Monday, December 1, 2014

The Phantom Coach - A Ghost Story for Christmas

It has been my tradition for several years now to begin the Christmas season by watching The Phantom Coach by Mucky Puppets. It is a shadow puppet short film adaptation of the classic Victorian ghost story by Amelia B. Edwards. Although Halloween is now considered the time for ghost stories, it is actually Christmas that was traditionally looked upon as the time of year for telling tales of specters and supernatural happenings. Think of it - the days are short and the nights are long, cold and dark. Groups of people would huddle around fires in an effort to keep warm. What better environment for a spooky tale! Indeed, one of the most well-known of Christmas tales, Dicken's A Christmas Carol, revolves around four supernatural entities, one of whom is a tormented ghost trapped in a hellish existence, and another is Death himself.

I was introduced to The Phantom Coach in December of 2009, at the dawn of my blogging career, via a post by the late John Wolfe of Season of Shadows. I was seriously creeped out by the little film, the sign of a truly effective ghost story. It's wintry Christmas Eve setting made the piece all the more memorable. I've since concluded that the best settings for ghost stories are 1) old abandoned mansions 2) a nautical environment, such as a ship, fishing town, or lighthouse, and 3) anytime in the dead of winter, when snow covers the ground, an icy wind bites at your face, and you could have sworn you saw something out in the distance that wasn't there a minute ago...

John passed away a few years ago, which makes my yearly tradition of watching The Phantom Coach a bittersweet one. It doesn't creep me out as much as it did upon that first viewing (though I still get goosebumps), but it is my tradition and I stick to it. Not just to mark the season, but to honor a fallen friend. I hope to maybe introduce others to the story, and maybe it will become part of their traditions. If that is the case, and this is your first time seeing The Phantom Coach, then I encourage you to dim the lights, fix a mug of cocoa, and enjoy.

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