It was a dark and stormy night, less than a month before Halloween, when the leading story in The Examiner volleyed the first chilling claim of the morbidly resurrected: “It may startle our readers to advance such an opinion, but really the most vivacious persons, now living, and making the most noise in the world, seem to be dead men” (561).
Indeed, in the frosty days of fall, dead statesmen were top news for England’s press. It seemed that nary a dead man could refrain from leaving his grave to wreak new havoc on the world. Louis Alexandre Berthier, for example, was reported dead by the Dresden newspapers, only to reemerge a week later as the Major-General of Napoleon’s French armies. Napoleon himself, The Examiner declared, “was assassinated many years back, since which time he has more than once met his death in a similar way, and is now, with a want of sympathy hardly to be expected in a dead man, preparing for new scenes of slaughter in Germany” (561). Continue reading “Monumental” Ghosts: The Spectral Statesmen of 1813
“‘Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, ‘Do you believe in me or not?’
‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?’” (Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 1843).
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol; A Ghost Story of Christmas has permeated each year’s cultural interpretation of the Christmas spirit, from adaptations like A Muppet Christmas Carol to commercials for the newest gadgets. It’s by far the most recognizable Christmas ghost story. Though we often think of Halloween as the most obvious time for telling ghost stories, Christmas used to hold that office. The Paris Review did an article about this tradition this month, with five recommendations for Christmas ghost stories. The days get shorter, the darkness rolls in and stays there, bringing the cold with it and inviting gatherings around the fireplace with warm drinks, warm company, but chilling tales. I recently became a ghost guide for my town’s ghost walks through its eighteenth-century historic downtown. We mostly run through October, but we’ve started to embrace the traditionally haunting winter evenings (well, not me, with my low tolerance for PA winter temps). In doing the tours, I’ve seen first-hand how the atmosphere created by a small group of people, gathered close in the darkness around flickering candlelight, can produce a belief in ghosts. And it was in this spirit that Dickens drew on a long history of communal ghost stories. Continue reading ‘Tis the Season for Haunting: The Ghosts of Christmas Past