“If you’re listening, you’re a dreamer, come sit by my fire,” sings Melissa Auf der Maur in the brilliantly ghostly ‘Out Of Our Minds’, a song with the sonic power of a thousand poltergeists crashing through an abandoned asylum.
It’s the season to be ghostly, so come and sit by my fire and open the doors on my spooky advent calendar. Each day a chilling Christmas treat – videos, articles, stories and places – will be shared.
I’ll begin with an article by Kira Cochrane of The Guardian, published last year to explain why the Victorians were quite so fond of ghost stories. There’s more to it than early sunsets, long shadows and the wind whistling through the rafters of draughty houses.
It’s about economic change and people forced to live in strange houses in unfriendly cities; about gaslight and the hallucinations provoked by carbon monoxide; about the rise of science and spiritualism and how the new middle classes tried to make sense of their world.
The comments underneath are, unusually for Internet debate, as interesting as the article itself . As one contributor points out, the tradition of ghostly tales at Christmas is much older than the Victorian era. He quotes from ‘A Winter’s Tale’: “A sad tale’s best for winter; I have one / Of sprites and goblins.” Another contributor references the ancient myth of the Wild Hunt, and reminds us that ghost stories are a natural reaction to winter and firesides, as I attempted to explain in my previous blog post.
Until tomorrow, when I’ll open another door on the advent calendar to reveal something darkly festive…