Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Ghost stories

I don't know the reason for this, but I've always found ghost stories to be the scariest kind of horror stories, in film and in literature. Perhaps it's because (despite my essentially aetheistic nature) I suspect that there may be some truth to the idea of ghosts, or at least that they seem less unlikely than other horror story monsters like vampires, werewolves, and towering unspeakable monstrosities with squids for heads.

For the next few weeks, I want to turn this blog into a tribute to some of my favourite ghost stories. English ghost stories are traditional and Japanese ghost stories have been big in recent times, but there are great ghost stories from all over the world.

Just to kick things off, here is a link to an excellent adaptation of one of my favourite ever ghost stories, Oh Whistle and I'll Come To You My Lad by M.R. James, as adapted for the BBC by writer/director Jonathan Miller and starring Michael Hordern. It's old and low-budget, but I think it's still pretty damned good. For best results, turn off the lights.

This movie scared the hell out of me.


  1. I agree completely about the effectiveness of ghost stories. They're about the only form of horror that still has the ability to creep me out properly, for precisely the reason you mention: despite my atheism and general scepticism, I can't quite shake the possibility of ghosts. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Will Storr vs the Supernatural, an entertaining and sometimes disturbing (and not necessarily because of any ghosts) exploration of ghostly phenomena from a sceptical perspective.

    Anyway, looking forward to the posts!

  2. Oh, also, those BBC (and sometimes ITV) Ghost Stories are all, for the most part, wonderful. They were all produced as Christmas specials and mainly consisted of MR James adaptations, though there were occasional variances (Dickens' The Signalman, for one). Other than Whistle, I'd recommend A Warning to the Curious and Lost Hearts, in particular.