To celebrate the release of our second Self Made Hero book of M. R. James adaptations – Ghost Stories of an Antiquary Vol 2 – we’re going to be counting down to Christmas in true Jamesian style, with a new haunting image and nugget of info every day.
On top of that, we’ll be giving away a copy of the book via Twitter every Sunday in the lead up to Christmas. Check the #MRJ2GIVEAWAY hashtag for details of how to take part.
In addition to being adapted into a book called ‘Discovering Scarfolk’ (Ebury Press), a Scarfolk TV series is also in development.
Richard has been described as “This guy, who apparently saw the future” by Edward Snowden and has also been accused of polluting ‘real’ history. He’s currently creating a short animation series for Rook Films.
When I first saw this image I was 5 or 6 years old, an age when the boundary between reality and fantasy is nebulous: Father Christmas and his elfin employees are as real as your parents, teachers and cousins; and if they all exist, so too, logically, must the ghosts, demons and other shadow entities that populated the macabre, grisly books and magazines gifted to children in the 1970s.
TV was no different and this still of Jacob Marley from Richard Williams’ 1971 animated version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, voiced by Alastair Sim, almost chased me back into nappies. It certainly left an indelible stain on my psyche for many years.
It takes a special breed of creative person not merely to present a ghost, but also to savour the biological, funereal details of the undertaker’s craft or rather, in this case, the lack of it. Not only is Marley’s jaw not wired shut, the temporomandibular joints – or jaw hinges – appear to have dissolved: The mandible is no longer attached to the skull so that when the bandages are removed, Marley’s lower jaw slips gruesomely to his chest in a profound, somehow obscene scream. It’s a visual gesture that, as far as I am aware, has not been imitated in subsequent renderings of Dickens’ classic.
The mouth became an object of horror to my young self. Extrapolating Marley’s maw, I found yawning particularly unsettling and seeing an infectious yawn spread quickly through a roomful of tired adults was akin to observing the contagion that triggers zombie rampages.