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Book Cover

The Best Christmas Gifts Evoke the Horror of Christmas’ Past

The Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays, written by Sylvia Shults, debuted last month, appearing in independent bookstores across Illinois. It can now be purchased online directly from the publisher, American Hauntings Ink (https://squareup.com/store/american-hauntings-ink) for $16. The 240 page compendium is overly ambitious—bulging with tales. However, book lovers live by the adage: More is actually, well, more—and the more tales the better! This book is packed with domestic and international folktales and historical events occurring around the Christmas season. Each of the sections could stand as its own title. But for the 2017 Christmas Season, Ms. Shults’ book will warm the bodies circled around the hearth celebrating “the weirdness that has swirled around the Christmas season for many centuries.”

Ms. Shults rarely delves into any paranormal events circulating around these horrific stories. Instead, she leaves that to the reader. She does, however, include a lot of background information for most of the stories. The organization of the contents is as important as the stories themselves. Ms. Shults groups the stories into themes: traditions; creepy characters; things that bump in the night; natural disasters turned horrific because of the season; ghost sightings; and finally ghost stories inspired from Christmas. Some are true stories written to encourage readers to Google the events themselves. Others are folktales that were believed at the time by the people who experienced the phenomena. All are fascinating. The lengths vary as to the topic.


Sylvia Shults is a gifted storyteller. She probably honed her skill by working as a Library Assistant in her busy public library system. Library staff often “booktalk” titles, a practice of giving a brief overview of a book ending with a teaser to hook the reader to check it out. Booktalks are incredibly popular and very easy for a natural-born storyteller. Ms. Shults has a knack for telling stories. Unfortunately, I would have preferred hearing more stories in her voice instead of the original source material.

The book acts as a condensed encyclopedia of horror tales set in December. They cover centuries and continents. While reading, I was drawn to America’s worst hotel fire at the Winecoff Hotel, in Atlanta, Georgia, on December 7th, 1946. The fire paved the way for better fire safety measures; however, it took the death of 119 people—some high school students—for these changes to be enacted. I reside in Atlanta and know much about this tragedy and hotel. (It has since reopened and is a gorgeous boutique hotel.)

Equally interesting was the story on the Silver Bridge Collapse on December 15, 1967. This event is widely seen as the last credible sighting of the West Virginian legend Mothman (see my blogs regarding this geographically-contained phenomenon).

The book also contains quite a few unsolved mysteries and murders. These tales may be the ones to keep readers up at night.

Ms. Shults takes creative license by embellishing some stories; however, they are done to humanize the victims. Further, I wished the citations for sources corresponded with the tales instead of in a bulk listing at the end. That’s the academic in me!

This is the perfect gift for any paranormal enthusiast or history buff who is fascinated by unsolved mysteries or horrific events.


For more information on the author: https://sylviashults.wordpress.com/

To purchase the book online: https://squareup.com/store/american-hauntings-ink