Designing a Ghost

In Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve: Jacob Marley, and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. In his original text, Dickens describes each of these ghosts in great detail; each ghost has been re-imagined by generations of designers and illustrators for page, stage and screen ever since.

Let’s take a closer look at how these specters have been haunting Scrooge for more than 170 years:

 The Ghost of Christmas Present

In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see… It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. (Dickens’s original text, 1843)

Ford’s Theatre Society has been showing A Christmas Carol for more than 30 years. However, it hasn’t been the same production that whole time. Every so often, we re-imagine the sets, costumes and even revise the script. The production you’ll see this year premiered in 2009.

See how the Ghost of Christmas Present has evolved from original illustrations in the novel to the two Ford’s Theatre productions:

Jacob Marley

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights, and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind. (Dickens’ original text, 1843)

See how the Ghost of Jacob Marley has evolved from original illustrations in the novel to the two Ford’s Theatre productions:

Watch how actor James Konicek transforms into Marley’s Ghost for A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre!