Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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Episode 13 – The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral

Cat CarvingChurch matters concern Will and Mike this episode as they don their literary cassocks and plant their proverbial buttocks upon ‘The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral’ by M.R. James.

Snow notes:

  • The Double Shadow Podcast (
    An exciting new podcast dedicated to American M.R. James admire Clark Ashton Smith.
  • M.R. James performances by the Nunkie Theatre Company (
    Nunkie Theatre Company has announced another run of performances based on M.R. James stories performed by the grand panjandrum and actor Robert Lloyd Parry. He will be invoking a pleasing terror in audiences throughout the UK between July and December. Don’t miss!
  • The Stalls of Barchester (1971 TV version – wikipedia)
    This story has been dramatised for the screen only once, back in 1971, as the first installment of  BBC television’s classic ‘Ghost Story for Christmas’ series. The series is finally being given the DVD treatment this year by the BFI.
  • Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire (wikipedia)
    Was M.R. James’s Barchester based on the identically-named cathedral town which features heavily in a series of books by Anthony T? Or is that just a load of old Trollope?
  • The Gentlemen’s Magazine (wikipedia)
    In this story Archdeacon Haynes’s obituary is said to have featured in the Gentleman’s magazine, which ran between 1731 and 1922.
  • Sir George Gilbert Scott (wikipedia)
    The cathedral in James’s story is said to have been redesigned by Sir Gilbert Scott. James was not a fan of the rather radical changes which architects like Scott inflicted on English churches during the 19th century.
  • The Friar of Orders Grey (
    Haynes’s description of the choir stalls describes one as appearing like a ‘friar of orders grey’. This is a nod to a popular folk ballad about a bawdy Franciscan friar.
  • St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle (BBC Website)
    The ornate carvings described in this story could have been inspired by the misericords at a chapel in Windsor, near Eton where James spent much of his life. He went on to write a book about them in 1933 – ‘St Geroge’s Chapel, Windsor: The Woodwork of the choir’.
  • Warnings to the Curious (
    In this episode we mention various essays which appear in the excellent ‘Warnings to the Curous’, including essays by John Alfred Taylor and Steven J. Mariconda.

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