British writer of ghost stories - and arguably one of the genre's finest storytellers - MR James, was born 150 years ago today. Montague Rhodes James was born on 1 August 1862 in Kent but spent many of his earliest years in Suffolk. East Anglia would later form the backdrop for many of his ghost stories. A number of James' …
There are short dramatisations playing this week on BBC Radio 4 Extra and the iPlayer. Last night's was the one with the sheet.
Christopher Lee versions
About 10 years ago the BBC televised readings of some of these stories by Christopher Lee and despite being nothing more than an old man narrating a story in a cosy room they are some of the scariest things I've ever heard. I wish the Beeb would either show them again or issue them on DVD.
More recently, Susan Hill and Michelle Paver have written ghost stories worthy of MR James himself.
They still send a shiver...
Dare we hope that Verity Stob is currently slaving over a hot keyboard to deliver a Jamesian Reg parody?
Re: They still send a shiver...
>Dare we hope ...
Simple answer, I bloody well hope not.
Whistle and I'll come to you
Don't forget the masterly production by Jonathan Miller for BBC2, with Michael Hordern as the academic.
First read these in my early teens and loved them [admission - I studied Ancient Greek and Latin to O-Level so unknowingly perhaps, I felt a kindred spirit with the author ]. Have two compilations of these stories and excellent stories they are. Truly creepy and people come to quite a nasty end in many esp 'A warning to the curious'
Must get the Beeb stuff recorded [ now where's my phone and I'll get on to my Mythweb]
Article about GHOSTS in Reg H/W!?!?!?
let me state that I enjoy ghost stories very much, but I cannot remember if I have read any of Mr (MR?) James's stories.
But reading an article about GHOSTS in Reg H/W really triggered my irony sensors.
I expect very soon an article under the title...
(The) Ten... Most Substantial Ghosts
or something similar.
Very nice tip though, I 'll be checking Mr James's stories
(... and I assume Gutenberg covers the IT angle)
Favourite MR James lines?
Mine (from Casting the Runes):
There was more unpleasantness, however. Either an economical suburban company had decided that their light would not be required in the small hours, and had stopped working, or else something was wrong with the meter; the effect was in any case that the electric light was off. The obvious course was to find a match, and also to consult his watch: he might as well know how many hours of discomfort awaited him. So he put his hand into the well-known nook under the pillow: only, it did not get so far.
What he touched was, according to his account, a mouth, with teeth, and with hair about it, and, he declares, not the mouth of a human being. I do not think it is any use to guess what he said or did; but he was in a spare room with the door locked and his ear to it before he was clearly conscious again. And there he spent the rest of a most miserable night, looking every moment for some fumbling at the door: but nothing came.
Re: Favourite MR James lines?
Truly magnificent quote, Tom. Note the use of understatement - a forgotten art nowadays, it seems.
Who is this who is coming?
A fine prog-rock interpretation of Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You:
Although I would say that as I'm the guitarist.
Also from - or via - Radio 4 Extra,
"The Scarifyers" is a series of comical fantasy dramas in which the late Nicholas Courtney (or an English 1930s character played by him, and, more recently, a different character played by somebody else) teams up with Professor Dunning, who writes ghost stories in something of a pastiche style of James and others, and they investigate crimes of a supernatural and often ultimately very silly nature.
A pertinent reminder of how our online present ties so nicely with our offline past.
Must do some reading.
...that these days it's EL James at the top of the bestseller pile instead.
from my favourite 'Count Magnus"
'Just at that instant,' he says, 'I felt a blow on my foot. Hastily enough I drew it back, and something fell on the pavement with a clash. It was the third, the last of the three padlocks which had fastened the sarcophagus. I stooped to pick it up, and--Heaven is my witness that I am writing only the bare truth--before I had raised myself there was a sound of metal hinges creaking, and I distinctly saw the lid shifting upwards. I may have behaved like a coward, but I could not for my life stay for one moment. I was outside that dreadful building in less time than I can write--almost as quickly as I could have said--the words; and what frightens me yet more, I could not turn the key in the lock.