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The History of Christmas Ghost Stories

The midwinter ghost story is, arguably, the oldest story in the English language. The Old English epic poem
Beowulf
might not immediately spring to mind as the archetypal festive scare, but in truth it is a classic “winter’s tale.” The warriors of
Beowulf
are rendered vulnerable by their need to shelter in the hall of Heorot at the coldest time of the year. As they enjoy the comforts of the mead hall, something stirs out there in the cold and the dark. The creature Grendel and his mother are vengeful forces of an elder world—the deformed descendants, we are told, of the accursed Cain. And they begin to pick off the warriors, one by one.

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