There is a lot about Christmas that is straight-up creepy. Some weird enchanted old man slides down your chimney in the middle of the night and leaves kids presents that he made himself?! That he puts in socks hung up by the fireplace?! Enslaved reindeer are forced to work insane hours flying across the entire world in one night? Forced make-out sessions performed under hanging poisonous plants?
Don’t get me started on how creepy Krampus is. Hell no.
Here are five creepy holiday stories that just might keep you up at night:
“Nicholas was…” by Neil Gaiman
For me, this is the gold standard for creepy Christmas tales. You can find it tucked away in Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors. Gaiman originally wrote and sent it out as a Christmas card and it is short and creepy and goes straight to your bones. It’s almost a poem, made up of a few lines that describe the tragic enslavement of a kidnapped god. Shocking that no one is reading this to their kids as a Christmas tradition. Bonus: it was made into an awesome little short film. Neil Gaiman really is the best.
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
Full disclosure: Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son. And a damn fine horror writer in his own right. NOS4A2 is his second book (maybe third) and takes the reader on a sinister ride to the fantasy realm of Christmasland – a place where kidnapped children never grow old. There’s kickass “last girl” heroines, creepy Christmas toys and holiday decorations, and MURDER. Pretty sure its going to be a television show soon, so read it first. The book is always better than the movie.
Roads by Seabury Quinn
This is a creepy classic that serves as a subversive biography of Santa Claus. Definitely a weird tale, Quinn traces the origins of Santa Claus through early Christianity and into 20th century. Be warned, this is not a children’s book. Quinn’s novella is a detailed portrait of tragic losses and human failings, that is guaranteed to make you question what it all means.
“Homeless in Hell” by Orson Scott Card
A short story that is complete in its explorations of the human experience. Card – known for his Ender’s Game series of science fiction novels – waxes poetic on a number of morality questions, using the backdrop of Saint Nicholas and Christmas time to guide the way. Yes, there is a clear theological and philosophical agenda that Card is leaning into. No, you won’t hate where this story takes you. Be warned: this is a dark story that shouldn’t be read to the children on Christmas eve.