Stories that inspired M.R. James

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Episode 81 – The Demoniac Goat by M.P. Dare

December 3, 2020 | Episodes | Comments (9)

Kiss of shameThis episode Mike and Will brace themselves for the ‘appalling stench of goat, cordite, sulphur, and burning human flesh’ in M.P. Dare’s The Demoniac Goat. Lovely!

Also in this episode we speak to actor Robert Lloyd Parry and publisher Brian J. Showers about ‘Ghosts of the Chit-chat’, their soon to be published new anthology of ghost stories from authors who, alongside M.R. James, were members of the Chit-Chat Club at Cambridge University. You can find out more about and order the book itself at the Swan River Press website. You can also visit Robert’s website for a upcoming schedule of live performances, both in theatres and online.

Show notes

  • Marcus Paul Dare (The Haunted Library)
    Much of the biographical information we used on M.P. Dare came from the introduction to the Ash Tree Press edition of ‘Unholy Relics’ but also from this excellent article on The Haunted Library.
  • Unholy Relics (Ash Tree Press @
    This story was originally published in Dare’s ‘Unholy Relics’ collection in 1947. Nowadays the easiest way to get hold of it is via Ash Tree Press’s ebook, which contains an excellent introduction by Reg Meuross as well as extracts from Dare’s book ‘Indian Underworld’.
  • Shadows of the Master by Mike Ashley (Ghosts & Scholars)
    The essay that drew M.P. Dare to our attention was ‘Shadows of the Master’ by Mike Ashley, which highlighted a number of authors who wrote stories in the Jamesian tradition.
  • The Peak Cavern (
    Better known by its nickname ‘The Devil’s Arse’, this cave near Castleton in Derbyshire could have provided inspiration for M.P. Dare when writing this story.
  • The Eldon Hole (
    Similarly to the above, this famous crevasse on a hilltop near Castleton may have provided inspiration. Legends state that the Eldon Hole is bottomless, or that it leads straight down to hell!
  • Offa of Mercia (Wikipedia)
    The silver coins found by the dastardly Reverend Ashley Tutor were said to be pennies from the reign of Offa, who ruled the Kingdom of Mercia in modern day England during the 8th century.
  • Crockford’s Clerical Directory (
    Since 1858 Crockford’s Clerical Directory as been the authoritative directory of the Anglican clergy. Previously it was a yearly publication, but can now be searched online.
  • Cademan Wood (Google maps)
    Searches for ‘Cademan Tor’ will draw a blank, but the name ‘Cademan’ in most associated with this area in north west Leicestershire.
  • Asmodeus (wikipedia)
    The titular goat in this story is named after this demon from Judeo-Islamic lore.
  • Apollo and Lugh (wikipedia)
    The god supposedly represented on this altar in this story is a compound of these two Roman and Celtic deities.
  • Osculum Infame (wikipedia)
    The ‘kiss of shame’ was an act believed by witch hunters to be carried out by witches upon meeting the devil!
  • The Goat of Mendes (wikipedia)
    The “Goat of Mendes” was a term invented by French occultist Levi Eliphas in the 19th century, drawing on representations of half men/half goat devils and deities across the western world such as Pan, Baphomet and Mendes, a Greek god.

Finally, here’s the picture of M.P. Dare in his pants. Thankfully it is only small. The image I mean.


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  1. K M Hazel says:

    Great episode chaps. I’ve had the Ash Tree Press book of Dare’s collection for some years now and find it great fun and extremely re-readable. Thanks for the heads up about GHOSTS OF THE CHIT-CHAT. I’ve just placed my order and am ridiculously excited at the thought of reading it on Christmas Eve!

  2. Rick Kennett says:

    Several years ago I picked up a first edition of Unholy Relics in a secondhand book shop for $2.50. I see this editions is going for between $50 and $100 today. My copy had originally been a library book as it was stamped with the name of a local suburban library and had a list of date stamps on the end page. Starting in 1948 it had only been borrowed a half dozen times and I can only assume it was stolen from the library after the last recorded date in 1949. Which seems apt for a book written by a book thief.

  3. David Malcolm Sommer says:

    Wow, what a story! Haha! I’ve been trying to think of similar works of fiction, and the only thing that comes to mind is the film “The Devil Rides Out” starring Christopher Lee. It’s cheesily Satanic, not at all scary, and very entertaining (if memory serves, at one point Lee’s character runs over the Devil with his car during a Witches’ Sabbat). However, I’d say this story wins in the camp department by virtue of its goatish “Clever Hans” and the naturalistic antics of its undead priest.

    I also couldn’t help but compare this story to the other goat-related tale covered on your podcast, AC Benson’s “Out of the Sea.” While both animals were the clear standouts in their respective stories, I found it interesting that the “sea goat” (instrument of God) was terrifying, while the “cave goat” (instrument of Satan) was not. Is God scarier than Satan?

    I’ll admit that the “Apollo plus Lugh equals Lucifer” formulation left me baffled. I couldn’t tell if MP Dare intended some comment on these gods in particular, or if this was a more general case of all pagan deities being considered hotlines to the Christian Devil.

  4. Ben Schultz says:

    Just wanted to put in a plug for covering the story “The Moon-Gazer” by “DNJ” mentioned by Robert Lloyd Parry near the end of the episode. I read it just now and “RLP” is dead on (not a shock) – its awesome, very Jamesian with definitely a few stylistic deviations that would be fun to talk about, and some genuinely creepy parts.

  5. Mike J. says:

    The altar in this story made me think of the one in “The White People” by Arthur Machen, but I feel like there is another story with some sinister (or not?) Roman altar in it.

    • Robert Maitland says:

      I think one such altar makes an appearance in HPL’s “The Rats in the Walls”, down in the ghastly pit of ghastliness.

  6. Steve Shutt says:

    Your podcast is such fun! You’re both so cute, earnest and dedicated. I’ve been listening to various episodes and you’ve contributed some outstanding material–excellent work! Wishing you both all the best in 2021!

    I had to giggle when one of you described Montague Summers as “some sort of occultist.” Here’s an amusing blog entry about the not-so-good “Reverend.”

    He was one of the great eccentric characters of 1920s London. He wrote THE GOTHIC QUEST which is a vast volume that’s quick a kick to page through. And he edited THE SUPERNATURAL OMNIBUS in the early 1930s–as an anthology, I find it to have both hits and misses. Summers was IMO emphatically NOT of the “James gang” but your Ghosts & Scholars essay may decree otherwise–I haven’t checked.

    Thanks so much, also, for your legendary recording of Dr Jacqueline Simpson reading one of the best passages from my personal favorite MR James tale, “Count Magnus.” You’re fabulous! Happy Hunting!

  7. MarkB says:

    This story came off sounding more like a parody of a pastiche than an actual pastiche. The episode was certainly more entertaining than the story itself.

    Regarding ‘the osculum’ – it has a long history, and actually goes back to church writings on heretics. In Edward Peters’ The Magician, the Witch and the Law, he shows that many of the cliches of witchcraft, like the kissing of the anus of the devil or a black cat or a goat came from earlier writing on sorcery, and sometimes back further from writing on the practices of heretics. Basically, think of the worst thing you can imagine, and then accuse your enemy of doing it.

  8. Eddie says:

    Hilarious! One of the laugh out loud funnies from you lads (though you’ve provided more than a few!). I found the story really enjoyable and also fascinated by the photo of the author in his keck’s. It’d be like seeing MR in a mankini. A rather strange and tragic back story though and a sad end to his life. I’d be interested in reading some of his other stories.

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