“Thou shalt seek me in the morning, and I shall not be.” M.R James, The Ash Tree, 1904
In 1904 celebrated British horror writer Montague Rhodes (MR) James published a collection of stories called Ghost Stories of an Antiquary and The Ash Tree is at the heart of the collection. M.R. James was born in Kent at Goodnestone House and his stories are inspired by the rural landscapes, haunted idyls and uncanny folklore of the area.
The Ash Tree documents the fate of Sir Richard Fell, who has inherited a house in Suffolk called Castringham. He soon discovers that the house has been cursed ever since his ancestor offered a testimony that condemned a woman to death for witchcraft. The older owner of the house had suspected the woman of witchcraft because she collected leaves and twigs from “the ash tree near my house”. The villagers suspect that the ancient ash tree outside his bedroom window is the root of the curse and the owner of the house soon learns more.
In 1975 the BBC produced a 30 minute TV version of The Ash Tree as part of their series, A Ghost Story for Christmas.