How to Read a Victorian Christmas Ghost Story
Imagine a midwinter night, an early sunset, a long, drafty evening spent by candlelight. The season of Christmas coincides with the shortest days of the year and, for middle-class Victorians, a chance for families to reconnect in story-telling circles. Urban dwellers, disconnected from village legends, simply picked up a magazine specially made to lace children’s dreams with terror. The bleak, shadow-filled walk from the story circle to one’s dark bedroom presented an uncomfortably eerie space to reflect on the mental images conveyed by those grisly tales.
To capture the Victorian ghost story experience is to whisper it by candlelight, to feel the tendrils of December’s chill reaching from the darkness outside the hearth’s glow. While our culture associates the summer campfire with this type of tale, the Victorians looked to Christmas fires instead. Walter Scott, at the opening of his ghostly tale…
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