Do you find the holidays stressful? Does dealing with inlaws get you down? Why not horrify them with an old-fashioned Yuletide tradition, the Christmas ghost story? The most famous, of course, is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a perennial classic that is also short enough to be read aloud on Christmas Eve, if you have a bit of patience and a durable larynx. If you are looking for something shorter, a little digging will produce many authentic Victorian Christmas ghost stories, for instance "My Cousin, the Ghost, or Something Like a Christmas-Box", by Alfred Paxton, a genuine Victorian original from The Boy’s Own Paper, January 6th, 1883. (One presumes if The Boy’s Own Paper was a penny dreadful, designed to appeal to the sort of nineteenth century ragamuffin that Scrooge would have gladly caned.) From the turn of the century until after the Great War, M. R. James. James, a medieval scholar at King’s College, Cambridge University, made a tradition of writing ghost stories which he read aloud to friends and colleagues at Christmastime. James is considered one of the creators of the modern ghost story; his stories are widely available online, and Ash-Tree Press has collected his entire body of work within and about the ghost story genre into a single volume. Other writers are in the "Jamesian tradition" (Ghosts and Scholars defines this liberally, including such works as Fritz Leiber’s marvelous and creepy Our Lady of Darkness). Consider the Canadian novelist Robertson Davies, whose collection of ghost stories written for the University of Toronto Christmas party, High Spirits, features such less-than-terrifying works as "The Ugly Spirit of Sexism", "The Xerox in the Lost Room", and "When Satan Goes Home for Christmas". Davies himself cites Montague Summers, another scholar and ghost story writer; sadly, none of Father Summers’ ghost stories appear to be available online, but a well-stocked library will likely have a handful. Next year, settle down by a roaring fire and give your loved ones something even scarier than a stocking full of coal to think about. And I would like to wish my readers a merry Christmas and a joyful holiday season; don’t be scared by things that go bump in the night! None