Recap #248: Christmas Terror Tales by Kevin Folliard and J.T. Molloy
Title: Christmas Terror Tales
Author: Kevin Folliard
Artist: J.T. Molloy
Tagline: Stories To Enjoy From October Through December
Summary: You’d Better Watch Out…
Sixteen gripping tales inspired by classical horror and urban legends twist holiday themes into chilling cautionary tales.
A mischievous snowman frames the children who built him for its mistakes. A haughty priest offers shelter to a hideous monster posing as an orphan. A father brings home a cursed Christmas tree resulting in a terrifying haunting experience for his family.
From October through December these stories of devils, spirits, murderers, monsters, and surprise twists will fascinate children and their parents.
I won’t say I do this often, but I’ve enjoyed perusing through the self-published YA horror selections offered through Amazon and have order a few digital and printed editions. I stumbled upon this book at some point last year and because the collection isn’t that long I decided to recap the tales for Point Horror. It sucks the summary spoils a couple but the illustrations are cool and some of the stories are a bit ingenious.
I’m looking forward to this more than I was to finish “Tales for the Midnight Hour.”
The Christmas Jack-O-Lantern
Martha Fellows always went the extra mile with the holidays. Her house was the spookiest in October for Halloween, but come November 1st all that came right down for the Christmas decorations. She had everything from elves, reindeer, angels, to a complete nativity scene and cardboard carolers. She covered everything.
Because Martha is teh boss when it comes to decorating, the neighborhood voted her head of their decorating committee. Every year there was a decorating contest between the streets and Martha had the proud distinction of boosting holiday morale 110% to ensure they kept winning the contest.
She only get a little annoyed at first by the neighbor across the street. He kept a jack-o-lantern on his front step even after Halloween ended. Martha thought it looked awesome at first, but come November she saw it as inappropriate. She argued with her husband it would clearly start decaying any day now, but Mr. Fellows didn’t share his wife’s concerns. He reminded her they hadn’t even reached Thanksgiving yet, so leave the neighbor and his jack-o-lantern alone.
Martha ignored her husband, of course, and headed across the street to have a talk with this Late Llewellyn. Oh she’d be super polite if that’s what it took to get the job down. Martha greeted her neighbor, a thin balding man puffing on a cigarette, and asked about the jack-o-lantern. The neighbor felt proud about the work he put into carving it when Martha brought up the decorating contest next month. It wouldn’t do good for her-I MEAN their reputation to be sullied because of a rotting pumpkin mixed with all the lights and angels and such. The neighbor pointed out A: the pumpkin’s not rotting, and B: Christmas isn’t until a month and a half away. Martha departed politely but her annoyance was rising.
Throughout November she coordinated with her friends over their own decorating plans, while the jack-o-lantern remained. The man even lit the pumpkin every night, the glowing, jagged smile mocking Martha all the while. She couldn’t help but notice the jack-o-lantern wasn’t beginning to rot, looking as firm as it did back in October. While she assumed it was plastic, Mr. Fellows told her to stop obsessing and let their neighbor decorate however he wants. He’ll probably get rid of the thing after Thanksgiving.
Well Mr. Fellows was wrong, because December finally arrived and the pumpkin remained as orange as ever. The day after Thanksgiving, Martha approached her neighbor again and needled him about putting on a cheery display like everyone else in the neighborhood. She even offered to help him by putting up some lights and decorate an old wooden sleigh they don’t use anymore. The neighbor was content to stick with his little buddy, so was all “Thanks but no thanks.”
Left alone with the jack-o-lantern, Martha bent down and sneered at the carved gourd. She could see it wasn’t plastic after all, nor could she tell what was causing the yellow glow in its mouth. As she stood up and turned around, Martha felt a horrible sensation in her ankle. The jack-o-lantern was biting her! The jagged teeth dug into her skin and the light from its mouth burned her at the same time! She struggled to get the thing off her leg and hobbled back to her house.
Her husband and the doctor didn’t believe the jack-o-lantern had bitten her. They assumed she tripped and gotten her foot stuck in its mouth. Mr. Fellows pleaded with his wife to stop obsessing over the stupid thing or she’d end up in a loony bin. [Wing: Nice bit of fucked up ableism here.]
Thanks to twisting her ankle during her escape, Martha needed a cane until her leg healed. The frustration only magnified due to the jack-o-lantern’s presence, the glowing smile burning through the snow piling on top of it during the night. [Wing: This is a great visual.] When her back was turned, Martha thought she could hear the thing snickering. She ordered her husband to smash the jack-o-lantern one night, but he refused. Eventually, Martha made up a letter of cut-out magazine pieces warning the neighbor to remove the jack-o-lantern before the decoration competition.
The following day, Martha discovered several of the cardboard figures in her yard had been violated. Ripped and bitten apart by jagged teeth. She noticed a trail of feathers leading from her manger to the neighbor’s stoop, right up to her orange enemy. [Wing: … feathers from what?] Enough was enough and the following night Martha hobbled across the street, prepared to smash the pumpkin with her cane.
The jack-o-lantern wasn’t going down without a fight and bit through Martha’s cane. Gobs of flaming spittle spewed from its mouth as it devoured the cane, Martha screaming and trying to fight back. Martha grabbed the creature by its jaws, fingers burning, and used all her strength to pry its mouth open and rip it apart. Exhausted but victorious, Martha tried to return home but without her cane she slipped on the ice in the road and landed on her back. Her only comfort was to weakly turn towards her restored home, the decorations giving her solace. That solace only increased as she looked back at the neighbor’s empty stoop.
Just as Martha lost consciousness, her neighbor placed a brand new jack-o-lantern outside his door, lit it up, and wished her a happy holiday.
(This one feels like a more bloody “Looney Tunes” or “Animaniacs” skit. It primarily reminds me of a Slappy Squirrel cartoon that involved her inflicting psychological warfare on a neighbor who wouldn’t let Slappy put a can in her recycling pail. Needless to say I loved it due to Martha’s obsessive attitude being what does her in.)
Home for the Holidays
A college student was trying to make his way down a cold, snowy road when a semi-truck slowed down beside him. The driver asked if the guy was okay and offered him a lift. The college student thanked the driver, explaining he doesn’t want to be late to his family’s house. He didn’t want to miss dinner.
The truck driver continued down the road as the student explained his car broke down a few miles back. He offered the trucker some money as thanks, but the trucker turned it down since he was grateful for the company. It sucks being alone during the holidays, especially when you don’t have a family. Still the student persisted and invited the trucker to join his family for their holiday dinner. They’d be glad to have the company. The trucker said he wasn’t much of a people person…
The student wondered if the trucker knew where he was going when the trucker assured him this was a shortcut off the main road. Suddenly the student asked the trucker to stop because he didn’t feel well. The truck slowed down as the student hopped out and fell to his knees, clutching his stomach. The trucker assured the student he’d be okay…
And then the student stabbed the trucker in his stomach, happy he’d be heading to his family’s place with their main course.
[Wing: Overdone twist at this point, though if the trucker was also out to kill the college student, that’d be slightly better. Not really clear from the story if that was the intent.]
Jessica thought she was the cleverest little shit in town when she stole the wooden figurine of Baby Jesus from the nativity scene in front of the church. She could only imagine how upset and frantic most folks would act once they saw the baby was missing, and she was right. Jessica’s mom discussed the theft at dinnertime and how enraged the town was, the next day Jessica’s homeroom teacher asked the thief to come forward, and on Sunday the priest in church said the thief should come forward and ask forgiveness. Of course Jessica had no desire to confess because this was all hilarious to her.
The hilarity gradually turned to terror when Jessica noticed something off about the manger baby. She checked on it in the crawl space in her room [Wing: Why does she have a crawl space in her room? That just sounds like a recipe for disaster, giving a kid a crawl space.] where she’d hidden the baby, and saw wet spots underneath its eyes. Suddenly a drop of water rolled down the baby’s cheek. Jessica brushed this off as a leaking pipe in the crawlspace as the culprit.
A few nights later Jessica heard the muffled sobs of a crying baby coming from the crawlspace, but was more worried about her mom finding out then the fact THE WOODEN JESUS FIGURINE IS ALIVE. Jessica went as far as to wrap a scarf around the baby’s mouth to shut it up.
The next night Jessica heard a scratching sound which she brushed off as the sound of mice in the walls. When she checked the baby, its hands were now open and there was grit under the nails. Growing increasingly desperate and stupider by the second, Jessica wrapped the baby in an old quilt and tied it up with rope.
When the next strange sound was heard in Jessica’s room, it didn’t come from the crawlspace but instead the window. Jessica heard a tapping sound, yet saw no one. She still opened the window, and who should arrive but the Devil himself. He commended Jessica for the trouble she caused, and offered to alleviate her burdens by removing the bothersome baby. Terrified, Jessica immediately gave the Devil the manger baby.
Before he left, the Devil assured Jessica he’d be back to call on her for help because she’s so dependable. [Wing: Because she did one thing, and that not even for him? Devil sure does have a loose definition of dependable.]
The Candy Cane
Father Whalen was such a good, devoted man of the cloth. He dedicated his time to his community, doing sermons every Sunday, feeding the homeless, clothing the homeless. It sadden him how there was so much poverty in his city, and he was glad to do his job. Yep, they certainly don’t come any more charitable and selfless than Father Whalen.
Heading home from a midnight mass, Whalen came across a young boy huddled in a nearby alley. The boy was covered in dirty, tattered clothes and coats but still appeared to be shivering. Whalen’s heart swelled with compassion as he asked if the boy had parents or a home. Now, he could’ve just brought the boy to the church shelter a mile away but oh, what a greater (and easier) act of charity it would be to bring the boy into his home just a few blocks away. Opening his very own home to house the homeless, such a good, good man.
Bringing the boy inside, Father Whalen first got a roaring fire going. He was certain the boy would remember it for years as he helped the child get out of that big overcoat and scarf. The boy didn’t seem to know how to speak but he could understand what Father Whalen was saying to him. Whalen hasn’t done much grocery shopping yet, so he said the boy could have a candy cane off the Christmas tree while Whalen boiled water for tea.
While helping the boy out of the coat, oh when he saw the filthy red-brown stains on his sweater Father Whalen knew he would just love one of his old sweaters. Father Whalen’s empathy was somewhat tinged with disgust when he saw the hideous, pointed yellow nails on the boy’s hands, the sharp and rotted teeth, the lesions on the boy’s face. Whalen initially planned to bathe the boy and trim his nails, to show everyone how neat and clean he was even after coming off the streets. But the rest of the kid’s diseased visage was a bit much.
Offering the boy a candy cane, Whalen said hopefully Santa Claus would leave the child something at the church tomorrow night. The boy didn’t seem to listen and was more intent on sucking his candy cane. While preparing the water for tea, Whalen thought maybe it’d be smart to call a hospital. Sure, a medical doctor could do more to look at the boy’s wounds, but Father Whalen SO wanted to make an example of this hideous, unlucky wretch. He figured eh, he’ll keep him ’til after Christmas and then he’ll be the county’s problem.
Father Whalen offered to read to the boy the story of baby Jesus, but the boy shook his head as he kept sucking on the candy cane. Now now, who hasn’t had their life turned around by the story of Christ? Especially a dirty young boy like you? Whalen excused himself then to check on the tea while the boy removed the candy cane from his mouth. The red was gone from the bottom, which looked a bit pointy…
Father Whalen gave himself plenty of cream and sugar in his tea, but kept it plain for the boy. He certainly didn’t need the sugar or it’d keep him awake. Sitting next to the boy, Father Whalen asked if the boy knew how fortunate it was for God to have such a given, gentle, selfless man. Oh if only the boy could give him someth-
HE STABS HIM IN THE EYE OKAY?
I’m sorry but he was getting fucking insufferable.
[Wing: R. L. Stine, is that you?]
Pete, Michael and Teddy were late for their school’s snowman building competition and didn’t have anything to decorate theirs with. All the other kids had managed to create fun, colorful snowmen. Their teacher Mr. Robins sneered at the trio for their tardiness and lack of preparation, but this was nothing new. Mr. Robins always singled out Pete and his friends for not paying attention in class, he never liked them. He pointed to the pile of dirty gray snow in the street and advised them to build their snowman with THAT.
Annoyed at how little Mr. Robins thought of them, the boys figured if he found it SO funny for them to use dirty snow, then they’ll make the dirtiest, meanest snowman ever created. They constructed it with the following garbage:
- A broken plank covered in bent nails, split in half to make arms
- Caps from beer bottles for buttons
- Broken glass for a smile
- Rusty can bottoms for eyes
- Dirty gutter leaves for a mustache
- A ratty old tweed cap
- A cigar stub stuck in the mouth
Mr. Robins hated the snowman and lectured the boys for not making one everyone could enjoy. The boys won no award and their classmates all laughed at them.
[Wing: Yeah, that actually sounds like a pretty badass snowman.]
The next day, the kids discovered every snowman had been demolished except the dirty one constructed by Pete and his friends. Mr. Robins accused them of wrecking everything, punishing them with detention and ordering them to apologize to everyone, clean up the mess, and destroy their snowman. The boys initially thought each other had committed the crime until they conferred during the clean up and discovered none of them were responsible. Figuring their snowman didn’t deserve to get trashed, they moved it into the woods behind the school. [Wing: How? Surely they didn’t build it on an easy-to-move platform.]
The following day someone trashed Mr. Robins’ classroom, with the only spots left clean the desks belonging to Peter, Michael and Teddy. They did find some puddles in the hallway, however. Again the boys were blamed but they claimed they hadn’t done it. They were suspended for the week and their parents were mega pissed off, grounding each of the boys. Pete was getting really angry about this but stupidly hoped whoever was doing it would keep harassing Mr. Robins. Despite, you know, how him and his friends keep getting blamed for it. Pete at least figured if it happened while the trio were grounded, that’d stand as proof they hadn’t done it if they were stuck at home. Oh honey.
Well the following morning someone threw a snowball that broke Pete’s window. Pete was shocked to see the snowball was filled with hundred dollar bills. His parents heard the commotion and assumed from the money and the broken window he sneaked out during the night. Michael and Teddy had similar experiences, receiving snowballs packed with valuable swag. Too bad all their new stuff was stolen from Mr. Robins’ house, and now the boys were facing expulsion if the shenanigans continued.
Pete discussed it with his friends and thought their snowman definitely had something to do with this. Teddy was quiet but then nervously said he’d SEEN the snowman outside his house this morning. The boys decided they would sneak out at midnight and take the snowman down before it did anything else.
Yeah maybe you shouldn’t have waited as long because by the time the boys got to the woods they found Mr. Robins’ bloody corpse in the snow. The snowman raised up its plank arms, splattered blood over the trio, and took a satisfied puff from its lit cigar.
Jack Heart and his 8-year-old son Jimmy chopped down a Christmas tree out in the woods the day after Thanksgiving. While they were dragging the tree back to their family’s cabin, Jack noticed something poking out of the ground near the newly made stump. It said “In loving mem-” THANKS JACK THE FIRST PAGE AND YOU FUCKING DESECRATED SOMEONE’S MEMORIAL TREE. Oh well, he felt bad but the tree was down anyway and it’s not like his family would be able to find another tree so quickly before Christmas. Jack made sure his son didn’t notice what the stone said before they returned home.
Jack’s wife Mary and their daughter Mina both thought the tree was perfect, from its sturdy, full branches to its choice height. They moved the furniture and placed the tree to the right of the fireplace and spent the rest of the day making a party out of decorating it, with the kids arguing over who got to place the star on top. It was the most Christmasy of Christmasy trees.
Things went to shit a 1:30 that night when Jimmy told his parents their house was on fire. He got up for a drink of water and claimed the living room was blazing, but there was no smoke and they couldn’t find any flames. Jimmy’s parents assumed he had a bad dream.
Weird occurrences became commonplace in the Heart cabin. Mina’s radio turned on and off, Mary would turn around to find something missing and spend a half hour searching for it when it reappeared as she least expected it. First the parents thought the kids were pulling some practical joke until Jack came home to find Mary comforting a particularly distraught Jimmy. Jimmy said a strange man had been in his room and started screaming at him about something, only Jack searched the entire house and found no intruder. The sheriff and his men couldn’t find signs of a break in when Jimmy said the man was a ghost who came out of the fireplace.
Deeper into December, the more terrified the family became. Jimmy kept seeing the lights on the tree burst into flames. Mina was terrified of shutting her bedroom door at night. Whenever she was alone in her room, she’d hear the sound of someone breathing RIGHT NEXT TO HER. Objects disappeared and pictures on the wall were suddenly hanging upside down. Jimmy kept seeing the “Angry man,” which was wearing him down emotionally. Jack was the only member of the family who wasn’t suffering from weird shit, unless you count seeing his family going through such torment and being incapable of doing anything to protect them. Surely THAT isn’t some form of punishment.
Figuring the phenomena had to do with the tree, Jack went into town asking if anyone knew anything about the memorial stone. Most neighbors said they didn’t while some appeared tense and said nothing. Finally an old lady said something about a boy dying in a forest fire and his father being driven mad with grief, but couldn’t elaborate further. Jack found no relevant information connected to these details in the library’s records.
Jimmy was visited by the angry man again on the Sunday before Christmas (saying the man has fiery eyes), and Jack reached his limit. Telling Mary to take the kids to their car, Jack screamed at the invisible entity plaguing his home to leave his family be. He hoped he might instigate the phantom into showing itself, but the house remained empty and still. Nothing happened by the fireplace or by the Christmas tree like Jack expected.
The family spent the rest of the day shopping in town and came home to find the tree ornaments trashed while a fire blazed in the fireplace. There was no apparent signs of forced entry or tracks in the snow around the cabin. Jack spent the evening cleaning up the mess when a vase randomly exploded just as he was done. Again he challenged the angry ghost to appear and got snubbed. The following night Mina woke up screaming about balls of light in her bedroom, while both kids were plagued with nightmares. Mina and Jimmy started sleeping with their parents.
Mary wanted to take the kids to her mom’s house but Jack, being a white dad in a horror story, refused to be kicked out of his own home just because he might’ve desecrated someone’s grave. Jack contacted the local pastor, who investigated the house and spoke with each member of the family. The pastor concluded the evil spirit had latched itself onto Jimmy.
On Christmas Eve Mina was at Grandma’s while Jack, Mary and Jimmy stayed with the pastor. The pastor blessed each room in the house, Jimmy becoming noticeably paler with every room marked down. While the pastor worked on the living room, Jimmy stared into the fireplace. Wanting to see what was captivating his son, Jack looked and found himself being glared at by a pair of fiery red eyes.
Once the blessing was completed, Mary prepared to bring Jimmy over to her mom’s to join Minda. The color started returning to Jimmy’s face, but the pastor was worried the ghost wasn’t done. Jack waited until his wife and son were gone to do what he should’ve done a month ago and dragged the tree back to the spot where it’d been chopped down. Jack hoped this would finally sate their unwanted guest’s bad mood…
And came back to find the cabin engulfed in flames.
The ghost appeared one last time, mocking Jack in front of the fire, before it disappeared into the smoke.
The Frozen Mitten
Will and Sarah were playing in the woods when Sarah found a frozen blue mitten half-hidden in the snow. She showed it to her brother and asked Will what might’ve happened to the other half of the set? Will didn’t care, figuring the person who lost it was long gone. Sarah, ever so considerate, said the person who lost the mitten might be looking for it and even offered to bring it home to wash it for them since it was now stiff and grimy. Will dismissed Sarah’s concerns, saying a single mitten (especially one frozen stiff) is useless and chucked it into the nearby river.
No one cares about a single mitten.
The next morning Sarah told Will about a nightmare she had about a lost little girl trying to find her way home in the freezing woods. The girl’s hand had frozen from the cold. Will didn’t have time to listen to his sister’s stupid dreams, not now or the next day when Sarah told him about the second dream. Sarah begged Will to help her retrace the spot where they’d found the mitten and leave one of their own for the little girl. Will had no desire to give up a perfectly good mitten to appease his sister’s guilty conscience, and told her not to throw away one of her’s either.
Sarah didn’t have a bad dream the next night, because now it’s Will’s turn.
Will woke up feeling dreadfully cold and was shocked to see his bedroom window was wide open. He watched in horror as a pale little girl with only a single blue mitten on one hand stumbled out of the shadows. Her lips were blue, her eyes frozen over, and some awful vapor came out of her mouth as she spoke. The girl reached out to Will with her blackened, dead hand and asked him to help her warm up.
As the girl grabbed Will’s hand, he screamed in agony.
[Wing: Nice. I like this one a lot. Reminds me of that ghost in one of the Are You Afraid of the Dark? episodes who kept saying “I’m cold” in this weird little voice. I quote that regularly.]
Mr. and Mrs. Scotch were an elderly couple keeping their eyes and ears open for any Christmas carolers. The Missus was especially delighted when no less than five, two adult women, a man, a boy and little girl, were approaching their front steps. Mr. Scotch hurried as fast as his limp would allow to prepare five mugs of pipping hot spiced cider to provide for the singers as thanks for their hard work.
Mrs. Scotch opened the front door and the caroling entourage serenaded them with “Silent Night.” Once the group finished their musical task, the Scotches granted them the hot beverages which they drank with gusto. The loving couple retrieved the empty mugs and watched the carolers head for the house next door.
Mr. Scotch noticed they would need to heat up more cider in case of further visitations, so he pulled out another pot and placed it on the stove. As he added the cinnamon and sugar, his wife reminded him not to forget the secret ingredient.
While Mr. Scotch sprinkled arsenic into the brew, he thought about how nice and quiet next year would be. After all, a relaxing Christmas is the best kind of Christmas.
The Green Box
Rodney adored his Aunt Victoria, and vice versa. She had no children of her own, so she treated Rodney like her own son when he visited for two weeks every holiday season. Rodney stayed with his aunt in her enormous home from Christmas to New Year’s. Aunt Victoria lavished Rodney with gifts and attention, and he repaid her kindness by spending time with her, going on long walks, sketching and drawing her (which she displayed in beautiful frames around her home).
When Rodney was seven, he noticed a gift under his aunt’s Christmas tree. It was wrapped in dark green velvet with a beautiful silk ribbon. It had his and Victoria’s name on it, but his aunt told Rodney they couldn’t open it yet. Rodney begged and pleaded, but his aunt gently assured him they would both have to wait.
Christmas after Christmas the green gift remained under Victoria’s tree, and Rodney’s imagination was going into overdrive. Victoria already bestowed upon him such wonderful presents, he couldn’t help but think how extraordinary the gift in the green box must be. Every time, Victoria would tell Rodney it’s a wonderful gift but they couldn’t open it just yet. Despite the temptation, Rodney cared about his aunt far too much to go against her wishes so he never tried to open the box when she wasn’t around.
Rodney got older and visiting Victoria proved more difficult now that he was establishing a life of his own, but he always kept in contact with her and promised to see her when he could. Unfortunately, one Christmas his aunt fell ill. She was getting on in years and grew too weak to get out of bed. The doctors said they could only make her as comfortable as possible.
Visiting his aunt for two weeks like he used to, Rodney tended to Victoria. One night, Victoria told Rodney how happy she’d been watching him grow up into a fine young man. It was the greatest gift she’d ever received, and now it was time for them to finally open the green box. Rodney removed the wrapping and was confused, for all he saw was an old piece of paper and a pen. Victoria already signed the document, but there was a blank space awaiting Rodney’s signature.
This is Victoria’s will, and by signing it Rodney will inherit her vast fortune when she dies. Rodney couldn’t believe it, but was more confused after signing the paper. How was this a gift for him AND his aunt?
Victoria says by signing the document, Rodney’s agreed to kill her and stop the excruciating agony wracking her body this very night.
[Wing: This is actually sweet and doesn’t really belong in a terror tales collection.]
Like Skeleton Hands
Matt’s family lived super deep in the North Woods, to the point Matt and his brother Travis have to travel like five miles just to get to school. Matt’s also the type of dipshit who harasses his little brother for fun. He runs ahead of Matt on the way to school and leaves Travis alone and confused wondering where he went, hides Travis’s toys, tells him stories about monsters lurking around every corner, and even steals his dessert. At least their mom would punish Matt whenever she caught him in the act.
Christmastime was coming, and Matt’s mom would threaten him with the promise of Santa leaving a wooden plank they’d use to beat him with. First time I ever heard THAT variant. Matt’s grandma didn’t support her daughter in that endeavor, saying Santa wouldn’t bother to travel out to their house so deep in the woods. Instead, Santa leaves the gifts at the forest entrance and the trees pass the gifts along. Matt’s mom tells Grandma not to frighten the kids after she JUST threatened to beat her son for his misbehavior. Great parenting.
[Wing: How is the idea of trees passing the gifts along any scarier than a strange dude coming into your home with gifts?]
Grandma’s story only gave Matt incentive to keep bullying Travis, cuz if Santa’s not watching then he’s off the hook and he’ll be getting presents anyway. He just needed to make sure the other adults didn’t see his heinous acts. He bullied Travis to and from school, he pushed him down and made him cry, stole his bookbag. Matt went as far as to threaten Travis with the idea Santa doesn’t give gifts to tattletales, so if there IS a plank to be found on Christmas morning it’ll be used on Travis.
One day Matt snatched Travis’s hat off his head and hid behind a nearby tree, snickering to himself when he felt something push him and scratch at his back. Matt screamed and ran back to the house where he discovered the back of his jacket was ripped to shreds. Had he been attacked by a bear or a wolf? Yet how could the animal have been so silent, and why were the tears in the jacket so thin and neat? Matt got in one last dig at Travis, who came up to the house teary-eyed and redfaced from the cold. Travis was told he only just avoided getting eaten by some wild animal that Matt had distracted, and he should be lucky to have such a considerate older brother.
Winter break arrived so Matt could stay within the relative safety of his house and not worry about any animal attacks. He didn’t tell his mom about the jacket because she’d scold him for leaving Travis behind. That night Matt heard a scraping sound and saw an old tree branch methodically scratching against his bedroom window. The branch’s five pointy ends and gnarled limbs made it look like a skeleton hand as it moved back and forth in the winter wind. Matt closed the curtains but it did little to muffle the scraping noises.
Christmas Eve came and Matt was at his worst, tormenting Travis by gaslighting him and stealing his gifts. Travis tried to work on some beautiful pictures to give his mom and grandma, but Matt hid them underneath the logs in the fireplace. He patted himself on the back thinking of his mom ignorantly destroying Travis’s gifts as she lit a fire. Travis tried to work on more pictures, but Matt methodically destroyed his crayons in secret. This frustrated Travis as he had fewer colors to add to his drawings. Mom put Travis to bed early because of how irritably he was acting.
Later that night when everyone was asleep, Matt quietly headed downstairs to get first crack at the gifts under the tree. He’d have to wait a while because they were still being delivered. Matt watched in terrified amazement as a long, gnarled arm reached in through the open window near the Christmas tree and deposited a sequence of beautifully wrapped presents. He crept to the window and watched the line of branches moving gifts through the forest towards the house, like his grandma had said.
When the tree branches finished their work, Matt felt comfortable enough to open the gifts under the tree yet froze in his tracks. Absolutely none of the parcels had his name on them. Clearly he thought Santa was unaware of his misdeeds so why were all the gifts for Travis? There wasn’t even a lump of coal or a wooden plank like his mom espoused. Matt quickly checked the window again, but the trees were inert once more.
Defeated, Matt dragged himself back to his room when he saw a tree branch scraping at his window again. Seems he wasn’t forgotten after all, for the branch held up a present wrapped in gold and bearing his name. Matt eagerly opened the window and reached outside to get his present…
At which point the branch grabbed Matt and pulled him out of the house into the deep, dark forest.
And it was the merriest Christmas his family ever had.
College graduate Elane was thrilled to be spending Christmas with her parents at home. Her dad was planning to retire from his job as a traveling salesman, making this the first Christmas he wouldn’t be spending on the road. He called Elane and her mom on Christmas Eve from his train saying he was planning a special surprise for them. Elane and her mom worked on a big meal and couldn’t wait for Dad to come home so they could exchange gifts and really celebrate Christmas.
But Daddy didn’t show.
By the time Dad was three hours late, Elane and her mom drove to the train station and were horrified by the sight of ambulances and police cars. The bridge had collapsed and the train went into the river! The police were still pulling bodies out of the water but no one found Elane’s dad. Elane and her mother both could feel it deep inside; Daddy’s not coming home.
Some time later a horrible stench invaded their house, but Elane couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. The nauseating odor was so overbearing Elane’s mom had to move in with their neighbors until they could get a handyman to locate the source of the stench. The handyman located a hollow space under the floorboards and figured an animal had gotten inside and died. Elane was told it would cost too much to open up the space to remove the animal, with the handyman explaining it’d be easier to allow the animal to decay completely so the stench would abide.
[Wing: WELL THAT’S A TERRIBLE IDEA.]
Elane surprisingly struck up a connection with the young handyman, who was empathetic to the problems Elane and her mom were dealing with regarding her dad’s death. They started dating and a few months later the two got married. Elane finally felt happy again after her dad’s passing and by the following Christmas, Elane and her husband were expecting a child…
And then as Elane started a fire in the fireplace, Elane heard something funny and watched as a rotted skeleton in a Santa suit fell onto the fire. The body had a familiar looking watch around its bony wrist, and a moldy sack fell behind the corpse.
Seems Dad got on an earlier train and planned to surprise Elane and her mom by doing a Santa bit, but broke his neck and got stuck in the chimney.
Elane by any chance have you ever watched “Gremlins?”
[Wing: I was just going to make this reference!]
The Dinner Guest
A young girl had a hard time understanding her father was dead and buried on the cemetery hill near their home. Her mom told the girl and her brother their dad was watching over them from the hill, but the girl wondered why he didn’t just come down to be with them again. In the month following his death the girl prayed, night after night, for her dad to come home for Christmas. One day she found her mom crying as she was preparing dinner, and the girl tried to cheer her up saying Dad’s coming home. He has to since she’s prayed so much. Mom sadly tried to explain it doesn’t work that way, and not even God can bring the dead back.
The girl couldn’t believe this. Why wouldn’t God grant her prayers? She was very good and so were her mom and brother. Didn’t they deserve to have Dad back? She just wants them to be a family again…
Running to the cemetery, the girl sobbed by her dad’s grave when a nearby gravedigger asked what was wrong. She cried about wanting her dad back but God wouldn’t answer her prayers. The gravedigger said God doesn’t do things like that. There IS, however, one who could help her. Who could it be, who could it be. Could it beeeeeeee
The girl says the Devil’s evil, why should he help? The gravedigger explained that isn’t true, of course the Devil would bring the girl’s dad back. He has that type of power, but no one ever thinks to ask. The girl thought about this and when she looked up, the gravedigger was gone.
The girl prayed to SATAN and got her brother to help because they don’t have any other options. They prayed and prayed to ol’ Lucifer asking to bring their dad home for Christmas and make their family complete. Well Christmas Eve came and the girl spent most of the day staring at the cemetery and hoping the Devil answered her prayers. Her mom spent the day cooking up an enormous Christmas feast with turkey, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy, all kinds of shit. Just as they were about to say grace, the girl looked outside and saw a dark shadow on the hill.
It was getting closer, and closer, when suddenly there was a thump at the door. Mom almost had a heart attack when she opened the door to find her husband, having clawed his way out of the ground, stumble into the house looking exactly like someone who spent a month in a pine box. The woman embraced her husband no matter how nasty he looked and praised God for this miracle, trying to figure out how this happened when her husband demanded food.
Dad tore into the Christmas feast and stuffed his face, but kept demanding more. No matter how much he ate his appetite wasn’t satisfied. What should’ve been a joyous occasion quickly turned nightmarish as the kids watched their father cram more food down his throat, chewing it with his sharp teeth and screaming it’s like eating air. Mom sobbed, begging him to stop and lie down but Dad just wanted more screaming it’s like he’s starving to death. He held his wife as she said the family will do what they can to help him feel better. Grateful for their offering, the man sunk his teeth into his wife’s throat and drank her blood.
This would’ve never happened if they’d prayed to Odin.
The Trunk in the Attic
Justin’s friend at school convinced him his family was hiding his Christmas gifts in the attic, saying they’ve probably hidden lots of toys for him up there like all parents do and will bring them down on Christmas Eve. He wasn’t allowed in the attic; his parents and grandpa said there were only junk, mice and spiders up there. There was nothing in the attic for Justin.
Now normally Justin’s a good kid and very well behaved, but the thought of all that potential Christmas loot was too much to resist. One night he crept up to the attic and was disappointed to see there was nothing.
Well except for the creepy old man he’s never seen before sitting in a rocking chair near an old trunk. But hey, who HASN’T had that happen to them?
Instead of freaking out about the complete stranger in his house, Justin says he heard there were toys in the attic. The old man motions to the trunk saying it has all kinds of neat toys inside. All Justin has to do is put something valuable inside the trunk and it’ll give him an amazing toy. Justin remembered the antique necklace belonging to his mom, something that had been passed down through their family for generations. He sneaked into his parents’ bedroom, swiped the necklace from the dresser and brought it upstairs. The old man told Justin to put the necklace in the trunk to get his toy. Justin closed the trunk then opened it to find an amazing toy train! It was the best toy train ever. So what if he stole his mom’s treasured necklace and how inconsolable she was over its disappearance?
Justin feigned innocence and because he was so normally well behaved, his parents believed him when he said he didn’t know what happened to the necklace. Quickly the toy train lost its novelty and Justin wanted more. This time, the “Something valuable” was HIS GRANDPA’S WOODEN LEG.
WHICH HE STEALS STRAIGHT FROM THE MAN’S BODY AS HE’S SLEEPING.
[Wing: Justin, are you by any chance related to Rocket Raccoon?]
You know I wanna applaud the balls on this kid but fuck him for stealing his grandpa’s leg.
The man in the attic (YEAH HE’S STILL THERE) applauded Justin’s determination and this time Justin got a mechanical soldier. The parents had no idea what happened to Grandpa’s leg and NO ONE BOTHERS TO CALL THE POLICE OVER THE THEFT. Again Justin lied about the thievery and only felt a little bad that Grandpa wouldn’t get a replacement leg for a while, getting stuck in that nasty old wheelchair.
Justin felt especially pleased that he and he alone was getting these marvelous toys and wanted more. He figured the more important the item the greater the toy, so he stole his dad’s pet canary and dumped it in the trunk, cage and all. The moment the frantic chirping stopped Justin knew a toy was waiting for him. This time Justin received a chrome space helmet that actually let him SEE outer space, like he’s soaring past the stars and planets. Taking the helmet off was an especially frustrating end to his buzz.
Once again his parents asked him about the next missing object, and Justin had the nerve to be insulted. How dare they?! Don’t they know how good and trustworthy he is and they accuse of him such robbery?! Justin wailed and cried until his parents believed him but now he had a real problem on his hands. What could go in the trunk next?
On the fourth visit, the man in the chair told Justin to get something really, really, REALLY good, he just has to close his eyes and stick his hand in the trunk. Once Justin’s eyes were closed, the man broke out the rusty hacksaw.
[Wing: Clearly I’m going to love this one.]
Kathy Nelson was spending Christmas Eve at home with her three daughters, who were super excited to see Santa Claus. It took forever to get her girls asleep, especially since her husband was working the graveyard shift at his job. They’d needed the extra money and it was a big help during the holidays, but Kathy felt bad about her husband having to work Christmas Eve. Kathy decided to do herself up real purty like and put a bottle of wine on ice (is that a thing? I thought just champagne got chilled) [Wing: Oh, no, there are plenty of wines you drink cold.] and got herself ready for a Christmas night of smexy-times.
That news report about the escaped mental patient ruined the mood, though. They reported an escapee murdered two doctors and a guard at the Kane County Psychiatric Hospital. People were warned to lock their doors and windows and to not stop for hitchhikers.
Kathy was decidedly freaked; her friend Gail works at Kane County and it’s only a few miles from their house. The picture of the escapee showed he had a filthy beard and nasty yellow teeth. Kathy double bolted the front door and locked all the windows in the kitchen, living room, dining room and the bedrooms. Suddenly Kathy’s youngest woke up and asked her mom for some water before inquiring if Santa arrived. Kathy placated her daughter and gently nudged her back to sleep, then returned to checking the windows upstairs.
After checking the window locks, Kathy turned on all the lights thinking if she created the illusion of her husband being home she might be safer. A call from Gail later revealed how this was a very, VERY bad idea. Gail luckily wasn’t working at the hospital tonight, but she’s calling everyone she knows to warn them. She apparently heard from her coworkers that the escapee stole a red-and-white Santa coat from the children’s ward before he left, and guess what? He only goes after houses that he KNOWS have people inside them, because he just wants to kill.
Kathy panics realizing she turned her house into a giant target and quickly runs around turning off the lights and shutting the curtains. For added safety, she gets the shotgun her husband keeps in the back of the closet. Good thing, because Young Daughter says SHE HEARD AND SAW SOMEONE MOVING IN THEIR BACKYARD. Kathy goes into her daughters’ bedroom and can see footprints out in the snow. And OH CRAP SHE DIDN’T GET TO CLOSING THE DOWNSTAIRS CURTAINS!
Fighting to keep calm, Kathy told her daughter to stay in bed because Santa won’t leave presents if she’s up and about. Shutting the bedroom door tight, Kathy heads downstairs with the shotgun and checks the living room window when she heard a crash below. The basement! SHE FORGOT THE BASEMENT!
Kathy bolted the basement door just as she heard footsteps running up the steps. Someone grunted and pushed against the door as Kathy aimed at the shotgun and lied about the police coming. She heard the man laughing but knew she was screwed; the police would never get here in time.
And then she did the stupidest thing possible and UNBOLTED THE DOOR TO TAKE THE GUY OUT. She figures she should’ve opened the door anyway and taken him by surprise. Kathy dared the man to come after her and descended the stairs only to see the basement was empty, with one of the windows open. Fearing he’ll try to get in a different way, Kathy went back upstairs and locked the basement door again. That’s when she saw the man by the living room window, coming towards the front door!
Kathy burst outside and fired the gun, shooting the man in the leg. One of Kathy’s daughters heard the noise and asked if that was Santa when Kathy screamed at her to go back in the room and keep the door shut.
Only guess what Kathy you just shot your husband, he was dressed as Santa to surprise the kids. Kathy ran to her husband and apologized saying she didn’t know it was him. She turned around to call an ambulance…
And saw the escaped maniac wave to her as he stepped into the house and locked the front door behind him.
(I’ll level with you, the “Escaped maniac in a Santa suit” isn’t a new story but the way this is set up still freaks me out. The other night I had trouble going downstairs because I was thinking about this, and the illustration on the cover doesn’t help. Of course if Kathy brought the shotgun outside all she has to do is break open a window and get to her kids)
Something in the Basement
Jeremy got adopted by the Craft Family just in time for the Christmas season. His foster family got their house all ready for his arrival and welcomed him warmly. Mr. and Mrs. Craft assured Jeremy if he needed anything to simply ask, they were just so excited to have him.
The Crafts got Jeremy all settled in and treated him to hot chocolate and homemade cookies, saying how much their son Steven always wanted a brother but unfortunately they couldn’t have other kids. Mr. Craft told Jeremy to help himself to anything in the house…
Except the basement. No, never go in the basement. Oh Mr. and Mrs. Craft might go down there to get… things done, like laundry and such, but Steven’s not allowed down there and now that rule extends to Jeremy. Besides, there’s probably nothing that would interest him down in the basement anyway.
Jeremy didn’t get what the big deal was but he didn’t ask questions since he was so happy to have a family. Maybe he should’ve because his first night sharing Steven’s bedroom was a bit odd. He tried to sleep but he heard noises in the walls. Some kind of odd slurping sound coming from the vent behind the bed. The slurping was replaced by a steady metallic banging, and it kept Jeremy up all night. Somehow Steven was able to sleep through the noise. The next morning Steven simply explained they were, you know, normal noises vents make and such.
Jeremy tried to ignore these “Normal vent noises” but they continued every night. It didn’t sound like pipes banging because of a boiler. They sounded wet. And angry. One day the boys heard the buzzer on the washing machine go off, and Mrs. Craft slid into the room stopping Steven from going down. No no, she can handle the laundry but thanks for asking son!
Things were quiet, and then suddenly Jeremy heard some very loud banging coming from the basement. Mrs. Craft started shrieking and saying “Enough!” over and over again. She then emerged from the basement with the laundry and looked as though she’d been getting grabbed by a drunken frat boy who didn’t understand “No.” Like srsly, can’t a modern woman do laundry in peace?
Jeremy had no clue how to respond when he saw the tattered remains of his favorite black pullover. Mrs. Craft apologized, since “Someone’s too excited by a new smell in the house.”
And the scraps smelled like rotten fish. Well, Mrs. Craft says a certain someone might be finding a new sweater under the tree this year so that helps right?
The following night Jeremy asked Steven if they kept a dog in the basement and he said no. It’s not a dog. They don’t know WHAT it is, they don’t know HOW to get rid of it, so they just have to live with the thing. Steven says whatever it is used to be smaller when Mr. Craft pokes his head in the room and says “Lights out.” Some hours later a horrible smell floated into the room from the vents and the awful sounds continued.
In the morning, Jeremy overheard his new parents arguing about what was in the basement. Mr. Craft thinks once he gets his promotion they can sell the house and the thing’ll be someone else’s problem, but Mrs. Craft asks who would buy a house with THAT living in it? Plus, it knows Jeremy is here and a new person has it excited. The Crafts argue about whether it was a good idea to bring Jeremy into their house when Mrs. Craft reminds her husband they only did so AFTER Mr. Craft said the thing was dead.
Jeremy wanted to know more about the thing in the basement but didn’t want to upset his parents, and Steven was forbidden from saying more. The stench was intensifying and Jeremy could barely eat at dinnertime. Suddenly, Mrs. Craft asked her husband to check the basement. Silently, Mr. Craft brought a meat cleaver downstairs and everyone heard the sounds of fighting, even as Mrs. Craft said not to worry. When the basement grew silent, Mrs. Craft calmly prodded her son to check. Thankfully, a horrified Steven didn’t need to when his dad emerged from the basement, a gash on his forehead and his clothes stained with an inky black liquid.
Gee a hot shower would go great right now.
Oh those stains? You know how pipes can get, dripping this and that.
That night the violence escalated when a black tentacle emerged from the vent behind Jeremy’s bed! The tentacle grabbed the bed and started shaking it when Mr. Craft entered and started kicking the thing until it let go. Mrs. Craft tried to comfort Jeremy who demanded to know what was happening. His parents tried to say he only had a nightmare and they stuck to that story. While getting a drink of water in the bathroom, Jeremy could see marks on his neck from where the tentacle tried to grab him.
Even though Jeremy remained silent, his horror and confusion about what was in the house multiplied. His bed was broken and the vent behind it damaged. The smell got worse. Steven became more withdrawn and the parents fought more and more. Jeremy wished he was back in the orphanage when, the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the Crafts had a chat with him. The Crafts assured Jeremy he was part of their family, but, they couldn’t ask him to be a part of what they were going to do. Mr and Mrs. Craft and Steven, they were… going down into the basement together. They couldn’t ask Jeremy to help. Mrs. Craft told him to take a walk around the block, like six times, and then come back inside so they could all have a nice Christmas Eve dinner.
When Jeremy came back into the house, the Crafts were gone. Jeremy searched every room, leaving the basement for last. As soon as Jeremy went downstairs, a familiar black tentacle shot out and grabbed him. It was then Jeremy saw the horrid black thing growing out of floor. It had multiple tentacles shooting off in all different directions into the pipes and vents. Maggots crawled on its black skin, and its three pronged beak opened to reveal rows of bloody, jagged teeth as it pulled Jeremy closer and closer.
(This one could’ve easily been a book on its own and wow is it sad. Like you expected the Crafts only adopted Jeremy because they were gonna feed him to the thing from the start or probably would’ve given him up to sate it but no, they just wanted a new member of their family and went down to try and kill the thing by themselves because they realized Jeremy didn’t deserve to be dropped into this situation)
Because of course we end with a New Year’s story.
Jason and Lisa always throw the best parties and their New Year’s shindig was no exception. Well, there was ONE complainer. One of their neighbors in the high rise building, an elderly Romanian woman, banged on their door complaining the music was keeping her baby granddaughter awake.
*Sigh* The book mentions the old woman was never friendly, she and her daughter were suspected of stealing from the other residents, and the food they cooked stank. Because she’s so obviously foreign and everything.
Jason didn’t really feel bad, but Lisa tried to be diplomatic and said they’d turn the music down. The elderly woman threatened to make them pay if they bothered her granddaughter any further. But the closer it got to midnight the rowdier the party got. The elderly woman came back at 10 and then 11 yelling at the couple for all the noise. Jason was all “It’s New Year’s of course we’re having a party like sorry Grams,” while Lisa offered the woman some of their food or said the party would get quieter once midnight passed. The woman had enough after the third visit and after asking them “Nice,” she made some gestures with her hands and said something in a language they didn’t understand. The woman laughed and wished them a “Happy New Year” before leaving.
Okay I’m not really sure what happens next but, as everyone starts to count down to midnight and the New Year arrives Jason leans in to kiss Lisa and she… grabs him and screams so loud into his face she deafens him before she falls over dead?
I think the ending on this one could’ve been clearer.
[Wing: Wait, so the woman who was trying to be nice about it is the one who dies and the asshole husband gets to live. NOT ON.]
So while I do think the last story was a disappointing final issue, I feel the rest of these stories were pretty great. Some like “The Candy Cane” were a bit predictable and the way some of them suddenly ended was a little annoying but the build up was fun. “Wassail” came across very much like one of the minute-long segments from Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery,” and a few of Molloy’s illustrations were genuinely creepy with their simplicity.
I had a much more enjoyable time recapping this then “Tales from the Midnight Hour” and if I have the time and energy next year I’ll try to recap the sequel collection.
[Wing: This was a surprising amount of fun, and I love the hell out of the cover especially.]
Wing: … feathers from what?
One of the bird decorations she had on display, should’ve mentioned it sorry. I think it was a chicken from the manger scene.