One of a handful of memories I have of radio programmes dating back to my tiny childhood is a very fr-fr-frightening tale most of which I can't remember . I think it went something along these lines: a man is out late at night in either a dark wood or forest for a reason I can't remember. It's probably pre-car era and he's probably on foot because of some unexpected event. After wandering alone trying to find his way he sees some people up ahead and thankfully makes for them to ask for help but to his horror, when the people look towards him they have no features at all, no faces: no eyes, noses or mouths.
Terrified, he turns and runs to get away from them and at last bursts out on to a rough track. He keeps running until he hears coming behind him a horse-drawn farm cart. He stops and waves to the driver to stop and by now in a hysterical state he's helped up beside the driver. As they set off again he starts to babble about what he's seen, of the terrible people with no faces...
[Now the bit I remember clearly]
... the driver turns to him: "You mean," he said, "like ME-E-E-E?"
Does that ring any bells? I wonder whether this bears any relation at all to what I heard! I've often wondered since whether it was a well-known story.
Does that ring any bells?
Apart from being scared stiff by the stories of EA Poe, and by some stories from a magazine called The Argosy, I can remember radio programmes that had 'scary' stories. One was The Man In Black - the narrator became famous for his menacing voice - once a household name, but I've forgotten it.* Another was The Whistler, which always ended with the words 'I know; because I am the Whistler'.
In addition to that, we, as children, used to scare ourselves with telling ghost stories - either preposterous made up yarns, or the retelling of stories we had heard - well, there was a tradition of oral story telling, and some of us had the gift of the macabre. On one occasion a parent complained that her son was having nightmares because of us, and he was not allowed to play with us again.
* Was his name Valentine something, or something Valentine?
Last edited by PatrickOD; 13-10-11 at 20:04.
Valentine Dyall? "This is your storyteller, The Man in Black."
Valentine Dyall was The Man In Black, Patrick
Edit: ooops we crossed, Stanley
Do you know that three crosses is a very very bad omen. Stanley and amateur - check all doors and windows tonight.
Or, as he confessed on a Goon Show: "The man in grey. And that's the last time I go to that Dry Cleaners!"
Originally Posted by Stanley Stewart
... Whovians of a certain age will also remember him as The Black Guardian during the Peter Davison incarnation.
I don't know that story, I'm afraid.
It does seem to be the case that distorted or undefined faces feature quite a few times as sources of terror in ghost stories, especially M R James'. There is 'a horrible, an intensely horrible face of crumpled linen' in O Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad. The old man in the library in The Tractate Middoth had a face obscured by cobwebs. The ghost of the Abbot in The Treasure of Abbot Thomas has a face 'very much fell in'.
Dickens recalling his childhood in A Christmas Tree speaks of the terror of the Mask: "When did that dreadful Mask first look at me? Who put it on and why was I so frightened that the sight of it is an era in my life? It is not a hideous visage in itself; it is even meant to be droll; why then were its stolid features so intolerable?....Nor was it any satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that it was made of paper, or to have it locked up and be assured that no-one wore it. The mere recollection of that fixed face, the mere knowledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to awake me in the night, all perspiration and horror, with 'O I know it's coming! O the Mask!'"
"Please, no, stop it!"
I have a lovely 1822 Bible which has this engraving of The Ghost of Samuel which must have been an early example of the ghost story. The picture always looks like someone mucking about with a sheet over their head: