-Light Ghost

As Epiphany draws near, I have one last haunting. “The Tale of a Gas-Light Ghost” is a short, enigmatic tale that first appeared anonymously in an 1867 Christmas Annual.

246px Gentleman s formal attire MET DP804842

Mysterious Gregory Barnstake comes to live in rural Mapleton, keeping largely to himself. Why does Barnstake avoid society? What’s his secret?

You can read “The Tale of a Gas-Light Ghost” here.

This story is generally credited as coming from “The New Christmas Annual for 1867,” which is true, as far as it goes. The actual title of the annual is Ghosts Wives: A String of Strange Stories Told Round a Christmas Fire by Six Young Widows and a Spinster Lady of a Certain Age. This explains the opening of the narrative, which has nothing to do with the rest of the story.

It is a somewhat unusual story, and I like it! I hope you do, too.

And with that, Winter Tales season 2022 comes to an end. Best wishes to all of you for 2023.

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

Featured Image: Rural Landscape with Village, Theodore Slafter. Source: Wikimedia

Gentleman’s formal attire, Serge Sudelkin. Source: Wikimedia

Squire Humperdinck and the Devil

Following my custom of many years, today I’m posting a lighter-hearted story for Christmas Eve. Today’s offering is a delightful fairy-tale like piece from 1913, called “Squire Humperdinck and the Devil.”

Christmas Bells with Ribbon svg

Greedy, grasping landowner Squire Humperdinck owns everything—and for all intents and purposes, everybody—in the village of Humperdunken. When the Squire’s mischevious employee Chuck discovers that the Squire is secretly the devil’s minion, it’s up to him and his faithful friend the crow to save the village. It all comes to a head on Christmas Day.

You can read “Squire Humperdincken and the Devil” here.

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Sister Johanna’s Story

I’m sharing two stories this week, as we lead up to Christmas Day. The first one is another Christmas-season tale by Egyptologist, world traveler, and author of both crime and supernatural fiction, Amelia Edwards. You may recall that last year I featured her ghostly crime story, “The Four-Fifteen Express.”

Woodcarver of obermmergau jpg Blog

This year’s story is set in the village of St. Ulrich (or Urtijëi), in the Grödner Thal (called today Val Gardena, or Gröden), located in the Dolomite Alps region of Northern Italy. Gröden is known even today for its woodworking, both statuary and wooden toys. In fact, Amelia Edwards herself referred to St. Ulrich as “the capitol of Toyland” in her book Untrodden Peaks and Unfrequented Valleys (1873).

Sister Johanna’s Story” was also published in 1873, obviously inspired by Edwards’ travels through the region. Woodworking features prominently in this narrative of an artist blinded to what’s happening around him by his passion for his work.

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The Ghost of Charlotte Cray

This week I’m featuring another Christmas-season ghost story by a woman author: “The Ghost of Charlotte Cray,” by Florence Marryat (1833-1899).

Florence Marryat
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sigsmund Braggett is a healthy, successful, newly married middle-aged man. To all appearances, his life should be going great; and yet he is troubled. Why, you ask?

Most of us have our little peccadilloes in this world-—awkward reminiscences that we would like to bury five fathoms deep, and never hear mentioned again, but that have an uncomfortable habit of cropping up at the most inconvenient moments; and no mortal is more likely to be troubled with them than a middle-aged bachelor who has taken to matrimony.

In certain aspects of his life, Mr. Braggett was not a very nice man. And now he’s afraid that it’s coming back to bite him.

You can read “The Ghost of Charlotte Cray” here.

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Number Two, Melrose Square

This week’s winter tale is a haunted house story by Theo Gift, the pen name of Dora Havers (1847-1923). I have a soft spot for a Victorian ghost story with an independent female lead character, and “Number Two, Melrose Square” happens conveniently at Christmas, so how could I resist?

"charcoal drawing of a haunted drawing room" - generated by Stable Diffusion

The protagonist, who seems to make her living as a translator and scholar, arrives to London to work on her latest project. A friend has found her a furnished house on Melrose Square, conveniently near the British Museum. Perhaps it’s a bit dreary, but for a furnished house, with housekeeper included, it’s quite a bargain!

Oops. Naturally, our heroine soon discovers that a bargain is never as good as it initially seems.

You can read “Number Two, Melrose Square” here.

Dorothy “Dora” Havers was the daughter of a colonial governor, and lived in the Falkland Islands and then Uruguay as a child and young woman. After her father died, she returned to England, working as a writer and journalist. She wrote novels, short stories, ghost stories, and children’s fiction, all published under the name Theo Gift. In 1879 she married botanist George Simonds Boulger, Professor of Natural History at the Royal Agricultural College. Hence, the name “Theo Gift” is sometimes listed as the pseudonym for Dora Boulger.

“Number Two, Melrose Square” originally appeared in All the Year Round, vol 24, 1880. The version that I’m sharing today is from Theo Gift’s collection Not for the Night-Time, published 1889.


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

Featured image: “Dark and Winding Streets,” Charles-François Daubigny, illustration for Les mystères de Paris, vol 1 (1843). Source: Old Book Illustrations.

Post image generated by Stable Diffusion (prompt: “charcoal drawing haunted drawing room”)

Winter Tales Time! A Musical Mystery

It’s time for Winter Tales! To commemorate the old tradition of telling ghost stories around Christmastime, I’ll be sharing mostly winter-themed spooky stories here from the beginning of December through Epiphany. So grab a hot drink and curl up in your favorite armchair to savor some old-fashioned thrills and chills!

Graveyard Under Snow, Caspar David Friedrich (1826)

My first story this year is “A Musical Mystery,” an anonymous contribution to The Englishwoman’s Domestic Magazine, for April 1875. It’s the tale of a creepy winter night visit to a mortuary, when a mysterious customer comes to purchase a coffin. For himself. A coffin shaped like a violoncello-case.

You can read “A Musical Mystery” here.

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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:

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.