Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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Episode 96 – The Real and the Counterfeit by Louisa Baldwin

December 21, 2023 | Episodes | Comments (7)

A group of Victorian children tobogganingThis episode, Mike and Will grab their literary toboggans and gallop joyously out into the snow, only to be hit in the face by a terrifying fictional snowball in the form of Louisa Baldwin’s The Real and the Counterfeit!

Big thanks as ever to Debbie Wedge for providing the readings for this episode. Looking for a last-minute Christmas gift to please the M.R. James fan in your life? Why not head over to Debbie’s Redbubble store and pick up an awesome Jamesian Wallop, Barchestering, or No Diggin’ ‘Ere t-shirt?

Show notes:

  1. More on Louisa Baldwin in our last episode
    We covered The Weird of the Walfords back in the summer, and included a lot more biographical details about Louisa Baldwin.
  2. Long Galleries (wikipedia)
    A lot of the action in this story takes place in a long gallery, a popular architectural feature of many stately homes in England.
  3. George’s banjo (
    Like Lawley in this story, George in Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat was also a keen banjo player, much to the displeasure of his friends. Similarly, in Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse, Bertie’s insistence on playing the banjolele is what finally drives Jeeves to leave Bertie’s service (albeit temporarily).
  4. Other haunted abbeys (
    In this episode, Mike mentions a number of old houses in England that are, like Stonecroft, said to be haunted by ghostly monks.
  5. Tobogganing at Funchal (
    The city of Funchal in Madeira is famous for providing toboggan-like basket rides from the Mount Church on the hill, down into the town.



  1. Eddie says:

    Lads you got us worried but good to hear from yoo both again ! Enjoyed this ghost story more than her other one you covered in the last episode. Didn’t find the ending as much of a let down as you both felt but did like your freestyle rewriting for an alternative. Absolutely you should cover the Gatiss Conan Doyle. Have a Merry Christmas and more from you in the New Year!

    • SRebInNH says:

      Loved this! I know I’ve read it, but when? where?…
      And I agree, you can’t really invoke Mark Gatiss and not cover it, it’s bad luck, probably.

  2. Jon says:

    Great to have you back fellas! Hoping you do a review of Lot 249!

  3. Bjorn says:

    Great episode, lads! I forgot I’d read this tale many moons ago. Would definitely love for you to cover Lot 249, too, which I thoroughly enjoyed – I must say, much more than Count Magnus from last year.

  4. Catherine says:

    Great to hear you both again! I was crossing my fingers for another Christmas episode and this one was great. I’ve read the story in one of the British Library weird Christmas anthologies but it didn’t really grab me. You opened up some new points of view for me. And I’ve been thinking that it must be significant that the great-great-grandfather, whose portrait is described in detail, died at 22. Was he also frightened to death by the ghost? As you said, it doesn’t touch anyone, so does it only kill through terror?

    Anyway, thank you for a great discussion! And please do a review of Lot 249! Would really love to hear your verdicts on it

  5. Thanks so much for this one. I had not heard of Baldwin until you guys covered her this year and I very much enjoyed this Christmas one (and the Weird one too). Please please please do an episode Gatiss’ Lot 249.
    Thanks for all your great shows.

  6. Seán says:

    Glad to see you two back! You said it before, but if taking your time keeps it fresh, by all means, do so. It’s always a nice surprise to see a new episode out of the blue.

    Now, I wasn’t as keen on this story as The Weird of the Walfords, which I really enjoyed. This was pretty tame in every regard. But Baldwin has, if nothing else, a knack for painting an idea of a character really well. Her portrayals are broad but clear, and breezy, she gets it across very quickly which is a necessary skill in short fiction. Made this one more enjoyable than the actual spooks did.

    Also, I think someone mentioned in another episode’s comments, but any chance of covering some more Sheridan Le Fanu in the future? He was James’ favourite ghost story writer after all. I read Carmilla not too long ago and am itching to hear some discussion on how gross and creepy (in a good way!) it is.

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