Sunday, 5 August 2018


Title screen for Stigma from A Ghost Story For Christmas
'Stigma' is one of the three non M.R. James adaptations made by the BBC for their 'A Ghost Story for Christmas' and the first of the two that broke with the tradition of adapting a classic ghostly tale.

Written in 1977 by screenwriter Clive Exton (10 Rillington Place, Agatha Christie's Poirot, Jeeves & Wooster) it tells the story of a couple Katherine (Kate Binchy) & Peter (Peter Bowles) and their teenaged daughter Verity (Maxine Gordon) who move to a house in the country beside a stone circle (Avebury) and unwisely decide to remove one of the stones from their garden.  A sudden gust of wind coincides with the lifting of the stone and the beginning of Katherine's troubles.

Kate Binchy washing off the blood in Stigma A Ghost Story for Christmas
The enigmatic nature of stone circles has long been  a source of inspiration for writers with a tendency towards the wyrd and the 70s seemed a particularly fertile time for dramas centred around them with 'Children of the Stones' and 'Stones' appearing in early 1977 and 1976 respectively and the 'Ringstone Round' shenanigans of the 'Quatermass Conclusion' in 1979 (and I'm positive there were many more).

As a traditional Christmas ghost story it kind of misses the mark a little with it's summery, contemporary setting but it is a very effective and haunting, body horror with a fine central performance from Binchy.  The writing is tight with not a second of the limited run time wasted and it's only the clunky bit of exposition at the end that slightly mars a nicely macabre tale.

Buy it here - Ghost Stories for Christmas - or watch it below.

Don't be fooled by the 56 minute run time shown on the bottom of the player. 'Stigma' is actually only 30 minutes long and then the video doubles back on itself( to confuse those pesky bots).

* For those of you who are sensitive to this sort of thing please be aware that there is partial female nudity in this film.


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  1. I have this on the mighty 6 disc BFI Ghost Stories for Christmas box set and it has for a long time been my favorite in this collection (nothing wrong with the other stories this is just a fav)without giving anything away, its the ending which I have always found quite unsettling.

    1. Hi Keith
      yeah It's a good un for sure.
      I do love the MR James ones but I'll always prefer an original story over an adaptation.