The Thirteenth Day Of Christmas And Other Tales Of Yuletide Horror
Reviewed By J.A. Sullivan
Christmas has always been my favourite time of year. Beautiful decorations, spending time with loved ones, and there’s magic in the air. But as we all know, magic can have a dark side. Sinister shadows lurk behind twinkling lights, snowmen appear to move ever so slightly under the moon, and, if you listen closely, voices carry through the icy air from beyond the grave. These are just a few of the horrors David Allen Voyles explores in The Thirteenth Day of Christmas and Other Tales of Yuletide Horror, an excellent collection of twelve short stories and a novella.
While I love horror, I normally don’t read many Christmas horror stories because they tend to rehash the same storylines and characters over and over, but Voyles delivered fresh takes on tales I expected to find (like Krampus) and also presented unique stories, making this collection hard to put down.
From the very first entry, “Last Minute Shopping,” I was hooked on the author’s style of writing. On Christmas Eve, Owen wakes in a Carolina Park Mall massage chair, hearing “Silver Bells” over the mall speakers, but nothing else. Roaming the empty building, Owen is locked inside, unable to escape. Finally, he meets Ruby, another shopper, which temporarily settles his unease until the PA system instructs the two to visit Santa’s Castle. From there the horror intensifies with images of demonic elves and an evil Santa wearing gloves fashioned from human skin. The general feel of this tale made me think of Twilight Zone episodes, and the story concludes with a terrifying twist.
I enjoyed all the stories, but some were outstanding. “Up on the Rooftop” begins with Bobby and Cindi hanging on every word of their Grandfather’s gruesome bedtime story and ends with the reader realising his tale was far from fiction. “You Better Watch Out” finds Andrew and Lauren on vacation in an ice hotel in Sweden where they stumble across a workshop filled with torture devices, a stable filled with rotting and demented reindeer, and visions of terror that they perhaps deserve. “Santa and the Haunted House” changes pace from the other stories, where we learn that Santa’s heart is so big, he even delivers gifts to the deceased.
My favourite short in this collection was “In the Flesh Appearing.” Alicia and Phil think their daughter is dismembering her dolls for attention after they move into a new house, but they soon find out the house has a history of odd things happening to dolls, especially as the Winter Solstice approaches. Alicia uncovers the previous owner’s links to the occult and necromancy, while Phil quickly dismisses any notions of supernatural occurrences. But the source of shuffling sounds in their attic may soon change Phil’s mind. This story was creepy from start to finish.
At the end of the twelve short stories, Voyles delivers a great novella called “The Thirteenth Day of Christmas.” Strange things start happening in the small town of Deer Park on Christmas Day, including a full-sized mausoleum carved out of snow mysteriously appearing in the town’s centre. Just as police officers begin investigating where the snow sculpture came from, Deer Park is hit by a blizzard knocking out power and communications with nearby communities. Everyone is on edge as a body is discovered in the mausoleum, snow carved tombstones start popping up all over town, and then phone calls start coming in on the dead phone lines. The calls are clips of Christmas carols, and the lyrics offer clues to new crime scenes. At times this novella reminded me of Under the Dome by Stephen King, echoing the sentiments of small-town isolation, but as the story progresses it morphs into something unique and terrifying. There were a couple of instances through the collection where character names were used inconsistently, and some occurrences of quotation marks appearing incorrectly which could have been caught in a more thorough proofing pass, but the quality of the storytelling far outshone these small editorial errors (and I emphasise these flaws are small). If you’re looking for stories to keep you up into the wee hours of this holiday season, The Thirteenth Day of Christmas and Other Tales of Yuletide Horror is sure to deliver.
The Thirteenth Day Of Christmas
Remember that line from “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.”
Telling ghost stories during the Yuletide season was a popular tradition during Victorian times, and David Allen Voyles revives the tradition with his collection of twelve original, frightening ghost tales and one novella, all set in the Christmas season.
You’ll find a wide array of supernatural entities within The Thirteenth Day of Christmas and Other Tales of Yuletide Horror, from traditional ghosts to modern twists on familiar Christmas characters like Santa and Krampus. You’ll travel to a modern hotel in the Arctic Circle that’s made entirely of ice, as well as to a nineteenth-century village in Bulgaria whose citizens have a unique yearly ritual with an enigmatic toymaker. There are ghostly mysteries to be solved, wicked children to be punished, haunted graveyards, possessed dolls, and even a humorous account of Santa’s visit to a haunted house on Christmas Eve.
So turn down the lights, grab a cup of eggnog, and light the Yule log as you prepare to read these Christmas ghost stories.
Just remember as you read them, you can cry and you can pout, but one thing is for sure – you better watch out!
J. A. Sullivan is a horror writer and paranormal enthusiast, based in Brantford, ON, Canada. Attracted to everything non-horror folks consider strange, she’s spent years as a paranormal investigator, has an insatiable appetite for serial killer information, and would live inside a library if she could.
Her latest short story can be found in Don’t Open the Door: A Horror Anthology (out July 26, 2019), and other spooky tales can be found on her blog. She’s currently writing more short stories, a novel, and reading as many dark works as she can find.
You can follow J. A. on Twitter @ScaryJASullivan
Check out her blog https://writingscaredblog.wordpress.com
Find her on Instagram www.instagram.com/j.a_sullivan