Monday, October 24, 2016

MMRM: "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" and "Number 13" by M.R. James

'Tis the season for the unearthly, the undead, and the downright macabre. Not everyone can read an entire book in time for Halloween- some of us are too busy with other books, or even other things (gasp). For those poor souls, I offer these reviews: I will be writing my thoughts on some of my favorite short stories for this spooky season, either one at a time or in pairs.

This Year's Mini Macabre Review Mondays:
#9: "The Alchemist" and "The Beast in the Cave" by H.P. Lovecraft
#10: "Canon Alberic's Scrap-book" and "The Mezzotint" by M.R. James
#11: "Casting the Runes" by M.R. James- A Book Blogger's Nightmare

"Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 4.5 Stars (Exceptional)
Content: Ages 14+ for never looking at mundane items the same way again.
Page Count: Approximately 20 pages
Year Published: 1904

This is a story I finished and didn't think much of, at first. But as days passed, having finished the complete Ghost Stories of an Antiquary by M.R. James (which is public domain and is free as an ebook) this is the story I recall best, and one that my thoughts continue to linger on. There are musical items I might think of as haunted- pianos, harps, and those sorts of things, but never in my wildest dreams would I think blowing a simple whistle would be something to bring about strange occurrences.

The Plot: The discovery and use of an ancient whistle brings about bizarre events.

In a way, this story seems to preposterous to be scary- again, blowing a whistle seems like something to childish to bring about an effect other than sound. I also had different predictions of what actually might come about as a result- I hadn't anticipated this tale's end. Given where I read this book, I found the end to be increasingly unsettling as time went on.

The title "Oh, Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad" sounds like a cheery song, or maybe an old comedy film, but I assure you this little story is neither. Some of the bizarre occurrences in this tale came off to me at first as somewhat laughable, but due to its lingering qualities, it's made me think twice about some everyday items. If that isn't a good horror tale trait, I don't know what is.

"Number 13" by M.R. James

Available to read for free, online here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars (Great)
Content: Ages 12+ for unusual hotel suites
Page Count: Approximately 16 pages
Year Published: 1904

If you pay much attention to superstitions, the ones involving the number 13 seem to be the most abiding, even in modern times. Some buildings won't have 13th floors, some hotels won't have room number 13, and some people (my mother included) will do almost anything to avoid the number 13 showing up in their life. This story relies on that superstition, and to some extent, monopolizes it.

The Plot: A man checks into room 12, finding the room shrinks at certain times of the day.

The let down of this story is that it's a bit bulky given its premise- it could easily be edited down to a more modernly readable size. I was entertained, but I also have a tendency to skim wordy passages when it's clear they have no point other than passing fancy on the author's part. I've read quite a few of his stories, and M.R. James does tend to be on the wordy side of things, so if you prefer to the point stories there are other authors to be read.

"Number 13" requires some cultural tendencies to enjoy properly. If you were raised on Mars, for example, it might not have as much impact on you as someone who was raised in a more Earthly, fairly superstitious part of the world where the number 13 is more feared. Still, this is a great read, as long as you don't mind a bit of claustrophobic wordiness.

Keep it spooky,


  1. I have done better reading short stories for Halloween themed reads, so I am going to make sure to link all of your MMRM posts on my list for next year. I would try out this method with Christmasy stories, too, but I don't think anything can make me enjoy those beyond A Christmas Carol. Ha ha. :)

    1. Although I'm a bit of a Christmas decorating fanatic, I don't think I could take Christmas short stories- but I did pick up a Christmas-themed mystery as a Kindle freebie, so who knows? I'm glad you like my MMRM posts. :)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, La La!
      ~Litha Nelle


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