Cover image for Casting the runes and other ghost stories
Casting the runes and other ghost stories
James, M. R. (Montague Rhodes), 1862-1936.
Publication Information:
Oxford [England] ; New York : Oxford University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xiv, 298 pages ; 17 cm.
Canon Alberic's scrap-book -- Mezzotint -- Number 13 -- Count Magnus -- 'Oh, whistle, and I'll come to you, my lad' -- Treasure of Abbot Thomas -- School story -- Rose garden -- Tractate middoth -- Casting the runes -- Stalls of Barchester Cathedral -- Mr. Humphreys and his inheritance -- Diary of Mr. Poynter -- An episode of Cathedral history -- Uncommon prayer-book -- Neighbour's landmark -- Warning to the curious -- Rats -- Experiment -- Malice of inanimate objects -- Vignette.
Reading Level:
1160 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



When we think of ghost stories, we tend to think of cub scouts cringing by a fire, s'mores at the ready, as some aging camp counselor tries to scare them witless with yet another tale from the crypt. But as Michael Chabon's marvelous introduction reminds us, the ghost story was once integralto the genre of the short story. Indeed, as he points out, it can be argued that the ghost story was the genre. Dickens's "A Christmas Carol," Henry James's "The Turn of the Screw"--most of the early short story writers wrote ghost stories as a matter of course. And the best writer of ghost stories,the acknowledged master, was M.R. James. In Casting the Runes, we have twenty-one tales that, in Chabon's words, "venture to the limits of the human capacity for terror and revulsion...armed only with an umbrella and a very dry wit." The stories here represent the best of James's work. They are set in the leisurely, late-Victorian,middle-class world of country houses, seaside inns, out-of-the-way railway stations, and cathedral closes, where gentlemen of independent means and antiquarian tastes suddenly find themselves confronted by terrifying agents of supernatural malice. But what these tales are really about, writesChabon, "is ultimately the breathtaking fragility of life, of 'reality,' of all the structures that we have erected to defend ourselves from our constant nagging suspicion that underlying everything is chaos, brutal and unreasoning." The tales in Casting the Runes are both chilling fun and, as Chabon concludes, "unmistakably works of art." Anyone who loves short fiction or who enjoys a good scare will find these stories an irresistible delight.

Author Notes

M. R. James was born in Goodnestone, Kent, England on August 1, 1862. He was an English mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905-1918) and of Eton College (1918-1936). He is best remembered for his ghost stories which are widely regarded as among the finest in English literature.

He began writing his ghost stories as an entertainment for his friends; he would read these stories each year at Christmas to his colleagues at King's College. The earliest of these tales include Canon Alberic's Scrap-book and Lost Hearts, both of which were later collected in his first anthology of supernatural fiction, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904). Perhaps his single greatest story is the profoundly disturbing Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad (1904). He died on June 12, 1936.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Table of Contents

Includes: Canon Alberic's Scrapbook
`Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'
The Treasure of Abbot Thomas
A Warning to the Curious
The Malice of Inanimate Objects