First transmitted on the 07/05/1968 on the BBC
First published in the masterful 1905 collection Ghost Stories of an Antiquary, the short story Oh Whistle and I’ll Come to You My Lad is easily one of M. R. James’ most disturbing and arresting tales. With his background in the dusty libraries of academia and the enforced introversion of a scholarly way of life James created a series of pompous protagonists whose social skills have been blunted by their obsessions. They are not mere representatives of scientific rationality as you might find in lesser ghost stories, but also men of vanity, pride, hubris and an overriding sense of their own intellectual superiority. This gives them a depth and dimension that makes the inevitable encounter with the forces of the supernatural so much more powerful. In the wake of these chilling episodes with the unknown denial becomes vital to an act of self preservation because there is so much on the line. Not just their own conceptions of reality, but their careers and positions within the esteemed halls of universities; a position that would become untenable without their denial of the events. With this in mind Professor Parkin’s (Michael Horden) repetition of the word ‘no’ at the end of the BBC’s dramatisation of the tale takes on added significance.
© Shaun Anderson 2010