M. R. James

Spookdaddy

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I really didn't find MR James at all scary...

To be honest - and I say this as a huge fan - neither do I; but then neither does any other literature, or for that matter, film. (And jump-scares don't count - they're just a massive cheat.)

The most important thing to me is not the thrill of a 'scare' - which seems to me to be a very ephemeral thing indeed - but the building of an atmosphere (as long as that atmosphere hangs to some sort of narrative framework; if not it's just steam out of a bottle). Many writers of ghost stories can plot, but not create a pervasive atmosphere. Some writers can do the opposite: build an effective air of oppressive dread - but one which is never lived up to by an ineffective narrative. (This latter seems to me to be a modern curse - endemic, I find, in an awful lot of modern TV and film making.)

Few, it seems to me, can do both - but I think James is one of them.

But does it keep me awake at night? No.
 
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escargot

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I'm of the same opinion as Spookdaddy - the ghost stories of M R James create both an evocative atmosphere and have great plotting (for the most part).

Yup; to go back to the mouth under the pillow, the protagonist has felt all round the mouth before he realises what it is, at which point he leaps out of bed, run downstairs and barricades himself in his study.
He spends 30 seconds or so groping around some disembodied supernatural chops before he panics. I love that!
 

Moth Twiceborn

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I've always been a big fan of M R James. Also, I know it's only "based on" Casting the Runes, but Night/Curse of the Demon is one of my favourite films.
 

Ogdred Weary

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OH SO I AM A BIG OLD SCAREDY CAT FOR BEING FRIGHTENED BY MR JAMES AM I?

*bursts into tears and runs away*
 

Spookdaddy

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I’ve been trying to recall the last time something that I read truly knocked me off kilter. (In my case, that would not be so much a case of scaring the wits out of me - more of simply staying with me, hanging around for longer than expected, tapping at the wainscot in an unseen corner of my mind until I’m not sure where the noise is coming from any more.)

Some years back I listened to the entire Craftsman Audio collection of MR James stories while confined to my bed - alone, in my then half finished flat and suffering from terrible flu. (And I do mean flu, the full fat version; I was knocked back for weeks – and at one point forgot how you use stairs, quite literally.) Oddly, the two stories that revisited me in my dreams are by no means anywhere near the best of the bunch - Two Doctors and An Evening’s Entertainment – but in my semi delirious state there must have been something in them that left its spiny hooks in me.

Many years ago – probably in my late teens – I do recall being deeply unsettled by Peter Straub’s novels, If You Could See Me Now and Julia; Ghost Story, too – but it was the two former that really wouldn’t let me go. In fact, I think this is probably the reason that I’ve been reluctant to pick them up since (I’m a frequent re-reader). It’s only within the last few months that I started reading the former again – and I didn't have anything like the same reaction. I think I was both relieved and secretly disappointed in equal measure. Must have been something to do with my mood at the time.
 
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Spookdaddy

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OH SO I AM A BIG OLD SCAREDY CAT FOR BEING FRIGHTENED BY MR JAMES AM I?

*bursts into tears and runs away*

Don't be scared. Come over here by the fire and sit down. Have a nice cup of tea.

Hold on...

...Did you hear that?

Over there, in the corner.

What on earth is that?

BOO!!
 

Ogdred Weary

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Don't be scared. Come over here by the fire and sit down. Have a nice cup of tea.

Hold on...

...Did you hear that?

Over there, in the corner.

What on earth is that?

BOO!!

I knew you were trying to put the willies up me.
 

Cochise

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I've always been a big fan of M R James. Also, I know it's only "based on" Casting the Runes, but Night/Curse of the Demon is one of my favourite films.
Not my 'favourite' film - my most scary ever. it was on on a Sunday afternoon when I was about 10 and I didn't sleep for a week. Worse than The Exorcist. Being black and white (or maybe we still had a B+W TV back then) made it even more chilling.

Now, of course, I can imagine far worse horrors than anyone could possibly film, so horror films don't scare me. (Oh sugar, I hear my conscience - "Liar pants on fire - you don't watch them, do you?")
 

Moth Twiceborn

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Not my 'favourite' film - my most scary ever. it was on on a Sunday afternoon when I was about 10 and I didn't sleep for a week. Worse than The Exorcist. Being black and white (or maybe we still had a B+W TV back then) made it even more chilling.
I can imagine it being a complete mind**** at the age of 10.
 

maximus otter

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The scene in the woods at night always gives me the shivers.

Night of the Demon evidently also made a big impression on the young Kate Bush - she samples the words "Professor Harrington" utters during the seance in the film: “It’s in the trees! It’s coming!”, at the beginning of Hounds of Love:


Gratuitous Kate pic:

iu


:bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown::bdown:

maximus otter
 
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Spookdaddy

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The scene in the woods at night always gives me the shivers.

Somewhere I have a breezeblock sized compilation of Time Out film reviews - bought some time back in the 90's.

A great reference book: short, sharp and notoriously opinionated reviews; ongoing familiarity with the tastes and opinions of a particular reviewer gave you an indication of whether you were going to like something even if the review was terrible, which - if my memory serves me okay - very many of them were.

I'm not sure exactly where it is just this minute - but I recall that even the infamously tight arsed Time Out review of the movie singled out that particular scene as (something along the lines of) 'cinematic poetry'.
 

Moth Twiceborn

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Somewhere I have a breezeblock sized compilation of Time Out film reviews - bought some time back in the 90's.

A great reference book: short, sharp and notoriously opinionated reviews; ongoing familiarity with the tastes and opinions of a particular reviewer gave you an indication of whether you were going to like something even if the review was terrible, which - if my memory serves me okay - very many of them were.

I'm not sure exactly where it is just this minute - but I recall that even the infamously tight arsed Time Out review of the movie singled out that particular scene as (something along the lines of) 'cinematic poetry'.
My motto was usually 'read the Time Out review and then do the opposite'
 

Moth Twiceborn

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The scene in the woods at night always gives me the shivers.
The final scene on the train is as tense as any modern film.

The thing that sticks in my mind though is when Karswell tells his mother that there was a price to be paid for their house and lifestyle (presumably because he got it through bargaining with demons), and then gets furious when his mother says "Why don't you just give it all back?"

That and the scene in the British Library. "Well then, let's just call this coincidence."

oh and Rand Hobart, the catatonic country yokel, was played by Foggy out of Last of the Summer Wine :D
 

ralfy

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Perhaps fear may take on a different form, like the idea of "cosmic horror" in Lovecraft: what's more frightening than the presence of Elder Ones is the belief that they are merely metaphors for a faceless, indifferent universe.
 

dr wu

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Some years ago I bought The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James and thoroughly enjoyed it. While it did not scare the 'pants off me' I was definitely affected by the atmosphere as several have mentioned.
I then discovered Algernon Blackwood who I had only heard of in passing and bought a collection. I also enjoyed his tales and the style reminded me somewhat of James.
 

lordmongrove

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Some years ago I bought The Collected Ghost Stories of M R James and thoroughly enjoyed it. While it did not scare the 'pants off me' I was definitely affected by the atmosphere as several have mentioned.
I then discovered Algernon Blackwood who I had only heard of in passing and bought a collection. I also enjoyed his tales and the style reminded me somewhat of James.
M.R James was the master but there were many good writers of creepy fiction. William Hope Hodgson, E.F Benson, Blackwood, Nathanial Hawthorn, Guy Endor, Clark Ashton Smith. I made a list for my dream anthology somewhere in one of these forums.
 

maximus otter

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Lordmongrove's fascinating link (immediately above) led me to do some digging as I'm an M.R. James fan.

Here's Felixstowe from a modern OS map:

Felixstowe-OS-map.jpg


The site of The Lodge, supposed location of the real-life house on which Monty's "Globe Inn, Burnstow" was based is immediately to the left of the word "college", just above FELIXSTOWE on the coast

The Lodge itself, owned and renamed by the Cobbold family, and situated beside Cobbolds Point:

Cobbolds-Point-house-marked.jpg


The Lodge, ringed


The Lodge from the air:

The-Lodge-Felixstowe.jpg


Some history of The Lodge from the Cobbold Family History Trust.

'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You My Lad' (full text) was published in 1904. Here's a view of Cobbolds Point in 1908:

Cobbolds-Point-1908.jpg


Here are the groynes which play a part in the tale, postcard dated 1913:

Cobbold-s-Point-1913-02.jpg


We can even, perhaps, shed light on where Professor Parkins was playing golf, before he decided to walk home alone along the beach and made the discovery which was to have such an impact on him:

Felixstowe-1938-OS-map-golf-marked.jpg


Felixstowe 1938; the "Globe Inn" AKA The Lodge bottom centre; Eastward Ho golf links upper left. The annotation on the original OS map (at upper right) read: "Human remains and armlets found" and "Roman burial ground"

"Bleak and solemn was the view on which he took a last look before starting homeward. A faint yellow light in the west showed the links, on which a few figures moving towards the club-house were still visible, the squat martello tower, the lights of Aldsey village, the pale ribbon of sands intersected at intervals by black wooden groynings, the dim and murmuring sea.

The wind was bitter from the north, but was at his back when he set out for the Globe. He quickly rattled and clashed through the shingle and gained the sand, upon which, but for the groynings which had to be got over every few yards, the going was both good and quiet.

One last look behind, to measure the distance he had made since leaving the ruined Templars' church, showed him a prospect of company on his walk, in the shape of a rather indistinct personage in the distance, who seemed to be making great efforts to catch up with him..."

400px-James_-_Ghost_Stories_of_an_Antiquary_page_226b.png


maximus otter
 
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David Plankton

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For Latin scholars -
Is there a reason why venit is spelt with a 'u', or is just a peculiarity of the typeface ? It's the same as in my copy of 'Collected Ghost Stories', only mine has better swastikas.

Is it akin to the old usage of 'f' for 's' ?

If I were to write this phrase on a piece of parchment using a calligraphy pen, should I write it as is or use a 'v' ?
 

Ogdred Weary

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For Latin scholars -
Is there a reason why venit is spelt with a 'u', or is just a peculiarity of the typeface ? It's the same as in my copy of 'Collected Ghost Stories', only mine has better swastikas.

Is it akin to the old usage of 'f' for 's' ?

If I were to write this phrase on a piece of parchment using a calligraphy pen, should I write it as is or use a 'v' ?

Are those swastikas? They've got those funny forked bits on one of the spokes/arms?

OMG! James was a Nazi! Cancel him!
 

Yithian

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For Latin scholars -
Is there a reason why venit is spelt with a 'u', or is just a peculiarity of the typeface ? It's the same as in my copy of 'Collected Ghost Stories', only mine has better swastikas.

Is it akin to the old usage of 'f' for 's' ?

If I were to write this phrase on a piece of parchment using a calligraphy pen, should I write it as is or use a 'v' ?

Older forms of Latin used V for capitals (majuscules) and u for lower-case (minuscules).

And a lot of Latin inscriptions were in ALL CAPS, so it looks unfamiliar to many people.
 

David Plankton

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Older forms of Latin used V for capitals (majuscules) and u for lower-case (minuscules).

And a lot of Latin inscriptions were in ALL CAPS, so it looks unfamiliar to many people.
That's what I don't fully understand, the inscription is ALL CAPS, yet there is a 'u'.
How would you write it?
 

maximus otter

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A Zoom performance of "Casting the Runes" by the excellent Robert Lloyd Parry at 1930 GMT today, Hallowe'en.

"All you need is access to Zoom and £5 per viewer."

About this Event

https%3A%2F%2Fcdn.evbuc.com%2Fimages%2F115234371%2F58818355423%2F1%2Foriginal.20201020-111439


‘… he put his hand into the well-known nook under the pillow. It did not get so far. What he touched then was, according to his account, a mouth. With teeth. And with hair about it. And not, he declares, the mouth of a human being…’

Meet the unforgettable ‘Abbot of Lufford, ’ Mr. Karswell – magic lanternist, historian of the occult, and scourge of the academic establishment.
'Casting the Runes' by M R James is perhaps best known for being the source for the classic 1950s horror film ‘Night of the Demon.’
Now you can experience it afresh, told by candlelight, over Zoom...

A code will be sent to you nearer the time to access the Zoom meeting in which the stories will be broadcast.

Tickets here.

maximus otter
 

Hogarth999

Ephemeral Spectre
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I've just noticed that as of October and November 2020 Audible now has the audio recordings of assorted ghost stories by M R James which were superbly narrated by Sir Michael Hordern. These were originally released by Argo as four double audio cassettes way back in the 1980s. I still have the cassettes but the quality of course is not so good after all these years so it's wonderful to see that these can now be downloaded from Audible. Here are the links:

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/The-M-...ories-More-Ghost-Stories-Audiobook/0008449244

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/No-13-and-Other-Ghost-Stories-Audiobook/0008447667

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Ghost-Stories-Audiobook/0008447624

https://www.audible.co.uk/pd/More-Ghost-Stories-Audiobook/0008447519

(the first link is a collection of the latter three releases).

The keen of eye will spot that there's one double cassette release which is missing, it was titled 'A Warning to the Curious' and featured the titular story as well as:

Stories I Have Tried To Write
The Uncommon Prayer Book
A Neighbour's Landmark
The Rose Garden

Besides the rather excellent 'A Warning to the Curious' the other parts of that double cassette release aren't anything to write home about, perhaps this is why that doesn't have a release on Audible. Nonetheless it's a curious omission.

Edit: bought the 'collection', audio quality for the stories from 'Number 13 and other Ghost Stories' sound rather muffled, but the rest seem okay (based on listening to a few seconds of each).
 
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