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Fright-day Welcomes M.R. James


Greetings and Salutations,

Did you like the tour of Wicked’s writing cave. I did notice one glaring thing missing– THE WRITER. While Wicked is busy procrastinating, the rest of the vertically challenged are hiding somewhere, as is evidenced by their no shows on this locale. I believe Snarky’s whip needs a good work out. I’ll see what I can do about that.

In the mean while, I have been busy coaxing our reticent guest to sit down with us for a chat. He is an academic of enormous stature,recipient of the Order of Merit, holds a Master of Arts from King’s College Cambridge, and the FBA from the British Academy for his work in the social sciences. Served as Provost at King’s College Cambridge and Eton College. He is best remembered for his ghost stories. Please welcome al the way from the afterlife Montague Rhodes James.

MR Thank you for that massively boring introduction.th-4

Yes, sorry about that. First let me ask, is it true your ghost stories were mostly written and even published on a whimsy?

MR Quite right, my first obligation is always to my situation,whether as an Antiquarian, museum director or Provost. I often wrote these tales as Christmas Eve entertainment. Nothing better than a good ghost story told with your back to the fireplace, a brandy in one hand, and a cigar in the other.

What do you feel is most important in telling a good ghost?

MR First you must put the listener into the position of saying: If I’m not careful something of this kind could happen to me.

Yes, empathy for the protagonist, but how do you achieve that connection?

MR Two things, the atmosphere and the nicely crafted crescendo. We must first  see the actors in a placid way, going about their ordinary business, undisturbed by forebodings. Into this calm environment let the ominous thing put out its head, unobtrusively at first. Then more insistently, until it holds center stage.

So, you shift the story from the actor as you say to ghost.

MR The supernatural should be told with reticence, the narration should be alluded to through implication and suggestion. Allow the listener’s imagination to fill in the details. Concentrate on the mundane, this throws the grotesque into greater relief.

You say use reticence, and yet many of your tales depict scenes and images of savage and disturbing violence.

MR Allow me to clarify, your ghost must be malevolent and odious. Amiable or helpful apparitions are very well in fairy tales or local legends, but I have no use for them in a fictitious ghost story.

Reticence may be an elderly doctrine to preach, yet from the artistic point of view, I am sure it is a sound one. Reticence conduces to effect, blatancy ruins it, and there is much blatancy in a lot of recent stories. They drag in sex too, which is a fatal mistake; sex is tiresome enough in the novels; in a ghost story, or as the backbone of a ghost story, I have no patience with it. At the same time don’t let us be mild and drab. Malevolence and terror, the glare of evil faces, ‘the stony grin of unearthly malice’, pursuing forms in darkness, and ‘long-drawn, distant screams’, are all in place, and so is a modicum of blood, shed with deliberation and carefully husbanded; the weltering and wallowing that I too often encounter merely recall the methods of M G Lewis.

Without naming names, sir, your point is well taken. When asked if you believe in ghosts you wrote, “I answer, that I am prepared to consider evidence and accept it, if it satisfies me.” Given your current circumstances, have you reviewed the evidence? and does it satisfy you?

MR Do not be coy with me young man. More to the point, what are your feelings on the matter? And those of your audience, what do they believe given the current circumstances, as you say.

Mr. James? Monty? Are you still here?

A distant voice echoes, “I’m awaiting your responses.”

Well folks, it seems that Mr. James has left the building. But let us not disappoint him. Do you believe in ghosts. Leave your answers in the comment box and I’ll pass them along to Mr. James.

This weeks quotation comes from William Shakespeare; Hamlet act 1, scene 5: (when they encounter the ghost)

O day and night, but this is wondrous strange!

And therefore as a stranger give it welcome.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Write On,

Dave Benneman AKA Eerie Dwarf


Leave a comment


  1. Where is the writer????

  2. Dammit, Eerie, I’m a writer not a magician! I’m coming. Had to refill my coffee mug. Besides who did you think took the picture? Like I’d let just anyone in my cave!

    • Dave Benneman

       /  October 17, 2013

      Oh I disagree. you’re a writer therefore all things are possible.

  3. Considering the wispy white fog in the Swamp, you bet your sweet alligator cakes I believe in ghosts. Too many people end up with unfinished business to dash right off.

  4. Dave Benneman

     /  October 17, 2013

    I know, I believe spirits haunt our plane, too.


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