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Casting the Runes and Other Ghost Stories

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  657 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
A selection of 21 stories, which also includes three stories that are not in the Collected Edition.

Canon Alberic's scrap-book --
The mezzotint --
Number 13 --
Count Magnus --
Oh, whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad --
The treasure of Abbot Thomas --
A School story --
The rose garden --
The tractate middoth --
Casting the runes --
The stalls of Barchester Cathedral --
Mr Humphreys a
Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 3rd 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1911)
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Oct 12, 2011 Steve rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
M.R. James had a great, and simple, formula for writing ghost stories. Establish the mundane and everyday detail (which is heightened by the Victorian academic settings), and then introduce, briefly, the supernatural, which cracks the surface of everything normal that has been so carefully established. And what is suggested by the supernatural intrusion is usually horrifying. Lovecraftian spheres (or worse) are opened up to the reader. The human mind must retreat before the suggestion of the “ot ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
This IS a book of CLASSIC horror stories. They don't depend nor do they need buckets of blood slung against a wall or descriptions of disembowelments or decapitations. James can achieve a creeping sense of horror and/or terror that will slip up your spine and tap on your shoulder when (if) you turn off the lights to go to sleep at night. It is of course possible not get into the stories, these are stories that you think about and if you do...the shivers and subtle looks over your shoulder when y ...more
Altivo Overo
Mar 02, 2016 Altivo Overo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anglophiles, fans of ghosts and horror
Shelves: horror-fiction
I hesitate to use the common label of "horror fiction" for this title, though some of the stories are indeed the stuff of very bad dreams and lying awake at night.

Montague Rhodes James (1862-1936) was perhaps the most pre-eminent teller of the very scholarly and civilized British ghost story. As each story draws to a close, the reader is left to draw her own conclusions to a certain extent, and the author does not state explicitly what the explanation or termination of the manifestations might h
David Rush
Apr 17, 2011 David Rush rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to David by:
I checked out the Oxford World's Classics edition from the local library which has an introduction by Michael Chabon. Chabon says horror stories are ALL psychology, and from what I've read so far that is the case for M.R. James.

Of course stuff does happen, but perhaps my modern perspective wants a better ratio of psychology to action (heavier on the action).

Chabon compares James to Lovecraft and of course his observations are well thought out and you must agree with them, mostly. James is obviou
Paul Julian
Oct 27, 2014 Paul Julian rated it liked it
Didn't finish, read:

Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book
The Mezzotint
Number 13
Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come To You, My Lad
The Rose Garden
Casting The Runes
A Warning To The Curious
The Experiment

Solid, if fairly quaint, Victorian ghost stories of a particular style. They are very English, and much detail is given to the setting of each story; quiet, out-of-season coastal villages are a particular favourite of James'. Most of the stories are told at one or two removes - the author is usually relaying a story
Jul 30, 2015 minnie rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, library, ghosts
M.R. James was the master of the English ghost story. I was drawn to this collection after having recently watched the excellent BFI releases of ‘Oh Whistle, and I’ll come to you my Lad’ and ‘A Warning to the curious’(Highly recommended for fans of ghostly tv adaptations)The stories themselves are steeped in a world of academics and antiquaries,but also have seemingly idyllic and tranquil English countryside settings. There are little laneways leading to old gates, country churches and woods, pe ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Lesley rated it liked it
To be honest, I only finished about two thirds of this collection, but the stories were similar enough that I didn't think it was necessary to complete the collection. James's stories are always creepy and often funny, though they're rarely genuinely frightening. They're quirky little half-satirical sketches where bed sheets come to life and scraps of paper and coins and shadows are haunted with vengeful specters, most of which insist on pursuing absent-minded scholars. Overall, James's tales ar ...more
Oct 01, 2010 Amanda rated it it was amazing
James is my favorite ghost story author of them all, and this is the book that introduced me to him. It's quite a good introduction: it has most of the stories from Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, volumes 1 and 2, plus a few more that were published elsewhere, plus an appendix with excerpts from various writings by James about the ghost story genre. Even though I now have the Wordsworth Editions collected James, I still can't bear to get rid of my battered old copy of this collection.
Jan 03, 2008 Lily rated it really liked it
M.R. James' stories are wonderfully scary. He uses suspense and primitive archetypes to induce fear. It is a terrific and more intellectual romp than most books in the Gothic Horror genre.
Nov 19, 2016 Maggie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, horror
just plain fun ... i love these types of short stories that show how storytellers provided strong yet vicarious entertainment for readers ... this story makes for a fun yet quiet evening entertainment
Oct 09, 2016 Mandy rated it did not like it
Sep 30, 2014 Kimberley rated it it was amazing
M.R. James is pretty much the godfather of the classic ghost story. He is straight-up Victorian in his sensibilities--no gore, no nastiness. There's spooks and ghosts and things that go bump in the night and some things that are downright unpleasant, but nothing here is going to give you any psychic damage. There's no nightmare material here for a reasonably well-adjusted adult. He coined the phrase "a pleasing terror," and that's more or less apt for what he achieves.

But you see his influence
Mar 31, 2010 Doreen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am still rather huffy that they didn't include one of my all-time favorite M R James' stories, "Lost Hearts," in this collection. I know it wasn't a favorite of his, but he wasn't all that fond of the far inferior "A Vignette" either, and that somehow worked its way into this anthology.

That said, this is a good collection of supernaturally-tinged stories that tell you more about the time (Victorian England) than truly give you a fright. I did find these stories much scarier upon adulthood than
This is a collection of ghost stories by M R James, widely considered to be one of the great writers in this genre.

The title story of ‘Casting the Runes’ is pretty good. Aside from that, this collection is disappointing.

The plots are very repetitive. The protagonist is usually an Oxford don/scholar/clergyman of some sort, whose personalities are clearly based on MR James himself. They will either go somewhere on holiday or to do research at a venerable university/library/European city, during wh
A Bookworm Reading (Plethora)
M.R. James (Montague Rhodes James) was a medieval scholar with an interest in antiquities. These areas of interest can be found when reading his ghost stories. While the stories centered around a more current time, they alluded to an item of some historical importance in the past. This collection included twenty-one of his works. Not being a horror fan works for these stories, the horror would come from your mind playing into the setup of the story. The details are laid out and the eerie factor ...more
Nov 03, 2014 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A bit of Halloween reading. I read the title story online via one of those "spooky short stories" lists, then remembered that I had this compilation sitting at home unread. So I read it. Actually, I read all but one of these stories -- "The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral" kept putting me to sleep and I skipped it. I mean, even the name is boring.

These stories were good overall, but a little monotonous. Sometimes they reminded me of the contemporaneous Sherlock Holmes stories, sometimes they rem
Dharia Scarab
Mar 28, 2015 Dharia Scarab rated it really liked it

Since I don't normally write reviews unless I have something specific to say, here's the break down of how I rate my books...

1 star... This book was bad, so bad I may have given up and skipped to the end. I will avoid this author like the plague in the future.

2 stars... This book was not very good, and I won't be reading any more from the author.

3 stars... This book was ok, but I won't go out of my way to read more, But if I find another book by the author for under a dollar I'd pick it up.

4 sta
Sep 14, 2014 Tiko rated it really liked it
While not perfect, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection of ghost stories by M.R. James. Yes, it's a bit a formulaic with, "I knew an academic from Cambridge, who told this story about his friend..." - which is basically every story, but they read like yarns you would hear in front of a fireplace late at night; and some actually give you the chills. It definitely reads like an English gentleman from the turn of the century writing this, and as such it's not gory. What's nice about it is he's also ...more
Oct 30, 2012 Benjamin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Is in the middle of a hurricane, with the power out, and Halloween just around the corner, I took out this collection and reread "O, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" by candlelight. God, these stories are eerie. There are a few places where I think James gets it right far better than most scare fiction writers - most notably, he keeps the climactic moment hazy enough that we have our own image of what is tormenting our poor protagonist. And a nice touch in "O, Whistle..." I love how James i ...more
M.R. James is the one and only best writer of ghost stories ever, in my ever-so-humble opinion. "Oh Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" in particular is elegant, smooth, and seriously scary, as well as simply one of the best short stories of any genre I've ever read (hey, folks like Michael Chabon agree with that statement too). While other way old-school writers of weird fiction like Algernon Blackwood, Le Fanu, Lovecraft, etc. were all wonderful in their own, individual ways, there is someth ...more
Feb 05, 2010 Wayne rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: if you like being traumatised over and over again
Recommended to Wayne by: the story titles
This gives me goosebumps, real chills whose progress I can almost map.
And then I START as the house gives some creeeak that would normally pass entirely unheard...all occurrences when I'm reading ghost stories but especially these ones of M.R.James (Montague Rhodes!!!no less), stories which are masterpieces of unsettlement and disquiet.
All those riches of English culture become suddenly tainted with the sinister.The World of Jane Austen would have to be its complete antithesis.I take a copy of M
Dione Basseri
Most of the time when I can't recall a story very well, I listen to it again before reviewing. This time? Nope. Don't care. Really didn't like this one, and I don't need a second listen to worsen my opinion.

It's just very dull and drags on. A gentleman believes his has been cursed for...writing a bad book review. That's...just...very bleh. It sounds like the plot of an episode in the final season of a crime show, when all the good plots have been used already.

Luckily, the story is in the public
Oct 23, 2008 Wendy rated it really liked it
My October tradition is to read this collection of short ghost stories - thanks to my neighbor who gave me this book a few years back! Written in the early 20th century by a Cambridge medieval scholar, these stories always take place in an academic or foreign setting and the main character is always an unassuming (academic) type of man. Curiosity gets the characters in trouble and that trouble usually involves some antique object (book, picture) or antique house. I love this stuff! The beginning ...more
Rob Hill
Apr 23, 2013 Rob Hill rated it really liked it
All stories follow a similar formula, and are delivered in the same wry, slightly sardonic tone of voice. James gently mocks his protagonists, he doesn't want us to feel sympathy for them. This distance between the author, the reader and the characters creates the space for the various creeping, unsettling, ancient horrors, ghosts and demons which are unleashed. Theirs is a patient menace, which can be temporarily halted, shut in a box or a dusty time, but is rarely permanently extinguished. The ...more
too hard to rate
I can't rate this, there's way too many short stories. I just wanted to read the one related to The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal and it wasn't that great. Some of the other stories are excellent though, how can you rate 21 short stories in one book, it's impossible.

Don't listen to the recommendations at the end of The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal with the exception of:- Remnant: A Caldwell & Feximal/Whyborne & Griffin Mystery (The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal
Just a few words for this one.

I do appreciate the author's use of language and the fact that these stories were indeed some early attempts in the horror genre, a genre that has progresses significantly since then.
I have to admit though that it tired me a lot. A few motifs used more often than they should, lack of variety and the fact that such stories are outdated by today's horror standards made the experience of reading this book more tedious than it should have been.

On the plus side a few sto
Aug 16, 2011 Adam rated it it was amazing
Discovering the classic port-and-leather-armchair ghost stories of M. R. James is like first reading Dune or The Lord of the Rings. The tremendous possibilities of an entire genre suddenly open up to you, and you end up reading dozens of similar books but only rarely find that original thrill--so inevitably you come full circle, content to read (over and over) “Oh Whistle,” “Number 13,” or “A Warning to the Curious.” And the stories never lose their magic and menace.
A Bookworm Reading (Plethora)
I did not finish reading this particular edition "Oxford World's Classics with Introduction by Michael Chabon". [ISBN: 9780195151176, printed 2002] As the text is riddled with * notations and no explanation is included for them.

I have chosen to continue reading the "Oxford World's Classics with Introduction by Michael Cox". [ISBN: 9780199538577, printed 2009 or Kindle Version ASIN: B00APZQ64E]
Andrew Durnion
Aug 06, 2015 Andrew Durnion rated it really liked it
M R James was a Medieval scholar and this permeates many of the stories. Tractate Middoth is a malevolent little story that is very well constructed and unsettling. There is a very class conscious writer at work here. Anyone not from a Oxbridge education speaks either 'watcher' cockney or 'oo are' yokel. This didn't rankle with me though, I thought it was charming. But, yeah, some creepy as ...short stories.
Mar 04, 2008 Hayley rated it really liked it
Shelves: english-lit
I'm just coming to the end of these short stories and have found them quite intersting. They are mostly ghost stories and more propbably are based on old folk lore. M R James has a habit of going on a bit and then stopping in his tracking as if realising he is descriping something into much details - several stories have this and it gets quite annoying. If it wasn't for this I would have rated this with 5 stars, as the actual ghost stories are interesting adn managed to hold my attention.
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Montague Rhodes James, who used the publication name M.R. James, was a noted British mediaeval scholar & provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905–18) & of Eton College (1918–36). He's best remembered for his ghost stories which are widely regarded as among the finest in English literature. One of James' most important achievements was to redefine the ghost story for the new century by di ...more
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