Episode 39 – Merfield Hall

Charles Cotton's fishing templeThis episode Mike & Will false-start their way through the unfinished M.R. James manuscript ‘Merfield Hall’ (or should that be ‘Merfield House’?).

Big thanks to our reader this episode Debbie Wedge.

Show notes:


Episode 38 – The Game of Bear

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.



Episode 37 – Wailing Well

Scouting Manual (1931)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
  • 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.