Stories that inspired M.R. James

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

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Episode 10 – The Rose Garden

The Popish Plot playing card of Pickering being executed.In this episode Will & Mike experience the horticultural horror of M.R. James’s ‘The Rose Garden’. Thanks to Kirsty Woodfield who was our reader for this episode.

Show notes:

  • Popish Plot Playing Cards (
    Having trouble getting your head around the popish plot? Why not invest in a pack of Popish Plot Playing Cards! Alas hundreds of years out of print. The Seven of Hearts is the one of Edward Coleman being ‘drawn’ to his execution behind a horse, and the Six of Diamonds is also particularly gruesome.
  • M.R. James’s Women by David G. Rowlands (Ghosts & Scholars)
    This essay looks at the small selection of women who appear in James’s work, including ‘The Rose Garden’s Mrs Anstruther.
  • “The Rules of Folklore” in the Ghost Stories of M.R. James by Jacqueline Simpson
    Landmarks and Shrieking Ghosts by Jacqueline Simpson

    An excellent pair of essays originally published in Ghosts & Scholars that drew our attention to the influence of Danish and Suffolk folklore on ‘The Rose Garden’.
  • Weald Country Park, Essex (Wikipedia)
    The site of the former Weald Hall, residence of the terrible Sir William Scroggs and the possible real-world ‘Westfield Hall’. The hall fell into disrepair and was pulled down after world war II but the park can still be visited and looks like a nice day out!
  • Victims of the Popish Plot (Wikipedia)
    Wikipedia provides a brief rundown of those accused during the popish plot. Play special attention to Sir William Scroggs, Oliver Plunkett and Edward Colman!
  • The Head of Oliver Plunkett (Wikipedia)
    As mentioned in this episode, popish plot victim Oliver Plunkett’s head is on display in Drogheda, Ireland. A possible inspiration for the strange face in ‘The Rose Garden’?
  • Proceedings against Sir William Scroggs (on Google Books)
    Cobbett’s Complete Collection of State Trials features a transcript of the indictment against Sir William Scroggs that makes very interesting (and frequently humorous) reading.
  • Gaude, Gaudy, Domini in Laude by Roger Johnson
    The essay that drew my attention to Weald Hall was featured in the Ghosts & Scholars Newsletter 15, not available online but an incentive (if more were needed) to subscribe to this foremost Jamesian news source.
  • Eastscapes: Doggerland
    Photographic work by friend of the podcast and M.R. James fan David Senior will be on display at the House Gallery in Camberwell, London from the 15-22nd March 2012 as part of his collaboration with artists Misa Tamura and Dan Howse.

Errata: Since recording we have been informed that the correct term is ‘Hanged’ rather than ‘Hung’. Could we be arsed to go back and re-record? We could not.


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