none of the books in seth’s ghost stories for christmas series have been scary-scary, in part because they hail from Days of Yore, and we’ve become desensitized to that brand of antiquated horror by splatter movies and the very real existence of murder hornets. additionally, since the series is meant to encourage a revival of the Days of Yore’s family-friendly x-mas eve tradition of ghost stories being read aloud whilst your yule log crackles, it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to contain the gross-out violence of one of rob zombie’s psychosexual escapades.
this one, although of much more recent vintage (1973), isn’t even trying to be scary, yet it is nevertheless a ghost story, and a very charming one at that.
it follows selby pyle; an “amateur psychic investigator” on his life’s mission to find proof of the existence of life after death, thereby assuaging his own fear of death.
following a lead, he heads to the small welsh village of cwmbach, where—he has learned—a man named ifor morgan had long ago strolled in and established ‘the morgan trust,’ extracting significant financial contributions from the villagers, promising to build them a new village called llannef, which, by all accounts, never materialized. unspecified supernatural occurrences were reported in the situation’s aftermath; insubstantial but curious enough that selby decides to pay the town a visit.
when he arrives, the villagers are in the middle of celebrating the life of an elderly woman who has recently died, with an air more festive than mournful. also curious is the fact that, far from harboring resentment towards ifor morgan for swindling them, his picture holds a place of honor, and the townsfolk regard him as some sort of heroic patriarch.
nowadays, we’d be completely unsurprised if this setup resolved into some Midsommar nightmare scenario, but this ain’t that.
there aren’t any big surprises here, but even though it’s fairly predictable, it’s a pleasing and well-told story about a man who learns not to be afraid of the unknown, and it’s the prettily optimistic tale we need at the end of a very long year.