Posted in Short Stories

M. R. James: “Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad”

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 12

2♠ 2♠ 2♠ 2♠ 2♠ 2♠ 2♠ 2♠

It’s Week 12 of my Deal Me In 2019 short story project and I selected the Two of Spades, my first wild card of the year. I read M. R. James ghost story “‘Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad'” and it’s the first story I’ve read this year that could be a serious contender for my favorite!

The story is included in James’ collection Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.


I’ve enjoyed numerous ghost stories over the years but it’s usually not the story genre that pops up on my favorite lists so this comes as a pleasant surprise. James’ story has all the things that give readers shivers and chills. It’s got a Professor finding a wooden whistle at night in the yard of a Templar church. It’s got the same Professor blowing the whistle unknowingly beckoning an ominous wind storm breaking open the window of his hotel room. When the Professor wakes up during the night and sees someone sit up in the “empty” second bed covered with sheets, it’s just plain classic scary.

I think, though, that what makes this story more fascinating to me is James’ description of the change in the Professor’s way of thinking. During the story’s progression, the Professor makes it clear to friends and colleagues that he believes in nothing supernatural. As a scientist, he thinks only what’s explainable is real. His encounter with something he can’t explain makes a lasting impression:

There is really nothing more to tell, but, as you may imagine, the Professor’s views on certain points are less clear cut than they used to be. His nerves, too, have suffered: he cannot even now see a surplice hanging on a door quite unmoved, and the spectacle of a scarecrow in a field late on a winter afternoon has cost him more than one sleepless night.

Moving from the certain to the uncertain might be, in itself, a frightening process.



7 thoughts on “M. R. James: “Oh, Whistle, And I’ll Come to You, My Lad”

  1. Hi Dale,
    This is one of the specific stories I remember from my first M.R. James collection, which I read maybe twenty years ago. I think the “skeptic getting his comeuppance” is a recurring theme in some of his other stories as I recall. There’s also a “M.R. James Apperciation Society” Facebook page that I follow that often has interesting info on him if you’re interested.

    1. The M. R. James Appreciation Society sounds great! I will be following it!

      The only other M. R. James story I’ve read was The Haunted Doll House a few years ago. Perhaps he will be my wild card author this year.

    1. I really enjoyed this one! While I’ve read some pretty good stories so far this year, this is the first one that has really wow-ed me!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s