The Ghost Story for Christmas strand has again become a festive staple since it was revived by Mark Gatiss – first in 2013 with an adaptation of The Tractate Middoth by MR James, and more regularly from 2018 onwards.


But writer/director Gatiss fears that this year's outing, a screen version of Lot No. 249 by Arthur Conan Doyle, may be the final chapter.

This year, Lot No. 249 was commissioned as a companion piece to BBC Two's docuseries Killing Sherlock: Lucy Worsley on the Case of Conan Doyle – but without something similar materialising in the future, Gatiss suggests that it may prove impossible to secure funding for his one-off, 30-minute stories.

"We've been very blessed that this happened, because Lucy Worsley is doing this three-parter, so there was a way of doing it," he told

All but one of the previous five Ghost Stories were MR James adaptations, with Gatiss noting, "It's great because it means we can do somebody else – and I love this story, I had it in an anthology when I was a kid, so it's nice to do something totally different.

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"But it's just so hard – I mean, genuinely. If you talk to anybody, it's scary how scarce the resources are.

"I don't want to sound like a bleeding heart, but people love them and I really hope we can find a way. But I think it's perilous because, as I always say, it's such an unusual slot... it's just really hard to scrape the money together."

He joked: "I'm hoping for an eccentric billionaire [to fund it]!"

Monkhouse Lee (COLIN RYAN), Smith (KIT HARINGTON), Bellingham (FREDDIE FOX) in Lot No. 249: A Ghost Story for Christmas looking at a coffin
Monkhouse Lee (Colin Ryan), Smith (Kit Harington), and Bellingham (Freddie Fox) in Lot No. 249: A Ghost Story for Christmas. BBC/Adorable Media Ltd/Colin Hutton

A Ghost Story for Christmas began as a strand of short television films in 1971, with the original instalments directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark. These aired until 1978, with the format having been revisited sporadically by the BBC since 2005.

Lot No. 249, based on Conan Doyle's 1892 gothic horror short story, sees young academic Abercrombie Smith (Kit Harington) encounter the strange and exotic Edward Bellingham (Freddie Fox), whose arcane research into ancient Egypt could be inspiring something terrible...

Having famously adapted the author's Sherlock Holmes stories for the screen and now realising one of his short stories, Gatiss says he's not immediately looking to branch out further into Conan Doyle's canon – but he believes there's definite potential in the Professor Challenger stories, the most famous of which is 1912's The Lost World.

"Steven [Moffat] and I talked a lot about Challenger as a separate thing, because he's a wonderful character – Doyle did that rare thing of getting another one!

"Challenger is a brilliant character – obviously The Lost World is the one, but the short stories are very good. Someone could do something great with that..."

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A Ghost Story for Christmas: Lot No.249 airs on BBC Two and BBC iPlayer on Christmas Eve (Sunday 24th December) at 10pm.

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