When I was a little girl, one of the things I liked the most was when my grandfather told us ghost stories. My brother, cousins and I used to gather around him and beg him to tell one of those stories that ‘had happened to him not many years ago’. Of course, now I realise that they were all just stories come from a stock of folktales, but at the time we all truly believed them. Nonetheless, they gave me a taste for ghost stories and, in my opinion, no ghost story-teller surpasses M.R. James – not even my late grandfather.
The first of James’ story I have read was ‘Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook’. Not only is this the scariest of them all, but also the best crafted because it is framed in a way that almost makes you believe that the scrapbook could really exist. Also, it is a story about a book, which makes it all the most fascinating. It was a good surprise to find this Guardian podcast, published on last Christmas Eve, where Ruth Rendell reads the story. Click on the link below to listen to it:
James, M.R. (1994) Ghost Stories. London: Penguin.