Tag Archives: ghost stories

For a Pleasant Little Scare: ‘A Warning to the Curious’

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M. R. James wrote the best ghost stories ever, and one of those gems is A Warning to the Curious. This was made into a short film (50 minutes long) some years ago and currently available on Youtube.

How good an idea is it to dig up an ancient artifact supposedly protected by a supernatural guardian? Even outside of an M.R. James story, probably not. A Warning to the Curious is about what happens to an amateur archaeologist who ignores the warning.

The thing that makes this little movie go is its spectacular photography and ominous-looking locations. If you were looking for ghosts anywhere, these places would be where you’d find them. Flat fens where it’s hard to tell where the beach ends and the water begins, stone buildings that look like they grew out of the landscape a thousand years ago, a train station smack in the middle of nowhere–sit and look. You won’t see places like those every day.

We watched in this afternoon, to take our minds off stressful things, and it does do that. It does it very well.

Explain This… If You Can

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I don’t know if this is a proper ghost story, or what. But it’s certainly a strange story. Let me quote from Legends of Long Beach Island by David Seibold and Charles Adams III (copyright by the authors, 1985), page 16. Short but sweet:

“Our storyteller… has more. His father swears he once saw a red-roofed, white-building village propped on the horizon a short distance from Holgate [on the southern tip of Long Beach Island, NJ]. Out fishing, he looked to the east, out to sea, and unmistakeably saw the buildings–terra cotta roofs, almost Spanish in style. He knows well it couldn’t have really been there. He blinked and rubbed his eyes, but it wouldn’t go away.”

Now there’s nothing between Holgate, NJ, and Portugal but mile after mile of the Atlantic Ocean. If we believe the witness was telling the truth–and why shouldn’t we?–then how do we explain what he saw? Does Brigadoon have a sea-going counterpart? Or was this the ghost of Atlantis? Or some as-yet unexplained natural phenomenon?

Go figure.

A Halloween Story

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This mini-story occurred to me this morning. It is pure fiction intended to give you a harmless little shudder.

Halloween at Bill Nye Public School. At lunchtime the children are allowed to change into costumes. They can even do it at home, if they can get back in time.

Shortly before the bell rings to end the lunch period, a figure in a horrible scary witch costume appears on the playground: ratty old black dress, coarse red hair flying every which way, unwholesome yellow-green complexion, with a long hooked nose and evilly twisted mouth decorated with two or three brown stumps of teeth. The eyes hardly bear description. So frightful was this costume that some of the younger children break into tears and run away. The older kids just stare.

Then the bell rings, and fifth-graders file into Mrs. Cafone’s classroom. The horrible witch goes in with them. Everyone wonders who it could possibly be. But so far the witch has spoken not a word.

When the children are all seated, Mrs. Cafone can’t help but marvel at the really quite awful witch costume. “Come on, now,” she says, “who is it?” The witch answers not a word. “I know you don’t want your voice to give you away, but you are sitting in Harold Winkie’s seat, so you must be Harold Winkie. Take off the mask so we can see you. Really, that costume is the limit!”

There is a pause. The children are now increasingly mad at Harold–ordinarily the bottom kid on the totem pole, the butt of every joke–for giving them a scare, and they begin to chant in unison, “Take it off! Take it off!” Pounding their desks for emphasis.

The witch stands suddenly. Silence falls.

He or she reaches up and slowly removes the mask.

And what is underneath is so much worse.

Not Honest! (Plus a Prayer Request)

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Patty and I wanted to watch a ghost story last night; and, lo and behold, we found a movie treatment of M.R. James’ Oh, Whistle and I’ll Come to You, My Lad, one of the best ghost stories ever written. There’s a 1968 version starring Michael Hordern as the intellectual know-it-all who gets a very rude awakening, but this new one is longer and stars another great actor, John Hurt.

But first we read the viewer comments.

It turns out there’s no ghost in this rendition, and no freakin’ whistle, either. Instead, it’s a story of dementia. All they did was lift the title–not honest! The story in the movie has nothing to do with the one M.R. James wrote. So we didn’t watch it.

Sorry, but dementia is very much wanting as a source of entertainment, especially when it’s eating up certain members of your family. My brother-in-law, Ray, has it: has it bad. Because it’s not possible to get his permission to divulge any of the details, all I can say is that he needs our prayers. I mean, he really needs them, and I ask you to join me in offering prayer on his behalf. Please, Lord, in Jesus’ name, do something to help him!

I know you can’t copyright a title, but this goes beyond just “based on” and is a highly blameworthy attempt to trick the audience.

Meanwhile, we thank you for your prayers.

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