In this episode Will and Mike travel back in time to the early 18th century to examine some diabolical goings on in rural Cambridgeshire in M.R. James’s ‘The Fenstanton Witch‘.
- Story Locations (Monty’s World)
This story features many real-world locations, starting in King’s College Cambridge, and following Hardman and Ashe up the Huntindon Road (now the A14) past Lolworth and on to the church at Fenstanton.
- Alchemy! Enlightenment! Revolution!
… Britain in the late 17th and early 18th centuries had it all. Mike recommends two books set around Oxford and Cambridge in this period, both with a pleasing mixture of science, swashbuckling and genre fun: An Instance of the Fingerpost, by Iain Pears, and Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson.
- ‘Stories I have tried to write’ by M.R. James (A Podcast to the Curious)
Although never published in his lifetime, James did mention this story in his essay ‘Stories I have tried to write’, published in 1929. We provided a full reading of the essay back in November 2011.
- ‘A Night in King’s College Chapel’ by M.R. James (Ghosts & Scholars)
In this episode we mention the only other James story to be set at King’s College, another unpublished story called ‘A Night in King’s College Chapel’.
- Parker’s Piece, Cambridge (Wikipedia)
James refers to snipe being shot in this city centre park back at the time when this story took place.
- Isaac Newton’s Catflap (Wikipedia)
In ‘The Fenstanton Witch’ James refers to the popular myth that Sir Isaac Newton invented the cat flap whilst at King’s College Cambridge.
- The Methuen Treaty (Wikipedia)
James drops a lot of historical details into his description of 18th Century college life. An example of this is his reference to the MEthuen Treaty with Portugal, which included trade regulations that allows wines to be imported from Portugal without tax.
- The Witch of Berkeley (Living the History)
Thinking of turning to God when your pact with the devil turns sour? Read the story of the Witch of Berkeley first. C.S. Watkins “History and the Supernatural in Medieval England” provides expert commentary on what went wrong for her – and Hardman and Abel. Also, check out this cool illustration of the witch being carried away by a demon!
- 91st Psalm (Biblegateway.com)
At the moment in their ritual when the demon appears, Hardman is just reading the 91st psalm.
- Sheila Hodgson (suttonelms.org.uk)
Will first encountered this story in the form of ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’, a 1977 radio play by Sheila Hodgson that was broadcast as part of a series of plays based on the ideas mentioned by M.R. James in ‘Stories I have tried to write’.
- The 17th Century Witchcraft panic in Cambridgeshire (bbc.co.uk)
It is likely that this story was inspired by the witchcraft hysteria which swept through western Cambridgeshire in the mid 17th century. More information of it’s victims can be found at witching.org, where you can also find an account of the trials written at the time.
- Arthur Gray aka Ingulphus (Ghosts & Scholars)
Arthur Gray was a contemporary of M.R. James at Cambridge, where Gray was Master of Jesus College. Between 1910 and 1925 he published a number of ghost stories set at Jesus College under the pseudonym ’Ingulphus’.