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15 Bizarre Holiday Albums

It seems like everybody and their mom and dads has released a Christmas album. For some artists, like Mariah Carey, it means selling millions of copies. But who wants to hear Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas” when you can hear a former reality show loser sing it? ‘Tis the season to forgo listening to your traditional holiday songs and opt for something a bit more unusual.

1. HUNG FOR THE HOLIDAYS // WILLIAM HUNG

Hung appeared as a contestant on American Idol in 2004 and blew the world away with his rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Actually, he did not advance to the next round, but a cult following soon manifested. His career culminated (ended) in October of 2004, when he released his second album, Hung for the Holidays, which only sold 35,000 copies. He sings, off-key, “Winter Wonderland,” “Little Drummer Boy,” and then randomly covers Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” After the failure of this record and the release of a third and final album, Hung retired from music.

2. CHRISTMAS ON DEATH ROW // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Released 20 years ago, Christmas on Death Row is a compilation of various artists on the Death Row label. The music isn’t the worrisome thing here—it’s the album cover depicting Santa in the electric chair. (Don’t show it to grandma or the kids.) Songs include hits Snoop and Nate Dogg’s "Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto" and 6 Feet Deep's cover of “Silent Night.” If you like your holiday tunes filled with curse words, this one’s for you.

3. CHRISTMAS WITH COLONEL SANDERS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Honestly, this album has nothing to do with the finger-lickin’ Colonel except for the awesome album cover of him smiling while wearing a Santa hat (he could easily be mistaken for Santa, so maybe that’s the point). The album, released in 1969 (vintage!), features musical legends Chet Atkins covering “Jingle Bell Rock” and Harry Belafonte singing “Mary’s Little Boy Child.”

4. IT’S A WAFFLE HOUSE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

Discogs

Spending Christmas at the Waffle House sounds like fun. They’re open 24/7, you know. According to AllMusic.com, this is the second album the legendary chain has released, and it was compiled by Jerry Buckner and Gary Garcia, the guys responsible for the 1982 novelty song “Pac-Man Fever.”

There are traditional songs on the album, but few can top “Waffle House 12 Days of Christmas,” in which a couple sings, “My true love gave to me, 10 cups of coffee, eight chicken sandwiches, seven T-bone steaks, four eggs a fryin’, three sausage patties, two waffles baking, and a bowl of delicious hot grits” without a bit of irony.

5. MR. HANKEY’S CHRISTMAS CLASSICS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

On December 1, 1999, South Park aired a holiday-themed episode that featured a literal piece of crap coming alive and singing Christmas songs. One week before the episode’s premiere, the album was released. It includes songs from the episode, and a festive cover featuring Mr. Hankey chilling by the fire. Choice cuts include Mr. Garrison's “Merry F---king Christmas” and Mr. Hankey himself—“howdy ho!”—singing “Santa Claus Is On His Way.”

6. A ROSIE CHRISTMAS // VARIOUS ARTISTS

This album was just an excuse for then-daytime talk show host Rosie O’Donnell to brag about how she was buddies with Celine Dion, Elton John, and Elmo, then sing middling duets with them. Cher contributes (read: butchers) a dance-electro version of Darlene Love’s already-perfect “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” while Gloria Estefan and Rosie sing “Gonna Eat for Christmas.” Lauryn Hill’s funky “Little Drummer Boy” seems to be the only saving grace—until Rosie chimes in and ruins it.

7. MERRY, MERRY CHRISTMAS // NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK

Released in 1989, at the height of NKOTB’s fame, this holiday record sold two million copies. You have to at least give the boy band props for writing a few original songs such as the sappy “This One’s for the Children”—which was a top 10 hit—and “Funky, Funky, Xmas,” which tries a bit too hard to emulate “Christmas in Hollis.” *NSYNC and Hanson also released Christmas records, so having boy bands release holiday albums is not an anomaly; the fact that NKOTB took the material so seriously is what makes it an oddity.

8. A HEAVY METAL CHRISTMAS EP // CHRISTOPHER LEE

The heavy metal lover never released a full Christmas album, but he did release the EP, A Heavy Metal Christmas, in 2012, containing metal covers of “The Little Drummer Boy” and “Silent Night.” The following year the prince of darkness released A Heavy Metal Christmas Too, including the song “Jingle Hell.” Last year he contributed “Darkest Carols, Faithful Sing," which would sadly be his last metal Christmas song, as he passed away in June 2015 at the age of 93.

9. JINGLE BABIES // ROCKABYE CHRISTMAS

First we had Jingle Cats, which was annoying but somewhat cute. Then the same guy behind Jingle Cats and Jingle Dogs released Jingle Babies in 1997, which is baby sounds edited together into super annoying “songs.” The babies aren’t singing as much as they are cooing and whining through “Jingle Bells,” “Up on the Housetop,” and “Carol of the Bells.” The album’s tagline reads “Real babies sing holiday classics,” but it’s unknown if real babies approve.

10. AND 11. YULETIDE DISCO AND DISCO NOEL // MIRROR IMAGE

Disco was huge in the 1970s, and apparently so were disco Christmas albums. Mirror Image released at least two Christmas records: Yuletide Disco and Disco Noel. The former features saxophone-enhanced versions of “Good King Wenceslas” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and aren’t as disco-y as you’d hope. Then there’s "Dear Santa, Let’s Disco" by Snowflake, which should get the holiday festivities started. While you’re at it, you might as well listen to “Disco Duck.”

12. CHRISTMAS AT LUKE’S SEX SHOP // LUKE CAMPBELL

The Miami rap group 2 Live Crew created a lot of controversy in the 1990s, so why not add fuel to the fire with a Christmas record? Throughout the 1994 album, MC Luther Campbell raps untraditional Christmas songs, such as “Ho Ho Hoes,” “2 Live Christmas, “Christmas Spliff,” and “Christmas F---in’ Day,” which sounds a lot like “Gin and Juice.” Campbell went legit and now writes for the Miami New Times.

13. THIS CHRISTMAS // OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN AND JOHN TRAVOLTA

The friends sang together in Grease and the guilty pleasure film Two of a Kind, and one morning in 2012 they woke up and decided that, because it had been 30 years since they had worked together, it was time to put out a Christmas album. The couple duet on the standards “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” featuring Barbra Streisand. But Travolta can’t sing, and the album cover is just plain scary.

14. A COLT 45 CHRISTMAS // AFROMAN

A parody Christmas record, from a Grammy-nominated rapper? Yup. In 2006, Afroman took a debauched look at Christmas with songs named “Deck My Balls” and other titles we shouldn’t repeat, plus the new classic “O Chronic Tree”: “O Chronic tree, oh chronic, I want you all for me.”

15. THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR // SCOTT WEILAND

In 2011, the late Stone Temple Pilots frontman released this bizarre album. The fact that he released a traditional Christmas album isn’t even the weirdest part though; it’s that he, for some reason, infused reggae and steel drum on “Oh Holy Night” and croons through the rest of the record. Listening to the songs, you wouldn’t know it was from a former grunge singer.

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40 Years Later: Watch The Johnny Cash Christmas Show
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Over the course of his career, Johnny Cash made a series of Christmas TV specials and recorded a string of Christmas records. In this 1977 TV performance, Cash is in great form. He brings special guests Roy Clark, June Carter Cash, The Carter Family, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison ("Pretty Woman" starts around 23:50), Carl Perkins, and the Statler Brothers. Tune in for Christmas as we celebrated it 40 years ago—with gigantic shirt collars, wavy hair, and bow ties. So many bow ties.

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7 Spine-Tingling Tales of Christmas Ghosts
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Traditionally, Christmas in England was a time for scaring the bejesus out of little children by telling ghost stories around the fire. Charles Dickens led the way with his famous ghost story A Christmas Carol, but what of the "real" ghosts said to haunt the land at Christmas time? Below are seven spine-tingling and seasonal stories of Christmas ghosts.

1. THE HAUNTED CHRISTMAS FEAST AT ALCATRAZ

Dinner hall at Alcatraz
Alex Light, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The island of Alcatraz, off the coast of San Francisco, has a long and spooky history. In its earlier days, Native Americans allegedly used to banish miscreants to the island as punishment, where they were reportedly plagued by the local spirits. Alcatraz, of course, became a notorious federal prison in 1934, housing criminals such as Al Capone before it was shut down in 1963. Today, visitors to the island report hearing screams, the clanging of metal doors, and the sound of voices within the walls. One of the more famous tales associated with the island supposedly occurred in the 1940s, when warden James Johnston held a Christmas Day party at his residence for the staff at the prison. The good cheer is said to have been brought to a swift halt when an apparition sporting mutton-chop whiskers and a gray suit appeared. The temperature in the room plummeted and the fire blew out, before returning to normal when the spirit disappeared about a minute later. The rattled guards were too scared to stay in the residence, and the rest of the Christmas celebration ended abruptly.

2. THE GHOSTLY QUEEN RETURNING HOME AT HEVER CASTLE

Hever Castle
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Anne Boleyn is notorious as the second of King Henry VIII’s ill-fated wives. To marry Anne, Henry spent years seeking a divorce from his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and went on to sever England’s relationship with the Catholic Church in Rome, forever changing the course of British history. Despite the lengths he went to ensnare her, Henry soon grew tired of Anne and, choosing to believe the idle gossip surrounding her, had her beheaded in 1536. A number of reports exist of the ghost of Anne Boleyn, but perhaps the most affecting is the version said to haunt her childhood home, Hever Castle in Kent. Some say that every Christmas Eve, the spectral figure of Anne Boleyn can be seen slowly gliding across the bridge over the river Eden toward her family home, where she was at her happiest.

3. THE HEADLESS HORSEMAN AT ROOS HALL


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Roos Hall in Suffolk lays claim to being one of the most haunted houses in England. The 16th century hall has a number of sinister connections, including a gruesome “hanging tree”—an oak tree planted at the site of the old gibbet where numerous criminals were hung. To make things even spookier, inside one of the building's cupboards, the mark of a devil’s cloven hoof is said to be imprinted. But perhaps the most dramatic haunting is supposed to happen every Christmas Eve: Legend has it that a headless horseman clatters down the driveway with his four black horses pulling a phantom coach, terrifying anyone who witnesses him.

4. THE HAUNTED DINING ROOM AT THE CRESCENT HOTEL

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, was built in 1886 and is rumoured to harbor numerous ghosts, who seem to be especially playful during the holidays. One Christmas, the staff came down to set up the dining room only to find the Christmas tree had been moved from one side of the room to the other. Another year, all the menus in the dining room had been scattered around the room. Other visitors have reported seeing groups of ghostly dancers clad in Victorian-era clothing, whirling around the deserted dance floor.

5. THE GHOSTLY GATHERING OF KINGS AT WAWEL CASTLE

View of the Wawel Cathedral from the Wawel Castle entrance
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Poland's Wawel Royal Castle was built on Wawel Hill in the 1500s. Within the hill lies a deep cave known as Smocza Jama (Dragon’s Den); legend has it that a great dragon once lived there, terrorizing the locals, before Prince Krak bravely vanquished the dragon and brought peace to Poland. To memorialize this event, a statue of the dead dragon now stands in the cave. Go deeper into the cave and you come to yet another chamber, and it is here that on December 24 every year, all the long-gone kings of Poland are said to meet and hold a spectral special council.

6. THE MISTLETOE BRIDE AT BRAMSHILL HOUSE

The Long Gallery, Bramshill House
Tsukiko YAMAMURA, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

In the early 17th century, a young woman named Anne was to be married on Christmas Day at Bramshill House in Hampshire, England. After the ceremony and feast, as was tradition at the time, the guests were all set to carry the bride to the bedchamber. Anne suggested a game be played, and asked for a five-minute head start before the guests came to find her. Everyone searched long and hard for Anne, but no sign of her could be found. At first they thought she had played a merry trick, but soon a sense of unease fell over the guests. The bridegroom, Lord Lovell, was distraught, and guests began to whisper that she must have fled. Days, weeks, months, and years passed, and Lord Lovell never stopped looking for his bride. One day, some 50 years after her disappearance, Lord Lovell was up in the huge attic of the sprawling mansion, where he began tapping on the oak panelling. As he knocked, a long-hidden secret door sprung open, and inside he found an ornate wooden chest. He pried open the heavy wooden lid, and there, still in her wedding dress and clutching her mistletoe bouquet, were the skeletal remains of his beloved. The scratch marks on the inside of the lid of the chest attested to her desperate, but futile, effort to free herself from her hiding space. (While the story appears in many variations, Bramshill House is thought to be the most likely site.)

7. THE APPARITION OF A MURDERED HIGHWAYMAN IN KENT

A burial in the forest
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One Christmas Eve near the close of the 18th century, a notorious highwayman named Gilbert is said to have stopped a coach and horses on the Hawkhurst Road in Marden, Kent. The coach contained a young lady and her father, and Gilbert ordered them out onto the road. Just as the girl stepped out, the horses bolted, taking the coach and her father with them. The young lady was left alone on the dark road with the highwayman, and as she looked into his face, she recognized him as the very same highwayman who had murdered her brother some years earlier. Horrified, she drew a hidden knife from her bag and stabbed Gilbert in the side, fleeing into the bushes. When the horses were calmed and the coach returned a little while later, the men discovered the bloodied body of the highwayman, and buried him at the side of the road. When villagers found the woman in the forest the next day, she had gone completely mad. They avoided that spot in the road for many years, and it's said that every Christmas Eve, the bloody scene is silently replayed to all that pass through.

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