Book reviews of Classic Ghosts stories

Book reviews of Classic Ghosts stories 

The Courtyard is in the middle of its run of Classic Ghosts which comes to an end on Saturday 14 February.

As part of the promotion of the live show, we asked 5 reviewers to read the plays that the ghost stories were based on; Oh, Whistle and I will Come To You, My Lad and The Signalman. Here is what the winning reviewer, Thomas Bowen, thought of the books:

Oh, Whistle and I Will Come To You, My Lad by M.R.James
When the Professor of an unnamed college holidays in the small costal village of Burnstow he chances upon a whistle buried under the altar of Templar ruins and unwittingly invites ancient horror to his window, into his dreams, and even into the very room in which he sleeps.

The remoteness of the seaside setting and the implied spiritually troubled nature of The Globe Inn, where Perkins installs himself, work together to create a heightened sense of foreboding and unease within the reader; each turn of the page akin to the sound of distant footsteps while making one’s way home alone through blackened country roads.

Through the initially cynical Professor Perkins, M.R. James challenges the reader’s own rationality and empirical beliefs as both Perkins and the reader are forced to confront the possibility that the savage wind beating nightly against the window and the crumpled clothes, strewn around the room each morning, are the result of something altogether more sinister than either perhaps want to admit.

James initially wrote his short ghost stories to be read aloud for the entertainment of his friends; over a hundred years later with fire blazing and winds roaring it is clear in reading Oh, Whistle and I’ll come to you, my lad that the story has lost none of its power to chill.

The Signalman – Charles Dickens

First published in 1866 in All Year Round, a literary magazine owned by Dickens himself, The Signalman tells the macabre tail of a railway employee haunted by spectral visions.

When a lone wanderer chances upon a signalman, responsible for communicating with passing trains, he finds himself drawn in to the man’s dark tales of a recurrent spectre; a spectre of a man waving furiously, one arm across his face, as if desperately trying to convey a warning message, whose appearance by the tunnel entrance has twice preceded a disaster on this segment of the line.

Inside the signalman’s hut, door shuttered against the elements and fire lit, the lone wanderer listens to the signalman’s tale, beginning to share in his belief that the appearance of the spectre forewarns disaster on the railway line. It is only on the following day that the lone traveller comes to understand the dreadful and premonitive truth of the signalman’s convictions.

Published five years after the Clayton Railway crash of 1861 which killed 23 and injured nearly 200 The Signalman plays both upon Victorian fears of the railways and those all too human fears of remote, isolated, darkness.

To book tickets for the show at The Courtyard look online