You might associate ghosts with Halloween but telling spooky tales around the fire on Christmas Day was a much-loved Victorian tradition.
While Charles Dickens’ ghosts of past, present and future may be fictional, there are some real spectres who roam the land during the festive season – and many spine-chilling events have happened at Yuletide.
Here, the Daily Star rounds up some of the eeriest true-life Christmas tales…
The headless horseman
A manor house in Suffolk, Roos Hall is thought to be one of England’s most haunted houses.
Numerous criminals were hanged there during the 16th century, a ghost girl has been spotted looking out of a window, while one of the building’s cupboards is said to have the mark of a demon’s cloven hoof.
But most terrifying of all is the mansion’s headless horseman, who travels down the driveway with four black horses pulling a phantom coach every Christmas Eve.
On Christmas Eve 1944, Basil Saville was one of a team of ‘fire-watchers’, guarding St Albans Cathedral from World War 2 enemy bombs.
Patrolling the abbey alone, he heard the church organ start to play – but nobody was sat at the instrument.
He shone his torch and glimpsed a choir of ghostly monks, who then were led out into another part of the building.
He followed them, only to find they had disappeared.
He kept the sighting to himself, until revealing it to a newspaper almost 40 years later.
Several other people have seen phantom monks there over the years.
It’s said a ghostly recreation of an 18th century robbery gone wrong is replayed every Christmas Eve on Hawkhurst Road in Marsden, Kent.
The Hawkhurst Gang were highwaymen who terrorised the area, and one festive night they stopped a young woman and her father, intent on robbing them.
But the woman recognised one as the same man who had murdered her brother years before.
Intent on revenge, she withdrew a hidden knife from her bag and stabbed the robber, who died of his injuries.
Every year since, the scary scene is replayed for all who pass by.
The haunted hotel
Built in 1886, the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas is said to be haunted by several ghosts – and they like to play pranks during the festive season.
One Christmas, the staff came down to set up the dining room, only to find the tree and decorations had been moved to the other side of the room, while another year all the menus were thrown around.
People have also reported seeing ghostly dancers in Victorian-style clothing having a phantom ball on the dance floor.
The ghost of a trampled child
The spook of a child who was trampled to death during the 19th century is believed to haunt Kempston House in Bedfordshire.
The story goes that the youngster ran out to meet his parents who were returning home by carriage to reunited with their son for Christmas. But in the excitement the child was hit by the coach and trampled by the horses, dying from his injuries.
It is now said every Christmas Eve the sound of the horse and carriage can be heard, alongside the chilling screams of the boy as he is trampled under the horses’ hooves.
A ghostly gathering of kings
Poland’s Wawel Royal Castle, in Kraków, is built on top of a hill that has a deep cave known as Dragon’s Den lying beneath it.
It’s thought this cave got its name as a dragon lived there, terrorising the inhabitants of the city until a prince bravely vanquished it.
In a chamber of the cave, near where a statue of the dragon stands, all the dead kings of Poland are said to return from the afterlife meet to hold a special council every Christmas Eve.
The skeleton bride
During the 17th century, a young woman named Anne married Lord Lovell on Christmas Day at Bramshill House, Hants.
At the reception, the bride suggested a game of hide and seek.
Although everyone searched long and hard for her, no sign could be found. The guests believed she had fled, but Lord Lovell never stopped searching for his love.
Then, one day 50 years later he found an ornate wooden chest in the attic.
Prying open the wooden lid, he found Anne’s skeletal remains, still dressed in her wedding gown.
The scratch marks on the inside of the lid proved she had made a desperate attempt to free herself from the hiding place she became accidentally trapped in.
There have been accounts of a ghostly white lady, said to be the spectre of the tragic bride.
The spectral queen
The second wife of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn was executed for treason in 1536 – so it’s little surprise there have been reports of her ghost haunting various historical buildings around the UK.
On Christmas Eve, she is said to appear at her childhood home, Kent’s Hever Castle.
It’s thought her apparition manifests beneath a great oak tree in the grounds, where she courted her future husband, then walks across a bridge crossing over the River Eden.
One version of the story says she tosses a spring of holly into the water before she vanishes.
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