Review: <i>OSS Operation Black Mail</i> by Ann Todd Review: OSS Operation Black Mail by Ann Todd Chris Wolak Read Chris Wolak's review! Discount: <i>Her Darkest Nightmare</i> by Brenda Novak Discount: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99 through October 2! Review: <i>The Last Chicago Boss</i> by Peter "Big" Pete James with Kerrie Droban Review: The Last Chicago Boss by Peter "Big" Pete James with Kerrie Droban Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review! <i>The Death of an Heir</i>: Excerpt The Death of an Heir: Excerpt Philip Jett A chilling true account of the Coors family’s gilded American dream & a kidnapping gone horribly wrong.
From The Blog
September 21, 2017
Adventures in Research, Part III: Killing Pace
Douglas Schofield
September 15, 2017
Drunk Man Sells Car, Forgets, Reports Car Stolen
Teddy Pierson
September 14, 2017
Celebrating Robert Mitchum's Centennial: The Noir
David Cranmer
September 13, 2017
Murder Was In His Eyes: The Chilling Truth of Domestic Abuse
Kaira Rouda
September 12, 2017
The Crime Writer’s Search for Unusual Murder Weapons
John Keyse-Walker
Showing posts by: Roger Clarke click to see Roger Clarke's profile
Thu
Oct 23 2014 12:00pm

M.R. James: The Haunted Boy

It has gone unnoticed by his biographers, but the Eton lodgings in which M.R. James set his scholarship in the 1870s was the location of a famous 17th Century ghost story. Roger Clarke, who attended the same school exactly one hundred years later, tells the story for the first time.

* * *

I have in front of me the original third-edition of Saducismus Triumphatus by Joseph Glanvill. It’s a very old book, from 1700, and it's full of ghosts and witches. It has the royal insignia on the front, which means it was owned and probably read by George III or “Mad King George.” His grandfather George II was a staunch believer in vampires, but I digress. I’m not allowed to photograph it, but I’m in the British Library in London.

Saducismus was a theological work designed to rebut the cynics and sceptics by trying to demonstrate that the supernatural world—and by extension, God—really existed. It influenced, famously, Cotton Mather and the witch trials held 1692-3 in Salem, Massachusetts. In those days, ghosts were thought not to be spirits but demons, and often associated with witches and witchcraft. Glanvill, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Chaplain to the King, managed to make a belief in ghosts and witchcraft respectable in England for about a decade. One of his early jobs was as a curate to Eton College.

Curiously, this book also includes a now-forgotten ghost story that’s relevant to one of the best English ghost story writers of them all, M.R. James (1862-1936). 

[Ghosts, witch trials? You have our attention...]