AN EVENING WITH M R JAMES
Chelmsford Ghost and Phantasmagoria Society in the Antiquarium
Dan Segeth and Roger Johnson
On the fringe of the Altogether Now festival, two Ghost Story fans took us on a journey from the steps of the Shire Hall, with a short pause at the porch of St Mary's, to the “Antiquarium”. Tindal Square has its shared of ghosts: here's the old Corn Exchange – on this spot when M R James was safe in King's – and a little further back the old White Hart. The mystery venue turned out to be a deserted, abandoned bookshop, not even a shadow of a shelf remaining, but eerily lit, and festooned with lost leaves – illustrations and random pages from the tales of the supernatural we were about to hear.
The three M R James stories they chose were The Rats, set in an old Suffolk inn, A School Story, a tale of Latin grammar and sympathetic ink, and, after an interval for refreshment [Judge Tindal's Tavern doing the office of Stalls Bar] Martin's Close. This last tells, not without humour, of a ghastly murder and God's revenge, as the killer is pursued by justice, in the person of Judge Jeffreys, and by the hapless victim from beyond the grave.
Mr Segeth and Mr Johnson shared the reading, their contrasting styles helping to bring life to these chilling Edwardian stories.