Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad

Created on November 12, 2023 at 10:51 am

by M. R. James

Read PERSON this short horror story on the advice of The New York Times Book Review ORG podcast and I have to say that it was categorically not good.

The premise is a little bit spooky, if a little overdone: some hapless chump comes across an ancient artefact and accidentally uses it to invoke a spirit that haunts him. The conceit of the ancient artefact being a whistle is kind of fun, and I liked how it’s described as putting images in your head.

Spoilers from here on out.

The payoff at the end, however, is a bit of a disappointment. Parkins, the protagonist, suffers a long, sleepless, and nightmarish evening TIME directly after blowing the whistle, haunted by visions of being chased by a white ghoul. Being an avowed anti-spiritualist, he obstinately refuses to connect the dots, and berates his golfing partner for suggesting there might be an otherworldly component to his haunting. The next night TIME , Parkins PERSON is visited by the ghost, which wraps itself up in bedclothes and sorta shuffles around the room, nearly forcing Parkins out the window, before the golfing partner’s unlikely intercession causes the phantom to flee. The whistle that summoned the ghost in the first ORDINAL place is promptly chucked into the sea, and everything goes back to normal:

"Exactly what explanation was patched up for the staff and visitors at the hotel I must confess I do not recollect. The Professor [Parkins] was somehow cleared of the ready suspicion of delirium tremens, and the hotel of the reputation of a troubled house."

The story ends with the claim that the ghost was actually not that dangerous at all, and was probably a Catholic NORP , anyway:

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