Why Are Witches So Popular?

The Guardian Newspaper has just featured an article entitled Coven Ready: from Instagram to TV:Why are Witches so Popular? It appears that there is a spate of new occult dramas about witches. A Discovery of Witches, an adaptation of Deborah Harkness’s novel about a young witch who finds an ancient manuscript that brings her to the attention of vampires and demons,  began on Sky One last week. Other upcoming witchy dramas, include Netflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, and CBS All Access’s Strange Angel. Serendipity has also dictated that Spellbound, an exhibition featuring witchcraft, opened last month at Oxford’s Ashmolean museum. Among the exhibits is The Discovery of Witches, a 1647 work by the notorious Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins, which inspired the title of Harkness’s novel. If you are researching witches yourself it’s a very sexy topic just now.

OGOM has always celebrated the figure of the witch. Witches feature heavily in our Gothic Hertfordshire Tour described here in relation to our celebration of The Urban Weird.  There you will encounter Mother Haggy, who crossed the River Ver in eggshells and a kettle drum, Rosina Massey, who was seen conducting her cups and saucers in a dance around the table, and sending her 3 legged stool on errands, together with Sally Deards, the Witch of Rabley Heath. Most terrifying of all is the story of Ruth Osbourne, the Gubblecote Witch. Ruth was swum for a witch in 1751, even though the death penalty for witches had seemingly been abolished in 1735. St Albans, which houses the OGOM headquarters, was also home to Gerald Gardner, the founder of contemporary modern day witchcraft, later termed ‘Wicca’. There are some useful resources on witches on the blog including 100 Must Read Books About Witches and a review of Witches, Magic and Demons at the John Rylands. My early engagement with stories of witches is laid bare in How Did I Choose Me My Witchcraft Kin: My Past and Future in Witches.






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Frankenstein Vs Dracula: Battle of the Books

Thanks to all those who attended the Monsters We Deserve: Dracula Vs Frankenstein events with myself and Marcus Sedgwick at Edinburgh International Book Festival  and at Conway Hall in London.

Frankenstein won both rounds but Marcus and I drew 1-1 in the battle. Both books are wonderful of course but only one of them was life-changing for me – Dracula

There was a lively interview beforehand in The Skinny and coverage in The Edinburgh News and The Edinburgh Reporter.

If you missed the debates you can see all the images and comments in these two Twitter ‘Moments’:

Dracula V Frankenstein Round 1 Edinburgh International Book Festival, 26th August

Dracula V Frankenstein Round 2 Conway Hall, London, 4th September 

A large wolf was spotted on the loose in Cardiff later on Tuesday evening. It  must have been Dracula in wolf form out for revenge….and who can blame him. OGOM will have news of a very special vampire event in April – all will be revealed shortly.

Thanks to the publishing team at Head of Zeus, Kaja for her live tweeting and of course Marcus and everyone who contributed.  The book is out now!

Do monsters always stay in the book where they were born? Are they content to live out their lives on paper, and never step foot into the real world?

Published in 1818, Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most influential tales of all time. Two hundred years later, in a remote mountain house, high in the French Alps, an author broods on that creation. Reality and perception merge, fuelled by poisoned thoughts.

People make monsters, but who really creates who in the end?


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Yōkai & Me: Introducing #YōkaiFriday

The world of yōkai has been fascinating me of late. These creatures are currently popular in anime, manga, film and computer games, but they originated in local legends in Japan, folktales and regional ghost stories. I was excited to attend the Japanese Gothic panel at the recent IGA (pictured below)This featured research by Alex Watson on the films of Kurosawa, Jenevieve Van-Veda on Japanese gothic art, and Catherine Spooner on hybridising Shōjo manga and British Gothic in Yana.

I had begun my own journey to the East some months earlier when, in relation to my book on the shadow, I’d been browsing Tales of Old Japan by A. B. Mitford.  Mitford, a British traveller to Japan in 1866-70, had witnessed the hara-kiri ceremony first hand and collected gripping tales of vampires and samurai, Buddhist sermons, and the plots of 4 Nō plays. His work was the first collection of Japanese tales to be published in English in 1871. From this I discovered the work of  Toriyama Sekien, 1712-1788, 鳥山 石燕, an eighteenth-century scholar, poet, and artist. Sekien, his pen name, is best known for the illustrated books of yōkai that appeared in Hyakki Yagyō monster parade scrolls. The last of which features yōkai mainly out of Sekien’s own imagination. I have since found Michael Dylan Foster’s Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yōkai (2009) and discovered the work of the artist and scholar, Shinonome Kijin, but I’m only at the very beginning of my journey to the East and the wonderfully weird world of yōkai.

Do comment below with any suggestions re: useful books on Japanese folklore. Here is my first contribution to yōkaiology which I’ve entitled ‘Yokai & Me’. If you are interested you can use the hashtag #YōkaiFriday and join me in celebrating these wonders in the forthcoming weeks.  They’re incredible, terrifying and amusing in equal proportions. I can’t wait to lean more.

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My Favourite Werewolf Film: Hasting LitFest

Next weekend (30th August – 2nd September), I will be a guest speaker at Hastings LitFest. On Saturday 1st September, I’ll be introducing my favourite werewolf film in the world Ginger Snaps (2000) and then fielding a Q and A session afterwards.

It should be a wonderful event where I can explore my love for this film, the first time I watched it and a quick foray into some academic ways of looking at the female werewolf.

Tickets are available from the venue, the Electric Palace Cinema.

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CFP: Dolls, Robots, Automatons – The Artificial Body in Global Culture

At the IGA, the following CFP was brought to my attention. It looks to be incredibly interesting:

‘Dolls, Robots, Automatons – The Artificial Body in Global Culture

International conference celebrating the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein.

3rd to 5th December, 2018, Institute of World Literature (Russian Academy of Sciences) and National Research Institute “The Higher School of Economics”

Working languages: Russian, English, German, French.

The aim of the conference is to explore the status of artificial body in global culture, both artistic and scientific, from antiquity to the present time.

Abstracts are accepted up to 25th October, from foreign contributors who need a visa – up to 25th September. You should send them to artbody2018@mail.ru.

The organizing committee will decide which abstracts to accept no later than 1.11.2018.

Travel expenses and accommodation fee are paid by the participants. We will help them with visas.

The abstract can be in any of the working languages. You should also give the following information: your full name, affiliation, e-mail, the title of your paper. The abstract should be 250-300 words long. All of this should also be translated into English (if not originally written in this language)’.

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Marionettes: The Monsters We Need?

It is no secret that I am obsessed with marionettes. This dates back to a magical Czech production of ‘Peter and the Wolf’ I saw aged about 8. I can still visualise all the puppets and it helped shape my gothic sensibility. I was also keen on Pinocchio. This came in handy in a pub quiz recently when the prize winning question was the name of the evil puppet master in Pinocchio. Tch..who does not know that?  Mangiafuoco, of course! He is the fictional director and puppet master of the Great Marionette Theatre (Gran Teatro dei Burattini), who appears in Carlo Collodi’s book The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le avventure di Pinocchio, 1883).  As a result of too much Pinocchio I used to want to be adopted by Mister Geppetto and The Blue Fairy (a heart breaking, gothic version of her appears in the 2001 film AI). As a child I had my own Pelham Puppets which I kept in their boxes in my room for years until they were confined to the cupboard under the stairs and eventually given away by an errant parent. I always liked the villains best, the mother dragon and the evil witch. I don’t know why these puppets had such an effect on me growing up (best not to psychoanalyse this – it is something Angela Carter understood well, she was fascinated by Kabuki theatre too). As an adult I take delight in the Marionette Theatres in Amsterdam and Prague. The puppets are wonderfully gothic and Faust influenced. Take a look at a few I have shared on Twitter below:


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Angela Carter: BBC Documentary and The Angela Carter Society

Angela Carter’s work has been one of the centres OGOM’s research has revolved around, particularly since our very successful 2015 Company of Wolves conference. My own writing on paranormal romance has covered both werewolf narratives (for example, my chapter on the YA novel Shiver) and Carter herself; Sam George has been exploring the borders between humanity and animality through wild children narratives (as did Carter herself); and Kaja Franck’s recently completed PhD thesis was an innovative  analysis of the werewolf in literature. Much of this research, along with that of delegates from the conference and including my Carter chapter, will be appearing soon in two publications: In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children – Narratives of Sociality and Animality, ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes (Manchester University Press, 2019) and a special Werewolves and Wildness issue of Gothic Studies.

There is a superb BBC2 documentary showing on iPlayer for a limited period, Of Wolves & Women, and an article on Carter on the BBC website, ‘Radical writing: Was Angela Carter ahead of her time?‘.

There are also details here on how to join the Angela Carter Society (though subscriptions don’t open till 1 September).

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Emily Brontë : bicentennial essays

A few days late, but here are a selection of articles celebrating the bicentenary of Emily Brontë, whose singular 1847 novel Wuthering Heights took the architexts of the Gothic novel and added new psychological depth. It also lay the foundations for such later transformations of the Gothic as Gothic Romance of Daphne du Maurier and her followers and then, arguably, paranormal romance.

Helen Small, ‘Celebrating Emily Brontë

Clare Pettitt, ‘Emily Brontë’s fierce, flawed women: not your usual Gothic female characters

Sophie Alexandra Frazer, ‘Why Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a cult classic

Carolina Ciucci, ‘The community of Emily Brontë’s and the ever present appeal of Wuthering Heights

And, on the film adaptations and musical legacy of Wuthering Heights, ‘Emily Brontë at 200: How Kate Bush brought the author’s Gothic romance Wuthering Heights to life

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CFPs: Dracula, vampires, zombies, otherness

Quite a few CFPs here:

  1. Better rush for this one–deadline tomorrow, 15 August:
    A Cross-Platform Dracula Conference, 17-19 October 2018, Brasov

Our aim is to present groundbreaking research on Bram Stoker, his novel Dracula and related topics on a bi-annual basis.

2. Calling all Vampire Scholars
17-20 April 2018; deadline 1 October 2018

The co-chairs of the PCA/ACA Vampire Studies area are soliciting papers, presentations, panels and roundtable discussions which cover any aspect of the Vampire for the Annual National Joint Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association Conference to be held in Washington, DC from April 17-20, 2019.
We are particularly interested in papers, presentations, and panels that cover:
✓ The vampire on television (i.e. The Vampire Diaries, The Originals, The Strain)
✓ Recent vampire films, such as Byzantium, Only Lovers Left Alive, What We Do in the Shadows, and A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
✓ Fan studies and vampires
✓ Vampire lifestyles and subculture (including Vampire RPGs or other gaming universes)
✓ Vampires and erotica
✓ The international vampire
✓ Genres such as gothic horror, urban fantasy, steampunk, young adult
✓ The fraught relationship between vampires and werewolves (and/or other monstrous beings)
✓ Teaching with vampires
✓ The glorious return of the Vampire Lestat and the legacy of Anne Rice
✓ The 20th anniversary of the premiere of Angel
✓ The 200th anniversary of the publication of John Polidori’sThe Vampyre
And anything and everything in between!

Visit past programs of the PCA/ACA conference at www.pcaaca.org to see what has been covered during recent conferences.
To have your proposal/abstract considered for presentation, please submit your proposal/abstract of approximately 250 words at https://pcaaca.org/conference/2019 Complete panel proposals of 3-4 people are also welcomed, as are proposals for roundtable discussions with two or more featured speakers and a moderator. Proposal deadline is October 1, 2018.
If you have questions, contact us at pcavampires@gmail.com. Also follow us on Twitter @pca_vampires or join our Facebook group Vampire Scholars.

3. Theorizing Zombiism Conference, University College Dublin, 25-27 July 2019
Deadline 1 September 2018

The evolution of the zombie narrative in both culture and academics indicates its adaptability and viability as a distinct framework for critical theory. This conference aims to investigate the possibility of developing a singular theoretical framework to evaluate culture and society through the zombie narrative trope (potentially consolidated in a published volume). Contributors are encouraged to provide discipline specific, and interdisciplinary, examinations of the zombie with the purpose of formulating an overall theoretical structure of Zombiism.

4. Call for Articles for: Otherness: Essays and Studies 7.1; deadline 28 September 2018.
Ideal space for those who participated in the OGOM/Supernatural Cities Urban Weird conference!

The peer-reviewed e-journal Otherness: Essays and Studies is now accepting submissions for a special issue, forthcoming Spring 2019 – ‘Otherness and the Urban’

Edited by Maria Beville, this issue seeks to publish research articles from and across different scholarly disciplines that examine, in as many ways as possible, the concepts of otherness and alterity as these relate to the experience and representation of the city.

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The Monsters We Deserve Tuesday 4th September

To celebrate the publication of The Monsters We Deserve, a fascinating reappraisal of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 

Marcus Sedgwick and Dr Sam George go head to head in the gothic battle of the books

 Frankenstein versus Dracula

Chaired by writer, editor and translator Daniel Hahn.

Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London, WC1R 4RL

Tuesday 4th September. Doors Open at 6.30.

Tickets are available online via Newham Bookshop  

Ticket only 5.00; Ticket and book 15.00

Do monsters always stay in the book where they were born? Are they content to live out their lives on paper, and never step foot into the real world?

Published in 1818, Shelley’s Frankenstein is one of the most influential tales of all time. Two hundred years later, in a remote mountain house, high in the French Alps, an author broods on that creation. Reality and perception merge, fuelled by poisoned thoughts.

People make monsters, but who really creates who in the end?

Hope to see lots of OGOM folks there!





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