A View from a Hill

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"A View from a Hill"
A Warning to the Curious and Other Stories - MR James.jpg
Author M.R. James
Country England
Language English
Genre(s) Horror short story

A View From a Hill is a ghost story by M. R. James first published in The Living Age, 4 July 1925, and collected in his 1925 collection A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories.


The story tells the tale of a historian who goes on holiday to visit his friend and has a disturbing experience after venturing up a notorious local landmark.


"A View from a Hill"
A Ghost Story for Christmas episode
A View from a Hill.jpg
Title screen.
Episode no. Season 2
Episode 1
Directed by Luke Watson
Written by M. R. James (story)
Peter Harness (adaptation)
Original air date 23 December 2005
Episode chronology
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"The Ice House"
Next →
"Number 13"

In 2005, it was adapted by Peter Harness for BBC Four's revival of the Ghost Story for Christmas tradition. It stars Mark Letheren as Dr Fanshawe.

Plot of the film[edit]

The film opens with historian Dr Fanshawe waiting at a railway station for a car to arrive to take him to the house of Squire Richards, where he is to catalogue and value an archaeological collection which is to be sold. He finally gives up waiting and rides his bike to Squire Richards' house. On the way, one of his bags falls off his bike. When he unpacks his luggage later, he finds his binoculars broken. Fanshawe borrows a pair from Squire Richards.

During a walk through the countryside with the Squire, Fanshawe looks at a plain field through the binoculars and spots an abbey/monastery which is invisible other than through the glasses. Next to it is the infamous Gallows Hill, where a number of people were hanged in previous times. Richards explains that it was the site of an abbey that was dissolved by Henry VIII and there is nothing left of it but a few stones. That night, Fanshawe goes alone to Gallows Hill. He hears rustling in the bushes and comes to the spot where the gallows were slid into the ground. Thoroughly frightened by the fact he's being watched, Fanshawe eventually manages to stumble out of the woods and make his way back to the Squire's house.

At dinner later, Richards' butler Patten, explains to Fanshawe how a previous historian, a local clockmaker called Baxter, became obsessed with the old abbey and began sneaking off at night to dig up the bones of the hanged men and, whilst repairing the binoculars, bewitched them so that they show the abbey to anyone who looks through them. Baxter, Patten continues, disappeared without a trace.

That night, Fanshawe has a nightmare where he goes to the bathroom to get a drink, only to find that the water in the cup is cloudy and contaminated. Hearing the water in the bathtub stop dripping, Fanshawe turns around, only to be terrified by a shadowy figure lurking in the darkness wearing a skull mask.

The next day, Fanshawe goes back to the old abbey site with the boiled bones and sketches. Looking through the binoculars at the details of the magnificent abbey, he spots a figure lurking by one of the pillars. Fanshawe hears rustling round him and is suddenly knocked unconscious by an unseen attacker. He wakes after dark, being dragged up Gallows Hill by an unseen force to the spot where the gallows stands. Richards, Patten and a search party go looking for Fanshawe and find his abandoned bike and sketches. They also spot a flock of birds gathering on top of Gallows Hill. Venturing up to investigate, they are met with the horrifying sight of Fanshawe hanging, though he subsequently recovers.

The next day Patten burns all of the sketches and boiled bones in a bonfire and throws the binoculars in after them. Squire Richards accompanies Fanshawe to the railway station and then leaves. As Fanshawe sits on a bench waiting for the train, he hears a loud rustling noise in the woods behind him, implying that the ghosts of Gallows Hill will always be with him. The film ends with Fanshawe breaking the fourth wall and giving the audience a shocked look before it fades out to black.



The film was entirely filmed on location in the Thames Valley in the November of 2005; a manor house owned by the Ministry of Defence in Chertsey and Turville were locations, chosen because of their proximity to London. The production was filmed on a limited budget, and writer Peter Harness had to cut or reduce several planned scenes for budgetary reasons.[1]


External links[edit]