Christmas season great time for ghostly fun
I have always found Christmas to be a spookier time of year than Halloween.
Maybe it’s because one of the first “grown-up” books I ever read on my own as a child was Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Maybe it’s because it’s winter and cold as a grave, it gets dark early and on Christmas Eve, the world slows down so much. It gets so quiet, it amplifies every creak and bump in the house.
Or it could be because for the last eight years, I’ve had a standing appointment at Sydney’s McConnell Library to read a Christmas ghost story.
Cape Breton University professor Todd Pettigrew began this tradition nine years ago. It raises money for Cape Breton Regional Libraries book clubs and it’s a way of introducing Cape Bretoners
Davies, as Master of Toronto’s Massey College, would write an original tale every year at the College’s annual Gaudy Night supper convened around the holidays. Davies’ stories were collected and published in book form as “High Spirits,” available on loan from the CBRL, of course.
I was invited in the second year to read along with Pettigrew and playwright and theatre arts instructor, Scott Sharplin, as part of my “duties” as the Cape Breton Regional Library’s storyteller in residence. Then, we began to write of our own Yuletide spectral adventures and invited local playwright, Jenn Tubrett, to make a quartet of contributors.
Over the years, we’ve had murderous ghosts preying on school kids, evil Santas, a spelling bee of the undead, zombie turkeys, the bloody truth behind a beloved Christmas carol and a séance of ghosts trying to contact the living among the firsthand accounts of Christmas hauntings.
Two years ago, we had enough original stories (ten, actually) to publish our own collection, “Christmas Stalkings,” which was published by Third Person Press, a local publisher of speculative fiction.
It sold very nicely, thank you very much.
On Tuesday, December 11, 6:30 p.m., at the McConnell Library, we’ll assemble again with our freshest stories of the holiday undead. A Capella group, The Endnotes, will perform some lovely renditions of holiday standards. And there will be copies of “Christmas Stalkings” available for purchase and author signing. They make great “stalking” stuffers for both the living and the, ah, metabolically challenged.
Like all programs of the CBRL, this event is open to everyone and free of charge, though donations may be offered at the door to support Cape Breton Regional Library book clubs across the region.
Which brings me back to the original Christmas ghost story, “A Christmas Carol.”
Two years ago, Highland Arts Theatre director, Wesley Colford, announced that season’s production of “A Christmas Carol” would be the last for the foreseeable future. The show’s audience had other ideas.
Popular demand for what had become in three short years a family tradition for many folks made its return to the HAT stage inevitable the very next December.
I have been lucky to been a part of every performance run at the HAT and after five years have finally learned my dance steps — mostly.
There was even one year when the Gaudy Night readings at the McConnell and a “Christmas Carol” performance were scheduled for the same evening. I, in my play costume, was the first to read at the library, and, after my reading, walked the two blocks up Bentinck Street to the HAT to make my entrance (with a casket) at the beginning of that night’s performance. I subsequently worked it into my next Gaudy Night story.
The HAT show is one of four different productions of “A Christmas Carol” I have been fortunate enough to be part of. The first was at the Lyceum in the late 1970s; at the Savoy under the direction of Elizabeth Boardmore; at the Southend Community Centre in Sydney directed by Brian Gallivan and now, at the HAT with director Colford, who also did the stage adaptation. I have happy memories from all of them.
Musical director Barb Stetter and choreographer, Cynthia Vokey, return along with many of the cast from previous years, some of whom started as street waifs or Cratchit children and have grown into more mature roles. We’re an extended sort of family now which fits the show because so many families have made us a part of their holidays.
“A Christmas Carol” runs from Wednesday, December 12, to Sunday, December 16, at 8 pm nightly.
Local authors, shown from left to right, Ken Chisholm, Jenn Tubrett, Scott Sharplin and Todd Pettigrew, bring original tales of Christmas ghosts to Sydney’s McConnell Library, at the annual “Gaudy Night” readings on Tuesday, December 11, 6:30 p.m. The event raises funds for the Cape Breton Regional Library book clubs.
Ken Chisholm The Centre Isle