A Devil of a Christmas Murder

Markheim  by Robert Louis Stevenson  (1885)

Tuesday’s Tale of Terror   December 17, 2013

devilornamentimagesThe jingle of Christmas Day does not ring loud enough for Markheim, a man doomed to evil ways. We meet him in an antique shop with a lonely dealer. Markheim claims to be looking for a Christmas gift for a lady. Of course, this is a lie and the dealer suspects as much: Markheim is a thief. The dealer is impatient and suggests a hand mirror. The shop is filled with mirrors and clocks … reflections … time …  and something else. And soon enough Markheim makes his deadly move.

Christmas Day is a time when bells ring with joy and light fills most everyone’s heart, but Markheim finds gross blots of darkness and shivering shadows after he strikes. Are the mirrors reflecting his guilt? Are the clocks ticking louder now? He becomes haunted by the incessant ticking. And then all goes silent as falling snow. He even thinks he hears the dead getting up. Murder is a salty crime.

MarkheimILLMIchaelLark

Illustration by Michael Lark

When Markheim meets a strange visitor who tells him, “I know you to the soul, Markheim,” the story takes a deliciously sinister turn. Markheim knows clearly this stranger is not of earth and not of God.

Robert Louis Stevenson published this in 1885 in The Broken Shaft: Tales of Mid-Ocean as part of Unwin’s Christmas Annual.  Stevenson was a literary celeb who died far too young at age 44. Some have compared Markheim to Dickens’ Scrooge who was visited by Christmas ghosts. Some find similarities to Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov  in Crime and Punishment. Surely this is a story that begs the question … is evil a mask we choose to wear or a power that comes forth from the human soul? For Markheim to survive at all, he must choose on Christmas Day.

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Read the full text of Markheim at East of the Web .

Listen to the narration by Librivox (19 minutes) by  William Coon .

Listen to the adapted radio drama at Weird Circles (24 minutes) .

Happy Holidays to all, and I wish you Happy New Year readings at Tales of Terror for 2014!

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9 Comments

Filed under Christmas ghost stories, Christmas stories, fiction, horror, literature, quiet horror, short stories, tales of terror

9 responses to “A Devil of a Christmas Murder

  1. Pingback: A Boy Named Claus: The Adventure | Paula Cappa

  2. Paula, we are members of the same Goodreads group and I am so thrilled to find you! I’ve just picked up a copy of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Greatest Works’ which includes Markheim and have posted your Chilling/Thrilling book review on the page of Facebook’s ‘Paranormal Reads’ — I’m sure my FB-friends on that page want to hear from you via this blog!

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    • Hi Emily. Thank you for your comment. I just visited Paranormal Reads FB page. Cool! I’m a follower now. I hadn’t known about it, so thanks for mentioning that page. I see you are a writer of ghost stories. My favorite. I look forward to reading your work and connecting on Goodreads and FB.

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  3. Jay

    Great post, Paula!

    I read this one last year ( see http://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/2872/ for my post). Coincidentally, you “just missed” posting on RLS’s birthday (12/3).

    I (unknowingly at the time) posted about this story on his EXACT birthday in 2012. Creepy, especially when one considers how I choose the order of my short story reading… 🙂

    -Jay

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    • I must have missed your post last year. I just read it now. I like how your review gets into the grit of the story, Jay. That line you mentioned in your review: “Evil, for which I live, consists not in action, but in character” is so chilling because it sounds so permanent. I didn’t know RLS’s birth date and usually I try to keep up on that. For sure I would have mentioned it. December is such a busy month!

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  4. I love those interesting factoids!!

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  5. WOW, must read THAT one Paula, thanks for sharing 🙂

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