It’s the most wonderful time of the year. There’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.
Christmas and ghost stories go together like peanut butter and jelly or Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. So, for the next few Freaky Fridays – we’re going to share Christmastime Ghost stories.
It was officially Christmas morning and snow was falling on the sleepy Wisconsin town. Midnight Mass had ended and most of the town had settled down to await the festivities of the morning. But one gentleman was not yet home and he was quickly losing the warm spirit he had felt when the church choir had sung the old familiar carols of the season. He was replacing that spirit of Christmas with fear as the soft thud of following footsteps echoed behind him as he hurried through the snowflakes toward home.
The footsteps kept pace with him, quickening when he quickened and slowing when he slowed. He shivered, and not from the cold, as he passed dark house after dark house in the snowy night, and the footsteps ever followed.
Finally, he found himself running and skidding to the bottom of his front steps. He dashed up the stairs expecting to be hauled backwards by his collar. But, then he realized that the following footsteps had ceased abruptly.
A quick glance behind him revealed only one pair of footprints in the snow-covered street when there should have been two. He frowned in puzzlement, and then shuddered as a cold chill swept over his body that had nothing to do with the temperature outside. His hand was shaking as he unlocked the front door and hurried inside.
Expecting a dark greeting, he was delighted to see the yellow glow of firelight coming from the study doorway. Perhaps his housekeeper had lit it, anticipating his late return. He shrugged out of his coat and then turned to go to the kitchen for a bit of light refreshment before seeking the comfort of his study.
But his trip to the kitchen was interrupted by a shout of greeting. His old friend Andy hurried from the warmth of the study. The homeowner’s face lit up in a grin. Now this truly was a wonderful surprise and the warmth of friendship quickly dispelled the chill of his walk home.
The two men shook hands and retreated to the warmth of the firelight, so excited to converse that they stumbled over each other’s words and laughed at the absurdity. Andy had left town years ago and they hadn’t seen each other since.
Nearly an hour passed before his stomach growled and it occurred to him that his guest might be hungry too. His offer of a food was instantly accepted, but Andy was unwilling to leave the comfort of the fire, so the homeowner hurried to the kitchen alone to put together some plates. A few moments later he was back with warmed up meat and potatoes and a couple of glasses of beer. Hearty and simple fare, just perfect for a cold winter’s night. The conversation lulled as they both hunkered down to eat. When the food was done, the fire just glowing embers in the grate and the warmth of old friendship comforting them, the homeowner decided it was time to show his dear friend to a guest room and get some sleep himself. He looked forward to sharing his Christmas festivities with his old friend.
The next morning, Christmas morning, he awoke with the sunrise, jumped out of bed and dashed immediately downstairs to the guest room to wake up his old friend. This was going to be a magnificent day. To his bewilderment, he saw that not only was Andy not there, the bed had not been slept in. He was sure he showed his friend to that room.
Shrugging, he returned to the study. Perhaps he was more tired than he thought. Perhaps they had both dozed off in the study and, half asleep, he had made his way to his room and dreamed about putting his friend in the guest room.
He glanced around the room. Andy wasn’t there. Upon closer inspection, he found another a rather strange occurrence. The plate full of food he’d given to Andy was sitting on the end-table beside his old friend’s chair. It was completely untouched. He rubbed his eyes. He was sure he’d seen Andy eating from it the night before!
A slow chill crawled up his spine. He hurried to the kitchen and asked his housekeeper if she’d seen Andy. But the housekeeper had seen no one either the previous night or this morning. Walking back to the front of the house, he sat on the bottom step of the staircase, completely baffled. Where had Andy gone?
He repeated his steps several times that day, up to the guest room and then back into the study. More perplexed with each passing hour. Why had his friend left without saying goodbye?
After a restless night’s sleep, he was awakened the next morning by the sound of the front door bell. He hurried out of bed and splashed water on his face to waken himself. Surely that was Andy back from playing his trick. When he pulled open his bedroom door, his housekeeper handed him a telegram that had just arrived.
As he read the telegram, he started to tremble. The message was short and to the point: We regret to inform you that your friend, Andy, passed away suddenly on Christmas Eve. He passed quietly in his home, in Washington D.C.
The telegram fluttered noiselessly to the floor and the homeowner sunk down onto his bed. Andy. It had been Andy’s footsteps on the way home from Midnight Mass. Andy, the cold chill that entered the house with him. And Andy’s ghost who had kept him company that dark and snowy Christmas Eve night.
Then his gaze fell on a scrap of paper on his bureau he hadn’t noticed before. Walking slowly across the room his stared down at it, his throat tight. It was Andy’s handwriting, he would recognize it anywhere.
Christmas Eve is a night of wonder. All who enter may not always be of flesh and bone.