A Ghost Story for Christmas

In the fine old Christmas tradition, here’s a brief but creepy story. Inspired by MR James, who in turn was inspired by Shakespeare.

Christmas Neighbours

There was a man dwelt by a churchyard. He’d never wanted to live there, having since childhood a morbid fear of graves, but there was nowhere else he could afford. He boarded up the windows overlooking the church and its surrounding gravestones, and he always turned in the opposite direction when leaving his front door, even if it made his journey twice as long.

On the morning of his first Christmas Day there, he found a card posted through the door. That surprised him, since he never celebrated Christmas and anyway had no friends. Opening it, he found the words “Merry Christmas from your neighbours. Why not come to see us sometime?”

That was all. He pondered on the card, wondering which neighbours had sent it. He rarely saw anyone, and certainly there had been no sign of friendliness. Should he knock on various doors and ask if they’d sent the card? No, too embarrassing. Best to leave it alone.

Next Christmas, besides an identically worded card there was a small package in Christmas wrapping with three pairs of socks. And, as the years passed, the mysterious neighbours added other festive gifts to their usual invitation. One year, a Christmas wreath appeared on his door, while another saw the front of the house adorned with fairy lights.

Then came the year when, an hour from midnight on Christmas Eve, singing came from outside his front door. Carols. Instinct told him not to answer, but curiosity got the better of him. Could these be the mysterious neighbours?

As he opened the door, half a dozen figures immediately surged past him and into the hallway, bringing a terrible stench with them. He could see, by the hall light, that their faces and bodies were decaying.

“You never answered our invitation,” said one in a hollow voice, “so we’ve come to you. Give us food.”

“I’ve no food in,” he protested, but the carol singers only laughed hideously.

“Oh, but the food we like best is right in front of us.”

The man who dwelt by the churchyard was never seen again.

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