Episode 38: Between Sunset and Moonrise by R H Malden

Richard Henry Malden

R H Malden was born in 1879 in England and died in August 1951. He was brought up in East Anglia. He was educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge and was a long-standing friend of M R James.

He spent his career as a churchman, working across England from Salford to Cambridge then Leeds and Ripon and then Wells in Somerset. He married a Yorkshirewoman, the daughter of a clergyman. He was president of the Somerset Archeological Society. It is said he was a well-known sight in Wells as he wandered round in his top hat and from coat. 

He wrote a good deal and most of his works are on Christian themes, but he did publish a book of ghost stories in 1943: Nine Ghosts.. This book was written as a tribute to his friend M R James who had died in 1936. Malden was one of the circle of the chosen at Cambridge who heard M R James read his stories on Christmas Eve.

Because of his connection to M R James, he is often compared with the great man. M R James is probably one of the best writers of ghost stories so the comparison is perhaps unfair, but Malden’s stories are certainly reasonable examples of their genre.

Between Sunset and Moonrise

Between Sunset and Moonrise has certain folk horror themes. We have a remote country area where things go on far from the eye of civilisation. The remoteness and backwardness of the area are emphasised by the droves or poor roads that go out to remote, poorly-maintained cottages. There is even a boy who is what they called simple then and he can see supernatural things that others can’t.

In fact that very motif was used in the 2019 folk horror movie Midsommar where the boy with the congenital defects interprets the sayings of the gods by drawing rudimentary pictures that the scholars of the tribe need to interpret.

Malden was a churchman and his hero is also a clergyman. He goes in duty, on New Year’s Eve to see a woman whom he doesn’t really like and to his surprise sees her reading an obscure part of the Bible that deals with the story of the devil Asmodeus. Whether we are to think that Mrs Vries has entered into some kind of pact with an evil creature, I’m not sure, but the witness boy says that the mysterious ‘they’ had been out to get Mrs Vries. Perhaps because she was an outsider?

Most if not all of James’s monsters are not exactly Satanic, whereas this one has more of the character of an adversary of the church, something from the dark books of the Bible. 

In fact, England is full of these strange spirits that haunt lonely roads and byways. Where I live they are called boggles and can assume all sorts of terrible shapes and shift between them.

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Beginning music ‘Some Come Back’ is by the marvellous  Heartwood Institute . The end music is by MYUU Bad Encounter

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