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Monday, December 15, 2014

There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago

The title of this post is a line from a famous Christmas song that you undoubtedly have heard *(maybe too much*) yet again this year.. Andy Williams' classic IT'S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF YEAR has a series of nostalgic verses about the season our calenders currently inhabit.. The most wonderful time of year, he concludes with his melody.. But that one line, that 'scary ghost stories' reference, has often been overlooked and ignored..

Some may think Williams is talking about Charles Dickens and his CHRISTMAS CAROL, Scrooge's ghosts of the past present and future coming to haunt in the dead of night..

But the story goes much deeper. That one line in a song lyric has much more meaning for the season than anyone really understands.

The HORROR REPORT often focused in on this Christmas tenet for years..   We talked a lot about Krampus, that pesky demonic figure who scares the goodness into kids this time of year.. And we also focused on those scary ghost stories..

For those who think the paranormal takes a break after Halloween winds down, think again.. It just begins. And Christmas was the season of high strangeness, spooky occurrences, and bumps in the night that could not be attributed to elves or Santa's quest to find a chimney..

Roger Clarke authored a book titled A NATURAL HISTORY OF GHOSTS: 500 YEARS OF HUNTING FOR PROOF.. He detailed why the Victorian age became the prime time for paranormal tales to be woven by people around the holiday season..

The UK GUARDIAN's Kim Cochrane explained this in a 2013 article profiling Clarke's book:
The popularity of ghost stories was strongly related to economic changes. The industrial revolution had led people to migrate from rural villages into towns and cities, and created a new middle class. They moved into houses that often had servants, says Clarke, many taken on around October or November, when the nights were drawing in early – and new staff found themselves “in a completely foreign house, seeing things everywhere, jumping at every creak”. Robbins says servants were “expected to be seen and not heard – actually, probably not even seen, to be honest. If you go to a stately home like Harewood House, you see the concealed doorways and servant’s corridors. You would actually have people popping in and out without you really knowing they were there, which could be quite a freaky experience. You’ve got these ghostly figures who actually inhabit the house.”

The fondness of telling ghost stories around warm December fires also struck another author, one from a longer time ago.. Jerome K. Jerome said this in his book TALES AFTER SUPPER in 1891:
Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters.

The idea of ghost stories was common--very common as a matter of fact.. the relics of that time still haunt, to a degree. But any memory has been tamed and watered down through the ages..

Even the religious idea of Christmas is paranormal just in itself.. Imagine the notion of a woman going about business, being told by an entity from beyond this world that she will give birth to a paranormal savior who will eventually die but rise from the dead and open the door to another realm.. Either an alien did it or an angel. Either way, if you believe in the Christian idea of Christmas, you must conclude that you wholeheartedly have faith in the paranormal and believe in it..

The veil is thing on Christmas.. as a matter of fact, some mystics through the ages have cited Christmas, not All Souls' Day or any other time, as the prime time moment for the thinnest of the veil. Even a 19th century nun named Saint Teresa of Avila stated just that..

The Victorian age was in itself quite scary--the problems which manifested themselves often went unexplained. Science was beginning to explain some, but not all events.. Those shadows Clarke described were common.. The ghost tales that Jerome wrote about were frightening. Krampus would also show up from time to time, beating children with a stick for unruly behavior throughout the year..

I wrote several thoughts on the Christmas creep factor in a 2013 article on the HORROR REPORT, and I have not changed my mind since then.. we need to keep the creepy in Christmas, we need to hold true to the roots and foundations of ghost tales during the season.. This, I believe, is not a pagan tradition or a Victorian Age secret, it's a human condition. We are scared of the shadows, we are still scared of the dark.. Christmas is a time when, as fate and faith would hold true, something miraculous occurred.. and a light in heaven appeared to wise men traveling the darkness of night to find the savior in a manger..

When I was a child, I fondly recall a few traditions that, at the time, seemed a bit bizarre and other-worldly. We had a Christmas eve 'Holy Supper,' a Ukrainian traditional dinner of seven fishes. But before dinner began, the youngest of the family--at that time me--would have to knock on the door of the house with a candle and a statue of the baby Jesus and ask if there was room in the inn.  The lights of the house would be off. Those inside would allow entrance and I'd slowly walk in a dark passage with the lit candle and statue..  After dinner, my family would attend a midnight mass. I always recall a large crowd of people.. I also recall being very short at that age, and mostly sitting in the rear of the church. That ensured I would not see a priest, but instead as a young child, I thought the voice was coming from the rafters itself. It probably did not help much that this Church, Saint Ignatius in Centralia, PA, was the location of my first paranormal moment as a young child when I heard whispers coming from an empty confessional during a very dark night.

All of this said, I think there is something innate in humans to recognize Christmas as a paranormal time, a moment when we are close to the spirit world and the thin veil shreds into non existence for a time..

Santa Claus is even paranormal--he can sweep across the globe and enter homes across the planet, sparing enough time to throw down some presents and even eat about 25 million cookies and glasses of milk.. Even the reindeer have time for carrots. We tell our children at an early age to believe in something paranormal, to put faith in something hopeful. Adults who laugh at the notion of Santa then go to church on Christmas morning and sing about another paranormal moment when an angel impregnated a women with God's son.. Even more, the whole notion of December 25th being chosen is under the guise that it was a pagan celebration..

It's all connected.
It's all paranormal..
This is the time of year to suspend logic and happily comply with the other realm...
Just not Krampus.
He's the one to avoid during the darkest night of the year.....

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