Casting Runes


Horror-Fantasy, adapted from M.R. James’ much anthologized story of the same name.
Setting: Northampton, Massachusetts, 1886 (note: the town is intact from that era and the chamber of commerce is film friendly.

Log-line: In a picturesque 19TH Century New England town two brothers and their friends --including the reclusive, American poet, Emily Dickinson – must battle a powerful and vengeful Demonologist who can control and kill using the spells of ancient Icelandic “Runes.”


Brothers John and Henry Harrison leave a symphony concert and pick up a journal containing a review of an occult book John mercilessly panned. When they get home to nearby West Hatfield, they open the program to a strange paper with  Icelandic Runes on it. It lights up and slips out as though alive. They chase but are unable to hold it, and it escapes out the window and burns itself up in a gas lamp on the street.

Two months John is delayed after a concert has missed his train home. He feels shadowed, threatened by loud invisible breathing. Menaced, he flees to the nearby churchyard eventually climbing up the steeple, he is plucked off by some unseen force and falls to his death, impaled by the spikes of the wrought iron fence.

Spring of the next year at Northampton’s Smith College: Professor Ashbrook Ludlow dictates four rejection letters over that many weeks to his daughter Stella, teacher at the local day school to one E.B. Karswell, who has taken up residence in nearby Amherst and wants his papers on Demonology published and even presented in lectures at the prestigious woman’s college.

Henry Harrison at the County office rejects any idea his brother John committed suicide. Meanwhile, in the auditorium Stella Ludlow is giving her school children a treat. Mr. Karswell has prepared a magic lantern show for them. But it get violent and frightening then completely realistic and out of hand. Henry joins in to battle the infernal machine as Karswell vanishes.

Strange, solitary, and super-sensitive, Emily Dickinson encounters birds and bees as her equals and speaks to them, but she sees Karswell’s carriage go by and sensing evil, hides.

Little by little, each one of these characters will become the targets of Karswell’s hatred, revenge or in Stella’s case, infatuation. And each will be subjected to his or her own “gift” of Runes, which spell out only evil, made more difficult to avoid due to Karswell’s disguises and his ability to cloud minds.

Finally all of them will join forces to bring him down, using the reclusive, possibly autistic, poet who can always see him no matter his disguise. The thrilling finale takes place during Northampton’s Founder’s Day summer parade. But victory comes at a cost; and one of them must pay.  

Script available