The telling of ghost stories at Christmas time was a wildly popular Victorian tradition. Back then, the custom of getting together on Christmas Eve to tell ghost stories was as much a part of Christmas as Santa Claus is for us today.
In his 1891 book, Told After Supper, British humorist Jerome K. Jerome wrote, “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.”
Of course, the most famous example of a ghost story told on Christmas is A Christmas Carol. Originally titled A Ghost Story of Christmas, the supernatural holiday tale was written by Dickens to be told as a holiday ghost story.
In keeping with this now mostly forgotten tradition, I’m pleased to present some chilling, true ghost stories for your holiday listening pleasure. Like the spooky tales told around fireplaces in Victorian times, the stories I’ll be sharing with you are first hand encounters with ghosts and other supernatural beings.
Where do these stories come from, you ask? Each year, I give lectures to large audiences about my work as a paranormal investigator. Afterward, I invite audience members to share their true ghost stories. The stories you are about to hear are my re told by audience members at those lectures. Some are short stories, others are a bit longer, but all are exactly as they were told to me in front of a live audience.
So in the classic Victorian Christmas tradition, pull up a chair, snuggle up a little closer to my virtual fireplace, and give a listen to some truly spooky ghost stories.
Many people live by the adage, “Seeing is believing”. In this first story, we’ll meet a woman whose visual encounter with an unexpected guest made her a firm believer in ghosts of Christmas past.
About nine years ago I rented an apartment in Millford, Connecticut. Before moving in I was told that two people had died in the apartment. Now, this really didn’t bother me or I wouldn’t have taken the apartment. I didn’t ask the landlord anything about it like what room they died in, who they were. I just didn’t want to know because I wasn’t really interested.
One night at Christmas time when I was putting my tree up in the living room, I bent down to get a string of lights. When I stood up, there right in front of me was a full body apparition of a young man. I was kind of startled, but for some reason I wasn’t afraid when I saw him.
I looked him right in the face and thought, ‘Where did you come from?’ He was so close that I could have reached out and touched him. He wasn’t floating or transparent or anything like that. He was as solid as you or me, and I could see his full body all the way to the floor.
He looked to be somewhere in his early twenties, was about my height, and had on a green army coat, like a US reserve jacket. I noticed that under the coat he had on a flannel shirt. He looked like he was dressed for outside for that time of the year. His face was a little dirty, and I remember thinking, ‘What, did you crawl out of a hole or something?’ I also noticed that his hair was kind of wild and messy.
Then all of a sudden, in a split second, he was gone. That part was really freaky because he looked as real as anything. He really did. He looked so real, it was like if I touched him I would have felt someone solid.
A few days later I ran into the downstairs neighbors and I told them what I had seen. I described the Army coat the apparition was wearing, his wild hair style, his height. They said, “That was the fella who died in your apartment. The kid always had messy, punked hair that he sometimes dyed different colors, and he always wore that Army coat.”
Now, like I said, I didn’t know anything about either of the people who died in my apartment. I didn’t even know that one of them was a young person, but that’s exactly what I saw. I don’t know why he appeared to me that day, but I never saw him again after that.
I’m amazed that I was able to let it roll off of my shoulders as easily as I did, but I just didn’t let it bother me. In fact, seeing him was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I moved out eventually, but not because I was afraid or anything. I just needed to find a bigger apartment.
J.M. Barrie, the author of the book ‘Peter Pan’ once wrote, “Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away, and going away means forgetting.” In this next story, a woman learns that there are some goodbyes that you never forget.
When I was four years old, the house we lived in was a two story Cape Cod style house. On one side of the upper floor was a playroom that had all of my toys in it, and on the other side was my sister’s bedroom.
One day I was upstairs playing in the playroom waiting for my best friend AnneMarie to come play with me. We had a play-date that day, and her parents were going to drive her over to our house.
While I was waiting and playing with my toys, I noticed a light coming through the window which caught my attention. I looked over, and there was my friend AnneMarie standing outside the playroom window. Brilliant white light was all around her, and she was illuminated. It was this bright light that had caught my attention, and she was just standing there in the window with all this white light around her.
As she stood outside the window looking in, she said, “I can’t play with you anymore. I have to go.” I got really mad at her and I was saying, “Why? Why?” And then she disappeared.
I ran downstairs to tell my parents what had just happened, that I just saw my friend in the window. I said, “AnneMarie just came and told me that she can’t play with me anymore!” My parents were in the kitchen, and my mom was on the telephone. When I said this, she dropped the phone and my father just stood there staring at me. I didn’t know what was going on. My mom was visibly shaken, and very upset. So, that was my memory.
Years later, when I was a teenager, I asked my parents about it. I said, “I have this weird memory. I’m not sure if it’s a memory or a dream, but this is what I remember,” and I told them the story. My mother said that what had happened was that there had been a tragic accident that day.
AnneMarie’s parents were about to come over to our house to bring her for the playdate. As her father was backing the car out of the garage, he accidentally hit his daughter and killed her. My parents were just getting that news on the phone when I came running down the stairs saying that I saw her in the window with the light all around her, and that she said that she couldn’t play with me anymore.
It was such a powerful memory that I never forgot it, but I never really thought about it or talked about it until I was a teenager and I asked my parents if it really happened, and my mom sat down and told me the actual story of the events.
It’s funny, because my first reaction was like just a little kid. I was angry with my friend that she wasn’t going to play with me anymore. I didn’t understand at the time how powerful that message was; of her actually coming to visit me in that state before she left the earth.
It’s been said that the only real things in life are the ones that are unexpected. Ghost sightings are usually out-of-the blue and sudden, and there is usually no rhyme or reason why they appear. In this next true spooky tale, an unexpected ghost is spotted lurking in a very unlikely place.
I’m really enjoying your lecture, and all of the ghost stories people are sharing. I wanted to ask you, are any of the pictures that you show in your presentation actual photos that you took during your paranormal investigations? Or ones that you knew were associated with a particular place? I’m asking because you just showed a picture of a young boy with blonde hair, and you said that the case was from Ridgefield. This might sound strange, but I saw a boy who looked just like that one day when I was in Ridgefield.
This past summer I was at an estate sale with my daughter, and as we were leaving, we drove past a wooded area; a rather long stretch of road that wasn’t near any houses. As I was driving I happened to look over and standing in the woods about 10 feet back from the road was a little blonde haired boy. He was wearing really old fashioned clothing. He had on a white button-down shirt, and either knickers or riding pants. I didn’t notice what he had on his feet, but he was just standing there in the woods facing out into the road. He didn’t have any particular expression on his face. He was just staring straight ahead as we drove past him.
Now, there was nothing around that part of the road. There were no houses or anyplace that he could have come from. And there was no reason why a kid would be dressed like that, in such old fashioned clothes.
As soon as we passed him I said to my daughter, “Did you just see someone standing in the woods?”
“Yeah,” she said. “There was a little boy standing there.” I turned the car around and drove back. It was no more than two minutes later, but when we passed the spot where we had seen him, he was gone.
Like I said, I wasn’t the only one who saw this little boy. My daughter saw him too, and when I asked her to describe what he looked like she said that he was wearing old fashioned clothing.
He looked just like the picture of the boy you showed when you were talking about the haunted house in Ridgefield, which was where the estate sale was. It freaked me out when I saw your photo, because as soon as I saw it I thought, “I’ve seen that boy!”
There’s an old saying that goes, “Uninvited guests are often most welcome when they leave”. But as we’ll see in this next story, some guests linger on and on and on.
Several years ago I moved to Windham, Vermont to an old farmhouse that was built in 1805. It was so old that the basement had dirt floors and there were rough hewn wood beams on the ceilings. In addition to the house, there was a three story barn and a carriage house out back. I didn’t know much about the history of the house, but I was told that it was once owned by the Chapman family.
About four years ago my neighbor from across the street came over to say hi. I opened the door and said, “Mary! How nice to see you!”
I noticed that when she greeted me she looked into the house behind me, then she took a few steps back. I said, “Oh, come on in. Come in! I was just making some coffee.” And she goes, “No, no, no, no, no. That’s okay, that’s okay. I know you’re busy, I’ll come back another time,” and she turned around and left. I was thinking, ‘That’s really weird!’
A few weeks later I ran into her at the grocery store and I said, “Mary, you should have come in the other day. You didn’t have to worry about me being busy, you could have come in.”
“No, I didn't want to bother you,” she said. “You had company.”
“Company?” I said. “I didn’t have company. I was alone that day.”
“Yes you did,” she laughed. “There was a man standing behind you on top of the staircase. I saw him as soon as you opened the door.”
“I swear, I was alone all day,” I said. “You saw someone standing behind me? What did he look like?”
“He was standing near the top of the stairs behind you,” she said. “It looked like he was on his way down the stairs, and that he stopped when you answered the door. He had on farmer jeans and a beard, like an old farmer. I just figured you had company and I didn’t want to interrupt.”
I was totally alone in the house that day, and I don’t know anyone who looks the way she described this strange man. All I can think is that it must have been the ghost of one of the men from the Chapman family.
My friend was shocked, but I just made light of it and said, “Well, even if he is a ghost, if he’s single and around my age, he can stay!”
Things happen when you least expect them to; things that often leave you with a whole new perspective on life. In this next story, a woman has an unexpected encounter from beyond the grave which changes her entire concept of what awaits us after death.
My friend lived in an old house that was built back in the late 1700s. I was staying over at her house one night when I woke up in the middle of the night because I felt something tapping me on my back. Now, when I went to bed, the room was totally dark. But when I felt this tapping, I reached for my glasses and I noticed that there was a dim light in the center of the room.
I put my glasses on and saw that the door on the far side of the room that I had closed before going to bed was now wide open. Then I looked over and couldn’t believe my eyes. Standing in the center of the room was a little girl, somewhere between 8 and 11 years old. She had hair that hung down to her shoulders, and her arms were down at her sides. She was wearing some sort of a long gown, maybe a night gown, and her back was to me.
I know that some people who have seen ghosts say that they look like real people, but this was different. Even though she looked solid enough, her color was all wrong. She was an off-grey-ish white color. It was almost like I was seeing a black and white version of a person who I should have been seeing in color, if you can imagine such a thing.
For some reason, I wasn’t afraid when I saw her. I just said, “Can I help you?” and as I said this, the girl started gliding very slowly toward the open door on the far side of the room. As she did, the door started closing by itself. By the time that she got to the door frame, the girl had vanished and the door was totally closed.
This wasn’t a dream. I was absolutely wide awake when I saw her, and I’m not ashamed to tell you that I was awake for the rest of the night. It wasn’t that it was a frightening experience. It wasn’t scary at all, it was just amazing, and it totally changed the way I think about life after death. I just couldn’t sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about what I had just seen.
In Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass”, the White Queen tells Alice that she is over one hundred years old. Alice doesn’t believe her and tells the Queen that “one can’t believe impossible things.” In this next story, a woman is forced to change her way of thinking about the impossible after seeing something totally unexplainable.
A few years ago, I was working as a nurse's aide at the old Somers Manor nursing home. This was before they built the beautiful new facility. At around 9 PM the nurse who was on duty with me went to dinner and I was there by myself.
After she left, I was doing some work at the main desk when I heard the patients getting restless, which was very unusual. All of the patients were very senile and had dementia. They weren’t really conscious, so it was rare to hear anyone making a sound.
The hallway lights were turned down low because everyone was sleeping, but as I looked down the hall I saw something really strange. It was a very white orb about the size of a large beach ball. It was made entirely out of light, and it was just hovering in the middle of the hallway. At first I was just puzzled because I couldn’t figure out where the light could have been coming from.
As I sat there staring at it, it began to move, and I watched this thing float slowly down the hall to where the patient’s rooms were. I totally got the chills seeing this happening. This wasn’t something that happened quickly. I watched it moving down the hall for about 45 seconds to a minute, and then I saw it go into one of the rooms that housed six patients.
I had to see what this thing was, so I walked down the hallway to the room where it had gone into. As soon as I got to the doorway, I walked in and there it was, just a few feet in front of me. But as soon as I stepped into the room, it disappeared.
I have no idea what I saw that night, but I’ll tell you one thing, I couldn’t wait for that nurse to come back from dinner!
Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn't there,
He wasn't there again today
Oh, how I wish he'd go away....
In this next chilling tale, a girl and her friend have two encounters with a ghostly inhabitant in an old farmhouse. And in both cases, oh how they wished he’d go away!
My husband’s family’s home was an old farmhouse in Pine Plains, New York. His sister and I were best friends in high school, and around that time a lot of strange things happened to us in that house. But two things that happened when I stayed over at her house really put us on edge.
One day during the summer we were there by ourselves, sitting in the front part of the house watching TV. At the time, the kitchen floor had just been ripped up because they were redoing it. So, there wasn’t a floor there at all, just two-by-fours. The back door of the house goes into this kitchen, and another door leads from the kitchen into the dining room. This door was shut because, like I said, they had ripped up the kitchen floor.
Now, this house was in the middle of nowhere, so nobody locked their doors around there. So, even though we always felt safe in the house, anyone could have walked in.
So there we were watching television when all of a sudden we heard the dining room door open, then close. We looked at each other and were like, ‘Who could that be? How could anyone come in through the kitchen? There isn’t even a floor!’
We got up off of the couch and walked into the dining room. The room had hardwood floors, and coming from the door that led to the kitchen were wet footprints going across the floor.
We were like, holy crap! They were full sized, men’s footprints, and they weren't even the marks of shoes. They were a man’s wet bare footprints coming out of the kitchen. It was just as if someone had walked barefoot in a puddle of water, then walked into the dining room. Each step was a little less wet than the previous one, and the last was just damp.
The wet footprints dried up after a while, but you could still see their impression on the hardwood floor. When my friend’s mom came home later we showed them to her, but she didn’t couldn’t come up with an explanation for them either.
That same summer, another thing happened that really freaked us out. This time it was at night. Once again we were alone in the house, but this time we had two of the family dogs with us. We were watching TV in the living room when all of a sudden we heard loud music playing from upstairs. It sounded like it was coming from my friend’s brother’s room on the second floor. All of his stuff was in there, but he wasn’t living there at the time, so the door was always left closed because nobody used the room.
The music was really LOUD. It was current music, like rock music, and it sounded like a radio playing full blast. Of course we were afraid because we thought that somebody was in the house.
We went upstairs to see what was going on, and we took the dogs with us. The minute we started going up the stairs the dogs started growling. We got to the top of the stairs and walked over to the door, and we could still hear this loud music playing in the room. By now the dogs were really growling. I put my hand on the doorknob, turned it and opened the door. As soon as the door opened, the music stopped.
We put on the lights and there was one there. We walked in, and the dogs were still growling, and the hair on their backs was standing up. They walked over to a corner of the room, and they just kept staring at this one corner and growling.
We looked around the room to see what could have made that sound, but there wasn’t even a radio. No clock radio, no stereo, not even a television. It was so frightening that we slept with the lights on that night, and we kept the dogs on the couch with us.
A lot of really strange things happened in that house. You’d make a pot of coffee, leave the room for a few seconds, go back, and half the pot would be gone. It made absolutely no sense. Five cups of coffee would just vanish. Also, cigarettes would disappear. Whole packs just gone without a trace. So, I guess whoever the ghost was, he was a barefoot, coffee drinking, cigarette smoking ghost!
In her book, ‘Angels in My Hair’, Lorna Byrne wrote, “Your guardian angel loves you. You are precious to it. You are the most important person in the world to this angel.”
You may be asking, ‘Are there really such things as guardian angels?’ Listen to this next story, and decide for yourself.
About 30 years ago my wife and I went camping in New Hampshire with my son Jeffrey and his wife, Kathy. The next day we decided to go canoeing on the Saco River. We didn’t know it at the time, but the river has a reputation for being rough and dangerous, and many people have drowned there.
We were all in our own canoes. Kathy and I were riding next to one another, and my wife and son were riding together a little way behind us.
When we first set out the water was calm, but it started to get pretty swift. As we were coming to a corner we saw a tree laying half on the ground and half in the water.
Now, if you damaged the canoe you had to pay for it when you got back, so I said to Kathy, "Put your foot out and try to push the boat away because you’re going to hit that tree." Sure enough she hit it and her boat turned over and filled up with water. She was caught underneath the boat between the boat and tree, and I wasn’t strong enough to push the canoe back so she could get out from under the water. So my son jumped out of his canoe and came over to try and help.
In the meantime there was this thin, grey haired guy in his 60’s sitting on a sandy part of the shore. There was nothing else around because it was a very thick part of the woods. I'm pushing the canoe for all I'm worth, and Jeffrey is calling out to Kathy when all of a sudden I see this hand on the top corner point of the canoe.
It was the guy who had been sitting on the shore. He said, "Relax". That's all he said. Then with one hand, he pulled the canoe up and Kathy came up out of the water. I immediately turned around to thank him, and this guy was gone. I mean, in a split second he was just gone. There was nowhere that he could have gone that fast. The place where he had been sitting, and the woods were at least twenty feet away. So from that day on, I believe in angels.
“Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
That quote by Shel Silverstein perfectly illustrates this next story where a boy and his brother were forced to believe that truly anything can be.
This story happened to my father when he was growing up in Southbury in an area known as the Berkshire Estates. My dad was about fourteen at the time, and his brother was sixteen.
There’s a community there where they had a lot of summer homes that were modified and turned into larger homes, but at that time there were still a lot of abandoned one room summer shacks in the backwoods area. My dad and his friends used to hang out in these abandoned cabins a lot when they were teenagers. They’d go in there and roughhouse and put their comic books in there, that kind of stuff.
One day, my father, his brother, and their friend Charlie met at one of these abandoned one-room cabins. They were playing for a good hour and a half in this room talking, doing their same-old-same-old before they finally went to leave. My uncle was in the front, my father was in the middle, and Charlie was in the back talking to my father. At one point as they were walking, my father turned around to answer a question that Charlie asked, but Charlie wasn't behind him. Seconds later, up ahead at the top of the hill they see Charlie coming down the hill. Who had my father and my uncle been talking to for the past hour and a half? Charlie wasn’t even there.
When Charlie walked up to them, they made him take them to his house where his parents were to prove that he was home the whole time. It turned out that his parents had just let him go from whatever chores he was doing that morning. That’s when he became a believer in demons and things like that. Because he was like, “What was my brother and I talking to for an hour and a half?”
Take a vacant house, a real estate agent, and the remnants of a blizzard, and you have the makings of one very spooky ghost story. In this next ghostly tale, a real estate agent has a run in with the former resident of a vacant house in Connecticut.
I’m a real estate appraiser, and a few years ago I appraised a house in Weston. The house was vacant, and the driveway and sidewalk hadn’t been shoveled so there definitely wasn’t anyone in the house.
As soon as I walked in the front door of this house I felt like somebody was watching me. But this didn’t make any sense because I knew that the place was vacant, and I’m not particularly sensitive. I kept calling out, “Is anyone there?” but nobody answered. As I walked around the house taking pictures, I definitely felt like I was being followed around.
After I finished the upper part of the house, I went down to the basement to take pictures of the oil tank. Appraisers take a lot of pictures that don’t go into the report. They’re just for our files in case we get audited by the state. One of the pictures I needed to take was of the oil tank to show that it wasn’t leaking.
In this house there was a shelf above the oil tank, and right in the middle of the shelf was a resin statue of two angels. The angels were hugging, but one was missing its head. So, I’m framing the picture to make sure that I can show that there’s no leaking in the oil tank. I’ve got everything in the frame, and I’m looking at it really carefully because I’m trying to make sure that I’m documenting this.
I took a picture and then I looked back at my camera. I looked up again, and the statue is now at the end of the shelf about to fall over. It moved from the middle of the shelf all the way to the side of the shelf, and was so close to the edge it was about to fall off. This happened in the time it took me to look at my camera, then look back at the shelf. Just a few seconds.
Of course, it creeped me out; especially because I had been feeling someone watching me the whole time I was there. So, I was more than glad when I finished and I was able to lock up and get out of there.
I get back to my office, and I’m pulling comps to find similar houses to this one to find out what the value is. But the house seemed to be priced way too low. I kept coming up about $30,000 short of all the other comps that were in similar condition, in a similar location, and based on recent sales. I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t think I missed anything.
I’m thinking, ‘Why is this thing selling so cheap? It makes no sense to me.’ Weston is not a cheap area to buy in, so somebody was about to get a great deal and I wanted to know why.
I decided to give the listing agent a call. I said, “I was just running the comps on the house in Weston, but I keep coming up short on the price. What’s going on? Is there some reason this wasn’t an arms-length transaction?”
“Well, no,” she said. “But, I mean…well, you do know that the last owner killed himself in the basement, right?”
True story! Every appraiser I know has ghost stories, and that is a true Connecticut ghost story.
My favorite kind of ghost stories are those that occur in the workplace. In this last spooky tale, a man and his apprentice both catch a glimpse of a mysterious spectre while on-the-job in Waterbury, Connecticut.
I’m a plumber, and a few years ago I was working at the Harold Leever Regional Cancer Center. We weren’t allowed to work there during the day. My crew had to go in after everybody had their chemo, so we had to work at night after all of the patients were gone.
So, one night my apprentice and I went up to the nurses station to see if it was OK to get to work. The nurse said, “Everybody’s done. Go ahead, you can start.” So we go up to the next floor and we’re starting to get our cart and our tools ready, and we look down the hall and we both see a man go into one of the patient rooms. I would say the guy was about fifty-feet away from us, but we both saw him clear as day.
I said to my apprentice, “Hey, I thought everybody was out of here. You saw that guy go in there, right?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I guess one of the doctors is up here. Maybe he forgot something.”
We walked down the hall and went into that room. It was freezing cold in there, and I could feel every hair on the back of my neck and my arms stand up. We turned on the lights, and there was nobody there. There was only one door to the room, so it wasn’t like he could have left by another exit. We both cleared out of there as fast as we could.
My apprentice and I both saw the same guy. Tall, bald, glasses, suit-and-tie. So the next time we went to work we told the nurses about it.
One of the nurses went into the office, then came back and handed me a photo. “Take a look at this picture,” she said. “Did the man you saw look like this guy?”
“Yeah, that’s the guy!” I said, pointing to the picture. “I’m sure that’s him.”
I handed the photo to my apprentice. “Yup, that’s the guy! Who is he?” he asked.
“I knew right away who it was from the way you described him. He was a doctor who used to work here,” she said. “The thing is, he passed away a few years ago.”
That was the freakiest thing that ever happened to me. I knew that I had seen something creepy that night, but seeing the photo of the guy really made me a total believer.
While each of these tales are unique unto themselves, they all have one thing in common; each person changed for the better because of their ghostly experience. Like Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ (someone who also rubbed elbows with a spirit or two–or three!), their encounter with the great beyond led them to realize that life holds a far larger truth than that which we can see with our own eyes.
And so, in the spirit of the most famous of all Christmas ghost stories, I leave you with these five, wonderful words – “God bless us, every one.”