PRODUCT REVIEW: Ghost Stories BBC Audio





Ghost Stories: v. 2 (BBC Audio) by M.R. James


This 2 CD collection is Montague Rhodes James' second anthology of haunting ghost stories that includes one of my favourite of his shorts, "A Warning to the Curious"; a terrifying tale of what happens when someone greedily meddles with things they don't understand, ignores superstition and digs up an ancient crown protected by something evil. It changes his life forever and not in a way he is thankful for. It's frighteningly believable.

In "The Mezzotint", an engraving of an old manor house comes to life and it has a terrible tale to tell. What does it mean, and what can be done to stop the nightmare unfolding? This is a tense and shuddersome supernatural story.

"The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral" investigates the strange diary of an archdeacon and the ghastly events that lead up to his unfortunate death; while the last fourth story, "A Neighbour's Landmark", involves a curious man and how a strange rhyme leads him into Betton Woods where something sinister is waiting. What he finds is a fate worse than death itself. Can he be saved in time?

I must say that Derek Jacobi is brilliant in this. He provides the perfect spooky voice of the narrator and makes this particularly creepy to listen to. Whether an English gentleman, the squire of the manor or a serf working for his master, Jacobi, is spot on with the accents and really adds to the spine tingling atmosphere. It's no wonder that he is a BAFTA and Emmy-award winning actor.

On a personal note, I am a fan of Edwardian and Victorian ghost writers, but this chap was a medieval scholar and many of his stories feature much of what he would have learnt during his studies and 'on the job'. I jumped at the chance of reviewing this as M.R. James (August 1, 1862 - June 12, 1936) holds a special place in my heart. He taught and worked in various familiar-to-me places in Cambridge (where I live), including Kings College and Fitzwilliam Museum. He also catalogued many of the manuscript libraries in both Cambridge and Oxford. Best of all, with his scholarly background, he changed the way ghost stories were written by taking the brave step of moving away from the ghostly Gothic settings and into more contemporary surroundings. It's great when such a good author from this era writes about places in East Anglia that I can relate to.

The BBC have done a spectacular job with this entertaining and crystal clear production. I loved stepping back in time with this sort of old fashioned horror that is truly written to give you goosebumps. After listening to this you won't be blamed for checking under your bed and in your wardrobe before you settle down for the night! Some of the best demons are those which live in your imagination. Or do they?

Sassy Brit
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