December 21, 2012

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was. The Untold Story Behind Dickens’ Classic Tale by David Isby

The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was does not appear in any published version of Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol. The reason why was revealed when this ghost recently materialized to me for an exclusive interview. He explained that Dickens had originally asked him to be one of the ghosts that appeared before Ebenezer Scrooge that fateful Christmas Eve, to show him how Christmas Might Have Been if he had only lived his life right. Or so Dickens instructed the ghost. Dickens had always grounded his creative writing in personal experience and thorough research. That included his writing about ghosts.

The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was had long harbored creative ambitions. He now realized that being invited to appear in a Dickens story was a potential ticket to literary fame and fortune. It would establish his reputation above that of his fellow ghosts, whose hauntings he often considered derivative. “You could just tell that The Ghost of Christmas Present was going to say his ‘Come in, man, and know me better, ho ho ho’. He’s only been using that line since the year dot. Literally. I was going to be original, witty yet emotionally meaningful. Dickens would see I was creating a connection with the readers and getting them involved with me as a character, like”, said The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was.

The ghost started working on descriptive metaphors and memorable lines of dialogue that would be sure to be recorded in the great author’s manuscript. He envisioned the scenes of The Christmas that Never Was he would show Scrooge, full of dramatic interest and action, moving the narrative forward. He would use carefully chosen details to be affecting to the miserly old bat, yet compelling to the readers. Surely, Dickens would recognize his narrative skill, making him not just another ghost, but rather an active part of the process of literary creation. Maybe even introduce him to his agent, or have him around to discuss writing “and ask for pointers, like”, the ghost said.

But on that fateful Christmas Eve, long ago, while on his way to appear to Scrooge, rehearsing his most powerful metaphors and his best delivery of well-considered lines, The Ghost of Christmas that Never Was got lost. The chimes struck midnight, and he was still wandering over the twisting streets, peering at the silent houses. While Dickens had provided him with directions to Scrooge’s, “There are no street signs in early Victorian London. Who would have thought it?” he explained.

Thus, instead of Scrooge, The Ghost of Christmas that Never Was appeared to a sleeping gentleman on the other side of London. “When I said ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’, lengthening all the vowels in my best ghostly from-the-grave voice, this cove screams, jumps out of his bed, nightshirt flapping like a distraught seagull, and grabs a poker from his fireplace. So I say it again. And wave my ghostly arms, all supernatural-like. What do I get? An earful of early Victorian bad language ending with a forceful and declarative statement that he is not Ebenezer-sodding-Scrooge. Well, then I asked him to see some identification. Do I get shown identification? No. I get more bad language, ending with his equally forceful statement — at poker-point, mind you — that this is bleeping early Victorian England and we don’t carry bleeping identification”.

The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was, his carefully composed literary lines forgotten, stammered out an apology and asked for directions to Scrooge’s. “Now, he makes out like he’s all put-upon”. Poker laid aside, the wide-awake sleeper then threw open his bedroom window and, by the light of the moon reflecting from the fallen snow, pointed out the route across London to the unhappy ghost.

But, despite his ability to fly, the Ghost of Christmas That Never Was got lost again on his way to haunt Scrooge. “As I said, no street signs”, he sighed.

By the time the ghost finally materialized at Scrooge’s front door, it was Christmas morning. Scrooge had already left for the Cratchits’ and the grand finale of the story, accompanied by a convoy of turkey-bearing urchins. Dickens was there, notepad in hand, top hat pushed down around his ears against the morning cold, but he was just leaving, hurrying after Scrooge. He displayed no interest in where the missing ghost had been or any of his creative inputs to the story. The Ghost of Christmas that Never Was, standing on the snow-covered cobbled street, shook his head and said, softly and sadly, as Dickens hurried past, “Oh, bugger”.

Being a ghost, no steam arose from his mouth.

Not only this single line of dialogue, but The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was, in his entirety, that Christmas morning and forever, was written out of the story by Dickens. His chance for literary fame missed and his well-considered dialogue forgotten, The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was must now wander the earth, disappointed in his non-life and consumed by regret over his failed literary creation.

“The other ghosts in the story, they all get residuals. Every time someone does a remake of A Christmas Carol, or a cartoon, or an ice-skating show, what with ghosts on skates and all, they each get a cheque. Marley’s ghost, he’s the worst of them. During the war, all we other ghosts are sticking with the old country, doing our duty. But him, he goes off to the West Indies as part of a load of rubble from a bombed-out haunted house what’s being used as ship ballast. Been there, in the Caymans, ever since. Spends most of his time on the beach, haunting the ladies’ changing room, filthy old beast. He only clanks his chains off to his bank twice a year to see if his residual cheques have cleared. And can he spend it? No! He’s a ghost! But he still just loves to see that interest compound. ‘Mankind was my business’, he says. Bah! You can tell what floats his boat: naked ladies and pounds sterling. Nasty old apparition, he is”.

While sympathizing with The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was, and appreciating that he seldom materializes for interviews, I recognized the wisdom of Dickens. He ended his classic tale not with that ghost’s disappointed “oh, bugger” but rather with Tiny Tim’s “God Bless Us Every One”.

And on that note, I wish you each a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

One Response to “EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with The Ghost of Christmas That Never Was. The Untold Story Behind Dickens’ Classic Tale by David Isby”

  1. Nice one David … have a Happy New Year.

    Cheerz,

    Mike