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Stories that inspired M.R. James

Twelve tales of terror recommended by the master of the genre!

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Episode 86 – Lucky’s Grove by H.R. Wakefield

December 21, 2021 | Episodes | Comments (21)

Disney Christmas LightsHo ho, and indeed ho! In this special festive episode, Mike and Will pull on their wellies and wander straight into Lucky’s Grove by H.R. Wakefield. But who’s that hiding behind the Christmas tree?

Big thanks to Julia Morgan for allowing us to use extracts from her excellent Youtube reading of this story.

Show notes:

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21 Comments

  1. Tom Pullin says:

    Woah how weird, I read this story last night and was hoping you might do an episode on it one day!

    This story is also available in the excellent British Library Tales of the Weird collection ‘Spirits of the Season: Christmas Hauntings’ which is as cheap as chips

  2. Ed Kent says:

    Great to have you back guys – it’s been too long. Merry Christmas.

  3. Tom Pullin says:

    As well as the mysterious appearance of a character’s death date, another similarity to Casting the Runes is the wolf on the Christmas light that one of the children finds frightening, not unlike the terrifying wolf that appears in one of the stories from Karswell’s magic lantern show – so frightening that some of the smaller children have to led from the room. Also, Norse mythology and runic letters anyone?

  4. Eddie says:

    Lads! Been too long but was so pleased to see the new episode. As always enjoyed the reading and analysis of this festive fright of a tale. Super generous with the eBook as well-an unexpected Christmas treat!

  5. John says:

    Are we sure that a connection with Loki was intended by the name? I don’t think there is a place-name with such an etymology anywhere in Britain.

    But in any case North Berkshire (South Oxfordshire!) is the worst possible geographical location for a Norse connection: the Danes were miles away on the other side of the M1, and Norwegian vikings couldn’t have come anywhere near the area. Christianity was established here pretty early, and the only trace of Germanic folklore is Wayland’s Smithy.

  6. CP Lancaster Marr says:

    Great to have you back – and safe and sound. Thanks for the free ebook. I will get the hardcopy as soon as I am back in the UK but this freebie is much welcomed to tide me over the Xmas period here in India. I enjoyed Lucky’s Grove – not a story I knew anything about. I look forward to your 2022 episodes!

  7. Paxton’s Spade says:

    Better get those Disney lights PAT-tested or you won’t need exploding crackers to start a fire. Interesting story and always nice to stumble across a new one, even if it is by Having seen Robert Lloyd Parry doing a Scandinavian pair of No. 13 and Count Magnus a few nights ago, if anyone wants to supplement BBC2’s The Mezzotint at 10:30 tonight and a few Ghost Story for Christmas re-runs on BBC4, Nunkie and Robert are streaming a No. 13 reading circa 7pm on a register donation basis. Happy Christmas

  8. Paxton’s Spade says:

    Sorry, that should be ….even if it is by a writer with unfortunate misogynistic leanings – but that goes for many male late Victorian/Edwardian ghost writers for some reason
    (BTW – The Haunting of M.R.James a radio play by Neil Brand and starring Mark Gatiss is available on BBC Sounds too)

  9. Aaron Gullison says:

    Lucky’s Grove can be found in Ghosts for Christmas by Richard Dalby, which is available to borrow at Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/ghostsforchristm00rich

    (I posted this by mistake on the previous episode page. Sorry)

  10. SRebInNH says:

    Very glad you’re back! Lucky’s Grove sounds about as good a place to get Christmas trees as “the little lane that goes up past Collins’s cottage” is for blackberries. Not gonna do it, nope. Happy holidays to you and yours!

  11. Daniel says:

    It was nice to hear my town name dropped in the podcast, although I can’t think of anywhere locally that fits the description at least within Abingdon as itself.

    I was hoping for a Christmas episode and you didn’t disappoint. Thanks as always!

  12. Kim says:

    I’m just so glad to hear from youse guys again! This episode is cued up and I’ll be listening to it with a glass of sherry (well, bourbon) in just a few seconds. Happy Christmas!

  13. A Rat in the Wall says:

    Really glad to have you two back, it’s been too long!

    I enjoyed this story, I really like Wakefield’s writing in it. It feels like Christmas, because it’s a weird time when you’re pottering around looking for diversions, a sort of comfortable aimlessness. That’s how I felt about this story, if that makes sense. The folk horror element is very slight, much more pronounced early on, which I liked way more than whatever happened at the end, which was a little unfocused (at least to me). I expected Braxton to eventually succumb to the horror of the transgression and try to get the three back to the grove.

    Interested to hear your thoughts on Gatiss’ Mezzotint, considering he completely ripped off Will’s idea from episode 3 of the podcast!

  14. Nadia A says:

    Long time no see!
    I can’t wait to hear about your thoughts on the BBC ”The Mezzotint”.
    Happy Christmas!

  15. SRebInNH says:

    I bet YouTube has been sending EVERYone here:

    https://youtu.be/jikAwCcc0uI

    “The Art of the Mezzotint” …now we can all make our own! Well, it looks very labor intensive, so I think I’ll just admire her work. 🙂

  16. David Malcolm Sommer says:

    I greatly enjoyed this episode. It’s also nice to see Morgan Scorpion’s YouTube channel getting more attention – what a treasure trove of stories she’s produced. I particularly enjoy her Lovecraft recordings.

    My reading (or listening) of this story is that the appearances of wolves, witches, and serpents/worms are
    manifestations of Fenris, Hel, and Nidhogg, respectively, come to avenge the uprooting of their father’s tree. Of note is Nidhogg’s role as a venomous (re: blood poisoning) chewer of murderers and oath-breakers. With the amount of lightning flying around, perhaps even their uncle Thor is involved.

    About the house burning down, I heard the line as “from stem to stern,” which would make it a nautical reference (with the house as a metaphorical ship afire).

    Happy New Year!

    • David Malcolm Sommer says:

      Having just read Jason Lineham’s analysis of this story, I feel a bit less special about making the connections between Loki’s mythical brood and the wolf-serpent snowman, etc.

      That said, the degree to which this story conforms to some pedantic definition of “folk horror” (Lineham’s main focus) is not something that interests me, especially when there is so much else to discuss.

      I did have a chuckle at this line: “It begins innocently enough, with two workmen being injured by the branches….” Apparently, if a couple of workers are sent to the hospital by freak accidents, that’s all to the good. (Also, I thought the trouble began prior to this point. What about the the frightened dog in the barn?)

  17. Sarah Greenan says:

    Mike and Will – I am delighted that you are back! I have really missed your podcasts in the last few months and was becoming just a tiny bit concerned whether life and responsibilities were just too overwhelming for you to carry on.
    I read Lucky’s Grove in a ghost story collection when I was, oh, early teens maybe, and it certainly made an impression on me at the time. I don’t think I have come across it since, so it was good to revisit this enjoyable story.
    One thing which did strike me (or at least my inner pedant) was the suggestion in the reading that the tree involved was a larch tree, though I picked up a reference elsewhere to its perhaps being a Scots pine or “Scotch Fir”. A larch would be a very odd choice for a Christmas tree, as it is a deciduous conifer and in winter has no needles:https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/a-z-of-british-trees/european-larch/ . A Scots Pine would be a pretty odd choice as well, though it would at least have some foliage. I was left wondering whether trees weren’t Wakefield’s strong point.
    Happy New Year, belatedly!

    • Will Ross says:

      Hi Sarah, good spot regarding the larch! I have this story in a print anthology and also in the Ash Tree Press ebook and they both say fir rather than larch, but I’m sure there must be a different edition of the story out there somewhere that does say ‘larch’ as I’ve seen larches mentioned in blog posts about this story as well as in Julia’s readings.

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