An authentic facsimile reproduction of M. R. James' Ghost-Stories of an Antiquary. This is the size, colour, font, &c. of the original 1904 publication. A near-exact replica of a very rare volume selling on the open market today for over $2,000 (1,400 GBP). Open it up. All of James' stories are there. No repeated pages. Read it. Each story is just as you remember it, beginning to end. For all intents and purposes, this is the 1904 first edition of James' heralded book. But there is more.
The book comes with an ambrotype: a 3" (77 mm) square glass photograph of M.R. James trimmed in copper (gone green with age).
The performer reads James' own hesitation about ambrotype photography (from his famous story "The Mezzotint") and proceeds to demonstrate the unusual properties of the photograph. A few unusual occurrences manifest with the glass photo (a signature turns itself upside down on it, &c) before the performer reveals that he believes a part of James' soul has in fact been captured in the picture (as he himself feared it might in his famous story).
A spectator is allowed to open the precious book to any page (no force, no suggestions, no control, no peeks, no stooges, a genuine free choice that can happen across the room from the performer). With no fishing, no conversation, no words at all, the performer takes out an erasable marker pen and writes a word directly on the glass photograph and holds it in full view of the audience (no switches, no thumb tips, he actually does write the word to be revealed). The spec begins to read and the performer says, 'Please read that phrase again'. As she does, he shows the word he has written on the glass. It is the word from the very phrase the spec is reading. But he is not finished.
Again and again, the spec turns to new pages. The audience may believe there is collusion, they are invited to tell the spec to turn so many pages (any number of pages they wish, again an honestly free choice). Nevertheless, the performer writes a word on the glass (always a different word) and it proves to be at the spot on the page where the spectator reads. It can happen dozens of times, and the spectator never reads the same word twice. The book never repeats. There is nothing to see or discover. The book may be read from cover-to-cover without revealing the method. It simply contains the stories of M.R. James in a highly collectable first edition imprint.
This, I believe, will be the Everest of book tests, suitable for performance as described, or as a one-off or for walk-around; it is well suited to séance work (perfect for Ouija board performances). The genuine glass-and-aged-copper photograph is only a lovely bit of misdirection and need not be used in performance, or it may be shown as an artefact during a séance. The actual method is diabolically simple.
About M.R. James
Montague Rhodes James, OM, MA, (1 August 1862 – 12 June 1936), who used the publication name M. R. James, was an English mediaeval scholar and provost of King's College, Cambridge (1905–1918), and of Eton College (1918–1936). He is best remembered for his ghost stories, which are regarded as among the best in the genre. James redefined the ghost story for the new century by abandoning many of the formal Gothic clichés of his predecessors and using more realistic contemporary settings. However, James's protagonists and plots tend to reflect his own antiquarian interests. Accordingly, he is known as the originator of the "antiquarian ghost story".
James's ghost stories were published in a series of collections: Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1904), More Ghost Stories of an Antiquary (1911), A Thin Ghost and Others (1919), and A Warning to the Curious and Other Ghost Stories (1925). The first hardback collected edition appeared in 1931. Many of the tales were written as Christmas Eve entertainments and read aloud to friends. This idea was used by the BBC in 2000 when they filmed Christopher Lee reading four stories in a candle-lit room in King's College. James perfected a method of story-telling which has since become known as Jamesian. The classic Jamesian tale usually includes the following elements:
a characterful setting in an English village, seaside town or country estate; an ancient town in France, Denmark or Sweden; or a venerable abbey or university
a nondescript and rather naive gentleman-scholar as protagonist (often of a reserved nature)
the discovery of an old book or other antiquarian object that somehow unlocks, calls down the wrath, or at least attracts the unwelcome attention of a supernatural menace, usually from beyond the grave