Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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

adrian-ross-1904Like 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!

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

Augustus JessoppThis 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

Episode 70 – Negotium Perambulans by E.F. Benson

E. F. Benson, aged 27This 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

Show notes:


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