5 Ghost Stories to Help You Haunt the Holidays

There is a longstanding tradition of telling ghost stories on the eve of the winter solstice. Favored folk festivities have brought friends and family around the yule log, spending the longest night of the year enveloped in tales of specters, mischievous fairies, and ancient deities and spirits alike, but while this time of year is a period to entertain and spend time with loved ones, it’s also a time to pause and reflect and get in touch with our shadow selves. Therefore, as the night drapes itself in darkness while preparing to welcome back the sun, so, too, do we as we plunge into stories of mystery, mayhem, and murder while sipping wassail and snaking on fruitcakes and gingerbread.

History and literature have graced us with classics and fan favorites such as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol or Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost, but other tales such as The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, or The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson also provide us with dreary, cold atmospheres perfect for hunting ghosts. So for those of you in the mood for a good quiet scare, or perhaps for those of you who want to channel some holiday spirits, I recommend the following books to read deep into the night.

"The Woman in Black" by Susan Hill

One of my all-time favorite books, this insidious, gothic tale will have you on edge and double checking to make sure the doors in your house are locked. With a slow-paced, ever-increasing dread, readers will find themselves walking hand-in-hand with Arthur Kipps through the halls of Eel Marsh House, forever at the mercy of the Woman in Black and the curse she carries with her. My only suggestion? Keep a candle close and all the lights turned on while you read. 

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"Slade House" by David Mitchell

This disturbing tale introduces us to the horrifying marvel that is Slade House, an estate that remains home to the Grayer Twins. This is a ghost story that spans time and location as it feeds on both the reader and the characters by constantly having them question the line between fact and fiction. For fans of Stephen King’s The Shining and Jay Anson’s The Amityville Horror, this book will quickly find its way into your head…for better or worse.

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"The Little Stranger" by Sarah Waters

Welcome to Hundreds Hall, a house of death and mystery. Behind these walls exist the imprints of ghosts, suicides, and other assorted tragedies from dog bites to post traumatic stress, to grief and the slow mental unraveling of those scared and in pain. If you like your ghost stories with a dose of shock, a little bit of romance, and a whole lot of madness, then this is the book for you. Just follow Dr. Faraday as he attempts to uncover the unnamed horror that haunts the estate and perhaps himself, too. 

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"The Séance" by John Harwood

For those looking to attend a séance this winter, you can’t go wrong with Harwood and the spirits at Wraxford Hall. Filled with blackmail, secrecy, and sudden disappearances, this atmospheric tale will whisk you away to the English Countryside as Constance Langton navigates the strange history of her late-aunt’s estate.

Get The Seance at Bookshop or Amazon


"The Winter People" by Jennifer McMahon

A gripping, dark read, McMahon’s book will not only lure you in fast, but hold you in suspense as she weaves a story around mourning, grief, and the unbreakable bond between a mother and child.  Filled with hidden diaries, tragic deaths, and terrifying awakenings, The Winter People shows how history—and its terrors—can and will repeat itself if we’re not careful. 

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What about you? What are your favorite wintery tales of dread?

Stephanie M. Wytovich, MFA

Column by Stephanie M. Wytovich, MFA

Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous venues such as Weird Tales, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year's Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction. Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, and most recently, The Apocalyptic Mannequin. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog at stephaniewytovich.blogspot and on twitter @SWytovich. 

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