Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Charles Dickens and the "Spirit" of Christmas

Let us be moral. Let us contemplate existence. It is customary for me to begin each of my books with a meaningful quote. It was this quote, by Charles Dickens, that I chose to use for Ghosts of Long Island II: More Stories of the Paranormal Not only did it capture the essence of my book, but it was written by a person I hold in high regard, and one who also happened to believe in ghosts.

As a writer, how could I not respect a man who was one of the most popular and successful authors in British history. Born in Portsmouth, England in February of 1812, Charles Dickens wrote over fifteen novels, some of his most memorable being, Great Expectations, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and of course, one of the most famous of all, A Christmas Carol, which he wrote in 1843. Dickens was known for his memorable characters and rich storytelling. In A Christmas Carol we are introduced to Ebenezer Scrooge and three infamous ghosts: the Ghost of Old Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. Ghost stories at Christmas? Who would have thought? However A Christmas Carol became one of Dickens most well-known stories, one which has been turned into plays and movies continuously since its debut. This creative work has become part of our holiday traditions today.

What many people don't know, is that Charles Dickens had a fascination with ghosts, thus he chose to use them as subjects in many of his lesser known works, both in his novels and short stories. The Signal-Man, Pickwick Papers, The Haunted Man and The Haunted House are several examples where Dickens used ghosts as subjects. He was absolutely fascinated with them, and he simply loved a well-told ghost tale.

In 1862, The Ghost Club was officially founded in London, and Charles Dickens was one of its earliest members. Its roots go back to Trinity College in 1855, when discussions of ghosts and psychic phenomena were prevalent. Today, The Ghost Club remains to be one of the oldest paranormal organizations in the world associated with psychical research. It's primary focus is on "debating, exploring and investigating" ghosts and hauntings, and its membership spans the world. In the 1870's, following the death of Dickens, The Ghost Club dissolved, but was relaunched in 1882.

Although Charles Dickens was interested in ghosts and visiting some of England's ghostly hot spots, he surprisingly wanted nothing to do with spiritualism which was at the height during the later part of Dickens career. Some believed that Dickens was quite the skeptic and did not truly believe in the paranormal and communicating with the deceased. Most of the evidence I have come across leads me to believe that he did in fact, truly believe in ghosts.

Dickens final novel was The Mystery of Edwin Drood,which was left unfinished because Charles died before he could complete the ending. His poor character Drood had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. No ending to the book could be found. Not long after Charles' death, a medium reported that Mr. Dickens had come to him and dictated the rest of the unfinished novel. Of course it could not be proven, but it created quite a stir, to say the least.

The spirit of Charles Dickens and his wonderful works live on, as does the spirit of Christmas as told to us by Ebenezer Scrooge. So during this holiday season I leave you this quote...

"Ghost of the Future," he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year....