Ghosts – An Important Christmas Tradition
What exactly is A Christmas Carol about? Yes, it’s to do with the spirit of the season; kindness and compassion, and the horrors of miserliness and greed. But there’s an equally important element of the story that’s often underplayed – and that’s the supernatural.
Ghosts play an integral role in Dickens’ story. They serve a moral purpose (teaching Scrooge the error of his ways), but let’s not shy away from the truth here – they’re there to scare you. Even the Muppet version of A Christmas Carol has slightly disconcerting supernatural moments (that ghost of Christmas future, for example? Terrifying).
However, Dickens wasn’t being ground-breaking here, because telling ghost stories at Christmas was something of a tradition, particularly at Christmas time.
Wait Up… Scary Stuff at Chrimbo?
Yes, absolutely! Remember, back in Victorian times, there were no Christmas films to cosy up to, no monopoly boards, no Just Dance to bop along to (or is that just us?). Back then, the festive evenings were spent talking – or more particularly, telling one another some seriously eerie stories.
This tradition is well documented. Indeed, in the song ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’, it explicitly mentions those ‘scary ghost stories’ – as if it’s just as normal to frighten one another witless as it is to stuff oneself with turkey and Christmas pud.
The Little Girl Who Appears at Christmas
With that in mind, I thought I’d tell you all about Exeter’s own Christmas spectre – a rather unusual one, in that she only ever appears on Christmas Eve. How’s that for specific, eh?
She’s situated at the Prospect Inn; a pleasant pub (or so I’ve heard), dating back a few hundred years, which is located on Exeter’s scenic Quayside. For 364 days of the year, the local drinkers don’t hear a peep from this particular ghost, who happens to take the form of a girl, clutching a rag doll.
However, come Christmas Eve, as the sky grows darker, she’s often said to make an appearance, walking up the stairs towards the lounge. For any visitors lucky (or unlucky) enough to see her, she often turns, giving them a knowing smile, before gradually fading into the air.
Reports vary wildly – which is quite intriguing. Some have said that she appears quite sweet and friendly. Others have found her threatening, with a smile that seemed to suggest that she knew them personally – a rather disconcerting thought.
Even more interestingly, there have been plenty of sightings to back up her legend. Ooh-er!
Spirits at Christmas
I must confess, despite living in this area for over a decade, I’ve never yet been in the Prospect (call it a parent thing – I don’t get out much). As such, I’ve never had a chance to spot this spirit for myself, and can’t comment on what the pub is like as a whole.
But it’s tempting to pop along one year, just to see if I can catch a glimpse…