The Twelve Nightmares of Christmas: Day Twelve — The Ghost and Mary Pepper

Every so often, we hear of ghosts helping the living. It’s rarer still when a living person has the chance to help a ghost.

Mary Pepper was an orphan living in Liverpool in the 1880s. At seven years old, she was on her own, living in the cellar of an abandoned building. Like many other street waifs of the Victorian era, Mary scavenged the streets for anything of value – lumps of coal that had fallen from carts, coins dropped from the pockets or purses of those more fortunate. She would beg for day-old bread from the Dow Street bakery. Sometimes she would hang around the door of the candy shop, hoping for a few hard candies or bits of toffee from Mr. Mallard, the owner. That was a real treat.

Even in her poverty, Mary found beauty on the rough streets. On Christmas Eve, 1887, she was following a robin as it hopped down Crosshall Street. The bird’s red breast was a cheerful spot of color against the snow. Mary’s reverie was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a ghost.

Mary knew the man was a spirit. For one thing, she’d seen ghosts all her life. For another, this man was completely devoid of color – he was stark white, from the top hat perched on his white hair to the tips of his polished boots. And for a third, she recognized him. It was Henry Silver, who had died in the 1860s.

The ghost stared at her with shocking-pink eyes, the only part of him with any color at all. It reached out for her with bony pale hands, groaning as if in distress. It staggered through the snow, leaving no footprints. Mary just sighed. He’d scared the robin away.

“Aren’t you afraid of me?” the ghost demanded.

“No. You’re nothing – just a sad ghost,” Mary replied calmly.

“I’m not nothing!” Silver retorted. “I’m an evil spirit!”

Mary just wandered away, unimpressed. Perhaps she could spot the robin once more.

Silver followed Mary down Crosshall Street. Trying to scare her, he swooped through her several times. He followed her home to the dank cellar where she lived, and squeezed through a hole in the wall. Finally, seeing that Mary could not be spooked, he told his story.

During his life, Henry Silver had a curious, unpleasant hobby. He would plant fake love letters that led to quarrels between couples, often making them break up as a result. One of these pranks backfired terribly when a young woman, thinking she’d been deceived by her lover, threw herself into the Mersey River and drowned. She happened to be a Gypsy, and here’s when Silver’s penchant for mischief caught up with him. A relative of the girl came to see him and placed a Gypsy curse on him. Because of his cold-hearted tricks, the old woman cursed him to be cold forever. Despite his doctor’s best efforts, Silver soon died of hypothermia … in summer.

Silver cried out to Mary that he longed to feel warmth once more – the cozy fireside, the glow of love – as he wept for his loss. Mary snapped, “Then go into St. John’s Church and ask for forgiveness.”

“I can’t – I’m too proud!” Silver argued. Mary finally talked him into it, and led him to the church herself. Silver squared his shoulders, and walked into the church.

He was in there for quite some time. Mary waited for him patiently outside. She felt a bit responsible for the poor sad ghost. When he came out, Silver was a changed man … literally. His color had returned; now he sported a black top hat and a brown suit, and his cheeks were a healthy, rosy pink. He gave Mary a hug, and said, “Thank you, little one.” Then he disappeared.

The ghost’s gratitude wasn’t just lip service. Several years later, when she was fifteen, Mary was adopted, and later emigrated to America. There, she married a rich oil tycoon and, presumably, lived happily ever after.

And we’ve come to Christmas Eve — how about that! If you’ve enjoyed these ghost stories, and want more, tune in to Ron’s Amazing Stories (www.ronsamazingstories.com) for the monthly segment “Ghost Stories With Sylvia”, or seek out Days of the Dead, coming in 2021, at amazon.com or bookshop.org. While you’re browsing the Web, take a peek at http://www.weirddarkness.com. If Darren Marlar left any cookies and milk out for Santa, you have my permission to take a couple. (And if he left schnapps out for Krampus, you just bring that right back here to me.) Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright!

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