Stigma (1977 film)

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A Ghost Story for Christmas episode
Title screen
Episode no. Episode 7
Directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark
Written by Clive Exton
Original air date 29 December 1977
Episode chronology
← Previous
"The Signalman"
Next →
"The Ice House"

Stigma is an episode of the BBC's A Ghost Story for Christmas series, made in 1977. It was the first of only two stories set in the actual year of its making, and the last which mainstay Lawrence Gordon Clark would direct.[1] It was first shown on BBC One on 29 December 1977 (postponed from its original scheduled broadcast date of 28 December), and was repeated on 29 May 1978. Scripted by Clive Exton, the thirty-minute piece stars Kate Binchy, Peter Bowles and Maxine Gordon.


The film concerns a family who have just moved into a cottage in the countryside. The cottage is situated near an ancient megalithic stone circle, and one of the stones is in the garden of the cottage which the family arrange to have moved. However, as two workmen attempt to lift a large, heavy stone from their garden, an ancient curse is unleashed which causes the mother to bleed uncontrollably, despite having no wounds. Once the stone is finally moved, a skeleton is found buried there. The implication is that the mother's body is re-enacting the ritual execution of a witch who was buried under the stone centuries earlier.[2]


The stones of Avebury where the production was filmed

The production was filmed at Avebury, Wiltshire, which had also been the location used for the ITV series Children of the Stones (screened earlier the same year). The production is unlike the previous films in the Ghost Story For Christmas strand in several ways; it is the first to be an original story and the first to be set in the then-present day. Critical opinion is decidedly mixed, with the decision to move away from adaptations of classic ghost stories the main concern. David Kerekes, author of Creeping Flesh: The Horror Fantasy Film Book: Volume 1, suggested that "the problem is that this is not a ghost story. Stigma is a straight down the line horror story. Although it's a perfectly competent television production, it just doesn't fit in with the feel of what a Christmas ghost story should be."[3]

Home media[edit]

"Stigma" was released on DVD by the British Film Institute in 2012. It was released on a single disc along with two other films from the Ghost Story for Christmas strand; "The Signalman" and "The Ice House". The DVD also contains bonus features including a 9-minute introduction to "Stigma" by director Lawrence Gordon Clark, and a booklet containing newly commissioned essays about the productions. It has also been included in a boxed set of all of the BBC's Ghost Stories for Christmas, released by the BFI the same year.


  1. ^ A Ghost Story for Christmas
  2. ^ Helen Wheatley, Gothic Television, 2006 p. 55
  3. ^ David Kerekes, Creeping Flesh: The Horror Fantasy Film Book: Volume 1 p.36

External links[edit]