THE York Ghost Merchants, at No. 6, Shambles, York, will hold their inaugural storytelling evening on March 1, hosted by the ghoulish James Swanton.
At 6pm (sold out), 7pm and 8pm, he will read M R James’s ghost story Canon Alberic’s Scrap-Book, written in 1894 and published in his first collection, Ghost Stories Of An Antiquary Of 1904.
In James’s story, a scholar travels to a small French town for a kind of working vacation and there he discovers a small, rather dissolute old cathedral. On entering, he meets with the sacristan, who guides him around.
Eventually, they make their way to the church library where the sacristan shows him all sorts of old and antiquarian books that peak the scholar’s interest. One in particular, the sacristan seems especially eager to show off.
The scholar is captivated by the book, the personal scrapbook of one Canon Alberic, and duly offers to buy it. The sacristan sells it to him for a pittance and his desperation to release it from his possession is palpable.
On his way out, the scholar is given another gift, a crucifix, by the sacristan’s daughter, who insists he takes it free of charge.
Later that same night, as the scholar is studying his new-found treasure, he encounters a page with a disturbing illustration that is central to the story’s suspenseful narrative.
Actor, writer and storyteller James Swanton was born in York, the ghost-infested city that informed his lifelong passion for the macabre. Winner of the 2018 York Culture Award for Outstanding Performing Artist, he has been described as “remarkable” by Simon Callow, as “extraordinary” by Miriam Margolyes and as a “horror star of the future” by Kim Newman.
Whether playing Dracula or Lucifer in The York Mystery Plays in the Shambles Market or performing his one-man shows Irving Undead and Charles Dickens’s winter stories at York Medical Society, Stonegate, he continues to drive his critics to raid their Thesaurus. In times past, they have dismissed him as “a tattily dressed raven”; “a young Boris Karloff”; “positively stunning in his grotesqueness” and “lanky”.
The £25 ticket price includes the 45-minute storytelling session and a limited-edition Canon Alberic ghost. Please note, these ghosts are available only to those attending the event and not without the ticket.
“Use the word COLLECT at checkout if you would like to collect your ghost and ticket, rather than having them posted to you,” says Angus McArthur, of The York Ghost Merchants.
Tickets can be booked at yorkghostmerchants.com or on 01904 896545. Opening hours for The York Ghost Merchants, sited in the former Via Vecchia and Pinder and Scott’s bakery shop, are Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5.30pm-ish, and Sundays, 11am to 5pm-ish.