Liverpool’s PAUL JASON, inspired by yesterday’s M.R. James article in The Spooky Isles, describes how England’s greatest ghost writer can terrorise with the stroke of a pen
The art of a good ghost story is to focus on the imagination of the reader.
Montague Rhodes James does this with great skill as the horrors always seem to be just out of view or in the corner of the eye.
Often physical apparitions do not show their faces, as M.R. James harnesses your “minds eye” to make you see or hear what will scare you most.
Over the years, I have read his stories from the ‘Ghost Stories of Antiquary’ collection and thoroughly recommend this book.
I admittedly first came across M.R. James’ work in the television adaptations of several of his tales; plays made for a series called ‘A Christmas Ghost Story’ and where beautifully directed by LG Clarke. Clarke brought the stories to life perfectly, with much love and care.
Like many other James fans, my favourite story is ‘Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You’. This is the most famous of the TV adaptations, firstly in 1968, directed by Sir Jonathan Miller, and more recently, in 2009, written by Neil Cross. Having read this tale several times, I was keen to watch the modern adaptation.
The first, 1968 version, starred Michael Horden as the usual James ‘nosey’ archaeological type. After discovering an ancient whistle buried in some sand dunes, he finds himself being followed and tormented by a spirit guardian. It follows him along a lonely Suffolk beach, eventually rendering him senseless in his lodgings. Miller directed this scene superbly, using slowed down sound to represent the abhorrent fear Horden displays when confronted with what looks to be simply a moving bed sheet.
The second adaptation, written by Neil Cross, again was full of dark silences and featured he bleak lonely Suffolk coastline. This time a retired astronomer stays in the hotel he and his elderly wife, who is now in a nursing home suffering from dementia, used to regularly visit. He is haunted and tormented by a spectre after finding an antique ring. On his last night he is terrified as the ghostly apparition of his wife crawls eerily under his bedroom door! He is found, the next morning, lying dead in his bed.
These are truly strange and terrifying stories and have stayed with me for many years.
If you have the imagination and fancy a real scare, open your minds eye to these tales.
PAUL JASON is a a 42 year old Tree Surgeon from Liverpool: “I have been fascinated with everything ghoulish since I was a child. This is my first written review of any type so hope you enjoy. You can comment or contact me on twitter @arborist2222“
You may also like to read:
- M.R. James returns to BBC Christmas thanks to Mark Gatiss
- The Curious World of M.R. James
- Lost Hearts (Ghost Story for Christmas 1973) REVIEW
- The Tractate Middoth: 10 things you didn’t know
- Parry brings “powerful” M.R. James story to London
- BFI set to roll out BBC Ghost Classics
- 13 things you didn’t know about M.R. James
- A Cottage by the Sea, a film by Adam Scovell
- Whistle and I’ll Come To You REVIEW
- Who “invented” the Christmas Ghost Story?