First off, what a creepy title for a story! “O Whistle, and I’ll Come to You My Lad” Ee gads! That actually just sends a few shivers down my spine by itself when I think of it in the context of horror writing.
So, M.R. James is a guru of this narrative form and this is one of his most celebrated stories, so it seems a fitting place for me to begin my odyssey into (mostly) 19th and early 20th century horror short fiction, with a few contemporary pieces from King thrown in.
I started the story last night and finished it this morning. It was excellent! However, it was not too frightening. I enjoyed the story because I could identify with the horror of the principle character, but I did not experience that horror myself. I think part of the reason was how it was written – in high 19th century Oxford English. No fault of the author’s, in fact, no fault at all. But it contributed to a more academic atmosphere rather than a frightening atmosphere – which, I gather, is the realm in which James’ tales will dwell. He kind of invented the “antiquarian” genre of ghost stories, which Lovecraft picks up on.
Summary: A professor is staying in a hotel room by a beach. While walking on the beach he discovers a whistle, which he blows. From them on he is haunted by visions of a thing or a person coming towards him slowly but steadily from the beach. His sleep is disturbed in his hotel room and he discovers he is not alone.
Out of 10 stars –
Personal Fright: 6/10
General Horror/Oppressiveness: 8/10