I was very small when I first read the story about the Christmas Ghosts, and I’ve encountered dozens of different versions in the thirty odd years since I first scared myself witless with it. The tale haunted me then, and I find it just as gloriously chilling today.
The story I’m going to share with you now can be found in the gorgeously illustrated and beautifully written Enchanted World: The Book Of Christmas. I’ve purposefully not copied it here word for word because it’s such a special book (and story) that I’d love for there to be some surprises for you if you decide to invest in it yourself. (You can get it for a few quid on Ebay, by the way. That’s where I got my copy.)
The tale tells of a priest who lurked in the church porch long after the last service on Christmas Eve had ended. He was a curious man, a student of oddities. He was feared by his flock, who believed he spoke with the devil. The priest’s hope was that the future would be revealed to him that Christmas Eve, and he’d catch a glimpse of those that were to die in the coming year wandering the night.
It was close to midnight when the priest caught sight of figures gliding along the Churchyard path. There was the village miller, the midwife, the schoolmaster, a farmer and two other men he knew. They passed by the priest and faded into shadow.
But there was a last walker in the company of shades, and the priest was horrified to find he was looking at himself. The ghost smiled tightly at him, before, like his companions, fading into shadow. Within a year of meddling with winter magic, the priest was dead.