Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

Download our free eBook

Episode 60 – The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens

penny-illustratedWe’re back! This week Mike and Will descend gingerly into a gloomy railway cutting to investigate Charles Dickens’ The Signal-Man.  Dickens dissects the harsh realities of life in industrial Britain, but can he also deliver a pleasing terror and a locomotive-sized Jamesian Wallop? (spoiler: yes, in spades)

Show notes:

  • Higham Station was the closest to Dickens’ home at Gads Hill Place and he’d have had plenty of time to contemplate it’s formidable tunnel.
  • Fatal crashes and accidents were by no means rare in the early days of the railways.  Dickens was himself involved in a hideous rail crash while in the company of his mistress and her mother, as memorialised in the picture above.  Mike mentioned hearing about the Thirsk rail disaster on the excellent podcast Note to Self – he didn’t, but admits it was actually on a lecture about sleep on BBC Radio 3.
  • An approachable essay on Dickens and the Trauma of Technology, which covers some of the main themes of the story.
  • Oldstyle Tales Press have released a wonderful edition of Dickens’ ghost stories with great footnotes and illustrations (disclaimer – we were kindly sent a couple of free copies by the lovely editor, Michael Grant Kellermeyer).
  • Another slim edition worth getting hold of is by Profile Books, which includes the incredibly funny story The Boy At Mugby Junction – I would like to say that railway catering has improved in the UK, but it’s only by degrees.
  • And of course, please check out the BFI Ghost Story for Christmas DVD, including LGC’s dramatisation of the Signal-Man.
  • Huge thanks to our reader this week, Mike’s very own father in law… Mike.  Yes, it gets confusing.

Finally, a huge apology from me (Mike) for the delay in getting this out –  we ain’t dead yet!


Episode 42 – Christmas bonus – The goblins who stole a sexton by Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens in a Christmas hatSeason’s greetings listeners!

We have a Christmas bonus episode for you here, an exclusive readings of one of Charles Dickens’s supernatural Christmas tales ‘The Story of the Goblin who Stole a Sexton‘ which appeared as part of The Pickwick Papers in 1836.

For more information on Charles Dickens and M.R. James, check out Episode 41 in which we talk to M.R. James scholar Jane Mainley-Piddock.


Episode 41 – The MR James and Charles Dickens Christmas Special (with last minute gift guide!)

Seasons greetings James fans! In this episode, Will and Mike take a further turn towards the Victorian by pairing up James with his great literary love, Mr Charles Dickens.  Just what influence did he have on James? Lest their amateur speculations take a less than academically rigorous turn, they are joined by James expert Jane Mainley Piddock (@jmainpidd), to tell us all about Monty’s strange fascination with Dickens’ unfinished tale, Edwin Drood.

Show notes:

  • Jane’s website contains fascinating articles on MRJ and Edwin Drood, spiders, cats and much much more!
  • Charles Dickens’ Ghost Stories: your hosts mentioned The Haunted House, The Trial for Murder and of course the Signal Man, available as a single download from Project Gutenburg.  The Signal Man was one of Lawrence Gordon Clarke’s best Ghost Stories for Christmas and is available in the BFI box set.
  • Edwin Drood – do explore the mystery for yourself.  Our money is on Jasper having done it, or tried to do it, or… well, you decide! You can learn more about MRJ’s Drood-inspired tale “An Episode of Cathedral History” in episode 18.

And lest we forget, Will and Mike found time for Christmas gifts:

  • Curious Warnings, the most sumptuous edition of MRJ’s tales currently  in print.
  • Alisdair Wood’s (@alisdair_wood) illustrations have graced many an episode of the podcast and his MRJ postcards were one of the highlights of last year.  Will is particularly excited by his postcards of houses from horror movies.  The bloody envelope is a nice touch.
  • The Christmas edition of Eerie (#6), published this month, came with an unsettling adaptation of the Ash Tree courtesy of Kelley Jones.  It also promises “sickening stories of festive phantoms and pernicious pastries”.  Available to buy as a download if you can’t make it to a comic shop.
  • “I See A Shadow Coming – the Illustro Obscurum Yuletide Compendium Volume I”.  A lovely looking new zine, limited to 40 copies and now sadly SOLD OUT!  But do watch that space, they clearly have plans for more wierd fic wonderfulness in the coming year. Mike found the whole URL rather a tongue twister: just to clarify that it is
  • AN Donaldson’s (@ANDauthor) new Lovecraft-meets-Solzhenitsyn novel Death Sentence, which will give you second thoughts about pining for snow this Christmas. If you haven’t already, do read Alisdair’s first novel Prospero’s Mirror, and listen to our interview with him from May last year.
  • Helen Grant’s (@helengrantsays) new novel Silent Saturday will make you think twice about this newfangled interest in urban exploration.  You might also like Helen’s Jamesian novel The Glass Demon.  Helen joined us to discuss Marcilly-le-Hayer earlier this year.


Play Monty's Quiz
Store Link
Monty's World Link

Help Support the Podcast