The following "Christmas Season" poem was recently discovered on the floor behind an old wooden file cabinet located in a dark corner of a shuttered room at Miskatonic University in Arkham, Mass. Anonymous, it was written in pen and ink upon several pages of ancient parchment, folded twice and wrapped in wax paper. A small bag of potato chips and a dill pickle were found nearby.
Scholars at the university at first attributed the Poe-like poem to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, but now seem to be leaning toward it being the work of an obscure 20th century New England poet named Thomas John McSheey, whose ancestors emigrated from County Claire, Ireland sometime around the time of the Great Stout Beer Famine of 1855.
McSheey possessed a deep dislike for Christmas, perhaps brought on by a terrible Christmas Day sledding accident during his youth which left him unable to see the color blue. In later life, while reading Ethan Frome, which contains a frighteningly similar sledding accident involving the story's two lovers, the trauma of his childhood Christmas accident was awoken and as a result McSheey turned away from his Catholic upbringing altogether and began to dabble in paganism. Instead of celebrating the traditional Christmas, he instead celebrated the Winter Solstice (also known as Yule, or Fionn's Day) by attending solstice festivals and sending winter solstice cards to his family and friends.
Presumably written to celebrate the Yuletide winter solstice, the following dark carol borrows heavily from the poetry of Poe and contains bizarre visions reminiscent of Lovecraft. It emerges as perhaps the strangest "Christmas Season" poem ever written. And since we have arrived at the time of the winter solstice - the longest night of the year - I share it here as part of the festive solstice celebration.
Longest Night - A Dark Carol of the Yuletide Season
Attributed to Thomas John McSheey (1899-1935). Set to the music of "Winter's Woeful Wail" by English composer G.W. Butterfield (1875-1917)
'Tis the longest night of the year; and my heart is filled with fear
for what slithers outside tonight, it is not holy
the wind it blows like sharpened daggers; and my tired mind, this evening, staggers
as I sit silent in my humble house so lowly
The terror it comes like winter thunder; a spell, this Fionn's Eve is surely under
alone I sit beyond the midnight hour
ghosts pass through my wicked walls; I hear their eerie, haunted calls
as behind an open book I do cower
'Tis nothing to fear but fear itself; I say replacing the book to the shelf
as snow and rain rattle against my window panes
he lies within his earthbound grave; resting beneath golden shafts which wave
against the winds and against the snowy rains
It has been a year to this very Fionn's Day; since I performed the deed that sent him away
and concealed his body in the overgrown wood
I dug a hole and threw him in; buried his body and buried my sin
and covered the broken earth as best I could
Yet here I sit counting the seconds; as with the snow my victim he beckons
surely his goal is simply to drive me mad
he stands outside my window pane; standing in the driving snow and rain
this is truly the worst Yule I've ever had
Perhaps he is gone, but alas; he knocks upon a pane of glass
which runs along the side of my front door
do I dare let him in; confront the ghost and confront my sin
or kneel and pray upon my dusty floor?
The minutes crawl like shuffling hours; as gray hairs of fright sprout like flowers
but soon I hear familiar sounds of a Yuletide morn
I arise from my hiding place; splash cold water upon my morning face
and thank the gods as the first beams of light are born
I have escaped the longest eve; now standing in sunlight 'tis hard to believe
that a ghost had visited me just the night before
he arose from his snowy tomb; before my window he did loom
and knock he did upon my own front door
So if you bury a body, bury it deep; for the guilt of a Yuletide crime does creep
so labor with spade until your back is sore
for like the man in Poe's tale; who thought his murderous plan would not fail
who buried the body 'neath the wooden floor
For in the end the heart still beat; beneath the floor beneath his feet
the telltale clue of his dastardly deed
But the sound, only in his head; for the victim's heart was truly dead
to the mountains of madness can paranoia lead!
McSheey wrote numerous dreary Yuletide poems and a number of similarly dreary short stories over the course of his brief life, which was cut short one winter's day when he choked to death on a piece of dark chocolate he received during a solstice celebration. As he gasped for breath, he managed to quickly jot one final short poem:
Sickly Gray (or Death by Dark Chocolate)
Snow falls like fingers nervously tapping; upon the windows I hear its rapping
I fear a Yuletide ghost is drawing near
I detect a sound, a touch, a smell; a coldness surrounds me, a coldness from hell
my mind races with streams of unbroken fear
Unseen hands grab at my throat; my life, played out, a dying musical note
the music it fades ... it fades ... it fades away
I fall, not breathing, upon the bed; I lie unseeing, unmoving, dead
my flesh losing color turns a sickly gray!
Thomas John McSheey is buried in the poet's corner of Arkham Cemetery, where each year at this time pagans gather to sing Yuletide carols before his grave. And on that note, "A happy Yuletide to all! And to all a long, long night!"