Technically I was too young to watch it, but my love of the ghostly, Gothic and scary had already been well and truly awakened by an early reading (at school) of The Monkey's Paw. The original three series of Mystery and Imagination were broadcast by ITV franchise holder, ABC, who created a format for the episodes. Irrespective of the story, each had a central character - called David Buck (played by Richard Beckett - who was transposed into adaptations of some of the most famous Gothic and ghostly stories ever written. Sadly, it is believed only two episodes of that era survive.
The series served to introduce me to the works of M.R. James - who has proved such a huge influence on me - Sheridan Le Fanu, Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker and even Oscar Wilde (The Canterville Ghost). Robert Louis Stevenson's The Body Snatcher - about two Burke and Hare-like characters involved in stealing and dissecting bodies - had me gasping and holding my breath. The Tractate Middoth, Room 13, Casting The Runes and Lost Hearts sent me in search of anything and everything by M.R. James, and Edgar Allan Poe chilled and thrilled me with The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell Tale Heart. Along the way, I encountered Sheridan Le Fanu with Camilla, The Flying Dragon and the dark and sinister Uncle Silas.
Many famous names graced the screen including Denholm Elliott, Corin Redgrave, Susan George, Ian Holm, Joan Hickson and the late, great Jack Hawkins to name but a few.
Sadly, little remains of the original 24 episodes. Just eight appear to have survived, along with a few scenes from Casting The Runes. You can find them here Mystery and Imagination Box Set I live in hope that, one day, someone deep in the bowels of some long forgotten basement archive, will open a drawer and find some rusting cans of film. With trepidation they will open them and the ghosts of Mystery and Imagination will rise again. In the meantime, here are a couple of the surviving clips for you to enjoy: