Montague Rhodes James brings the classic British understatement to the field of horror stories and makes them terrifying beyond imagination His writing is without any frills there is very little by the way of atmosphere building and the stories themselves seem to be an odd form of reportage By going against convention, M R James creates a nightmare world which isfrightening than that of any of histraditional contemporaries He is helped in this by his encyclopaedic knowledge of Church History.James ghosts are most exclusively European, mostly British They emanate from the Celtic woodlands of pre Roman Britain, and inhabit the wooded copses and cavernous churches of the English countryside Often the protagonist is a scholarly enquirer who stumbles upon unwelcome and potentially dangerous knowledge in the course of his enquiries, and his journey, along with the story, slowly descend into a madness equalling that of Lovecraft, but in a gentlemanly, English way.I would rank Casting the Runes at the very top of these gems This story has given me delicious nightmares ever since I first encountered it during my teensOh, Whistle, and I ll Come to You, My Ladis another story which stays in the mind Mind you, that does not mean the others are lesser these are just personal favourites.Curl up in your favourite corner during a rainy night, listen to the wind howling in the rafters, and read these stories preferably in dim light That is, if you dare This collection collects all of the known printed ghost stories of M.R James And if you love classic creepers you are in for a major treat.The stories that particularly stood for me were, The Mezzotint , Oh, Whistle, and I Will Come to You, My Lad , The Haunted Dolls House , The Uncommon Prayer Book , A View From a Hill , Wailing Well , and Casting The Runes.So get ready to have your hair stand on end. With Halloween fast approaching, one of my favorite holidays and I can tell it s coming because already the weather changed for October and it was only four degrees last night, typical Canada , I decided to read some short ghost stories as usual, and M.R James collection is some of the best I ve read in a long time It s a huge variety of stories, none are exactly alike, but unlike most modern tales with gore and violence, these ones look for the sinister and strange in everyday objects, spooky settings and in history.These are the kinds of stories that would be great around a campfire or reading on a dark night, since much of their eerie quality comes fromsubtle ways of being scary and bizarre Best of all, they re all original, no repeated droning or typical plots of evil clowns or zombies, and with that there s a lot of surprises and abrupt suspense, making it a really engaging book. I m so glad that the BBC have decided to revive their Ghost Stories for Christmas series, spooky tales in dark cold winters nights are just perfect.With the majority of stories chosen to adapt were by M R James, I only felt it was right to finally tackle he s creepy tales during the lead up to the festive season.There s so many great stories in this collection, my favourites being Lost Hearts, Number 13, Oh, Whistle, and I ll Come to You, My Lad , Casting the Runes and A View from a Hill.I read one or two a night, it soon become a nightly treat after a day at work.Anyone who loves spooky stories will certainly find plenty to enjoy.Most of the episodes are available on YouTube and was fun to watch after reading that story.I m looking forward to this years tale though its original story written by Mark Gatiss this time , along with repeats of Lost Hearts and The Ash Tree.These really are timeless classics M.R James can be difficult for the modern reader, but his stories are worth the effort for the atmosphere alone Whistle and I ll Come to you My Lad is probably my favorite, and I m far from alone This creepy story involves old ruins, a found whistle with a strange inscription, and an unused bed that is suddenly no longer empty An Episode of Cathedral History Is what a vampire story shoudl be This one does not glitter Stephen King once wrote that James ghosts were harmless I wonder if he d forgotten A Warning to the Curious , which concerns a guardian of sorts who is not to be trifled with There are manystories involving hair and bones demons, a ghost whose appearance is signaled by the appearance of sawflies, a room that appears and disappears, a mezzotint that becomes an early moving picture, and many others James remains my favorite horror author His wordy, dense stories tell horrifying original tales that stick with you, sometimes invading your dreams Just a note as this is not the edition I own, I can t guarantee that it features the same stories My volume is the complete edition of James ghost stories. M R James is considered the master of the Victorian ghost story and this collection contains most of his short stories I liked it, but be warned, modern readers who have gotten their scares from likes of Steven King will probably be disappointed James is a subtle and understated writer and his stories are masterpieces of tone and atmosphere, but usually bloodless, with a lot left to the reader s imagination Take, for example, this excerpt from The Treasure of Abbott Thomas Well, I felt to the right, and my fingers touched something curved, that felt yesor less like leather dampish it was, and evidently part of a heavy, full thing There was nothing, I must say, to alarm one I grew bolder, and putting both hands in as well as I could, I pulled it to me, and it came It was heavy, but movedeasily than I expected As I pulled it towards the entrance, my left elbow knocked over and extinguished the candle I got the thing fairly in front of the mouth and began drawing it out Just then Brown gave a sharp ejaculation and ran quickly up the steps with the lantern He will tell you why in a moment Startled as I was, I looked round after him, and saw him stand for a minute at the top and then walk away a few yards Then I heard him call softly, All right, sir, and went on pulling out the great bag, in complete darkness It hung for an instant on the edge of the hole, then slipped forward on to my chest, and put its arms round my neck.This is classic James The narrator is on a narrow staircase and quickly finds himself in complete darkness and alone with some THING Only vague descriptions are given of the thing I can only just manage to tell you now the bare outline of the experience I was conscious of a most horrible smell of mould, and of a cold kind of face pressed against my own, and moving slowly over it, and of several I don t know how many legs or arms or tentacles or something clinging to my body I screamed out, Brown says, like a beast, and fell away backward from the step on which I stood, and the creature slipped downwards James is content to let the reader fill in the rest of the details of what the creature looks like, knowing that the reader s own imagination would paint a far scarier picture than anything a writer could dream up.The horror in his stories is most often evensubtle it s the tapping at the window in the dead of night, the faint sounds of scratching at a closed bedroom door, the extinguishing of a candle in the middle of a darken hallway, and the nearby sounds of rustling when you think you are alone in your bed The writing is a bit old fashioned which is to be expected for stories written in the late 1800 s and very British with class distinctions mentioned quite often My only criticism is that there is a very subtle prejudice against Roman Catholics in several of the stories.While there are a few duds in the collection, overall the quality of the stories is high Some of the standouts are The Ash Tree , Casting The Runes , The Mezzotint , and Oh, Whistle, and I ll Come to You, My Lad A number of the stories have been adapted for both TV and the movies Casting the Runes was made into a movie called Night of the Demon back in the 50 s and the plot of The Mezzotint was adapted by the old TV show Night Gallery effectively The plot of The Mezzotint is classic a painting of a house slowly changes each night showing a creature leaving a nearby graveyard and making it s way closer and closer to the house at each viewing It s a plot that s very creepy on the page and equally creepy in the TV adaptation.If you re patient, the book offers some thrills and chills and a chance to become familiar with an influential author. Since it was his birthday recently, I decided to re read the ghost stories of M.R James, and I learned a few things First, that I had not, apparently, read all the stories in this volume previously, like I thought I had, because there were some I didn t remember Second, that even among the stories I had read there were parts that I had forgotten And third, that M.R James is King Shit of Space Cat Mountain evenamazing than I had remembered.Widely regarded as maybe the best ghost story writer of all time, having re read these stories, and read some of them for the first time, all I can say is Yes, yes he is These stories are often so close to exactly what I long for whenever I pick up a ghostly story James easy voice, suited to the stories being read aloud, is perfect, and he can create an unsettling atmosphere or a creepy image with only a word or two He seems to almost always know what to suggest and what to leave out entirely, and the haunts here are among the spookiest you ll ever encounter.I always remember that I like James, but somehow I sometimes seem to forget just how much Hopefully this will serve as a permanent reminder. Nothing beats old school horror, and James was a master of it I read this collection years ago and I still get goosebumps thinking of some of his ambiguous horrors that were mostly created by imagination after his written prompts.These stories rely heavily on suspense and unanswered questions, and areabout subtle shivers than full on nightmare creations A fantastic collection and one I ll return to for sure. M R James Is Widely Regarded As The Father Of The Modern Ghost Story, And His Tales Have Influenced Horror Writers From H P Lovecraft To Stephen King First Published In The Early S, They Have Never Been Out Of Print, And Are Recognized As Classics Of The Genre This Collection Contains Some Of His Most Chilling Tales, Including A View From A Hill, Rats, A School Story, The Ash Tree, And The Story Of A Disappearance And An Appearance Read By BAFTA And Emmy Award Winning Actor Derek Jacobi, And With Haunting And Evocative Music, These Tales Cannot Fail To Send A Shiver Down Your Spine Montague Rhodes James 1862 1936 was a distinguished mediaevalist scholar who during his lifetime published many works of academic significance However, two generations on, he is best remembered, and deservedly so, as the master of the ghost story He started writing tales in this form as an entertainment for his friends and colleagues, beginning in 1893 with Canon Alberic s Scrapbook A tradition was subsequently acquired of reading a new ghostly tale to his chums each Christmas the darkest period of the year seems to lend itself perfectly to such a practice Imagine, after a shared festive meal, they adjourn to James s candlelit study, and all but one of the candles having been extinguished, allowing James just enough light to read his handwritten manuscript, he begins It must have been such a thrilling experience to be one of the first to hear him read a classic like Oh, Whistle and I ll Come to You My Lad certainly one of my favourites , which was delivered in this way to friends and colleagues in December 1903.Personally, I think the thing that makes James s writing so memorable is what he doesn t choose to tell us he is economical with his descriptions and in this way he never over eggs the pudding His ghostly manifestations are almost invariably shrouded in a mist, half seen imaginings, a spidery or tentacle like arm, a hideously deformed face partly glimpsed through the corner of one eye, a pair of red eyes watching from the dense shadows of a cloister James often narrates in the first person however, he is generally telling us a story he was once told by an acquaintance or is passing on something that once happened to a colleague He adopts almost a documentary approach, and deliberately omits chunks of time that are not absolutely essential to the story he s relating to us I think this lack of embellishment in the storytelling is fundamental to the effectiveness of his style We are never going to experience any passage written by James that sounds anything like this The ghoulish creature staggered out of the darkness, and where its eyes had once been there were now only gaping pits of raw flesh, oozing with greyish green slime He is muchlikely to describe something along the lines of an impenetrably dense shadow that has inexplicably appeared beside a tomb from where his protagonist thinks he may have caught the tiniest movement or perhaps heard a small, dry, laugh I know which of these two examples makes my hair go tingly If you re looking for a gory thrill fest, then M R James is probably not for you These are stories to curl up with on a winter s evening beside a cosy fireside while the wind outside is rattling at the window panes The language is of its time, of course, however, James isn t given to verbosity, and his stories skip along at a thoroughly enjoyable pace When I read these tales I felt that James was simply having a great deal of fun and that he wanted to communicate this pleasure with me, his reader I can highly recommend them.