Ghosts of Holidays Past

How many dramatizations of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” have you seen? The Alastair Sim 1951 movie, “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray as a network television executive from 1988, The Muppet’s version with Michael Caine as Scrooge from 1992, “A Diva’s Christmas Carol” with Vanessa Williams from 2000… There are so many of them. Add the TV shows, spoofs and references to “A Christmas Carol” that appear in other holiday entertainment and it’s an exponential growth curve with all sorts of Scrooges.

And all sorts of ghosts, too!

I’m particularly fond of David Johansen’s portrayal of the ghost of Christmas past as a taxi driver. He was hysterical. I’m dating myself here, but I saw David Johansen in his Buster Poindexter incarnation playing at the Bottomline in Greenwich Village. He is really funny!

But getting back to the ghosts.

Jacob Marley — Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased business partner — is the first of the ghosts to appear in the story. Jacob is rattling his chains and warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. (I love Aimee Mann’s song “Jacob Marley’s Chain.”) In most of the movies, he’s the least effective of the ghostly characters and is dismissed as indigestion caused by a bit of old cheese. But I think Jacob Marley is a great ghost. He’s got a clear message, he’s certainly creepy and he’s reaching out to someone who was fond of him in life — perhaps the only person who was fond of him in life?

The entire concept of ghosts and hauntings in fiction is unfinished business — avenging a murder, completing a life’s work or, as with Marley, assisting a loved one still among the living. Marley is a great ghost, so, although I have no idea how, when or in what context, I’ve decided to write some kind of Jacob Marley inspired ghost story. No, I’m not indulging in my own variation on the well-worn path of Christmas Carols — I’m contemplating a story that revolves around Marley and not Scrooge.

Is this a good idea or am I just overreacting to all the holiday songs in the air?


  1. I say go with it and see where it takes you. You will more likely end up with something outside these parameters but everything starts somewhere. At the very least you will uncover an unexplored area of your mind. But you also have the possibility of something worthwhile.

    • Candy

      Yes, my instinct is that there’s something worth exploring. Perhaps I’ll find something new in Dickens old classic. There is a great deal about greed as a business motivator and the limits that greed imposes on the rest of one’s life. Umm…

  2. I think it’s an excellent idea since we know so little of Marley’s life except that he was a hard taskmaster with the coinage. As long as the context is there by bringing his ghost to visit Scrooge the idea has great promise.

    • Candy

      Yes, I think he’s got potential as an individual character. There’s a story there. Will I find it? I’ll try.

  3. I would never dissuade any author from exploring a concept. Go for it. However, keep in mind that you are setting yourself up to criticism if your story is inconsistent with the original. For example, Marley tells Scrooge that his burden is already far greater than the one Marley bears. Thus, it would seem that Marley cannot be portrayed as more vile than Scrooge.

    As to your basic question, my favorite is the Ghost of Christmas Present. That is the one that I would like to be.

    • Candy

      Yes, thanks for the warning. I’m always defying expectations — it’s my M.O. Sometimes it bites me back!

      Christmas Present… umm… interesting. The ghost of the real world.

    • Candy

      Jacob Marley’s back story is one of the things I’m contemplating right now! Was he really as Scrooge-y as Scrooge? Could be even more so…

  4. Possibly you could explore what made him the miser that he was. A Christmas Carol gives us glimpses into Scrooge’s past and what made him bitter. Also worth developing is what made Scrooge someone Marley would have been fond of. Go with it.

    • Candy

      Yes, how does one become famously bitter and miserly? And what kind of team was Marley and Scrooge? Lots to play with here. More than it appears at first.