Christmas Specials Wiki
Christmas Specials Wiki

Jacob Marley's ghost visits Scrooge in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Jacob Marley (8 March 1783 - 24 December, 1836) is a fictional character who appears in Charles Dickens' novel A Christmas Carol.

Role in the story[]

In life, Jacob Marley was the business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. As teenagers, both men had been apprenticed in business and met as clerks (presumably in accounting) in another business. The firm of Scrooge and Marley was a nineteenth century financial institution, probably a counting house, as Marley refers to their offices as 'our money-changing hole'. They have become successful bankers, with seats on the London Stock Exchange; they are also stockholders and directors of at least one major association, but a vast amount of their wealth has been accumulated through usurious moneylending. Scrooge is described as Marley's "sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner". He has been dead seven years by the time the story begins.

Marley preys upon Scrooge's mind in a variety of different ways. First, his face appears in place of Scrooge's door-knocker as Scrooge approaches his lodgings; secondly, Scrooge gets the impression of a "locomotive hearse" ascending the stairs before him as he climbs; thirdly by making his face appear to engulf the whole design of the fireplace in Scrooge's bedroom; next by making every bell in the house ring of its own accord and then, most famously, by appearing before Scrooge in the form of a ghost himself.

The ghost maintains the same voice, hairstyle and sense of dress that he had in life, but is completely transparent, wearing a handkerchief tied about his jaws, and "captive, bound and double-ironed" with chains which are described as "long, and wound about him like a tail; it was made... of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel." He often, in moments of great despair or impatience at Scrooge's skepticism, flings these upon the ground before him and almost induces his former partner "into a swoon". He explains that it is the chain he subconsciously built himself in life, as a result of his extortionate behaviour. The ghost is also described as being provided with "an infernal atmosphere of its own... its hair and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven". He despairs at his inability to ever find happiness in the mortal world or the next. As he spent his life on this earth obsessing over money and mistreating the poor and wretched to fill his pocket, Marley is damned to walk the earth for all eternity, never to find rest or peace.

At first Scrooge does not believe that Marley's ghost is real, and a mere figment of his imagination. When the spectre asks, "Why do you doubt your senses?" Scrooge scoffs that "...a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!" Later, more pointedly he says, "Humbug, I tell you! Humbug!" Marley's only reply is a spine-chilling howl that brings Scrooge to his knees, begging for mercy. Satisfied, after explaining his situation and the reasons for it, Marley delivers his message of the three hauntings that will help redeem Scrooge of the same punishment, he then flies out of the window in the company of other restless souls, all of them chained in a similar manner to himself and all of them suffering the same incessant torture.


The life and afterlife of Jacob Marley is not detailed in A Christmas Carol. The reader has no idea exactly how Marley escaped with an arrangement for Scrooge's redemption. Even he himself appears uncertain as to how he is visible to Scrooge "on this night", when he has followed him, invisible, on "many and many a day". One interpretation has been offered in the prequel novel, Marley's Ghost (2000) by Mark Hazard Osmun, an imagining of Marley's life and subsequent sacrifice on behalf of his former partner.

However, various adaptations of A Christmas Carol have made various differences to Marley. In A Christmas Carol, for example, his birth-date is given as 1785, and in Mickey's Christmas Carol, it is said that Marley left very little in the way of a fortune, so he was instead buried at sea. In that same film, he was implied to be a ruthless criminal as well, "robbing the widows and swindling the poor", all in the same day and his punishment of being "forced to carry his heavy chains for eternity" was a result of it.


Picture Feature Year Performer Notes
Scrooge, or, Marley's Ghost 1902 unknown
A Christmas Carol 1908 unknown
No Screenshot
Scrooge 1951 Michael Hordern
No Screenshot
Kraft Television Theatre: "A Christmas Carol 1952 Richard Purdy
Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol 1962 Royal Dano
Famous Classic Tales: A Christmas Carol 1969 Bruce Montague
1970marley Scrooge 1970 Alec Guinness Marley is given an extra scene near the end where he escorts Scrooge down into his grave before Scrooge wakes up.
Untitled 232 A Christmas Carol 1971 Michael Hordern
No Screenshot The Stingiest Man in Town 1978 Theodore Bikel
1982-toon-marley A Christmas Carol 1982 unknown
Goofy as Jacob Marley Mickey's Christmas Carol 1983 Goofy (voiced by Hal Smith)
No Screenshot
A Christmas Carol 1984 Frank Finlay Scrooge hears Marley's ghost from a spectral hearse that is pulled by two spectral horses while returning home from working at his office.
Marsley The Jetsons: "A Jetson Christmas Carol" 1985 Mel Blanc This version of the character is called Marsley.
Marley-Ghostbusters The Real Ghostbusters: "Xmas Marks the Spot" 1986 Maurice LaMarche
No Screenshot Scrooged 1988 Jamie Farr The character of Lew Hayward (played by John Forsythe) acts as a Jacob Marley analogue to Frank Cross within the main plot.
Marleyandmarley The Muppet Christmas Carol 1992 Statler and Waldorf (pupeteered by Jerry Nelson & Dave Goelz) The character is portrayed as two brothers named Jacob and Robert Marley (a nod to Bob Marley) so that they can be played by Statler and Waldorf. They sing the number "Marley and Marley" where they lament their suffering and warn Scrooge of what he will face.
Slappy as Marley Animaniacs: "A Christmas Plotz" 1993 Slappy Squirrel (voiced by Sherri Stoner) Slappy shows up as a ghost, telling Thaddeus Plotz that she is here because "the studio keeps giving me these stupid cameos."
Mister Slate as Jacob Marley A Flintstones' Christmas Carol 1994 Mr. Slate (voiced by John Stephenson) This version of the character is called Jacob Marbley.
Jake marley Ebbie 1995 Jeffrey DeMunn DeMunn plays Marley's modern version, Jake Marley, Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge's mentor and later partner who dies of a heart attack right in front of her.
Butt-Head Jacob Marley A Beavis and Butt-head Christmas 1995 Butt-head (voiced by Mike Judge) Butt-head plays the role of Jacob Marley and appears while Beavis is trying to watch a Christmas Carol style porno.
Jacob Marley (voiced by Ed Asner) A Christmas Carol 1997 Ed Asner
Maude Marley Ms. Scrooge 1997 Katherine Helmond Helmond portrays a female version named Maude Marley.
Jasper and Horace as Marley 101 Dalmatians: "A Christmas Cruella" 1997 Horace and Jasper Badun (voiced by David Lander and Michael McKean) Cruella De Vil's henchmen appear as a two-headed ghost.
Jacob Charlie An All Dogs Christmas Carol 1998 Charlie Barkin (voiced by Steven Weber) Charlie as the role of Jacob Marley as known as Jacob Charlie.
Salem as Marley Sabrina: The Animated Series: "Witchmas Carole" 1999 Salem Saberhagen (voiced by Nick Bakay)
Plato as Marley Adventures from the Book of Virtues: "A Christmas Carol" 2000 Plato the Buffalo (voiced by Christopher Judge)
Marli Jacob A Diva's Christmas Carol 2000 Rozonda Thomas Rozonda Thomas portrays a female version named Marli Jacob.
Jacob Marley 2001 Christmas Carol: The Movie 2001 Nicolas Cage
Aunt Marla A Carol Christmas 2003 Dinah Manoff The Jacob Marley character is a stage mother-type aunt of Carol's, named Aunt Marla.
No Screenshot A Christmas Carol: The Musical 2004 Jason Alexander
Claus-0044 Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: "A Lost Claus" 2005 Bloo (voiced by Keith Ferguson) When Bloo tries using A Christmas Carol to scare Mr. Herriman into buying more gifts for those at Foster's, he mixes up Jacob Marley with Jamaican reggae musician Bob Marley.
Daffy meets Sylvester's ghost Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas 2006 Sylvester (voiced by Joe Alaskey) Sylvester was a superstore CEO idolized by Daffy and serving as an inspiration to him. He was killed by being squashed with a forklift nine times.
Cricket as Jacob Marley A Christmas Carol 2006 Keith Wickham The character is portrayed as an anthropomorphic cricket (ala Jiminy Cricket). In this adaptation, he is given an extra scene where Scrooge's redemption frees him from his punishment.
No Screenshot An American Carol 2008 Chriss Anglin The role of Marley is taken by the spirit of John F. Kennedy.
Marie Barbie in a Christmas Carol Pam Hyatt Pam Hyatt portrays a female version named Marie.
Marley 2009 A Christmas Carol 2009 Gary Oldman
Fantasma mensajero La CQ: "Christmas in the CQ" 2012 Clara
Thomas & Friends: "Diesel's Ghostly Christmas" 2015 Emily
(voiced by Teresa Gallagher (UK)/Jules de Jongh (US))
Emily is held and surrounded by chains, uses Thomas' steam to make herself look ghostly, and goes by the name of "E-Marley's Ghost".
Gretchen as a Ghost
Camp Lakebottom: "Smells Like the Holidays" 2016 Gretchen McGee's guilt for framing Squirt takes a spiritual form similar to Gretchen. At first, McGee thinks she playing a joke on him, until she reveals that the real Gretchen is still sleeping.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: "A Hearth's Warming Tail" 2016 Applejack
(voiced by Ashleigh Ball)
Applejack's role is also the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past, the counterpart of the The Ghost of Christmas Past. Originally Discord had a role as a traditional Jacob Marley, but it was cut for time.
Be Cool, Scooby-Doo!: "Scroogey Doo" 2017 Mr. Bugly In an awkward turn of events, when Marley arrives, Scrooge just scolds him about how rude he's being by coming without knocking. During this, Bugly first hypnotizes Scrooge with the coin's reflection in a nearby mirror, making Scrooge hallucinate the "scarier" Marley.
Man Who Invented Christmas Marley
The Man Who Invented Christmas 2017 Donald Sumpter Jacob Marley appears as Charles Dickens creates the story of A Christmas Carol, scaring Scrooge and telling Dickens he's more like Scrooge than he thinks, and is girded with his own chains.
Jacob Marley 2019
A Christmas Carol 2019 Stephen Graham
Jacob Marley 2022
Scrooge: A Christmas Carol 2022 Jonathan Pryce Marley's ghost creates a freezing trail wherever he goes, covering Scrooge's chambers with ice upon his arrival. A softer side of him is shown through his old dog Prudence, who was passed to Scrooge's care after his death, with Marley stopping to warmly greet the dog during his visit.


  • In 1963, President John F. Kennedy quoted Marley in his speech about businesses in America, saying "Humanity was my business."
  • In 1993, Aimee Mann released a song called "Jacob Marley's Chain" on her album Whatever.
  • Marley's grave - covered in chains - can be briefly seen in the 1994 film The Pagemaster.
  • In the 1998 episode of Sports Night entitled "Thespis", Jacob Marley is referenced and compared to Thespis of ancient Greece, when the show's production appears to be haunted by the ghost.
  • In 2008, Nightwish's single, "Bye Bye Beautiful", a reference to Jacob's ghost is made due to the problems that lead the band to fire their former singer, Tarja Turunen.
  • Marley's Ghost is the name of a Northern California band extant since the early 1990s whose diverse musical styles are principally focused on bluegrass, country, and folk.
  • Jacob Marley's Ghost was the name of an esoteric music group from the late 1990s which originated in Eugene, Oregon. Once led by Ezra Holbrook, the band now seems to be "defunct".
  • In the Babylon 5 episode "Exogenesis", Marcus makes reference to Marley while quoting Dickens.
  • In the short story "Adaptation", by Connie Willis, Marley's ghost appears as a stand-in for the Ghost of Christmas Past (who has become corrupted by the increasing commercialization of Christmas and retired to Florida).
  • The 1999 TV movie adaptation opens with a prologue of Scrooge attending Marley's funeral at a rural churchyard.
  • In "A McNally's Christmas Story" he is mentioned by Aidan Johnson.

A Christmas Carol
Humans Ebenezer ScroogeBob CratchitMrs. CratchitTimothy "Tiny Tim" CratchitBelinda CratchitMartha CratchitPeter CratchitFredBelleMr. FezziwigFan
Ghost Jacob MarleyThe Ghost of Christmas PastThe Ghost of Christmas PresentThe Ghost of Christmas Yet to ComeIgnorance and Want