Tentacles… clinging to my body…

“There was always somebody – a man – standing by one of the firs. This was in daylight, you know. He was never in front of me. I always saw him with the tail of my eye on the left or the right, and he was never there when I looked straight for him. […] Sometimes, you know, you see him, and sometimes you don’t, just as he pleases, I think: he’s there, but he has some power over your eyes.” (M. R. James, ‘A Warning to the Curious’)

M. R. James, scholar and ghost-story writer

M. R. James, scholar and ghost-story writer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

M.R. James needs no introduction. His famous stories, constantly reprinted, tell – at great and wordy length – of scholarly, rational men in ancient houses and lonely hills menaced by disturbed spirits, things of diabolical and malevolent intent with the power to inflict death and terror by little more than the fact that they are nearby. A James story typically consists of a pseudo-academic introduction, followed by an unremarkable and very long-winded exposition of events … and then something changes. Over maybe just a few paragraphs, and with the minimum of information, we begin to feel the presence of a mortal threat. Through suggestion and hint, this threat grows and grows until it overcomes the protagonist. We are rarely shown the moment of demise, and the hellish creature is usually described only in elements. Continue reading

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