You have to wonder if Western Morning News photographer Richard Austin would have been quite so keen to capture images of world famous giant stags had he ever read William Shakespeare's famous words…So begins Martin Hesp's story in the Western Morning News today, An Exmoor stag ghost story for Christmas, inspired by the strange media tale of the "Emperor of Exmoor". This, widely reported a couple of months ago, was the contentious story that Britain's largest wild animal had been shot by a trophy hunter. But, as John Vidal told in the Observer - see Dead or alive? The Emperor becomes an Exmoor legend - it gradually became evident that there was little evidence for the story, or even the Emperor's existence.
Oft have you heard since Herne the hunter dyed,
That women, to affright their little children,
Says that he walkes in shape of a great stagge.
On the subject of ghost stories, I'm pleased to see that BBC is returning to its tradition of a Christmas Eve ghost story with the showing of a new adaptation of MR James's Oh, whistle and I'll come to you, my lad:
A chilling new single drama, Whistle and I'll Come to You is the thoroughly modern re-working of the evocative Edwardian ghost story Oh, Whistle and I'll come to You, My Lad by MR James, adapted for BBC Two by Neil Cross. Cross's adaptation delves into themes of ageing, hubris and the supernatural, with a horrifying psychological twist in the tale.Details at the BBC2 website, where for UK visitors it's on iPlayer for six days from now. (Update: I just watched it, and it's a very good reworking. According to the Kent Film Office, the beach scenes below the chalk cliffs were at Botany Bay and Kingsgate Bay; the external locations for the hotel where Parkin stays were here. The dune locations appear to be elsewhere: Camber Sands in East Sussex).
James Parkin has just left his wife in the care of a nursing home. Pensive and emotional, he travels to their old favourite destination for rambling, an off-season British seaside town. There he encounters an apparition on a desolate beach, which begins to haunt him - with terrifying consequences.
If this leaves you with a taste for more MR James ghost stories, many of the classic TV adaptations - A Ghost Story for Christmas - are on YouTube: Number 13 is a good entry point.