I’m in a few book clubs, one of which is with my childhood friend group. Ashley chose a Christmas-themed book for our virtual Secret Santa hang out this weekend. This is a collection of ghost stories that take place during the Christmas season, written around the Victorian era. As you may know, Dickens popularized, if not created, the Christmas ghost story during that time.

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The summary, from Amazon:

A new collection of twenty ghostly tales of Yuletide terror, collected from rare Victorian periodicals

Seeking to capitalize on the success of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (1843), Victorian newspapers and magazines frequently featured ghost stories at Christmas time, and reading them by candlelight or the fireside became an annual tradition, a tradition Valancourt Books is pleased to continue with our series of Victorian Christmas ghost stories. This third volume contains twenty tales, most of them never before reprinted. They represent a mix of the diverse styles and themes common to Victorian ghost fiction and include works by once-popular authors like Ellen Wood and Charlotte Riddell as well as contributions from anonymous or wholly forgotten writers. This volume also features a new introduction by Prof. Simon Stern.

“Before me, with the sickly light from the lantern shining right down upon it, was—a cloven hoof! Then the awfulness of the compact I had made came to my mind with terrible force …” – Frederick Manley, “The Ghost of the Cross-Roads”

“By the fireplace there was a large hideous pool of blood soaking into the carpet, and leaving ghastly stains around. I am not ashamed to confess that my brain reeled; the mysterious horror overcame me …” – Lillie Harris, “19, Great Hanover Street”

“A fearful white face comes to me; a horrible mask, with features drawn as in agony—ghastly, pale, hideous! Death or approaching death, violent death, written in every line. Every feature distorted. Eyes starting from the head. Thin lips moving and working—lips that are cursing, although I hear no sound.” – Hugh Conway, “A Dead Man’s Face”

Buy The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume Three here.

While I didn’t love every single one of these stories, a lot of them were so much fun. And regardless of how “good” or “bad” they were, they are insight into what entertained people over one hundred years ago. I wonder if there will one day be round-ups of Hallmark movies entitled “Millennial Christmas Romance Films” or the like.

My favorite story was easily “19, Great Hanover Street” by Lillie Harris. I really think it must have been an influence for a popular children’s scary story, “The Green Ribbon” from In A Dark, Dark Room and Other Scary Stories.

Some of these stories are satirical or humorous, while others are meant to really chill the reader (though I didn’t find any of them scary), or evoke sadness or reflection. A few felt a little like Dickensian knock-offs, though those authors did at least reference their inspiration in their pieces.

The editor and publisher did what they were supposed to do with this book by rounding up Victorian Christmas ghost stories, so I couldn’t possibly have anything bad to say about it. Still, I can’t say I adored every single story (though I guess that isn’t really expected), so it’s a 4 star read for me.

Find out more about how I rate books here.

The Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume ThreeThe Valancourt Book of ​Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories: Volume Three by Simon Stern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While I didn’t love every single story, I really enjoyed some of them.

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Book Club Questions

  1. Which was your favorite story and why?
  2. Did any of these stories remind you of other ghost stories you know, whether they are from the Victorian era, earlier, or more modern times?
  3. Did all of these stories really feel like Christmas stories, or did some just take place around Christmastime?
  4. What themes or motifs did you notice in multiple stories?
  5. Do all of these stories (or which of these stories) serve the purpose intended (to frighten, cause reflection, inspire sadness or laughter) in modern times?

Interested? Buy The Valancourt Book of Victorian Christmas Ghost Stories, Volume Three.
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