Cover image of  A Podcast to the Curious - The M.R. James Podcast
(94)
Arts
Books

A Podcast to the Curious - The M.R. James Podcast

Updated 6 days ago

Arts
Books
Read more

... dedicated to the Weird Fiction and Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

Read more

... dedicated to the Weird Fiction and Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

iTunes Ratings

94 Ratings
Average Ratings
88
3
3
0
0

Great fun

By Adam Lounsbery - Jan 10 2020
Read more
I started listening to this podcast with basically no knowledge of M.R. James. (I’d seen the 1957 film Night of the Demon but had never read any of James’s stories or seen any of the television adaptations.) I’ve now listened to more than a dozen episodes and read the associated stories. Mike and Will are knowledgeable and passionate hosts. Looking forward to more “Jamesian wallops” in the new year!

Fun and informative companion to the stories!

By Irving679 - Dec 26 2019
Read more
I get so much more enjoyment out of the stories thanks to Mike and Will’s insight, research, and commentary. I’ve read almost all of the stories now! The podcast is especially helpful because I’m an American and there are a few things in terms of name pronunciation, geography, and how academia is different in the UK that they did a good job clearing up. They’re also funny and seem to have a good friendship with each other.

iTunes Ratings

94 Ratings
Average Ratings
88
3
3
0
0

Great fun

By Adam Lounsbery - Jan 10 2020
Read more
I started listening to this podcast with basically no knowledge of M.R. James. (I’d seen the 1957 film Night of the Demon but had never read any of James’s stories or seen any of the television adaptations.) I’ve now listened to more than a dozen episodes and read the associated stories. Mike and Will are knowledgeable and passionate hosts. Looking forward to more “Jamesian wallops” in the new year!

Fun and informative companion to the stories!

By Irving679 - Dec 26 2019
Read more
I get so much more enjoyment out of the stories thanks to Mike and Will’s insight, research, and commentary. I’ve read almost all of the stories now! The podcast is especially helpful because I’m an American and there are a few things in terms of name pronunciation, geography, and how academia is different in the UK that they did a good job clearing up. They’re also funny and seem to have a good friendship with each other.
Cover image of  A Podcast to the Curious - The M.R. James Podcast

A Podcast to the Curious - The M.R. James Podcast

Latest release on Jan 06, 2020

Read more

... dedicated to the Weird Fiction and Ghost Stories of M.R. James.

Rank #1: Episode 49 – Twelve Medieval Ghost Stories

Podcast cover
Read more

What could be more worthy of a Christmas episode than a ghost story? Answer: twelve ghost stories!  This week Mike and Will find plenty of seasonal cheer in the scribblings of a 15th century monk from Yorkshire, whose collected tales of wandering spirits Monty transcribed in 1922.  Expect lashings of purgatorial terrors, a stocking-full of redemption and a whole load of bad wassailing, ghostly and otherwise*, as we explore Twelve Medieval Ghost Stories.

Links:

  • The Byland Abbey Project  has all the stories, plus translation notes and commentary on each story.  Invaluable!
  • Ghosts in Medieval Yorkshire, by Jacqueline Simpson, is a fantastic article, not least for  Jacqueline’s analysis of the different roots of James’ ghost stories and these medieval tales.
  • Mark Gatiss talks about medieval manuscripts with a curator at the Fitzwilliam Museum  in his 2013 documentary Ghostwriter (contains images some listeners will hopefully find disturbing).
  • Death and the Afterlife – a British Library article with examples of medieval Books of Hours and other context for understanding the 15th century view of mortality, purgatory and salvation.
  • Underrated BBC Radio 4 discussion show Beyond Belief (it’s great, even for atheists!) ran an episode on purgatory, which may not be available to listeners outside of the UK.

Happy Christmas and we’ll see  you again in 2016!

* no, seriously. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Dec 22 2015

1hr 6mins

Play

Rank #2: Episode 30 – A Warning to the Curious – Part 1 of 2

Podcast cover
Read more

The waiting is over, it’s finally time for Mike & Will to tackle what is arguably M.R. James’s masterpiece – A Warning to the Curious! It’s a biggie, so we will split our coverate of this story over two episodes. Our examination of this story will conclude in episode 31.

To assist them in their task, Mike and Will are joined by Tom Baynham, whose article ‘A Return to Seaburgh’ sheds much light on the real-world locations which feature in this story.

Once again big thanks go out to Alisdair Wood for providing the awesome artwork. You can now purchase a set of eight postcards featuring Alisdair’s great M.R. James illustrations. Snap them up while you can from Alisdair’s online shop.

The excellent readings which accompany this episode were provided by Lewis Davies.

Show notes:

  • Story locations
    In his introduction to ‘Collected Ghost Stories’ M.R. James explained that he based the town of Seaburgh on Aldeburgh in Suffolk. The actual locations featured in this story have been explored in a few articles in Ghosts & Scholars: ‘A Visit to Seaburgh‘ by Darroll Pardoe (G&S 15), ‘Cambridge and Suffolk: A Perambulation of Two Counties’ by Brian J. Showers (G&S Newsletter 14 – not available online) and ‘A Return to Seaburgh’ by Tom Baynham (G&S Newsletter 23 – not available online). See also the White Lion Hotel. To see the locations features in this story on a map, visit Monty’s World, our M.R. James map.
  • Snape Common Anglo-Saxon Cemetary (Wikipedia)
    The idea of buried Anglo-Saxon treasure was probably inspired by the real archeological finds uncovered at nearby Snape Common during the 19th century. The story also mentions the crown found at Rendlesham, a reference to the real crown found at the famous burial mounds at Sutton Hoo, near Rendlesham.
  • ‘”No Thoroughfare” – The problem of Paxton’ by Mike Pincombe (Ghosts & Scholars 32)
    This fascinating article (sadly not available online) explores the implications of a wartime setting for ‘A Warning to the Curious’. For an entirely different take on the character of Paxton, see Pincombe’s very entertaining essay ‘Homosexual Panic and the English Ghost Story‘ (G&S Newsletter 2)!
  • ‘Lay of a Last Survivor- Beowulf, the Great War, and M.R. James’s “A Warning to the Curious” ‘ by Patrick J. Murphy and Fred Porcheddhu (not yet published)
    This article reveals the connection between this story and Beowulf, and elaborates on Mike Pincombe’s suggestions about the importance of WWI to the understanding of this story.
  • ‘”The Rules of Folklore” in the stories of M.R. James’ by Jacqueline Simpson (Warnings to the Curious, Hippocampus Press, 2007)
    This essay mentions various possible precedents to the myth of the Three Crowns, including the legend of Bran the Blessed and Drake’s Drum.
  • The name ‘Ager’ (Surname Database)
    It seems that ‘Ager’ is indeed a local name of some pedigree in the Suffolk and Cambridge area.

As if a bumper 2-parter on ‘A Warning to the Curious’ wasn’t enough, we have also produced a short video comprising footage taken on our recent visit to Aldeburgh, and featuring locations from the story such as Aldeburgh Parish Church, the White Lion Hotel (‘the Bear’ from the story), Wyndham House (home of M.R. James’s grandparents), the Martello Tower, Sluice Cottage (the likely site of William Ager’s house) and even a spot which matches James’s description and location of the mound where Paxton finds the crown!

Oct 13 2013

1hr 18mins

Play

Rank #3: Episode 17 – The Diary of Mr Poynter

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will recoil in horror from some fearsome home furnishings in ‘The Diary of Mr Poynter’ by M.R. James.

Big thanks to our reader for this episode, the mighty Paul Maclean (@ysdc on Twitter). You may know Paul from the ‘Call of Cthulhu’ RPG hub Yog-Sothoth.com and it’s Lovecraftian publishing wing InnsmouthHouse.com. He is also one of the presenters of the News from Pnakotus and The Silver Lodge podcasts, both required listening for weird fiction and RPG fans!

Also big thanks to Alisdair Wood, the massively talented artist who provided us with the awesome specially-created ‘Diary of Mr Poynter’ artwork you can see above. You can find more exciting James-inspired artwork at Alisdair Wood’s website.

Show notes:

  • Rendcomb Manor, Gloucestershire (Monty’s World)
    While in the story Rendcomb Manor is said to be in Warwickshire, the real Rendcomb Manor is in Gloucestershire. Now home to Rendcomb College, it is not clear if James had this ancient estate in mind when he wrote the story.
  • Anti-vivisection movement and the Brown Dog Affair (Wikipedia)
    Miss Denton is an advocate of the Anti-vivisection moment, which was gathering momentum in the decade before this story was published.
  • William Poynter, Bishop (Wikipedia)
    M.R. James borrowed the name of his diarist from an English bishop who published various religious tracts during the early 19th century.
  • Dr Arthur Charlett, University College Oxford (Wikisource)
    Mr Poynter’s diary states that the famously hirsute (and presumably fictional) Everard Charlett was of the same family as Dr Arthur Charlett, who was Master of University College Oxford for 30 years until his death in 1722.
  • Thomas Hearne, Antiquarian (Wikipedia)
    James mentions in the story that William Poynter argued with English antiquarian Thomas Hearne (1678 – 1735).
  • Dr Robert Plot, Naturalist (Wikipedia)
    Mr Poynter’s diary suggests that there may be precedents for the strange death of Everard Charlett to be found in the work of Robert Plot. Plot English naturalist whose works mentioned strange natural phenomena such as the ‘double sunset’ at Leek in Staffordshire, a giants femur bone etc.
  • Feast of St Jude and St Simon (CatholicCulture.org)
    James mentions that the curtains are finally delivered on the Feast of St Jude and St Simon, the 28th October. In his book Suffolk and Norfolk M.R. James notes that stained glass images of Jude and Simon can be found in the parish church at Denton in Norfolk, although his use of this as a name for his protagonist could be a coincidence!
  • Thomas Philips, Antiquarian (Wikipedia)
    M.R. James mentions in the story that prior to purchase by James Denton, Mr Poynter’s diary was part of the ‘famous Thomas collection’ of manuscripts. Thomas Philips was an antiquarian and obsessive book collector who left a collection of around 100,000 books and manuscripts at the time of his death in 1872 which were auctioned off over a number of years.
  • Ghosts and Scholars postcard (Ghosts & Scholars Website)
    Ghosts and Scholars are selling this rather scary bookmark featuring an image of Everard Charlett’s hairy coffin!
  • Shakespeare authorship question (Wikipedia)
    In the story Mr Cattell makes a reference to ‘Hercules and the painted cloth’, which Rosemary Pardoe suggests may be a hint towards the argument/conspiracy theory that someone else may have written Shakespeare’s works.
  • The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkin Gilman (Wikipedia)
    There are parallels between this story and the short story ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by American Writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman which was published in 1892. This story was also recently examined in detail by the HPPodcraft.
  • Game of Bear Story Competition (thesuffolkcoast.co.uk)
    Suffolk Coast are running a competition for under 16’s to write an ending for M.R. James’s unfinished story Game of Bear. Closing date is 1st November, the winner will be selected by author Susan Hill.

Oct 09 2012

53mins

Play

Rank #4: Episode 43 – The Malice of Inanimate Objects

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode Mike and Will batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of ‘The Malice of Inanimate Objects‘ by M.R. James.

Readings for this episode are taken from Curious Creatures, Robert Lloyd Parry’s excellent audiobook which features a selection of lesser-heard M.R. James stories. Many thanks to Robert for giving us permission to use them! The full CD can (and should) be purchased from nunkie.co.uk

Thanks to Alisdair Wood who provided the awesome artwork that accompanies this episode. Head over to woodi.co.uk for more M.R. James inspired artwork for sale.

Links

  • The Malice of Inanimate Objects by M.R. James (Ghosts and Scholars)
    This story can be read in full online at the Ghosts and Scholars website. See the notes at the bottom for links to the various translations of the Brothers Grimm’s story about the unfortunate, or very wicked, Squire Korbes.
  • Resistentialism and Animism (wikipedia)
    Think that objects are out to get you? You’re not alone, as Paul Jennings discussed in his humorous 1948 Spectator article on what he coined ‘Resistentialism‘. But attributing human attribute to non-human entities is nothing new, see this wikipedia article on Animism in religion.
  • The Malice of Inanimate Objects short film (Youtube)
    Want to see a man crack an egg on his own face, and worse? This M.R. James short by Youtuber Alan OW Barnes takes it’s inspiration from M.R. James and the tale of Squire Korbes mentioned in this story.
  • Death Bed: The Bed that Eats (Youtube)
    Cited as ‘a strong contender for worst movie ever made’, this 70’s horror movie caught Mike’s eye as example of the inanimate object idea being taken to places it probably shouldn’t. Warning: contains bad acting.

Feb 08 2015

35mins

Play

Rank #5: Episode 6 – Count Magnus

Podcast cover
Read more

In this Christmas Special* Will and Mike get stuck into Count Magnus by M.R. James, and explore some startling questions:

  • What is the connection between Count Magnus and Ghostbusters 2?
  • Will sewing your corpse into the carcass of a deer save your soul from the devil?
  • Would Mr Wraxall prefer to have been shot in the balls by Robocop?

Answers to these questions and much, much more can be found in this bumber festive edition of the greatest and only M.R. James podcast! This episode features readings by Chris Savory.

Show notes:

* This edition may or may not feature Mike and Will singing an exclusive acapella rendition of ‘Oh Come All Ye Faithful’, accompanied by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge (spoiler alert: it doesn’t).

Dec 23 2011

55mins

Play

Rank #6: Episode 37 – Wailing Well

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike & Will pack their tents, pull up their socks and strap on their woggles (woggles are a scout thing, right?) as they explore M.R. James’s ‘Wailing Well’!

Big thanks to Debbie Wedge for providing the readings for this episode.

Show notes:

  • Worbarrow Bay
    This story was read to the Eton boy scout troop during a camping trip to Worbarrow Bay in Dorset. Today Worbarrow Bay is owned by the Ministry of Defense and is notable for being the location of the ghost village of Tyneham.
  • Characters
    This story features a veritable who’s-who of Eton staff members from the period, including Headmaster Cyril Alington, Vice-Project Hugh V. Macnaghten, James himself and most prominently Eton’s Maths teacher and Scout Master William Hope Jones, who is most famous for writing the humorous song ‘National Anthem of the Ancient Britons‘ aka ‘The Woad Song’.
  • The Scouts
    Will thinks that the antics of Stanley Judkins resemble those of Just William, but they remind Mike more of the scout troop in Moonrise Kingdom.
  • Three women and a man
    Who are the mysterious haunters of the wailing well field? It is never revealed, but if the location is Worbarrow Bay in Dorset, then it is possible that the local gaol records suggests they may have been smugglers.
  • The Wailing Well (short film)
    Film-makers Stephen Gray and David Lilley have committed this story to celluloid. You can watch it on Youtube in it’s entirety. Check out their other work at www.loonatikanddrinks.com
  • Wayland Wood, Norfolk
    In his ‘Suffolk and Norfolk’ M.R. James mentions in passing that Wayland Wood near Thetford was known locally as ‘Wailing Wood’ on account of it’s supposedly dark past as the setting for the crimes which inspired ‘Babes in a Wood’.
  • Of Three Girls and of their Talk by Derek John
    This story, a highly enjoyable Wailing Well prequel, appears in the sadly hard-to-find Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows.
  • Dutch Oven
    The sort of ‘dutch oven’ referred to in the story is this and definitely not this.

Jun 24 2014

41mins

Play

Rank #7: Episode 31 – A Warning to the Curious – Part 2 of 2

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode concludes our coverage of M.R. James’s masterwork ‘A Warning to the Curious‘, and we also speak to James expert Patrick J. Murphy, whose essay ‘Lay of a Last Survivor – Beowulf, the Great War, and M.R. James’s “A Warning to the Curious”’ impressed us greatly when researching this story.

Lewis Davies returns again to lend his voice to the readings for this episode, and an excellent job he does too. Thanks Lewis!

Notes on Remembrance Day:

When we started our two-parter on Warning to the Curious, we didn’t realise that we’d be releasing the second part on Remembrance Day.

For all that M.R. James did to honour the memory of the war dead, it seems likely that his portrayal of the First World War in this story was intended to be  ambiguous, and likely coloured by  his role as mentor to students from Cambridge who were amongst the fallen.

Will and I are conscious that some might feel this as an insensitive topic for Armistice Day, and I am sure that M.R. James would have felt the same way.  But the podcast is ready, and I hope you agree that there is some merit in discussing how heavily the war weighed on James – as we remember those affected by war, in all conflicts.

Show notes:

  • ‘Lay of a Last Survivor – Beowulf, the Great War, and M.R. James’s “A Warning to the Curious”’ by Patrick J Murphy and Fred Porcheddu (under review)
    Our intereviewee in this episode is co-author of this excellent essay. Patrick assures us he will let us know when it is published!
  • ‘”No Thoroughfare” – The problem of Paxton’ by Mike Pincombe (Ghosts & Scholars 32)
    This fascinating article (sadly not available online) explores the implications of a wartime setting for ‘A Warning to the Curious’. For an entirely different take on the character of Paxton, see Pincombe’s very entertaining essay ‘Homosexual Panic and the English Ghost Story‘ (G&S Newsletter 2)!
  • The Martello Tower, Aldeburgh (Landmark Trust)
    Fancy a holiday in a real-life M.R. James location? The Martello Tower at Aldeburgh where Paxton meets his death is now a holiday cottage! If you are not familiar with martello towers, you can learn more about this particular type of coastal defence on wikipedia.
  • Beowulf (wikipedia)
    Patrick and Fred’s essay (see above) points out the glaring similatiries between this story and the most famous anglo-saxon story, Beowulf. Both stories feature theft from a burial mound with a guardian.
  • A Warning to the Curious directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark (BBC TV 1972)
    Further details about the 1972 TV version of this story can be found on wikipedia, including differences between the TV version and the original story.
  • A Playmobil Warning to the Curious (youtube)
    For a different take on the story, watch this playmobil animation of the story created by author and James-scholar Helen Grant and her son. It is both scary and cute in equal measures!
  • A Warning to the Furious (BBC Radio Drama)
    Another highly entertaining riff on this story can be found in this BBC radio drama from Christmas 2007. A feminist film crew visit Aldeburgh to try and psychoanalyse M.R. James, but find they have bitten off more than they can chew! This drama is not currently available form the BBC but can be tracked down on the dark dingy corners of the internet with a bit of searching.
  • Our visit to Aldeburgh (Flickr)
    You can see some photos of the visit we made this August to Aldeburgh, Suffolk on our Flickr account. Also see below for a video of out visit. Don’t forget you can view these locations on Monty’s World, our online mapping app.

Nov 11 2013

1hr 26mins

Play

Rank #8: Episode 18 – An Episode of Cathedral History

Podcast cover
Read more

Illustration by Alisdair Wood (woodnart.blogspot.com)

This episode Will & Mike slip into their cassocks, whip out their prayerbooks and head down to Southminster for ‘An Episode of Cathedral History’ by M.R. James.

Questions answered in this episode:
– When is a vampire not a vampire?
– Do Lamia have hairy legs?
– What length of skirt do Mike and Will wear?

Big thanks go out to Roger Burton West who provided the readings, and Alisdair Wood for the awesome custom illustration on the right!

Show notes

  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens (wikipedia)
    This story refers twice to characters in Dickens’s famously unfinished novel ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’.
  • Rochester Cathedral (Monty’s World)
    There are various suggestions in the story that M.R. James may have had Rochester Cathedral in mind while writing this story.
  • Isaiah 34:14 (bible.cc)
    This website illustrated quite how much the Isaiah quote which appears in this story differs from one translation to another!
  • Lamia  & Satyr (wikipedia)
    The latin quotes in this story make reference to two creatures from Greek Mythology, the Lamia and the Satyr.
  • The Demon in the Cathedral by Rosemary Pardoe (Ghosts & Scholars)
    Apparently the plot of this story was used as part of a hoax played on Fate magazine in 1977!
  • The Lamia and the Screech-owl by Peter Bell (Ghosts & Scholars)
    This essay examines ‘An Episode of Cathedral History’ and discusses the mythical creatures mentioned in the story.
  • Charles Simeon (wikipedia)
    This story refers to ‘Simeon’s Lot’, a reference to the English evangelical preacher Charles Simeon, who James’s own father was a follower of.
  • Patrick J Murphy (Miami University) & Fred Porcheddu (Denison University)
    Patrick and Fred are two American academics who are conducting research into the medaevalist and antiquarian background of M.R. James’s stories.
  • Warnings to the Curious (Amazon.co.uk)
    During this episode we mention various essays which are featured in this book, including essays by Michael A. Mason, Jacqueline Simpson
  • A Pleasing Terror (Amazon.co.uk)
    The excellent footnotes on this story in the ‘A Pleasing Terror’ ebook were of great help to us when researching this story.
  • Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb (Ghosts & Scholars)
    The unfinished James tale dubbed by Rosemary Pardie ‘Speaker Lenthall’s Tomb’ bears some striking similarities to ‘An Episode of Cathedral History’.
  • The Gothic Revival (Wikipedia)
    It is an understatement to say that M.R. James was not a big fan of the architectural changes undertaken in British churches in the name of the gothic revival during the 18th and 19th century.

Oct 28 2012

1hr 2mins

Play

Rank #9: Episode 21 – The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance

Podcast cover
Read more

It’s Christmas Special time again! This year Will & Mike look at the one and only M.R. James story actually set during the festive season, ‘The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance’.

This episode also features a Christmas Bonus in the form of an interview with film director Stephen Gray whose new adaptation of ‘A Haunted Doll’s House’ is available to watch online for a limited period only, starting Christmas Eve!

Our reader this week was Peter Ross and the accompanying artwork is by Alisdair Wood.

As mentioned in our interview, Stephen would like our listeners help deciding which story to film next! Please state your preference below.
Show notes

The image below shows the King’s Head/Arms inn which features in this story, as it looked in 1885.

Dec 22 2012

1hr 17mins

Play

Rank #10: Episode 58 – The Familiar by J Sheridan Le Fanu

Podcast cover
Read more

Illustration by M. Grant Kellermeyer

In this bumper episode we examine M.R. James’s favourite story by his favourite author, ‘The Familiar’ by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu! Praise doesn’t get much higher than that, but is it all it is cracked up to be? If you are a fan of owls, diminutive, angry men in fur caps and incredibly long sentences, then you are in for a treat.

This episode also features an interview with noted Le Fanu expert Brian J Showers of Swan River Press and readings by Debbie Wedge.

This episodes artwork comes curtesy of M. Grant Kellermeyer of Oldstyle Tales Press.

Story notes

Also mentioned in this episode

Feb 27 2017

1hr 52mins

Play

Rank #11: Episode 12a – Casting the Runes

Podcast cover
Read more

Join Mike & Will as they delve into Brian Blessed’s beard, the truth of alchemy, diabolical magic lantern shows and class war in the first of our two-part extravaganza on M.R. James’s chilling story ‘Casting the Runes’!
Our reader for this episode is Mr Torion Bowles.

Show notes:

Apr 26 2012

57mins

Play

Rank #12: Episode 62 – The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford

Podcast cover
Read more

Mike and Will take a cruise across the pond in the good ship Kamchatka – but who’s hiding in The Upper Berth?  Joining us to narrate F. Marion Crawford’s classic tale is reader Rupert Simons, who tells us that he’s found a cheap cabin for his trip from The Hook to Harwich next week…

Show notes:

  • F. Marion Crawford was a very successful writer who penned comparatively few ghost stories and as chiefly known for his historical novels.
  • The Upper Berth was originally published in “The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean”, an anthology of tales told by passengers on a stranded ocean liner.  Friend of the show Dewi Evans (whom we interviewed at JamesCon in Episode 51) has written an excellent post about this collection on his blog.
  • Ruthanna Emrys and Anne Pillsworth have written an excellent essay on this story, mentioned in our show.  Anne suggests that “Bertie” is the ghost of a man who justs wants the bed for which he paid!
  • There is a short film adaptation of ‘The Upper Berth’ by Mansfield Dark. You can watch it online but it’s also available as an extra on the DVD ‘The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance’.
  • Our fabulous cover art came from illustrator and designer Mike Godwin, whose website is full of wonderful things and links to his Etsy shop.

Nov 26 2017

1hr

Play

Rank #13: Episode 63 – Christmas Re-union by Sir Andrew Caldecott

Podcast cover
Read more

Ho ho ho! We have a festive cracker of an episode for you this month (literally), as Mike and Will explore Sir Andrew Caldecott’s M.R. James-inspired tale, ‘Christmas Re-union‘.

A big thank you to Tony Mears, who provided the readings for this episode. Check out his bands new track ‘A Hypothermia Banquet‘ on Bandcamp!

Story notes:

Dec 21 2017

56mins

Play

Rank #14: Episode 24 – The Haunted Dolls’ House

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Will and Mike delve into the toy box and pull out something truly horrible in the form of ‘The Haunted Doll’s House‘ by M.R. James!

Show notes:

  • Queen Mary’s Dolls’s House
    This story was written for a real dolls’ house, the one created by the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens for Queen Mary of Teck between 1921 and 1924. The dolls’ house in currently on display in Windsor. Further details can be found at Wikipedia.
  • Strawberry Hill House
    James describes the dolls house in his story as being ‘Strawberry Hill Gothic‘ in style, the ‘quintessence of Horace Walpole‘. Walpole’s gothic castle-style house inspired a generation of architects when it was built on the banks of the Thames in London in the mid 18th century.
  • Dolls’ Houses: It’s a Small World
    This enjoyable Guardian.com article looks into the world of modern day dolls’ house collectors.
  • Interview with Stephen Gray
    Episode 21 of this very podcast featured an interview with filmmaker Stephen Gray who has recently completed a short film adaptation of this story. Watch it on Vimeo.
  • Ghosts & Scholars notes
    The ever-reliable Ghosts & Scholars website contains a useful set of notes on this story compiled by Rosemary Pardoe.
  • A frog the size of a man?
    Jim Moon’s excellent illustration.
  • Improvised Radio Theatre – With Dice!
    Many thanks to our reader this week, Roger Burton West.  His new RPG podcast is great – and HPL fans will appreciate the domain name…

Mar 25 2013

55mins

Play

Rank #15: Episode 5 – Number 13

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode Mike and Will pack their portmanteaus for a holiday in HELL (well, Denmark actually) as they tackle ‘Number 13’ by M.R. James! Thanks to our reader this week Kirsty Woodfield.

Also in this episode Will and Mike:

  • Coin ‘The Jamesian Wallop’
  • Tackle the schleswig-holstein question
  • Discuss hellish subjects such as alchemy, German sunlounger etiquette, and Toploader
  • Inexplicably find something funny about the phrase ‘the Danish area’

Show notes & links:

Don’t forget to join us for our next episode when we will be looking at ‘Count Magnus’!

Dec 17 2011

47mins

Play

Rank #16: Episode 59 – The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will cover ‘The Haunted and the Haunters‘ by Charles Dickens’s BFF, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

M.R. James considered this story essential reading, saying “Nobody is permitted to write about ghost stories without
mentioning ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’.” (Some Remarks on Ghost Stories). Will it live up to our expectations?

Our reader for this episode is talented artist and family member, Peter Ross!

We also mention the new book from friend-of-the-podcast Patrick J. Murphy, Medieval Studies and the Ghost Stories of M. R. James, check it out!

Show notes:

  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Wikipedia)
    Some basic biographical details about EBL’s life. A more detailed biography can be found at
    www.victorianweb.org.
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (www.bulwer-lytton.com)
    Inspired by EBL’s famous clunker “It was a dark and stormy night…”, this competition challenges would-be writers
    to come up with the worst possible opening line to a novel!
  • 50 Berkeley Square, London (Wikipedia)
    Often touted as ‘the most haunted house in England’, this place gained a fearsome reputation for ghostliness in the
    latter half of the 19th century. It’s description and locations are tantilisingly close to the house described in
    this story, although the story pre-dated the house’s notoriety.
  • The Haunted House (Wikipedia)
    The ‘haunted house’ as a concept goes back for at least 2000 years, and has inspired writers for just as long.
  • ‘The Haunted House’ by Charles Dickens et al (Wikipedia)
    Could the publication of this story be connected in any way to the publications of ‘The Haunted House’, the
    portmaneau story that was ‘conducted’ and published by EBL’s friend Charles Dickens in the same year that EBL’s
    story was published?
  • Essay by Ellis Jordan (www.cherylblakeprice.com)
    This essay on ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’ sheds some more light onto the story and EBL’s aims in writing it. It
    also compared the two differing versions of the story that were published.

Apr 26 2017

1hr 21mins

Play

Rank #17: Episode 15 – Mr Humphreys and his Interitance

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will get hopelessly lost in ‘Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance’. It’s a-maze-ing!

Show notes:

  • Two Ghosts & Scholars Essays
    We referred extensively to two outstanding examinations of the symbolism and antiquarian lore behind the story: Martin Hughes’, “A Maze of Secrets in a Story by M.R. James“, reprinted in Warnings to the Curious and “James Wilson’s Secret”, by Rosemary Pardoe and Jane Nicholls.  Both well worth a read.
  • Mr Humphreys and his Inheritance (TV Version)
    This story was adapted in an abridged form for the ITV schools programme ‘Music Scene’ in the 1970’s. A very low quality rip is available on YouTube but we recommend you invest in the DVD of Casting the Runes which features a much higher quality version as an extra.
  • Wilsthorpe (GoogleMaps)
    There are two real Wilsthorpes, one in Lincolnshire and the other in Yorkshire but there is no solid evidence that M.R. James was thinking of either when writing the story.
  • Possible Maze Inspirations
    James new Suffolk and it’s stately homes like the back of his hand. With his in mind, could the yew maze in this story have been inspired by the similar yew maze at Somerleyton Hall, Suffolk, designed and planted in 1846? Like Wilsthorpe hall, the grounds have various classical/Italian features, including an globe-shaped equatorial sundial (decorated with astrological symbols) which reminds us of the globe in ‘Mr Humphreys…’.
    Rosemary Pardoe and Jane Nicholls speculate that the turf labyrinth at Hilton, Cambridgeshire may also have provided inspiration. It dates from the 17th century and would have certainly been known to James due to it’s close proximity to Cambride. It also features a central pillar at the centre, with a globe and an inscription in latin, that commemorates the death of the mazes creator William Sparrow (1641–1729).
  • Mazes (Wikipedia)
    Wikipedia features useful introductions to both hedge mazes and mazes in general, including a list of notable mazes.
  • Marjery Wardrop (Wikipedia)
    During this episode Will speculates that James’s choice of ‘Wardrop’ as a name may have been inspired by his contemporary folklorist Marjery Wardrop.
  • Labyrinth (1986)
    The mad-as-a-bag-of-ferrets maze-fest much loved by Mike, starring David Bowie’s crotch. It’s like ‘Alive in Wonderland’, but with added muppets and musical numbers. Watch the trailer on YouTube or chech out the bonkers Magic Dance Sequence. And if you enjoyed that, why not check out the Top 10 Mazes in Films, although they miss out Will’s personal favourite Cube.

Jul 11 2012

1hr 5mins

Play

Rank #18: Episode 8 – The Treasure of Abbot Thomas

Podcast cover
Read more

In this episode Will & Mike follow M.R. James on a terrifying treasure hunt to Germany in ‘The Treasure of Abbot Thomas’.

Show notes:

Feb 16 2012

54mins

Play

Rank #19: Episode 29 – A View from a Hill

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will whip out their podcasting binoculars and peer through them at ‘A View from a Hill by M.R. James.

This episode we are very lucky to have actor Scott Wichman (@scottwichmann) as our reader! Scott is starring as comedian George Burns in “Say Goodnight, Gracie” at the Virginia Rep later this month: do check that out if you can!  His co-producer Ryan Corbett – who wrote all the music and edited Scott’s readings – runs ‘Songwire‘ studios, in Richmond, VA.

Big thanks once again to Alisdair Wood for providing the great illustration to the right. Check out his new set of MR James postcards, which will soon be available on his store.

Do check out our photos of the very spooky Coombe Gibbet on flickr.

Snow notes:

Sep 02 2013

1hr 7mins

Play

Rank #20: Episode 38 – The Game of Bear

Podcast cover
Read more

An episode of two parts this week.  In part one, Will and Mike open their box of James ephemera to play the “dreadful Game of Bear”.  We only have the opening pages of this unfinished tale, but fortunately three leading Jamesians have tried to finish the story. Big thanks to Kirsty Woodfield who returns to read for us this week.

In part two, we speak with Antonia Christophers and Noel Byrne of theatre company Box Tale Soup  about their brilliant new production of Casting the Runes.  They have just finished their run at the Edinburgh Fringe and will be in Cheltenham from 8-11 October.

Show notes:

  • The Ghost and Scholars text of Game of Bear and Rosemary Pardoe’s notes can be found here.
  • The stories written by Helen Grant, Jacqueline Simpson and Clive Wright were published in G&S Newsletter #15.  It’s now unavailable, but Rosemary has very kindly offered to send listeners a electronic copy if they get in touch by email.
  • We didn’t get chance to talk about the amazing music in Box Tale Soup’s Casting the Runes, by musician Dan Melrose.
  • Finally, picture credit. Not sure why the US military stores pictures of bears, but there you go.

Aug 25 2014

59mins

Play

Ep74 – Review of Martin’s Close on BBC4

Podcast cover
Read more

Excitement abounds in the podcast house as Big Santy C leaves us a new BBC Ghost Story for Christmas, courtesy of BBC4 and Mr Mark Gatiss!  Will and Mike offer their humble thoughts on this festive treat.

Show notes:

Image and excerpts from Radio Times and BBC4.

Jan 06 2020

33mins

Play

Episode 73 – Out of the sea by A.C. Benson

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will indulge in murder, moralising and supernatural goat-based mayhem in A.C. Benson’s ‘Out of the Sea’.

Big thanks to our reader for this episode Debbie Wedge, and don’t forget to check out her M.R. James-themed t-shirt designs, ‘No diggin’ ere‘ and ‘Barchestering‘!

Notes:

  • A.C. Benson (Wikipedia)
    A.C. Benson was one of MRJ’s closest friends throughout his life. They attended prep school, Eton and King’s College together, worked together in later life and remained regular correspondents right up until Benson’s death in 1925.
  • ‘Out of the sea’ (full story – Project Gutenberg)
    You can read this story online, or download as a free ebook at Project Gutenberg. The story features in Benson’s 1904 collection ‘The Isles of Sunset’.
  • Wreckers (wikipedia)
    In this episode we speculated that Mister Grimston might have been involved in ‘Wrecking’, the act of luring passing ships into dangerous waters to sink them so their cargo could be stolen.
  • A.C. Benson and Cambridge (Ged Martin)
    An extended essay about A.C. Benson that touches on his whole life at Cambridge, as well as his relationship with his father and his mental health.
  • Why is the Devil also a goat? (Refinery29.com)
    This article explores why goats became associated with evil in both religious symbolism and popular culture.
@media screen and (max-width:480px) {
.entry img {
width: 100%
}
}

Dec 12 2019

1hr 2mins

Play

Episode 72- By One, By Two and By Three by Adrian Ross

Podcast cover
Read more

Like a prodigal and slightly deranged friend, Will and Mike return to explore another author inspired by MR James.  This week we look at the story By One, By Two and By Three, by Adrian Ross.

Show notes

  • By One, By Two and By Three is widely published in ghost story anthologies, but you can also find it online.
  • Adrian Ross was the pen-name of Arthur Reed Ropes, an accomplished academic and lyricist.  Ropes used the name when he started writing for musical comedies in the late 1880s.  By One… now often appears under this pseudonym.
  • However, the story was originally published anonymously when it appeared in Temple Bar magazine in December 1887. As Richard Dolby has explained, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the story was linked to Ross/Ropes. Most confusingly, it appeared in the US under the pseudonym “Stephen Hall”!
  • By One… was printed before Monty started telling his stories at the Chit Chat Society.  But Ropes, as Adrian Ross, published second ghost story The Hole of the Pit in 1914, just after the start of the First World War.  It was dedicated “To Montague Rhodes James, Provost of King’s and teller of ghost stories.” This was all the excuse we needed to include Ropes/Ross as one of those writers inspired by James!
  • Though Ropes and James were contemporaries at King’s College, a forward to Dolby’s book suggests MR James had no recollection of his colleague writing By One… when asked about it by a friend in the 1930s.  Monty replied: “Best thanks for a very good story. I can’t place the author… though at first I had wondered if it could prove to be Rhoda Broughton who sometimes wrote a tale of this kind, as I don’t doubt you know, and a practiced writer, I judge. But there are no tricks of style that I can pitch upon. No. I must give it up; but I have enjoyed this story very much.”  Did he ever read the story while at Cambridge with Ropes – and did he draw any influences from it?
  • A TV version of By One, By Two and By Three was aired in the US in February 1972, as part of the horror show Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.  It’s a rather fun adaptation – and features a young Mark Hamill as a surly delivery boy!

Nov 17 2019

1hr 14mins

Play

Episode 71 – An Antiquary’s Ghost Story by Augustus Jessopp

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike & Will kick off Season 3 with ‘An Antiquary’s Ghost Story’ by Augustus Jessopp! Scroll down for a full list of the ‘James Gang’ authors we will be covering over the next 15 episodes.

Big thanks to our reader for this episode, Debbie Wedge!

Show notes:

Season 3: The James Gang

Over the next 15 episodes we will be looking at stories from ‘The James Gang’, the group comprising authors which were either personal acquaintances of M.R. James, or whose stories were directly inspired by his work. The authors we are covering are:

  • Augustus Jessop
  • Adrian Ross
  • Arthur Benson
  • Robert Hugh Benson
  • E.F. Benson
  • E.G. Swain
  • Ingulphus (Arthur Gray)
  • H. Russell Wakefield
  • R.H. Malden
  • M.P. Dare
  • Andrew Caldecott
  • L.T.C Rolt
  • A.N.L Munby
  • Christopher Woodforde
  • Noel Boston

Aug 21 2019

45mins

Play

Episode 70 – Negotium Perambulans by E.F. Benson

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will grab their guidebook, pack their bucket and spade and head off for a terrifying trip to sunny Cornwall in E.F. Benson’s ‘Negotium Perambulans’.

Big thanks to Richard Crowest of the ‘Ghost Stories of E.F. Benson’ podcast for giving us permission to use extracts from his reading of this story in the episode. You can find out more about Richard, including his E.F. Benson and ‘Short Stories by Saki’ podcasts, at www.corvidae.co.uk.

Show notes:

Mar 07 2019

1hr 5mins

Play

Episode 69 – Smee by A.M. Burrage

Podcast cover
Read more

Seasons greetings listeners! For this special festive episode Mike and Will turn off the lights and dive into the wardrobe for a game of hide-and-shriek, courtesy of A.M. Burrage’s Christmas classic ‘Smee’!

Big thanks go to our reader this week Kirsty Woodfield.

Also mentioned in this episode were ‘The Dead Room’, the new Mark Gatiss ghost story due to air at 10pm on BBC4 this Christmas Eve. Also Robert Lloyd Parry, who is going to be live-streaming a performance of an M.R. James ghost story on Facebook this Christmas Eve at 7pm.

Last but not least, don’t forget to test your M.R. James knowledge with Monty’s Quiz, our brand new (and 100% free) quiz game with over 300 M.R. James-based multiple-choice questions!

Show notes

Dec 20 2018

58mins

Play

Episode 68: The Death Mask by Mrs H.D. Everett

Podcast cover
Read more

Textaphobes beware!  This month Will and Mike tackle Henrietta Dorothy Everett’s “The Death Mask”, a supernatural farce about termagant wives, gold diggin’ husbands and menacing fabrics.

Story notes:

  • Monty writes,“Going back a few years I light on Mrs Everett’s The Death Mask, of a rather quieter tone on the whole, but with some excellently conceived stories.” ( Some Remarks on Ghost Stories, The Bookman, 1929).  We had our pick of stories from this collection and of course went with the titular (and best) tale.
  • Mrs Everett wrote most of her work under the pseudonym of Theo Douglas, though the anthology ‘The Death-mask’ was published under her own name just three years before her death in 1923, aged 72.  We struggled to find much about Mrs E. online, but did reconstruct her family tree and found out about the tragic and horribly noteworthy death of her Grandfather’s brother!
  • That said, we did find that there is a bundle of papers regarding Mrs Everett’s family, together with that of her husband, at the Naval archives in Greenwich.  Material for a potential thesis? We’d love to know more about her.
  • There’s a good wikipedia article on the complex set of rules that developed around mourning in the Victorian era. It seems like the mourning expectations for women were more arduous than for men, with women being expected to be in mourning for a husband for 1-4 years, while men got away with mourning for a wife for just 3-5 months! By these standings, Tom has done his fair share.
  • The picture above  is the death mask of Grace, Lady Manners of Derbyshire, recorded for posterity after her death.  Photo credit to David Brierley.

Nov 19 2018

51mins

Play

Episode 67 – Through a Glass Darkly conference report

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode it’s conference report time! We’ve just returned from Through a Glass Darkly, an M.R. James conference which brought together authors, academics and fans in ghost-haunted York for a 2-day Jamesfest of epic proportions!

The episode features interviews with:

  • Conference organisers Paul M. Chapman, Theresa Dudley and Mark Jones, who told us about how the chance discovery that M.R. James visited York in 1898 sparked the inspiration for the conference.
  • Writer and regular Ghosts and Scholars contributor Mark Valentine, who presented on M.R. James’s scholar protagonist and what they tell us about James, his life and audience.
  • Writer John Reppion, who had just presented on the challenges of adapting ‘Ghost Stories of an Antiquary’ for the graphic novel form.
  • Author Helen Grant, who presented the fascinating true story of Father Reinhardt, the Steinfeld monk who travelled to England to view Steinfeld’s missing stained glass windows, the whereabouts of which was revealed in ‘The Treasure of Abbott Thomas’.
  • Professor Darryl Jones, who told us about his exciting plans for the first full-blown M.R. James biography for over 30 years!

The podcast also features Will and Mike’s thoughts on the rest of the conference, including walking in the footsteps of M.R. James for a stained glass tour of two York churches, and performances from Robert Lloyd Parry and Patrick Smith. You can learn more about all the people we mention at the Friends of Count Magnus website.

Oct 10 2018

1hr 13mins

Play

Episode 66 – The Monkey’s Paw

Podcast cover
Read more

This month Mike and Will throw caution to the wind and make an ill-fated wish on “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs.  Best known in his own time for gentle tales of the sea and other comic stories, Jacobs is now perhaps most famous for this classic cautionary tale of cursed taxidermy, family tragedy and pant-wetting zombie horror.  And following the show there’s a bonus fanboy smack-down between Mike and Will, as they try to emulate a listener’s M.R. James game show triumph on TV’s “Mastermind” in 1981. Come for the monkey, stay for the quiz!

Show notes:

  • Our amazing reader this month was singer and songwriter Patrick Walker of the band 40 Watt Sun.  We hope you enjoy his readings and that he’ll join us again in the future!
  • Our picture credit is to artist Noah Weaver.  You can find this picture and others at his gallery.
  • William Wymark Jacobs (1863–1943) lived through the same period as M.R. James, though we don’t think their paths ever crossed. His story is probably the most famous story we’re covering in this series and there is a wikipedia page dedicated to the many adaptations and spoofs of his plot, including the Simpsons episode Treehouse of Horror II in 1991.
  • We drew extensively from M. Grant Kellermeyer’s notes on the story in his excellent edited edition of W.W. Jacob’s stories (available from Oldstyle Tales Press) and the very useful SparkNotes for this story.
  • Will enjoyed tracking down the origins of the three wishes plot. Professor D. L. Ashliman’s website has a number of examples, including a NSFW version from ‘The Thousand and One Arabian Nights’ (hint: it’s probably big enough already) and a classic European folk tale of a man who transforms his wife’s nose into a sausage.
  • If you’d like to hear from a protagonist who deals with the consequences of being offered three wishes with slightly more sense and wisdom then check out ‘The Third Wish’, a rather touching story by ‘The Wolves of Willoughby Chase’ author Joan Aiken.
  • You can hear ‘The Monkey’s Paw’ introduced by author David Mitchell (who calls it ‘one of the most perfect ghost stories ever written’) and then read by Ben Hicks. Mitchell says of the story, “It’s a puzzle, it’s a trap, it’s a dare, it’s a flippant joke from Edwardian England that gets bent out of shape by esoteric India.”
  • Head over to Friends of Count Magnus to find out more about the M.R. James conference that is taking place in York later this month – tickets may still be available!
  • Finally, listeners from outside of the UK might not know that Mastermind is a famous gameshow here, consisting of a general knowledge round and questions on a topic chosen by each contestant. The life and stories of M.R. James occasionally comes up as specialist subject, including as selected by listener Colin H in 1991 and most recently (we think) by comedian John Finnemore on Celebrity Mastermind in 2016.

Sep 09 2018

1hr 10mins

Play

Episode 65 – The Story of the Moor Road

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will return to the realms of the ‘psychic detective’ in this tale from mother-son writing team Kate and Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard. Expect terror on the moors with malevolent earth spirits, coughing ghosts, ominous otters and even a bicycle chase scene!

A big thanks to Rob Douglas, who provided the readings for this episode.

Head over to Friends of Count Magnus to find out more about the M.R. James conference that is taking place in York this September!

Story notes

May 15 2018

52mins

Play

Episode 64 – Featherston’s Story by Mrs Henry Wood

Podcast cover
Read more

Have you ever had a hankering for upping sticks and moving overseas, where one’s limited means might stretch a little further and the wine flow more freely? This week Will and Mike head for the north coast of France in Featherston’s Story, where Mrs Henry Wood shows us that expat life is not always baguettes, brie and “la bonne vie”…

Show notes:

  • MR James wrote in ‘Some Remarks on Ghost Stories” that “I own to reading not infrequently ‘Featherston’s Story’ in the fifth series of Johnny Ludlow, to delighting in its domestic flavour and finding its ghost very convincing. (Johnny Ludlow, some young persons may not know, is by Mrs Henry Wood)”.
  • Mrs Henry Wood (or Ellen) began to published her Johnny Ludlow supernatural tales in 1868.  She did so anonymously (or rather under the name ‘Johnny Ludlow’) in ‘The Argosy’, a magazine that she had taken over editorship of the year before. The website mrshenrywood.co.uk is a fantastic resource if you would like to find out more about her prolific writing career.
  • Ellen Wood admitted the stories were written by herself in the introduction to the first Johnny Ludlow anthology, published in 1880. She claimed that she wrote them under a pseudonym because using her own name would have destroyed the illusion that they were true accounts of things that happened to the male protagonist.
  • The Ludlow stories are quite well known today for their supernatural content, but the paranormal only featured in a small number of the Ludlow stories.  These were more commonly crime, adventure or romance stories (of the 80 individually named Ludlow stories, only 17 feature the supernatural).  They were packed full of characters,  perhaps over a thousand in total.
  • Featherston’s Story was published after Ellen Wood’s death and is one of the last of the Johnny Ludlow tales. There’s a full list of Ludlow stories online, with a very brief summary of themes for each.

Mar 11 2018

1hr 1min

Play

Episode 63 – Christmas Re-union by Sir Andrew Caldecott

Podcast cover
Read more

Ho ho ho! We have a festive cracker of an episode for you this month (literally), as Mike and Will explore Sir Andrew Caldecott’s M.R. James-inspired tale, ‘Christmas Re-union‘.

A big thank you to Tony Mears, who provided the readings for this episode. Check out his bands new track ‘A Hypothermia Banquet‘ on Bandcamp!

Story notes:

Dec 21 2017

56mins

Play

Episode 62 – The Upper Berth by F. Marion Crawford

Podcast cover
Read more

Mike and Will take a cruise across the pond in the good ship Kamchatka – but who’s hiding in The Upper Berth?  Joining us to narrate F. Marion Crawford’s classic tale is reader Rupert Simons, who tells us that he’s found a cheap cabin for his trip from The Hook to Harwich next week…

Show notes:

  • F. Marion Crawford was a very successful writer who penned comparatively few ghost stories and as chiefly known for his historical novels.
  • The Upper Berth was originally published in “The Broken Shaft: Tales in Mid-Ocean”, an anthology of tales told by passengers on a stranded ocean liner.  Friend of the show Dewi Evans (whom we interviewed at JamesCon in Episode 51) has written an excellent post about this collection on his blog.
  • Ruthanna Emrys and Anne Pillsworth have written an excellent essay on this story, mentioned in our show.  Anne suggests that “Bertie” is the ghost of a man who justs wants the bed for which he paid!
  • There is a short film adaptation of ‘The Upper Berth’ by Mansfield Dark. You can watch it online but it’s also available as an extra on the DVD ‘The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance’.
  • Our fabulous cover art came from illustrator and designer Mike Godwin, whose website is full of wonderful things and links to his Etsy shop.

Nov 26 2017

1hr

Play

Episode 61 – The Open Door by Margaret Oliphant

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode join Mike and Will as they don their kilts and sporrans and head north of Hadrian’s wall for some Scottish horror (no, not the midges) as we explore ‘The Open Door’ by Margaret Oliphant!

Big thanks to Kirsty for chilling us to the bone with her readings for this episode.

Show notes:

  • Margaret Oliphant (Wikipedia)
    Margaret Oliphant (1828 – 1897) was a prolific and very popular author in her day, and M.R. James describes ‘The Open Door’ as one of only two ‘… really good ghost stories I know in the language wherein the elements of beauty and pity dominate terror.’
  • Colinton House, Edinburgh (oliphantfiction.com)
    Brentwood house’ in the story was mostly likely inspired by this house, where Oliphant stayed on a number of occasions as the guest of her friend William Blackwood III, publisher of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in which this story was first published. The house, now a school, features a picturesque castle ruin in the grounds, complete with open doorways leading to nowhere.
  • Lasswade, near Edinburgh (Leedstrinity.ac.uk)
    While the house in the story is almost certainly based on Colinton House, the adjoining village of Brentwood is more likely to be based on the village of Lasswade, where Oliphant grew up. Like Lasswade, the village in the story is described as being a centre for paper-making. This article by Rosemary Mitchell also provides some fascinating analysis of the religious symbolism in the story.
  • Margaret Oliphant and the Romantic Novel (dangerouswomenproject.org)
    This essay by Laura Witz, subtitled ‘Subtle subversions of Victorian gender conventions’, argues that Oliphant was a feminist whose fiction struggled against the restrictive gender norms of the time. Not that you see much of that in ‘The Open Door’, sadly.
  • The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection (oliphantfiction.com)
    This website contains not only a bibliography of Oliphant, but also plot synopsis for all her published fiction. The ‘Stories of the Seen and the Unseen‘ section will be of particular interest to fans of the ghost story.
  • Bogle (Wikipedia)
    A ‘bogle’ is a uniquely Scottish ghost of folkloric creature, one which the stable-master Jarvis is particularly keen to insist he is not afraid of in this story!
  • Mass Hysteria (Wikipedia)
    The doctor is keen to attribute the multiple ghostly sightings as an example of mass hysteria. The wikipedia page on mass hysteria  contains some fascinating examples of this, from mewing nuns in the middle ages to modern forms of viral mass hysteria reportedly spread by the internet.

Oct 15 2017

1hr 13mins

Play

Episode 60 – The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens

Podcast cover
Read more

We’re back! This week Mike and Will descend gingerly into a gloomy railway cutting to investigate Charles Dickens’ The Signal-Man.  Dickens dissects the harsh realities of life in industrial Britain, but can he also deliver a pleasing terror and a locomotive-sized Jamesian Wallop? (spoiler: yes, in spades)

Show notes:

  • Higham Station was the closest to Dickens’ home at Gads Hill Place and he’d have had plenty of time to contemplate it’s formidable tunnel.
  • Fatal crashes and accidents were by no means rare in the early days of the railways.  Dickens was himself involved in a hideous rail crash while in the company of his mistress and her mother, as memorialised in the picture above.  Mike mentioned hearing about the Thirsk rail disaster on the excellent podcast Note to Self – he didn’t, but admits it was actually on a lecture about sleep on BBC Radio 3.
  • An approachable essay on Dickens and the Trauma of Technology, which covers some of the main themes of the story.
  • Oldstyle Tales Press have released a wonderful edition of Dickens’ ghost stories with great footnotes and illustrations (disclaimer – we were kindly sent a couple of free copies by the lovely editor, Michael Grant Kellermeyer).
  • Another slim edition worth getting hold of is by Profile Books, which includes the incredibly funny story The Boy At Mugby Junction – I would like to say that railway catering has improved in the UK, but it’s only by degrees.
  • And of course, please check out the BFI Ghost Story for Christmas DVD, including LGC’s dramatisation of the Signal-Man.
  • Huge thanks to our reader this week, Mike’s very own father in law… Mike.  Yes, it gets confusing.

Finally, a huge apology from me (Mike) for the delay in getting this out –  we ain’t dead yet!

Jul 06 2017

1hr 22mins

Play

Episode 59 – The Haunted and the Haunters by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

Podcast cover
Read more

This episode Mike and Will cover ‘The Haunted and the Haunters‘ by Charles Dickens’s BFF, Edward Bulwer-Lytton.

M.R. James considered this story essential reading, saying “Nobody is permitted to write about ghost stories without
mentioning ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’.” (Some Remarks on Ghost Stories). Will it live up to our expectations?

Our reader for this episode is talented artist and family member, Peter Ross!

We also mention the new book from friend-of-the-podcast Patrick J. Murphy, Medieval Studies and the Ghost Stories of M. R. James, check it out!

Show notes:

  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton (Wikipedia)
    Some basic biographical details about EBL’s life. A more detailed biography can be found at
    www.victorianweb.org.
  • Edward Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest (www.bulwer-lytton.com)
    Inspired by EBL’s famous clunker “It was a dark and stormy night…”, this competition challenges would-be writers
    to come up with the worst possible opening line to a novel!
  • 50 Berkeley Square, London (Wikipedia)
    Often touted as ‘the most haunted house in England’, this place gained a fearsome reputation for ghostliness in the
    latter half of the 19th century. It’s description and locations are tantilisingly close to the house described in
    this story, although the story pre-dated the house’s notoriety.
  • The Haunted House (Wikipedia)
    The ‘haunted house’ as a concept goes back for at least 2000 years, and has inspired writers for just as long.
  • ‘The Haunted House’ by Charles Dickens et al (Wikipedia)
    Could the publication of this story be connected in any way to the publications of ‘The Haunted House’, the
    portmaneau story that was ‘conducted’ and published by EBL’s friend Charles Dickens in the same year that EBL’s
    story was published?
  • Essay by Ellis Jordan (www.cherylblakeprice.com)
    This essay on ‘The Haunted and the Haunters’ sheds some more light onto the story and EBL’s aims in writing it. It
    also compared the two differing versions of the story that were published.

Apr 26 2017

1hr 21mins

Play

Episode 58 – The Familiar by J Sheridan Le Fanu

Podcast cover
Read more

Illustration by M. Grant Kellermeyer

In this bumper episode we examine M.R. James’s favourite story by his favourite author, ‘The Familiar’ by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu! Praise doesn’t get much higher than that, but is it all it is cracked up to be? If you are a fan of owls, diminutive, angry men in fur caps and incredibly long sentences, then you are in for a treat.

This episode also features an interview with noted Le Fanu expert Brian J Showers of Swan River Press and readings by Debbie Wedge.

This episodes artwork comes curtesy of M. Grant Kellermeyer of Oldstyle Tales Press.

Story notes

Also mentioned in this episode

Feb 27 2017

1hr 52mins

Play

Episode 57 – The White and the Black by Erckmann-Chatrian

Podcast cover
Read more

Émile Erckmann and Alexandre Chatrian

This episode Mike and Will pop across the channel for some booze-heavy French/German shinanigans in ‘The White and the Black’ by Erckmann-Chartrian.

M.R. James says this writing partnership “produced some quite first-class romances”, but this tale of murder and mayhem is no love story!

Show notes:

The following also get a mention in this episode:

  • Nunkie Theatre (nunkie.co.uk)
    Robert Lloyd Parry is releasing another of his excellent M.R. James performances as a pay-to-stream release before Christmas.
  • Haunted Advent Calendar (moorereppion.com)
    To entertain lovers of the strange and horrible over the festive season, authors Leah Moore and John Reppion have produced this highly enjoyable advent calendar, packed with weird and horrifying tit-bits.

Dec 21 2016

1hr

Play

Episode 56 – A Relation of the Apparition of Mrs Veal by Daniel Defoe

Podcast cover
Read more

Happy Halloween listeners! In this bumper-bonus episode we talk about our first non-M.R. James ghost story, ‘A Relation of the Apparition of Mrs Veal‘, a fascinating early ghost story attributed to Daniel Defoe.

We also interview Leah Moore and John Reppion about their recently-published graphic novel of ‘Ghost stories of an Antiquary‘.

Finally, we are delighted to announce the publication of our new ebook, ‘Stories that inspired M.R. James‘, which features the next twelve stories we will be covering on the podcast and which is available to purchase right now!

Phew, what an episode!

Show notes:

Oct 31 2016

1hr 18mins

Play

Episode 55 – A Vignette

Podcast cover
Read more

Nearly five years to the day that we released Episode 1, we are pleased to bring you ‘A Vignette’, M.R. James’s very last story!

The episode also features readings from Robert Lloyd Parry and an exciting announcement about the future of the podcast!

Show notes:

Sep 12 2016

1hr

Play

iTunes Ratings

94 Ratings
Average Ratings
88
3
3
0
0

Great fun

By Adam Lounsbery - Jan 10 2020
Read more
I started listening to this podcast with basically no knowledge of M.R. James. (I’d seen the 1957 film Night of the Demon but had never read any of James’s stories or seen any of the television adaptations.) I’ve now listened to more than a dozen episodes and read the associated stories. Mike and Will are knowledgeable and passionate hosts. Looking forward to more “Jamesian wallops” in the new year!

Fun and informative companion to the stories!

By Irving679 - Dec 26 2019
Read more
I get so much more enjoyment out of the stories thanks to Mike and Will’s insight, research, and commentary. I’ve read almost all of the stories now! The podcast is especially helpful because I’m an American and there are a few things in terms of name pronunciation, geography, and how academia is different in the UK that they did a good job clearing up. They’re also funny and seem to have a good friendship with each other.