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Brad and Sherry Steiger

Please Visit his Official Web Site ~ edwardshanahan.com

Conscious Channeler Edward Shanahan



Ignorance and Want
John Leech

Full-page illustration for Dickens's Christmas Carol: The Last of the Spirits 1843


Story by Alyne Pustanio

“As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, [Scrooge] remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and, lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming like a mist along the ground towards him…

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came near him, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come? Ghost of the Future! I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear your company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?’

The Last of the Spirits
John Leech

Full-page illustration for Dickens's Christmas Carol: The Last of the Spirits 1843

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

‘Lead on! Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!’”

Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol” (1872)

Like Samhain before it the Christmas season -- the pagan Yule -- is another time when the veil between this world and the next becomes thin; as the Wheel of the Year groans slowly in the Winter darkness, beings from the supernatural plane often take the opportunity to enter the world of the living.

Among the Victorians of Dickens’ day, the telling of ghost stories was a favorite Christmas tradition and these stories, though often imbued with more hope than the horror of their Halloween counterparts, harked back to an ancient, wilder time when mankind shivered in the bleak dearth of Winter around the light of a feeble fire, little protection from the ghosts, ghouls and other supernatural beings that prowled the frosty night. At once envious and hateful of the light, these creatures nevertheless would crowd around the households of the innocent and righteous to warm themselves in the glowing memories of home and loved ones and Christmases long past – of life itself.

But as most students of the paranormal know, visitations by the dead at Christmas time and intrusions by malevolent spirits from the dark heart of winter are not simply the stuff of history. In fact, a large portion of ghostly encounters occur at holidays such as Christmas or at other times when families gather to celebrate their own unique traditions, a fact that lends some credence to the theory that many dead relatives and friends take advantage of the holiday welcome mat time and time again.

“I’ll be home for Christmas,
You can plan on me,
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents round the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light gleams,
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams…”

Yuletide visitations by the unquiet dead have been reported since the earliest times and are not solely limited to the Christian celebration of Christmas. Pagan peasants throughout the black forests of Europe knew Winter as a time of rekindling connections long before the advent of the faith of Christ – some of these connections could be otherworldly, as well. Unexplained knocks at the door on Christmas Eve, the appearance of lovingly hand-tooled toys and crafts, even the mysterious consumption of large quantities of mulled Christmas wine, all are events that have come down through generations as linked to this special time of year.

Not only is the veil between the worlds tenuous during this time of feast and rejoicing, but some spiritualists have suggested that whatever “rules” apply to the forlorn world of the dead are somehow relaxed amidst the Yuletide joy, allowing the dear departed to return and make their presence known among the living.

A Christmas Phone Call from the Dead

“My mother passed away three years ago. We were very close and I miss her daily. Last Christmas evening, I went to bed and woke up to the phone ringing. I answered it and a voice that was very familiar to me said, ‘Hello there!’ It was my mother’s voice. The line had a static noise and it sounded to cut in and out. I said, ‘This can’t be you, mom! You’re dead!’ She said, ‘Oh, come on now!’ She sounded a bit agitated and then we were cut off. My 16-year-old daughter was sleeping in the next room and also heard the phone ring that night. I know it was my mother’s voice: she had a Norwegian accent and it was her!”

Some connections between the dead and the holiday season persist for generations. For instance, the ghost of Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated second wife of England’s King Henry VIII, has been sighted at Christmas gazing forlornly from the bridge over the River Eden, not far from Hever Castle, site of a Boleyn ancestral home. The Queen is said to toss a sprig of Christmas holly into the icy river before disappearing into the frosty night.

The ghost of a lost lady is sighted walking along the lonely roads outside Brigg, Lincolnshire. She is said to be the ghost of a lonely old woman who left her home to beg money to buy a Christmas lunch but became lost in the snow and froze to death somewhere along the road she now haunts. Appearing dressed in ragged clothing from the early 1800’s, she has been known to approach strangers asking for directions or begging for money. It is said that to refuse her money is extreme bad luck.

In Gloucester, Massachusetts there is a home dating from Colonial times whose current owners continue a long tradition of leaving food and drink at the back door for their Christmas ghost. Said to be the wretched soul of a young fisherman lost at sea, the legend is told that one Christmas night, generations ago, the house was roused by knockings on the back door. When the door was opened, there on the stoop, shivering and dripping wet, as if just plucked from the Sea, was the thin, frail figure of a boy, barely in his teens, standing barefoot on the snowy stoop. Brought inside and seated by the fire, the drenched young man was covered in a blanket and given warm punch to drink; the cook set about getting some food. But when the mistress of the house returned with dry clothing for the boy she cried out in alarm – the chair by the fire was empty, the blanket and mug on the ground. The boy was gone. Nor had any seen him leave when just outside the door the hall boy was gathering wood to stoke the fire. “Tis a ghost have been here!” the cook said flatly. And from that time, in that house, the tradition has been kept to feed the poor lost fisherman who returned from his watery grave one Christmas long ago.

These days encounters with the dead at Christmas are not often so dramatic, though they are sometimes equally as unsettling. One woman’s true story involves the quaint holiday tradition in her home of watching “White Christmas,” the movie starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye that made Irving Berlin song of that name even more popular.

“My mom and I used to always watch it, every year,” relates Sylvia, a New Orleans native. “We never missed a year.” Except for the Christmas that came after the death of her beloved mother: “That year I tried to avoid watching it,” she said. “I just didn’t want to get even more depressed.” Having successfully eluded the movie, Sylvia, alone in the house, was preparing for bed when she heard the familiar sound of Bing Crosby’s voice coming from the sick room where her mother had spent her last days. Sylvia, standing in the hall, distinctly heard the sound of Bing Crosby crooning “White Christmas,” but when she went to investigate she found the room dark and undisturbed, just as it was when her mother had died. “I even went over to the TV in there to feel if it had been on,” said Sylvia. “I don’t know why that would make any sense, but there was just no way to explain it.” Unless, as Sylvia now believes, her mother was just watching her favorite holiday movie one last time…

Some people have claimed that departed relatives have returned to finish wrapping gifts, to baste the holiday turkey and even to attend church services with their loved ones. Others have discovered departed relatives appearing as shadows and ghostly images in Christmas photos and even videos. One family submitted an interesting tale involving capturing what they believe is a dead relative on video.

“Our kids were getting to that age, you know, where they were a little more creative in trying to figure out their Christmas presents,” said Dean from Baton Rouge. “So I set up this small web cam on my computer and focused it on the tree and the presents.” Hoping to catch his kids in the act, when Dean viewed the camera footage the next morning he discovered a shadowy vapor moving slowly around the tree, hovering around the gifts. “At one point the tree moves ever so slightly, and then there’s this disturbance, like a mist on the lens or something.” Interestingly, Dean’s father had passed away earlier that same year and his presence was, according to Dean and other family members, “very strong that year. He loved Christmas and there’s no doubt in my mind that he came back to check out the tree and the gifts we were giving his grandkids!”

“Christmas Eve was a time for human feasting – and for something else. In Scandinavia, people said, the ghosts of the dead returned in the night to visit the homes they had loved. Their descendants welcomed them: After the meal of the living was finished, food was left for the dead. Then the living retired, so their ancestors might come into the warmth and the light to make their old Christmas revels once more.”

Old Scandinavian Folk Belief


“Hear the sledges with the bells –
Silver bells!
What a world of merriment their melody foretells!
How they tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
In the icy air of night!
While the stars that oversprinkle
All the heavens seem to twinkle
With a crystalline delight;
Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
To the tintinnabulation that so musically wells
From the bells, bells bells,
Bells, bells, bells,
From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells!”

-- from “The Bells” by Edgar Allan Poe


The sound of ghostly bells pealing in the still Christmas night is a frequent odd occurrence of the season reported throughout England and in parts of rural America. Tolling bells heard at night are most often associated with death of someone nearby, however, at this magical time of year the sound of ghostly bells is not at all so ominous.

Still the experience can be disconcerting. In England, for example, there have been many reports of the sound of bells ringing out on Christmas night from the sites of monasteries and cloisters destroyed in Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. During the destruction of Evesham Abbey the huge church bells were cast into the nearby river. In the succeeding years there have been several reports of the sound of bells resonating under the water on Christmas Eve night.

Locations where villages once stood have also been reported as haunted by ghostly bells at Christmastide. Places where little evidence is left of human settlement, villages and towns that were wiped out by plague or famine, are said to still hold the memories of happier times and in the still Christmas night, when all the world rejoices, the clear ringing of long lost bells still sounds out.

Incidences such as these have been reported in the New England states and throughout rural America. Buildings that once served as makeshift churches in the founding years of America still experience the ghostly sounds of bells ringing at this special time of year, even though the bells have been long removed.

Clapboard churches that once stood in rural areas across America, particularly in the South, but that have since been abandoned or destroyed, have been said to come to life with this strange phenomenon every Christmas Eve.

One story comes to us from the edges of the Chickamauga battlefield in Tennessee where, according to legend, there once stood a small, unadorned building on a farm that came to be used for worship by the Confederate troops garrisoned nearby. A makeshift bell was donated for use by the farm’s owners and was hung with pride on a makeshift frame outside the building. Its clear ringing would summon the faithful to worship. But as the days grew darker and defeat drew near, very often the bell would toll in mourning for the loss of a soldier or other local.

After the Union defeat of the Confederates in September 1863, the church was abandoned. In time, after the surrender of the South, the little townships around Chickamauga returned to a semblance of normalcy. The family that farmed those lands in the days before the war now had considerably less land to farm, though this did not trouble them. Too many times the plow or the hoe would turn up more than soil in the green fields of the South.

One frosty, clear Christmas Eve night, after all the family festivities were over and the house stood still and silent, there came a sound heard only by the eldest daughter who sat up in bed at the strangeness of it: a bell, ringing in the cold night. Curious, the girl got out of bed, shivering slightly as she pulled on her dressing gown and shoes. She tip-toed gingerly through the gravely silent house where her family lay slumbering and quietly opened the front door. Now there was no doubt: the bell was ringing clearly in the night.

Thinking there was some service called the somehow her family had overlooked, the girl followed the sound of the distant bell and came at last upon the ramshackle remains of the old Confederate church. But to her surprise, the once blank and dark windows were aglow with the feeble light of candles; shapes moved to and fro and the door stood ajar, casting a beam of yellow light onto the snow covered ground.

As she approached, still hearing the ringing of the bell, now nearer though she could not see it, she became aware of a low humming, as if people inside were humming a hymn. She crept stealthily to the opening in the door and held her breath. She peered inside.

What met her eyes was a scene so shocking and otherworldly that she scarce could contain her gasp of shock. In a strange glow that came from neither candle nor lantern she saw, seated row upon row, the shapes of ghostly soldiers – some in states of decay, others mere grinning skeletons in ragged clothing – assembled there for a Christmas service scheduled by some ghoul of supernatural world. And before them, standing with a shredded bible in his hands, was the parson – and this the farmer’s daughter knew for certain, for he had come home from the battlefields in a wooden box, having done his good offices even to his own death.

Defying all the laws of the natural world, called together in the spirit of the season, these remnant ghosts had come from indignant ends in forgotten hollows, from shallow graves near abandoned and unused roads, and from mass burials across the fields of Tennessee, to keep faith together and celebrate the season of light in the dead of winter. They had heard the clarion call.

The farmer’s daughter, it is said, was found wandering the snowy woodlands as Christmas morning dawned, entirely insane and babbling about the ringing of the Christmas bells.


Many people might cast a vote for the baby in the manger or the angel singing “Gloria!” as the most likely candidates for a Christmas fetish, but there is one object that really wins the vote hands down: the Nutcracker Doll.

Functionally and decorative “nutbiters” were produced in Germany and Europe as early as the 14th century but really emerged as an art form in the 15th and 16th century. During this time, the modest rural appliance invented to separate the shell of a nut from its meat, began to take on magnificent proportions, richly carved and embellished.

The Brothers Grimm first mention the device by the familiar “nutcracker” name while compiling their anthology of fairy tales and folk sayings of the Bavarian peoples in the 1830’s. The nutcrackers were often cleverly carved or designed to represent prominent townspeople such as kings, burgomasters, and noble men and women. These objects quickly grew in popularity among folk art collectors of the day.

It wasn’t until a generation later that the humble Bohemian “nutbiter” would become forever associated with Christmas – the perfect fetish of the season.

The Christmas Nutcracker Doll began its life in 1816 in a play entitled “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” written by German writer E.T.A. Hoffman, the tale of an unhappy girl named Marie whose only love was a nutcracker doll.

In 1845 famed French novelist Aleandre Dumas adapted the play into a story more suitable for children and, in 1891, this happier version of the story was chosen as the basis of a Russian ballet scored by the illustrious Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. The ballet opened in St. Petersburg on December 17, 1892.

The ballet tells the tale of a girl named Clara who is given a nutcracker doll for Christmas by her mysterious godfather, Drosselmaier. That night, Clara falls asleep and is disturbed by an attacking army of mice led by the Mouse King who wants to take Clara away to his kingdom forever. She is rescued by soldiers of the Nutcracker who, having become a prince, takes her to his own kingdom, a land full of sugarplums, snowflakes and dancing flowers. She awakens the next morning with only the doll and memories of her Christmas dreams.

Though popular in Russia, the Nutcracker ballet was not staged outside of that country until 1934 when a production was mounted in London. Since then numerous versions have appeared with American choreographer George Balanchine’s 1954 production arguably the most successful. Since reaching popularity in America in the 1950’s the ballet is probably the world’s most popular ballet and is especially loved at the holiday season.

Not as popular, however, are other, darker endings of the Nutcracker tale in which the original Maria (or the reinvented Clara) is actually the prize in the battle between the Mouse King and the Nutcracker Prince. The Nutcracker, having won, takes his prize to live with him forever. Maria (or Clara) awakes to find not delightful memories of sugarplum dreams and snowflakes, but the reality of being trapped forever in a doll house castle, ruling a kingdom of toys, her wooden captor ever at her side, while her family seeks for her in vain.


“Jingle, jangle, jingle! Here comes Mr. Bingle!
With another message from Kris Kringle!”

Boys and girls growing up in New Orleans in the early 1960’s and beyond will fondly remember a Christmas fetish that rivals any Nutcracker Prince: the lovable Mr. Bingle!

Originally a stringed puppet appearing in between afternoon cartoons during Christmas time, designed to coax the kiddies to get their parents to shop at his department store sponsor, Mr. Bingle quickly became a New Orleans icon.

Children sat with glazed eyes through antics by Bugs Bunny and Mighty Mouse, waiting patiently for the Mr. Bingle breaks when the lively winged snow-cone would visit with Santa and his friends and remind everybody to “Shop at Maison Blanche!”

Maison Blanche, a popular department store located in the heart of New Orleans, helped Mr. Bingle’s icon status when it began the tradition of erecting a 40-foot version of him outside its Canal Street store. From this high vantage point, Mr. Bingle spread Christmas cheer over generations of New Orleans children.

In recent years, that 40-foot icon has seen a renewed interest, fueled in large part by the desire to rebuild New Orleans after the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. The generation that made Mr. Bingle a household word has pulled him out of mothballs, refurbished him, and set him out for all to see at Christmas in the Oaks, another favorite New Orleans pastime in yet another New Orleans icon, the great City Park.

Mr. Bingle shines in the memories of all who grew up with him and while Nutcrackers might oogle sternly down from mantelpieces and other high places at Christmas time, the “cuddle factor” of a stuffed and snowy Mr. Bingle far outweighs the appeal of that European interloper. And Mr. Bingle keeps those Christmas ghosts away, too!

Here, in full, for your Christmas enjoyment, is the story of Mr. Bingle, our humble Christmas gift to all of you!


“When Santa left his shop one day
He found a snowman by his sleigh.
‘You’ll be my helper now,’ he said,
And tapped the little fellow’s head.

The snowman found that he could talk;
‘Look, Santa, I can even walk!’
And then he gave a little sigh…
‘Oh, how I wish that I could fly!’

So Santa gave him holly wings;
Then looking through his Christmas things,
Found ornaments the very size
To make a pair of shining eyes.

Then Santa said, ‘You need a hat;
An ice cream cone’s just right for that.
And keep this candy cane with you;
You’ll see what magic it can do!’

The snowman laughed and sang a jingle,
So Santa named him Mr. Bingle.
That’s how it happened. Now he’s here
For us to enjoy throughout the year!”

Story Copyright © 2006 by Alyne A. Pustanio.
Mr. Bingle TM Dillard’s Department Store.
Stories inspired by traditional accounts.



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