Recap #27: Haunting Christmas Tales – Part One

Haunting Christmas Tales by Various
Haunting Christmas Tales by Various

Title: Haunting Christmas Tales by Various

Summary: It’s Christmas Eve and a group of friends have gathered round a fireside in a remote cottage. As a hushed anticipation falls over the group, the only sound is the hiss of logs on the fire.

Safe inside, where surely nothing can harm them, the friends begin to tell tales eerie stories of restless spirits eternally condemned to walk the earth, stories that will haunt you long after you have closed the covers of this book.

Tagline: Disappointingly, there is none.

Notes: No Bad Guys or Muffin Men to be seen.

Initial Thoughts:

I have never read this before, but who doesn’t love a nice ghost story? Especially at Christmas.

Since this isn’t a full story, but nine short stories, I’m going to switch up the recap format. There will be no counters in here. And I’m going to rate each story from one to five (bad to good). This rating will be based purely on how much enjoyment I got from the story. Therefore, if I rate something five, I don’t believe it should win Book of the Year, it just means that, comparatively, this was a fun read for the genre.

[Wing: Fail, Dove. I include counters where I can.

I love good ghost stories all the time. We’ll see if these live up to that. I did expect more of a set-up of the frame story, the friends telling eerie tales; I love scenarios like that — Are You Afraid of the Dark remains one of my favorite tv shows — and I’m disappointed this book just went straight into the stories.]


First of all, note the summary above. From that summary, I assumed there would be some kind of framing story around and between each different story. That’s not the case. And I’m ok with that. I love the “campfire tales” style of sewing ghost stories/urban legends together, but I also love when a book is just “look, there’s nine short stories, take it or leave it”. I just find it weird that the summary implies it’s the first when actually it’s the second.

[Wing: Same, obviously, see above.]

So, let’s get started.

Jingle Bells by Tessa Krailing

The story opens thusly:

Three days to Christmas and I was looking forward to it. Imagine, me looking forward to Christmas! Usually I dreaded it.

But this year, for the first time since I could remember, there would be no haunting. We had left the ghost behind when we moved house a month ago. Now, at last, we were free of it.

Or so I thought.

Then we break to a normal evening scene, mum is chivvying Anna (our lead) to bed. Dad is gruff and quiet and mum is a bit fussy often asks her to check on her four year old sister, Becky. Becky is just fine, a little flushed maybe, but she thinks she heard Santa, because “I heard the bells, of course. The jingle bells on his sleigh.” This is evidence of the ghost. And it’s completely pointless because the writer opened with the bit I’d quoted. Me, I’d have missed off the “Or so I thought” and let the scene play out.

When Anna goes to bed, the ghost makes itself known. First there’s the jingling bells outside the window, then it taps on the window, and finishes with sweltering heat and a sense of suffocation. She manages to open a window and breathe freely, more afraid of what’s in the room than outside of it. Then she hears the jingle bells fading into the distance.

The next day Aunt Jen arrives. She’s never stayed with them over Christmas before, because their previous house was too cold. Which I find to be a bit rude. Buy some thick PJs. I’m not allowed to get out of visiting relatives because of such flimsy reasons. [Wing: So really it’s not that you find it a bit rude, it’s that you’re envious that excuse worked for her.] [Dove: … um, yeah, now you come to mention it.] Anna gives up her bedroom and moves into the box room to give Aunt Jen more space.

Anna puts Aunt Jen’s bags in the loft, away from prying eyes because they contain presents – and again, this is dumb. Becky is only four, so if you put the present on top of a wardrobe, she’ll never get to it, and Anna’s old enough to know better than to go peeking at gifts, surely. [Wing: I know adults who peek at gifts. And Anna tries to peek while she’s putting them away in the loft, so.] Anyway, being in the loft results in a telling-off from mum, because climbing the ladder to the loft is dangerous. Anna and Aunt Jen share an eye-roll at this.

That night Anna has the same ghostly encounter, but can’t get the window open because it’s stuck. Luckily Aunt Jen bursts in and the encounter stops. Anna wants to tell her about the ghost, so refers to it as a dream of suffocation, and says it only comes on sometimes, not specifying that it happens at Christmas. Jen asks when it started (“Oh, years ago.”) and Jen offers to stay with her, but Anna says the dream doesn’t come more than once a night.

The next morning she overhears her mum and Aunt Jen arguing. Jen’s concerned about the dreams, that “the whole thing is buried deep in her subconscious”, and mum is just shutting that shit down right now. Jen thinks it’s unnatural that they never talk about – but obviously she’s cut off before she can finish that sentence. Then she asks what’s mum hiding in the loft, and a glass bowl is sacrificed as a reason to end the conversation before Anna can find out what they’re hiding.

Conveniently, everyone goes out leaving Anna alone. They do have reasons, I’m just too bored to recount them. [Wing: Basically, shopping.] So, she goes into the loft and has a rummage for the deep dark secret of her haunting. She finds all of the expected stuff up there, baby clothes, stuff embroidered with “A” for Anna, and a blue and white toy elephant that jingles just like her ghost. She vaguely remembers it, but before she can follow that thought, the family returns.

This is Anna’s theory:

I went into the box-room and hid the elephant under my pillow. If this toy was haunting me, I had it trapped. Tonight it wouldn’t be able to jingle outside my window because it would be safe inside, with me.

I was going to say that Anna was fucking stupid for coming up with that as a theory, but then I realised that if it had been a porcelain doll and not an elephant, I’d have totally been with her there, so Anna’s actually smarter than me. [Wing: Not really sure why you would have gone with fucking stupid in the first place. It’s a solid theory; if you’re going for ghosts and some secret, hidden memory, and the noise the animal makes is just like the noise that she hears when she’s haunted, well, it makes sense to hang on to the stuffed animal.] [Dove: True, but it could also be like taking Samara out of the well, it makes things worse. But mostly my logic was: dude, the ghost fucking jingles without the toy, it’s still going to jingle if you have the toy. I probably failed to explain that.]

On the other hand, her mum and Aunt Jen were arguing about some kind of event that has triggered Anna’s “dreams”, so what’s her theory on that? That she accidentally walked in on some kind of ritual sacrifice where they bled Jingle-Jumbo dry of his stuffing?

That night, Aunt Jen asks if Anna’s ok before bed, and Anna’s going to be fine. She has the haunted toy captive and it’s only one more night. Of course, that’s until the haunting starts. When the ghost taps on the window, she tells it to go away and nobody wants it here.

The tapping gets louder and more frantic and Anna realises there’s something creeping under the door and it’s… not a ghost. Let’s build up some tension here. It is, in fact, smoke. And it’s coming from Becky’s room, so Anna runs off to save her, screaming out for “Andrew”.

She pulls Becky to safety and dad deals with the fire and then they all sit down to discuss.

The fire was caused by a teddy bear thrown out of bed and landing on a lamp. That’s an unlikely chain of events, but I’ll say sure, let’s go with it. [Wing: Well, things draped on lamps have been known to start fires — there was a whole thing in the 90s, maybe, where people would drape scarves and things over lamps for mood lighting, and that went badly — and kids throw their toys, so it could happen. I guess.]

Anna suddenly remembers that Andrew was her baby brother who died. The “A” on the baby clothes was for Andrew, not Anna. Anna remembers that it’s all her fault he’s dead. (It never fucking is when someone says that.) Andrew simply died of cot death, they reassure her.

Later, Anna and Jen talk alone, about the ghost. Poor Andrew felt shut out by his family, and now that they talk about him, he can stop haunting. Also, the death didn’t happen at Christmas, it happened in October, but it makes sense that someone shut out from their family would try harder at Christmas.

Final Thoughts: And that’s that. Ok, so Andrew died as a baby, but obviously has an adult’s understanding here, so why has he been suffocating Anna for years now? Tonight he saved the family, but there wasn’t a fire any other time, so he wants them to remember him and to do that he’s going to punish the one person who was too young to really remember everything clearly? Seriously, Andrew, haunt better.

[Wing: Well, the adults apparently can’t hear him, so he’s not doing too terrible a job getting attention from his sisters.

The English language differences were amusing here, mostly because when I see the word “cot” I do not picture a crib. I picture this, and think, why the hell is a baby on that?

a cot. not for babies.
a cot. not for babies.

Somehow, I don’t think this is what I’m supposed to picture.]

Score: 2.5 – not bad, not good, just there. And it features Christmas.

[Wing: I give it a 4 out of 5. I quite enjoyed it. Though one thing that hasn’t been mentioned; the aunt jumps off the train before it stops. Somehow, that seems like a pretty big safety issue. Can you really do that over there?] [Dove: This may have deserved more points, but there is a story I particularly fell in love with that’s getting top marks, and also, being the first in the book, it got graded more harshly because I’m in a mood that I have to slog through the rest.]

The Woodman’s Enigma by Garry Kilworth

Siblings, Colin (13) and Jill (10), love to play a game called Enigmas, where they tell each other riddles and have to find the answer. The first one cited are is the one about the couple lying dead in a room surrounded by water and broken glass (they’re goldfish).

Colin says he can’t come up with any new ones, they need a computer for that. Um, what? After a quick google, this was written in 1991. I’m not even sure that there’s the capability for computers to create riddles now, twenty-four years later, because it requires a level of creativity and lateral thinking that computers, generally, don’t lean towards. [Wing: I read it less as the computer making up a new one and more him wanting to play more of their game, which gives them new ones, though since later they want to create a new game, I am not sure that holds up.] [Dove: it’s the phrasing that makes it seem like they need the computer to create the riddles.]

They’re off to stay with their Uncle Giles, who Colin says is “sixty-something”. Because of Giles’ age, they hold no hope for him owning a computer. Someone needs to tell Wing’s dad there’s an age limit to computer knowledge. (Side note: favourite story about Wing’s dad – he reads Facebook updates to Mr Wing, who loathes Facebook.) In 1993, I bought my first computer from a retired computer engineer. Just saying, even way back in the dark ages before a computer in every home, they weren’t just the domain of the young. [Wing: I love that story about my father. We had computers in our house in the 80s and 90s; my parents both worked for the government for a long time, in cryptography for awhile, and though they weren’t always big into the Internet [clearly Dad has overcome that dislike], there was never any question about embracing technology.]

Uncle Giles lives in the middle of nowhere, and they’re used to the city. When they get off the train, there’s no-one there to meet them. They call Giles on a payphone but there’s no answer. Eventually they get a cab. Colin’s a bit wary of the driver and has a sudden panic that they’re being kidnapped since they’re already in the middle of nowhere and they’re driving even further off the beaten path. Since I come from a small town, I’m frankly astounded there was a cab at all. And in the 90s in small town UK, they were just regular cars with no obligation to put credentials front and centre, so it’s not an unlikely theory for an already-unnerved thirteen year old.

However, the cabbie is not a kidnapper, he tells them that there’s a key under the mat and refuses to take Colin’s money, saying he’ll take it up with Giles later. He’s called away on another job but promises to come back to make sure they’re ok. I love this cabbie. He’s a good person.

They get inside and there’s no power and this reinforces their fear that Giles does not own a computer. They have a plan to invent a computer game and sell it and make a fortune. Apparently, this was quite doable back in the 80s/90s, according to Mr Dove, who used to be very involved the computer games industry. Those games were just text based, so easy to make and distribute. Although Mr Dove said that this story is set just as things began to turn towards more graphic-based games. So it’s not a foolish, clueless brag on how smart these kids are, just something that became very time-specific at the moment it was published. [Wing: It’s interesting, because there has been a big push back into the text based games the past few years; not so much making a fortune off them, but lots of small developers putting out really interesting games.] [Dove: Sidenote: I once got Wing to stop being cross with me by writing an alternate universe/epilogue to our grand YA series that we’re writing, all in Text Adventure speak. I am very proud of this.]

So they’re left with sitting by the fire and waiting for Giles. Problem is the fire is running low on logs, so they have to go outside and grab a branch that has fallen under the weight of the snow. Not quite sure how it’s going to burn since it ought to be sopping wet if it’s been covered with enough snow to snap off, but whatevs. We Brits have been trying to set fire to shit that won’t burn since the dark ages.

Note for Americans and other city-dwelling life-forms: the rural British, having eschewed central heating as being far too complicated and in any case weakening moral fiber, prefer a system of piling small pieces of wood and lumps of coal, topped by large, wet logs, possibly made of asbestos, into small, smoldering heaps, known as “There’s nothing like a roaring open fire is there?” Since none of these ingredients are naturally inclined to burn, underneath all this they apply a small, rectangular, waxy white lump, which burns cheerfully until the weight of the fire puts it out. These little white blocks are called firelighters. No one knows why.

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I could quote from the actual story I’m reading, but one should never miss the opportunity to quote Pratchett. Just ask Cassie Claire. (Pointing out her fails will never grow old. Not even decades later.) [Wing: Pretty sure it’s plagiarism and not quoting when you don’t cite your source.] [Dove: Yeah, but it’s totally understandable if you copy out an entire chapter of someone else’s book in your notepad, and forget that it’s not your own original work and then put it on the net under your name… god I miss those days. fandom_wank, we miss you, we love you, we will never forget you.]

Eventually, an old man turns up, stating that he is Giles Foster, their uncle. His house is between two train stations, they got off at one, he went to the other. Then he settles down and tells them about a local ghost, the Woodman, who had was found dead, hanging by his neck in the fork of a branch of the yew tree outside (the one they grabbed the branch from). If you burn wood from that tree, he will appear and ask you to figure out how he died. If you accept the challenge, he will pester you until the day you die or until you solve the riddle. Or you can tell him you don’t want to, and he’ll bugger off until you burn more wood from his tree. I like a ghost with strong rules. Nice. Friendly.

Naturally, the kids are enthralled, since they love this stuff. They ask for more details, and find out that he was interested in a woman, but she wasn’t that keen on him, that it wasn’t suicide, that he was heading to a church carol service on Christmas Eve when he died, but wasn’t hugely religious.

Eventually, they figure out he was climbing a tree to get mistletoe so he could try to kiss the woman who wasn’t that into him (NO. JUST NO.) when he slipped and landed in the fork of the tree where he died.

Giles says now the ghost can rest. There’s a noise outside, and it’s a younger man, claiming to be Giles Foster. And if you didn’t figure out older Giles was the ghost of the woodman, well, it’s not your fault, since the text deliberately misled you when it outright stated that Giles was in his sixties, not twenties, like the new Giles.

[Wing: Um, no. Here’s the description of new Giles: The door swung back and an old man stood before them. His face was white and lined, and his eyes colder than winter. It’s pretty clear the first Giles is the ghost, and quite well done; he won’t take off his coat, his speech is just slightly out of fashion, he’s freaking obsessed with the damn ghost. But the new Giles is not young.] [Dove: Where on god’s green and soggy earth did I get the idea that New Giles is in his twenties? Seriously, self, WTF?]

New Giles is cool, and he has a computer, and now they can make a game called the Woodman’s Enigma.

Final Thoughts: Great description and atmosphere, I get the feeling I’ve read this before. I’ve certainly heard the riddle before. I checked with Mr Dove and he’s never heard the riddle before. Anyway, even though I guessed the “twist” (and no points to me there, it just seemed like the obvious thing to do given how many pages long it was), the story was enjoyable enough for me not to care whether I saw it coming or not.

Score: 4

[Wing: Same. I guessed the riddle, though I haven’t heard it before, even though I play games like that often, and saw the twist coming, but since I absolutely love that sort of twist, I’m a fan of this story. I quite like the setting, too, even though I hate winter and snow. 4 out of 5.]

[Dove: After a mild bit of research, apparently this was made into a radio play by the BBC, so it’s not completely unlikely that I heard it there — or, more likely, it can also be found in another anthology I’ve got on my shelves.]

The Weeping Maid by Robert Swindells

Laura is our protagonist this time, and she’s nine. She’s staying with her Grandma for a few weeks while her parents are away, and it’s well established that there’s a ghost in the house, called the Weeping Maid. She just moseys around weeping. The house used to be one dwelling, owned by Gran’s family, but it’s now been split up into flats.

Laura finds the ghost and asks her why she’s weeping, and she shows her. I could go into vast detail here, but this story bores the pants off me, so just understand that all of the below is put into Laura’s head without words, and is done over several different days.

The ghost is called Alice, and worked in the house when it was one massive house in the years leading up to World War I. She had a beau called Bertie. Confusingly, the family she works for are called the Bertrams. Their boy, Geoffrey, is old enough to be drafted when war breaks out. Bertie also signs up.

The Bertrams throw a going-away party for Geoffrey, and Bertie has to ship out the same day. Alice asks if she can have a few minutes to say goodbye to Bertie, but is told no – mostly because the Bertrams are so determined that everything goes smoothly for their boy, but at least a little because Alice has a boyfriend and they didn’t know, which meant she has been sneaking around, which is unacceptable (and, given the time period, disgraceful – slutty) and maids have been fired for less.

Bertie ships out without seeing Alice. They try to write to each other, but neither are good at reading or writing (a little detail that that shows thought has gone into this, kudos).

A morning in November, two years later, she gets word from Bertie’s original employer that he has died in action.

Alice falls into deep depression which only mildly breaks upon the arrival of a man named Biggs, who served with Bertie. He has a package from Bertie which he asked to be given to Alice if he died at war. She opens it and there’s a bomb inside.

A fucking bomb inside.

And a poem, which she thinks Biggs must have helped him with:

Lay his fire
Sound his knell
Send him off
Without farewell

I read that as a “Screw you, bitch, that’s what you get for not saying goodbye!” but actually he means something else.

Christmas goes by, and the next October, Geoffrey comes home, much decorated and promoted, not dead, like Bertie.

One night she’s asked to prepare the bedroom for Geoffrey, prepare a fire for him to light if he’s cold when he comes in. She places the bomb underneath and when he gets home… you all know which gif I’m gonna use, right?

*explodes and kills everything*
*explodes and kills everything*

The bomb kills Geoffrey, but everyone else, including his pregnant wife, survives. Alice finds new levels of depression, which turn her into a zombie until she’s struck down by influenza. On her deathbed, she writes a note confessing her crime and gives it to another maid named Sarah. Sarah’s too horrified by the contents to act on it, so she hides it in a cigarette tin in the basement, meaning to give it to the master/mistress once Alice is dead. However, she catches influenza and dies too.

Back to present, Laura hunts down the note and tells Gran everything. She’s Geoffrey’s daughter, and Laura can understand if Gran doesn’t forgive Alice.

Laura now an adult hopes that Alice and Bertie are in a better place, where nobody is hurtful to anyone else.

Final Thoughts: Such high hopes, given my abject adoration of Room 13 (not the Arcadia one), but like Inside the Worm, this just failed to deliver. Swindells is at his best when he’s writing school kids acting like school kids, with the odd responsible adult trying to keep control of them. Anything else doesn’t grab me in the same way. Room 13 makes me judge anything else Swindells writes too harshly. Next year, I promise I will recap that. Unless Gemma wants to?

Score: 3

[Wing: 3.5 out of 5 from me. Not quite as enjoyable as the first two, mostly because of all the spider references and the fact that Laura just wanders around in a daze while dealing with the ghost, but mostly fun. There’s a bit of a haunting tone to it that is fitting. I am a little bothered by the fact that technically, this story has a frame story (friends telling stories) with a frame story (Laura telling a story) with a story (the story Laura tells).] [Dove: it’s the Russian nesting doll of stories.]

The Investigators by David Belbin

Our lead is called Mark. He’s just moved into a “grotty flat” (god, I love that phrase) because he’s starting college. Actually, it’s not a flat – it’s not even a studio –because he shares a bathroom on a different floor with two other people. He’s at the top of a staircase on his own. The flat is cold and mouldy, but his dad, a builder, assures him that it structurally sound. It also smells of cooked cabbage and old socks. Lovely.

Mark falls asleep and is awoken, but not sure by what. He checks outside his door but no-one’s there. It’s Friday, his classes start on Monday, so he decides to decorate. And, oh the joy of this following sentence, which will cause any Brit of my age and Council Estate upbringing to groan and have flashbacks:

He came out ten minutes later, rucksack crammed with ten litres of magnolia paint, a can of white gloss, and several rolls of woodchip paper.

Style by the Council in the 80s
Style by the Council in the 80s

By Sunday, Mark’s finished decorating, and is watching TV sat next to the gas fire, but still freezing as the window’s open to let the smell of paint out. He does not have a TV licence (could this story be any more English?), so when there’s a knock at the door, he bricks it and even contemplates hiding the TV before answering.

(Note: Mark, it wouldn’t do any good. About twelve years ago, I let my TV license expire, since I didn’t watch TV and it was a needless expense. I still got threatened with court action. I binned the TV, and they came back and threatened court action. I moved house. That stopped ‘em.)

Anyway, it’s not the TV licence people, it’s a couple of students and their names are Ian and Ruth. They ask if they can come in, and once Mark is sure they’re not Jehovah’s Witnesses or in a cult or trying to sell him something, he invites them in. They tell him that they’re paranormal investigators. Mark thinks they’re nutters – he mentions this several times, so it’s a good thing I’m not using counters.

They say they’re from University College, London and they study under Professor Hugh Jenkinson. They also clarify that most of their work is debunking hoaxes, and they approach the study with clarity and scepticism. I like ‘em.

After a lot of paragraphs, they reveal that – DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUN – there’s a ghost on the stairs. That’s it. There’s a lot of build up for that. I’m reading a short story about ghosts, there had better be a ghost somewhere in this damned building. Now gimme backstory or reasons or anything.

No. Ruth, who I continue to like, says that they’ve never seen any evidence of the supernatural, and they have to be careful, because if you push too hard, you make yourself see the results you want to see. Good lord, I like her. Ruth, can you be our next protagonist?

Mark thinks it would be easy to convince himself there’s a ghost there. The light is on a timer, so you have to be quick when leaving the flat to go to the bathroom, or vice-versa, because there’s no natural light and easy to scare yourself with the shadows. Which I also like.

Ruth and Ian hope he doesn’t see a ghost, because testimony is worth nothing, there are plenty of people who say they have seen ghosts. Ruth and Ian want proof. They ask him if they can drop by, every month or so, with video equipment and see if they can catch the ghost on film. This is more likely to occur on a full moon. If this was set now, there’d be tiny night vision cameras covering every inch of the stairwell, running 24/7. Their plan is to sit at the top of his stairs between midnight and one and hope to catch a ghost. Mark finds this daft, but agreeable. They give him their phone number, but he doesn’t have a phone, so they can’t call him in advance to let him know when they drop in.

The next morning, they’re gone and Mark idly wonders if it was a dream, but there’s a blanket at the top of the stairs and mugs on the draining rack.

About a month later, on the full moon, Ruth and Ian come back and this time they bring reports of previous sightings.

1952 a bloke heard feet on the stairs and when he checked, he saw an elderly man at the top of the stairs. He fainted and was awakened by a terrible scream. A few weeks later, he saw the same old guy on the stairs, he fled but heard banging and screams.

In 1967 a woman heard banging and a scream on the stairs, but saw nothing. The next night she saw a white figure on the stairs. The ghost had no feet. It reached for her, and she fled back to her room. Again, she heard the banging and a scream.

Mark again decides they’re “loonies”, but he likes them enough to give them a spare set of his keys so they can let themselves into his flat if he’s out. The next morning they are still there. They thought they saw something, so hung around to see if happened again. They’ll have to scrutinise the tape.

They don’t get back to him, and in December Mark’s sister has a baby, so he visits the family. While there, he asks if anyone would raise a staircase, and his dad says it’s due to dry rot and was probably done when his building was changed to flats. This is why the ghost doesn’t have feet.

When he gets back to his flat, Ruth and Ian were there, but they saw nothing. One thing to note, Mark has a kind-of crush on Ruth, but not for a second does he consider acting on it. It’s nice to see someone in a YA story published in the 90s not immediately going on the offensive out of lust. Now if we could just have some girls acting as rationally, that would be a massive step forward, since girls are usually cast as the ones who fight to the death over boys.

After the new year Ruth and Ian come back – again, this is not a Christmas tale, just because part of the story happens in a time period that covers December, doesn’t make it a Christmas tale. Christmas was off screen. It’s not even been mentioned. This time they film a ghost, and they’re dead excited. Mark asks to see the film.

There was the sound of someone breathing deeply, followed by a muttered “Oh my…” Then the camera jerked, zooming in on the stairway, tracking awkwardly up the stairs until, finally, it pointed at the wall opposite. Then, at last, came the human image. It was Ruth, grinning inanely. She was saying “We did it! We did it!” The tape cut off.

They are bitterly disappointed. They say that they won’t be back – they forced themselves to see it because they’d been waiting so long. They will send him a copy of their article of this “misadventure” if it gets published.

The next day he realises they left their tape at his house. He calls the university to get in contact with them, but doesn’t know their surnames. After a bit of faffing, the paranormal department doesn’t exist, etc, he remembers the name of the professor they study under and asks for him. Jenkinson is defensive at first, but once Mark tells his story, the professor invites himself over this evening to see the tape.

Jenkinson watches the tape, then explains the ghost – an old man tripped down the stairs and broke his neck. There were several reports so he put Ruth and Ian on it. After several visits, they got something on film – and Mark’s all, yeah, I know, that was last night – but Jenkinson waves him away. Ruth and Ian were going to drive the film right over to him, but they never made it, there was a pile-up on the motorway and they died. After that, Jenkinson gave up paranormal and went back to psychology.

Mark wants to go to the funeral, but Jenkinson says that won’t happen. They died five years ago.

Final Thoughts: Saw the twist coming a mile off. Not sure what Christmas had to do with anything. Like I said, it happened off screen. It was a pretty nice tale, the characters didn’t suck, the motivations didn’t suck, and it was very mundane – I don’t mean that in a bad way, I mean it read like a normal, non-supernatural, story, which was good.

Score: 3

[Wing: I quite liked it, mostly because it is such a quiet ghost story. I saw the twist coming, but I enjoyed the build up to it, and part of why I liked it, I think, is because it is so very different from how ghost stories are told now, especially with the supernatural shows, ghost hunting, haunted places, all video cameras and tech. 3 out of 5]