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Thu, Oct 05

31 HORROR STORIES -- "Casting the Runes" (1911)

@ 12:00 PM

M.R. James, besides being even more fascinatied with the Apocalypse than I am, was one of the greatest ghost story writers who ever lived. He's also got one of the best "creepiest titles" ever for a story -- "O Whistle And I'll Come To You, My Lad" -- even though the pay off of the tale itself isn't that great. And I almost picked "A Warning to the Curious", especially for its description of a ghoul's footprints on a misty, dawn beach, and for the phrase "a lungless laugh".

But "Casting the Runes" (made into the superlative movie CURSE OF THE DEMON in 1958) is his best. It's about a spiritualist/diabolist -- Carswell -- and his knack for slyly cursing his enemies with demon attacks. Carswell himself is based on Alistair Crowley, but James makes him so much more dangerous and threatening than the Old Beast. I love the scene where he terrifies children with a VERY graphic magic lantern show. Also, the slow manfestations of the oncoming demon attack in his latest victim (what's waiting under a pillow one night is unforgettable). You'll never look at a pile of coats the same way again. Or maybe you knew all along...

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