An audio story recording narrated by Paul Ford and produced by Chris J Mitchell. – “Count Magnus” is the sixth story in the first collection of ghost stories published by M. R. James, Ghost Stories of an Antiquary.
In this ghost story, a traveller in Sweden stumbles upon the history of a mysterious and ominous figure, Count Magnus.
Mr. Wraxall is an author of travelogues, having previously published one of Brittany. During his travels in Sweden, he comes upon an ancient manor-house (herrgåard) in Vestergothland, and determines to do some research there. He is offered lodging there, but declines and stays at the local village inn. The local church has a mausoleum nearby, built by Count Magnus for himself and his family, de la Gardie. He inquires of his landlord about local traditions surrounding Count Magnus. The Count is known locally for being a harsh landowner, who severely punished his tenants if they were late with their rent. Houses which were built too near his lands often burned down. He had also been on the Black Pilgrimage and brought something back. Later, in doing research among the family papers, he discovers an explanation of the Pilgrimage in a book of alchemical tracts, entitled ‘Liber nigræ peregrinationis‘. The pilgrimage is to Chorazin and involves a salute to the Prince of the Air. Walking home, he finds himself at the mausoleum, and expresses a desire to see Count Magnus. Later on he meets with the Deacon and queries him about Chorazin, but he goes mum. He presses the landlord of the inn about what Count Magnus brought back from Chorazin, and is told a tale about two men who went poaching at night in Count Magnus’ lands. One man is found catatonic and the other is dead, with his face having been sucked off his skull.
The next day, along with the deacon, he visits the mausoleum. The Count’s copper sarcophagus is ornate and contains scenes from his life, as well as well as a depiction of the Count on its top. One of the scenes shows a man being pursued by a cloaked and hooded thing, while a man watches. The lid is secured with three padlocks, one of which is unlocked. Later, on his way back to the mausoleum, his mind wanders and he finds himself chanting. He finds that now two padlocks are unfastened.
The following day, he makes preparation to finish his researches and return to England. He stops at the mausoleum to bid farewell to Count Magnus, and again expresses a desire to see him. As he does, the third padlock detaches and the lid begins to rise. Quickly, he leaves, being unable to get the key to turn.
He returns to England safely by canal-boat, although he feels that among his fellow passengers are two strange figures who fail to show at mealtimes. He lands at Harwich and takes a vehicle to Belchamp St. Paul. Along the way, he sees the two strange figures. He finds lodgings there and spends the next day awaiting the two strange figures.
The next day he is found dead in a terrible condition and a jury rules it a visitation of God. The house where he died is abandoned and eventually acquired by the narrator, who has it pulled down, since nobody will stay there.