In the 1970s, the BBC screened a series which came to be known as A Ghost Story for Christmas. Most of the short films were based on stories written by the master of the genre, MR James, the Cambridge academic and author of some of the most spine-tingling tales in the English language.

Although I am a little too young to have seen their first screening, episodes were occasionally repeated a few years later. In my own family, before the age of video, it became a tradition for us to sit down in front of the television, late at night on Christmas Eve.

With the lights switched off, leaving just the glow of the fire's last dying embers, we would huddle in our armchairs for another chilling tale of the supernatural. 

Invariably many of MR James’ short stories follow a similar pattern - often set on the Suffolk coast in the Edwardian period, and with a strong historical angle - but that is all part of their appeal.  

Jonathan Miller’s Whistle and I’ll Come To You, starring Sir Michael Hordern, was the first of the stories to be screened in 1968 and features on the first of two new DVDs released by the British Film Institute. Not strictly speaking part of the later series, it is the only black and white episode, but often regarded as the finest of all the adaptations. The modern version of the same story, also contained on the first disc, is good but nowhere near as a effective. 

When the series got underway properly in the 70s, the director Lawrence Gordon Clark became synonymous with the project, going on to direct all but one of the films in that decade. Clark himself introduces his own films for the releases of The Stalls of Barchester (1971) starring Robert Hardy and A Warning to the Curious (1972) with Peter Vaughan on the BFI's second DVD. 

A Warning to the Curious, my own personal favourite, sees Vaughan playing an amateur archaeologist who uncovers more than he bargained for. It’s a simple tale which is thin on plot, but full of brooding atmosphere thanks to the film's use of 16mm photography, sparse soundtrack and the haunting Norfolk backdrop. 

With only three of the BBC's 12 ghost tales having previously been released on DVD ten years ago, it is fitting that they are now being given the chance to be appreciated by a wider audience on the 150th anniversary of MR James’ birth. 

More ghost stories are being released by the BFI in the next couple of months, including another of my favourites, Charles Dickens' The Signalman starring Denholm Elliott. 

The whole set of 12 films will also be on sale in time for Christmas.