Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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Episode 88 – Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book Revisited

Illustration from the Codex GigasJoin Mike and Will for a special 10th anniversary (give or take a few months) special in which your now-aged hosts look back over a decade of M.R. James podcasting and return to the story that started it all, Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook! You can listen to when we originally covered this story all the way back in episode one. Will the quality of our story commentary have improved? Listen and find out!

Big thanks to Debbie Wedge who returns once again as the reader for this episode.


  • Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges (Google Maps)
    Some lovely 360 degree photography of this story’s real-world locations have been added to Google Maps since the last time we covered this story. You can now explore the town, the cathedral interior and even spot the famous stuffed crocodile!┬á st’s name f┬á ┬áro
  • Read about the turbulent life of the read Saint Bertrand. No mention of the crocodile incident sadly.
  • Christopher Plantin (wikipedia)
    In the story, Dennistoun was singularly unimpressed by the prospect of discovering a book published by this 16th-century Belgian printer and publisher.
  • William Harrison Ainsworth’s Old Saint Paul’s. (Getty Images)
    Dennistoun compares the scrapbooks illustration of King Solomon and the demon to this scene from the popular novel ‘Old Saint Paul’s’ by William Harrison Ainsworth. You can read the scene in question by going here and searching for ‘THE MOSAICAL RODS 95′.
  • Arthur Shipley (wikipedia)
    The ‘lecturer on morphology’ mentioned in this story is a reference to M.R. James’s friend Arthur Shipley, who published a textbook called Zoology of the Invertabrata, which mentions ÔÇśgiganticÔÇÖ South African spiders that live in holes and prey on small birds.
  • Key of Solomon (wikipedia)
    In the episode, we mention this famous grimoire, which purports to be written by the demon-summoning old testament monarch King Solomon.
  • Codex Gigas (wikipedia)
    Patrick Murphy suggests that the illustrations in the titular scrapbook could have been inspired in part by this gigantic illuminated manuscript, also known as the ‘devil’s bible’. Check out this huge demon in a furry red loincloth!

Episode 87 – Mark Gatiss’s The Mezzotint

Portrait of Mark Gatiss with a manor house in the background.In this episode, Mike and Will share their thoughts on Mark Gatiss’s recent TV adaptation of M.R. James’s The Mezzotint.

Join us for some monocle-popping, mustache-bristling, spine-chilling fun!

Show notes

The image that accompanied this episode includes elements of ‘Mycroft Holmes post stamp‘ by iMontage (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), ‘Abbey Manor House‘ by David Luther Thomas (CC BY-SA 2.0) and ‘Picture frame‘ by Sailko (CC BY 3.0).


Episode 83 – A Room in a Rectory

Church 2 by Garry Platt

This episode Will and Mike hitch up their cassocks, pack their prayer books and head to ‘Southshire’ to┬áopen ‘A Room in a Rectory’ by Sir Andrew Caldecott!

Big thanks to Kirsty who provided the readings for this episode, and to Garry Platt who provided the photo that accompanies this episode. You can see more of Garry’s photos at his Instagram account.

Show notes:

  • Sir Andrew Caldecott (wikipedia)
    You can find out about Caldecott’s life and exalted career in the┬áColonial Office at his wikipedia page.
  • ‘Not Exactly Ghosts’ (Project Gutenberg Australia)
    While Caldecott’s stories are not quite out of copyright in most countries, you can still read the volume of ghost stories that ‘A Room in a Rectory’┬ácomes from in its entirety┬áonline at Project Gutenberg Australia.
  • St Michael defeating┬áSatan (wikipedia)
    If you are trying to visualise the stained glass window that features in this story, head over to this wikipedia page where you can see a number of artistic interpretations of this very scene.
  • Hymns Ancient and Modern (37mb PDF)
    This story features a crackingly devilish inversion of a hymn from the hymn book ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’. You can read the original version in this PDF, hymn number 335.
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