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Collected Ghost Stories

(The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James #1-2)

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  5,936 ratings  ·  311 reviews

M. R. James is widely regarded as the father of the modern ghost story, and his tales have influenced horror writers from H. P. Lovecraft to Stephen King. First published in the early 1900s, they have never been out of print, and are recognized as classics of the genre. This collection contains some of his most chilling tales, including A View from a Hill, Rats, A School

Hardcover, 568 pages
Published November 28th 1994 by Wordsworth Editions Ltd (first published 1931)
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Beth I thought this edition contained all of his stories, but if you look at the end of the Table of Contents of Volume 2 of The Complete Stories, you'll…moreI thought this edition contained all of his stories, but if you look at the end of the Table of Contents of Volume 2 of The Complete Stories, you'll see 2 stories not included in this edition. (less)

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Joe Valdez
My introduction to the fiction of M.R. James is Collected Ghost Stories. I'm leaving my rating undeclared because while I abandoned this at the 35% mark, don't believe it deserves a one-star rating. Montague Rhodes James was a scholar and provost at a number of universities in England, but it was his post at King's College from 1905 to 1918 when he began an annual holiday tradition: writing a ghost story! James would invite his colleagues and students to his rooms on Christmas Eve and proceed to ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Montague Rhodes James brings the classic British understatement to the field of horror stories and makes them terrifying beyond imagination. His writing is without any frills; there is very little by the way of atmosphere-building; and the stories themselves seem to be an odd form of reportage. By going against convention, M. R. James creates a nightmare world which is more frightening than that of any of his more traditional contemporaries. He is helped in this by his encyclopaedic knowledge of ...more
Rebecca McNutt
With Halloween fast approaching, one of my favorite holidays (and I can tell it's coming because already the weather changed for October and it was only four degrees last night, typical Canada), I decided to read some short ghost stories as usual, and M.R. James' collection is some of the best I've read in a long time. It's a huge variety of stories, none are exactly alike, but unlike most modern tales with gore and violence, these ones look for the sinister and strange in everyday objects, ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’m so glad that the BBC have decided to revive their ‘Ghost Stories for Christmas’ series, spooky tales in dark cold winters nights are just perfect.
With the majority of stories chosen to adapt were by M. R. James, I only felt it was right to finally tackle he’s creepy tales during the lead up to the festive season.

There’s so many great stories in this collection, my favourites being Lost Hearts, Number 13, ‘Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad’, Casting the Runes and A View from a Hill.

Mar 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This collection collects all of the known printed ghost stories of M.R. James. And if you love classic creepers you are in for a major treat.

The stories that particularly stood for me were, "The Mezzotint", "Oh, Whistle, and I Will Come to You, My Lad", "The Haunted Dolls' House", "The Uncommon Prayer-Book", "A View From a Hill", Wailing Well", and "Casting The Runes".

So get ready to have your hair stand on end.

Jan 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
M. R. James is considered the master of the Victorian ghost story and this collection contains most of his short stories. I liked it, but be warned, modern readers who have gotten their scares from likes of Steven King will probably be disappointed. James is a subtle and understated writer and his stories are masterpieces of tone and atmosphere, but usually bloodless, with a lot left to the reader’s imagination. Take, for example, this excerpt from “The Treasure of Abbott Thomas”:

“Well, I felt
Marc Shoemaker
Jun 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
M.R. James can be difficult for the modern reader, but his stories are worth the effort for the atmosphere alone. "Whistle and I'll Come to you My Lad" is probably my favorite, and I'm far from alone. This creepy story involves old ruins, a found whistle with a strange inscription, and an unused bed that is suddenly no longer empty. "An Episode of Cathedral History" Is what a vampire story shoudl be. This one does not glitter. Stephen King once wrote that James' ghosts were harmless; I wonder if ...more
Orrin Grey
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Since it was his birthday recently, I decided to re-read the ghost stories of M.R. James, and I learned a few things. First, that I had not, apparently, read all the stories in this volume previously, like I thought I had, because there were some I didn't remember. Second, that even among the stories I had read there were parts that I had forgotten. And third, that M.R. James is King Shit of Space-Cat Mountain even more amazing than I had remembered.

Widely regarded as maybe the best ghost story
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Nothing beats old school horror, and James was a master of it. I read this collection years ago and I still get goosebumps thinking of some of his ambiguous horrors that were mostly created by imagination after his written prompts.

These stories rely heavily on suspense and unanswered questions, and are more about subtle shivers than full-on nightmare creations. A fantastic collection and one I'll return to for sure.
M.J. Johnson
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Ghost/supernatural/short story lovers
Shelves: favourites
Montague Rhodes James (1862 - 1936) was a distinguished mediaevalist scholar who during his lifetime published many works of academic significance. However, two generations on, he is best remembered, and deservedly so, as the master of the ghost story. He started writing tales in this form as an entertainment for his friends and colleagues, beginning in 1893 with Canon Alberic’s Scrapbook. A tradition was subsequently acquired of reading a new ghostly tale to his chums each Christmas - the ...more
Mattia Ravasi
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Video review

All shits and giggles until HAIRY SPIDER DEMON.
Especially relevant to scholars and academics: who hasn't considered hexing that very impolite peer reviewer who bashed your essay so cruelly?
Jun 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
I somehow prefer Victorian horror and ghost stories to anything modern, even though there are some modern horror authors that I like. In the oldie books, they didn't think they had to be 'clever' or gory in order to induce the creeps. The stories in this book are chilling and frightening, merely by the existence of the supernatural and the deliberate erasing out of the gore.

My favourite has to be The Mezzotint, a story about a creepy painting that comes to life. Another one is The Diary of Mr.
Aug 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, 1900-1950
My view of this author changed considerably in the course of my reading of this collection. I embarked on it as a follow-up to the magnificent Tales of Hoffmann, and, at first, by comparison, it seemed distinctly lightweight, though engaging and fun to read. I became more and more intrigued by these stories as I went along, though. They’re deceptively simple, and M. R. himself quite determinedly played down their importance in his few critical remarks on them (“The stories … do not make any very ...more
Dec 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
M.R. James wrote antiquarian scary stories and was a huge influence on H.P. Lovecraft. I'd previously read one of his stories in an anthology so I figured in the spirit of the cold and dark days of winter being a perfect time for scary stories, I decided to read a set of his complete ghost stories. Below are some snippet reviews of each story.

Canon Alberic's Scrap-Book: A scholar spends time with a skittish overseer in a dilapidated cathedral photographing the interior. He acts a bit too
Jan 27, 2019 marked it as to-read
1. Canon Alberic's Scarp-Book - 4.5
2. Lost Hearts - 4
3. The Mezzotint
4. The Ash-Tree - 4
5. Number 13 - 4.5
6. Count Magnus - 4.5
7. Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad - 3.5
8. The Treasure of Abbot Thomas - 4
9. A School Story
10. The Rose Garden
11. The Tractate Middoth
12. Casting the Runes - 4
13. The Stalls of Barchester Cathedral
14. Martin's Close
15. Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance
16. The Residence at Whitminster - 3.25
17. The Diary of Mr. Poynter
18. An Episode of Cathedral History
19. The
Judith Johnson
Feb 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing

But couldn’t read after sunset
Linda Lawrance
Oct 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
These stories took me back to my childhood, holidays at the beach in old houses, howling winds and the crashing of the waves at night. Four children whiling away the evening hours reading ghost stories from books borrowed from the local library.
A childhood filled with the fairies and talking animals and tales of adventuring children garnered from the works of English authors who dominated our childish world view at that time.
These ghost stories of M R James are the stuff of children's
John Adams
Jul 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
Many writers have strayed into the realm of the ghost story during their careers but few have made their name entirely within its borders. M R James is one such writer.

Montague Rhodes James was the son of an English clergyman. He was educated at Eton and Cambridge. He then spent his working life directing the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and as the university's vice-chancellor. Later in life he gave that up to take the post of provost at Eton. He died in 1936.

M R James was a lifelong scholar
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it
I had hoped that I would be scared. I really like to scare myself and laugh about it. When I saw the Orphanage, I couldn't open the bathroom door because I was frozen wondering what was on the other side. After watching Alien at home in the dark, my husband kidded me that they had just landed in our backyard as a roll of thunder broke out. I couldn't move!! And I loved it!

But these are Victorian stories and I guess I've never really been scared by a story. They are written in a Victorian
Martin Belcher
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2018
A timeless collection of England’s greatest ever ghost story writer - MR James.
Often read at Christmas but great to read at anytime of the year, this collection of short often very unsettling ghost stories are easy to read and digest quickly but leave an indelible impression in your mind and imagination.
There are too many to mention here but my three personal favourites are The Ash Tree, The Tractate Middoth and one of MR James most famous ghost stories, Oh Whistle and I’ll come to you my Lad.
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
I acquired an early love of ghost stories. In mentioning the work of M. R. James a recent contributor to my Ana the Imp blog reminded me just how much I love them, how much I love his work in particular. Montague Rhodes James, to give him his full name, was actually a specialist in medieval manuscripts and the provost of King’s College, Cambridge and then of Eton. But he is best remembered for his delicious tales of the supernatural.

I say ghost stories but he really crosses boundaries, touching
Sep 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Assigned this book for a class on Freud's Uncanny and Horror Literature, and had a tough time presenting James in such a way that the students got beyond his "reasonable" facade and into deeper, weirder territory. Yes, James is a master of "understatement" - although I wonder if this isn't just a function of the narrative layers and frames he's so fond of employing - but he uses this light touch to investigate some deeper strain of desire. All of these academics, desperate to uncover previously ...more
Riju Ganguly
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are classics that deserve no separate review apart from mere stating of the fact that these stories have been shaping the contours of horror fiction for the past century, and since 1931 (when these stories were brought out together, except 3 stories that were later collected) they have remained continuously in-print. However, this book was special in the sense that the stories often mention certain details that require gentle ministrations in the shape of annotations & explanations for ...more
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
These stories were so much fun! It takes a lot to scare me and I found myself having a hard time falling asleep after I closed this one at night. I can definitely see why Lovecraft idolized this guy.
Jonathan Stroud
Oct 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Simply the best, goulish and ghastly tales by the master. JS
Nov 07, 2017 marked it as to-read
Shelves: bookworms-united
Because there are altogether thirty-one stories in this collection, all with different characters and playing at different times, I can’t give you a quick introduction to what it’s all about. What I can do, is tell you the premise of one of the stories that I thought was the scariest: ‘Lost Hearts’.

An eleven year old boy, recently orphaned, arrives at a country house in the year 1811. He is to live with his rich old cousin, who is a learned recluse, specialised in pagan religions from the first
Nov 15, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I will not put dots or stars, for I dislike them, but I will say that apparently someone tried to shave Mr Burton in the train, and did not succeed overly well. He was however satisfied with what he had done, if we may judge from the fact that on a once white napkin spread on Mr Burton’s chest was an inscription in red letters: GEO. W. FECI.
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"There is really nothing more to tell, but, as you may imagine, the Professor’s views on certain points are less clear cut than they used to be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a surplice hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a scarecrow in a field late on a winter afternoon has cost him more than one sleepless night."
M.R. James is one of those kinda guys you can just picture at a bar, telling the wildest story imaginable, complete with "It was thiiis big" alongside arm gestures and hyperboles in excess. Although what's funny, is how un-hyperbole-ish his stories actually are. In fact they're understated almost, quiet and full of nerdy guys wandering around ancient ruins and museums and churches strolling along as innocents, until things get crazy. Similar to Lovecraft, and certainly in what I would call the ...more
Jim Smith
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Classic and highly rereadable selection of arguably the most all-round consistent 'golden age' period horror master's oeuvre. While one must focus almost solely on Arthur Machen's 1890s output, whittle Algernon Blackwood's vast output down to a small selection of outright masterpieces of terror or dig around for Walter de la Mare's always excellent, but unfortunately scattered and few, horror stories from his varied career, M. R. James' horror stories are satisfyingly presented in a volume of ...more
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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 ...more

Other books in the series

The Complete Ghost Stories of M.R. James (2 books)
  • Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories
  • The Haunted Dolls' House and Other Ghost Stories
“Those that spend the greater part of their time in reading or writing books are, of course, apt to take rather particular notice of accumulations of books when they come across them. They will not pass a stall, a shop, or even a bedroom-shelf without reading some title, and if they find themselves in an unfamiliar library, no host need trouble himself further about their entertainment. The putting of dispersed sets of volumes together, or the turning right way up of those which the dusting housemaid has left in an apoplectic condition, appeals to them as one of the lesser Works of Mercy.” 10 likes
“The door was opening again. The seer does not like to dwell upon what he saw
entering the room: he says it might be described as a frog - the size of a man - but it had scanty white hair about its head. It was busy about the truckle-beds, but not for long. The sound of cries - faint, as if coming out of a vast distance - but, even so, infinitely appalling, reached the ear. ("The Haunted Doll's House")”
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