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

May 15, 2018 | Episodes | Comments (18)

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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  1. Jeff says:

    Looking forward to hearing this one.

    It would be great if you could do a series of podcasts featuring Golden Age occult detectives – Carnacki, Solar Pons, Dr. John Silence, Jules de Gradin et. al. I know that’s straying away from the theme of M. R. James, but how about it chaps? 🙂

  2. MarkB says:

    I was going to say that I had never stumbled on this sub-genre (or hybrid genre), but then I remembered the Rivals of Sherlock Holmes television series. Wasn’t there a ghost horse involved? Or a man in a horse costume? Carnaki, perhaps?

    I suspect that the audience for this sort of thing was more interested in atmosphere than plot logic. The interest in spiritualism was certainly real. Given the popularity of mash-ups today, the ghost/detective genre makes more sense.

    • Jeff says:

      That would have been ‘The Horse of the Invisible’. Donald Pleasence played Carnacki.

      It’s on You Tube if you want to revisit it!

  3. RogerBW says:

    Speaking as a pipe smoker, seven pipes in an evening would leave me sickened for days, assuming I managed to force myself so far. Of course, some people doubtless smoke more.

    I think the problem of doing the Holmesian reveal here is that, in a Holmes story, the reader knows that there are trains and fallen women and cigars and so on, and roughly how they can behave; but the reader cannot be assumed to know the nature of elemental earth spirits, so the “solution” is no solution. It would be fine if there were a standard taxonomy of such things, but when no two authors use the same one…

    • Belinda says:

      I think you’ve put your finger on it here – with a detective reveal, the response is ‘oooh, I see…’ whereas with these elementals and the like, we say ‘wait, what?’

      A certain amount of ‘wait, what?’ is acceptable in stories, but I think it’s better in the why than in the what of the central premise. Why does Dr Rant, having set up a contest between his nephew and niece to get the legacy, put his thumb on the scales to stop his nephew winning? Is he just a jerk? Why does Abbot Thomas, having set up a puzzle and told everybody to look for a solution, booby trap the prize? He’s a jerk too? We don’t know, but the point of the story is that there’s a toad thing on the treasure to stop us taking it away. I’m not explaining this very well, but the difference between Abbot Thomas’s monster and Flaxman Low’s monster is that we know what one is for, and we might have expected, perhaps not the toad thing, but something nasty. The earth elemental is just… there. We couldn’t have foreseen it, so the story doesn’t give any touch of ‘oooh, I see.’

  4. Jeff says:

    Why are my comments ‘awaiting moderation’?

  5. Daniel says:

    Speaking, also, as a pipe smoker, the paranormal detective gig must pay quite well. Unless pipes and tobacco was dirtcheap back then..

  6. hjjk says:

    WHAT ABOUT Featherston’s Story by Mrs Henry Wood ??????????????

    • Anne fforbes-Gregson says:

      It is there. I went into a bit of a state when I automatically clicked on episodes a good while back and they went from the 63rd podcast to the 65th (as is still the case on the episodes list) but just pausing on the home page I saw it just below the 65th. So head to the site rather than to the list of episodes and you’ll find it there. Search engines might have helped me but they are my last resort (well, the major one is) and it was not needed.

  7. hjjk says:

    EPISODE 64 ????????????????????????????????

  8. Joyce says:

    Carnacki does tackle a ghost horse (or is it?) in “The Horse of the Invisible”. I like the Carnacki stories, although they try to play fair by having some of the phenomena turn out to be fraudulent, and I’m not sure I approve of that: too Scooby-Doo. Among psychical detectives, Carnacki seems to be on the more competent side. “The Whistling Room” is a Carnacki story I like.

    Carnacki, the Ghost Finder

    For your vengeful supernatural otter literary needs, try “Laura” by Saki, collected in:

    Beast and Super-Beasts

    • Jeff says:

      Tobermory, another of Saki’s short stories, is an entertaining and slyly humorous read. It’s about a talking cat. No ghosts in it though 🙂

      • Ann Whiteaker says:

        I absolutely loved that story. Sorry for the cat though. Still, the professor got his comeuppance when he tried to teach an elephant to talk.

  9. Laura says:

    I think that Barbara Roden (could be another person) wrote a pastiche short story where Flaxman-Low meets Sherlock Holmes working for the new owners of Lufford Abbey, I can’t remember where it was published though

  10. Rick Kennett says:

    Yes, that was Barbara Roden who wrote the Flaxman Low meets Sherlock Holmes story, “The Things That Shall Come Upon Them.” It appeared in the anthology GASLIGHT GRIMOIRE, published by Edge Press in 2008. I was in that book too with a story co-written with Chico Kidd, “The Grantchester Grimoire” — Carnacki meet Sherlock Holmes.

    And to answer MarkB, that was a Carnacki story he saw in The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, “The Horse of the Invisible.”

  11. David McGarry says:

    Looking forward to The Monkey’s Paw… my dad used to read it to my brother and I when we were little kids!

    • Jeff says:

      The Monkey’s Paw is the best psychological horror. Nothing is seen, it’s all implied.

      It’s still as scary as hell though!

  12. Gunnjón Gestsson says:

    Any chance of you ever covering any of the Carnacki stories by William Hope Hodgson?

    They’re a prime example of the paranormal detective and some of them, particularly the Whistling Room, The Hog, and The Gateway of the Monster get pretty damn weird.

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