Monday, July 27, 2015

A Grand Tradition: Ghost Stories

When I first began to assemble my work for what became the short story collection A CONFEDERACY OF HORRORS, I surprised myself because I had never quite realized that I had written so many ghost stories. To my way of thinking, ghost stories are the origin of horror fiction and at the base of almost every type of weird tale. One can write of monsters and of dragons and killers of all sorts; but at the source of them all is the fear of one's own mortality and of what might lie beyond (even if one does not believe in the "beyond").

I started reading ghost stories when I was a very young kid. Some of the first things I read were ghost stories, or weird stories, or--as one of the finest craftsmen of such tales (Robert Aikman) called them--strange stories. These tales must have stuck with me and influenced me far more than I realized, for a large percentage of the yarns I ended up spinning have been ghost stories of one sort or another.

One of the greatest authors of such tales was M.R. James. An intellectual of both religious and scientific influence, he created what many readers consider among the finest ghost stories written. And occasionally some of his work has been hammered into various films, most notably the excellent 1950s-era movie: CURSE OF THE DEMON, adapted from his short story "Casting the Runes".

But another great one from the pen of M.R. James that was loaned to cinematic excellence was "Whistle and I'll Come to You", adapted in 1968 as a short film. And here it is:


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