Well, on one hand we are currently only missing two newsletters from 1993.

On the other hand, there were only four newsletters printed that year - so . . .

After our January - March issue, we published two, presumably April - June and July - October, which we have not tracked down yet.

And so we find ourselves yet again at the Holiday Season, and thankfully this one is not missing.

I'd alluded once or twice in earlier Christmas columns to the "ancient" English tradition of telling ghost stories during the Holidays. I had, truthfully, wondered about the veracity of this information, but as so many writers accepted it as gospel truth I had simply accepted it.

By '93 curiosity had spurred me to do a bit more research, at which point I discovered that, as suspected, Charles Dickens had almost single-handedly created the tradition, much as the Christmas Tree was an unknown custom in England prior to the middle of the 1800's.

Ho ho ho . . . it was debunking time . . .

Christmas Spirits


In folklore columns from Christmases past, I have often somehow managed to sneak in a tale or two of ghosts, using as my feeble excuse that, across the Atlantic, it is indeed Christmas Eve, as opposed to All Hallow's Eve, that our British cousins tend to regale each other with ghostly tales. Many of you have written it, asking how on earth such a custom got started.

I for one had always assumed that such traditions had their origins in ages long past, and indeed one could point to the Druid origins of Halloween as a precursor to this ghastly Yuletide tradition. However, it now appears that this particular custom is much more modern than previously assumed.

As many of you may indeed have already surmised, the British owe this tradition to none other than Charles Dickens. Not, however, simply because of the immortal "A CHRISTMAS CAROL". That classic aside, Dickens wrote very few other ghost stories.

He was, however, one of the most prolific magazine editors of his day, and some fifteen years after the release of his tale of Scrooge and all the rest, he began a practice of including as many ghost stories by other authors as he could in the Christmas editions of the several magazines he edited.

These editions grew quickly in popularity, so that by the 1890's the reading and telling of ghost stories at Christmas Eve were as deeply mired in English ritual as if they had originated in the Dark Ages, rather than a scant thirty years ago - so that in 1891 the author Jerome K. Jerome could say:

"There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas - something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts . . .

And not only do the ghosts themselves always walk on Christmas Eve, but live people always sit and talk about them on Christmas Eve. Whenever five or six English speaking people meet 'round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories.

Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about specters. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood . . .

For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the 24th of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated."