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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 65 – The Story of the Moor Road

Original illustration from The Story of the Moor Road

This episode Mike and Will return to the realms of the ‘psychic detective’ in this tale from mother-son writing team Kate and Hesketh Hesketh-Prichard. Expect terror on the moors with malevolent earth spirits, coughing ghosts, ominous otters and even a bicycle chase scene!

A big thanks to Rob Douglas, who provided the readings for this episode.

Head over to Friends of Count Magnus to find out more about the M.R. James conference that is taking place in York this September!

Story notes

 

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Episode 63 – Christmas Re-union by Sir Andrew Caldecott

Sir Andrew CaldecottHo ho ho! We have a festive cracker of an episode for you this month (literally), as Mike and Will explore Sir Andrew Caldecott’s M.R. James-inspired tale, ‘Christmas Re-union‘.

A big thank you to Tony Mears, who provided the readings for this episode. Check out his bands new track ‘A Hypothermia Banquet‘ on Bandcamp!

Story notes:

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Episode 61 – The Open Door by Margaret Oliphant

Colinton Castle, EdinburghThis episode join Mike and Will as they don their kilts and sporrans and head north of Hadrian’s wall for some Scottish horror (no, not the midges) as we explore ‘The Open Door’ by Margaret Oliphant!

Big thanks to Kirsty for chilling us to the bone with her readings for this episode.

Show notes:

  • Margaret Oliphant (Wikipedia)
    Margaret Oliphant (1828 – 1897) was a prolific and very popular author in her day, and M.R. James describes ‘The Open Door’ as one of only two ‘… really good ghost stories I know in the language wherein the elements of beauty and pity dominate terror.’
  • Colinton House, Edinburgh (oliphantfiction.com)
    Brentwood house’ in the story was mostly likely inspired by this house, where Oliphant stayed on a number of occasions as the guest of her friend William Blackwood III, publisher of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine in which this story was first published. The house, now a school, features a picturesque castle ruin in the grounds, complete with open doorways leading to nowhere.
  • Lasswade, near Edinburgh (Leedstrinity.ac.uk)
    While the house in the story is almost certainly based on Colinton House, the adjoining village of Brentwood is more likely to be based on the village of Lasswade, where Oliphant grew up. Like Lasswade, the village in the story is described as being a centre for paper-making. This article by Rosemary Mitchell also provides some fascinating analysis of the religious symbolism in the story.
  • Margaret Oliphant and the Romantic Novel (dangerouswomenproject.org)
    This essay by Laura Witz, subtitled ‘Subtle subversions of Victorian gender conventions’, argues that Oliphant was a feminist whose fiction struggled against the restrictive gender norms of the time. Not that you see much of that in ‘The Open Door’, sadly.
  • The Margaret Oliphant Fiction Collection (oliphantfiction.com)
    This website contains not only a bibliography of Oliphant, but also plot synopsis for all her published fiction. The ‘Stories of the Seen and the Unseen‘ section will be of particular interest to fans of the ghost story.
  • Bogle (Wikipedia)
    A ‘bogle’ is a uniquely Scottish ghost of folkloric creature, one which the stable-master Jarvis is particularly keen to insist he is not afraid of in this story!
  • Mass Hysteria (Wikipedia)
    The doctor is keen to attribute the multiple ghostly sightings as an example of mass hysteria. The wikipedia page on mass hysteria  contains some fascinating examples of this, from mewing nuns in the middle ages to modern forms of viral mass hysteria reportedly spread by the internet.
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