Gothic Yuletide: A Journey Through Dark Christmas Folklore, Sat 9th December    

Join me for a dark journey through Christmas folklore and seasonal mythology at Guy’s Hospital Chapel, Saturday the 9th December 2023 at 3:00.

Booking: Tickets £12 including a delightful gin cocktail and 20% donation to Guy’s and St Thomas.

This event is part of London Month of the Dead’s Gothic Christmas!!


In this illustrated talk, ‘coffin boffin,’ Dr Sam George, journeys through the twelve days of Christmas engaging with the wonders of Gothic Advent from the pranks of Jack Frost to the terrifying misdemeanours of Krampus (the horned Yuletide figure from Austro-Bavarian folklore). During the Christmas season in Norway, for example, a Julebukk, or man-goat goes door to door carolling and trick or treating; and in Iceland, parents warn children of the monstrous Jólakötturinn, a terrifying feline who knows who has been naughty or nice. Greece has a demon, uncannily referred to in English as ‘the Christmas Vampire’.  Confined to the underworld, it emerges for 12 days over the Christmas season from 25th Dec to 7th Jan. In Austria, the uncanny Schnabelperchten, folklore figures with long beaks, equipped with baskets on their backs and large pairs of scissors, make their way through town on the 5th of January, on the eve of Epiphany.

The characters that make up Europe’s winter folk festivals, are far from cosy, despite their association with Yuletide, but they do testify to humanity’s need for myth. This gloriously dark introduction to the holiday season celebrates seasonal mythology, demonstrating its unique intersection between folklore and the Gothic.

Sam George is Associate Professor of Research at the University of Hertfordshire and the Convenor (with Dr Bill Hughes) of the Open Graves, Open Minds project.


3.00 p.m. GMT.

Guy’s Hospital Chapel, Courtyard Entrance. St Thomas Street, London SE1


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Halloween Fairies

Halloween is supposedly a time when the veil between our world and the shadow world is extremely thin. A time when you are more likely to hear stories of encounters between humans and fairies. Fairies are said to reside in a shadowy spirit world and on the eve of Hallowe’en, on the old Celtic festival of Samhain, the dead and the fairies were thought of as mingling in their revels.

Alan Lee, The Faery Ring, ‘ in Faeries‘ by Brian Froud & Alan Lee, 1978

This eerie revelry of the spirits of the dead manifesting as fairies is referred to by many early fairyologists:

In the minds of our pagan ancestors, there was very little distinction between the dead and the fairies, who were perhaps only the spirits of an earlier race. All the demons at the fairy raths are dead human folk who are out for their Hallowe’en revels, after which they must go back to their graves for another year (Lewis Spence, British Fairy Origins, 1946).

If this Halloween you go seeking winged friends, they might not be as sweet as you think. I for one regret the lack of fairies on Halloween cards; there are some vintage ones that suggest that fairies once featured as frequently as today’s witches and vampires.

Thanks to all those who have attended our calendar of OGOM Halloween events; we hope you have enjoyed the spooky season as much as we have. I was delighted to bring my events programme to a close with a fairy themed talk: Winged Fiends: The Dark Origins of the Fairy at the London Month of the Dead Festival. Keep an eye out for future events including the launch of the next OGOM book: The Legacy of John Polidori: The Romantic Vampire and its Progeny. And remember, if you have saved your revels for tonight, we believe ‘there’s a little witch in all of us’! (Practical Magic).

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Hellebore: The Darkness Issue

As the ancient festival of Samhain approaches and Halloween events are still underway, I’d like to draw your attention to HELLEBORE, a publication founded in 2019 by writer and editor Maria J. Pérez Cuervo, with art direction by Nathaniel Hébert. It is a small press devoted to British folk horror and it gets its name from the Hellebore plant. Hellebore has the power of altering perception. It is thought to be one of the main ingredients for the witches’ flying ointment and it’s also known for opening up portals to the Underworld (and the subconscious).

As Samhain heralds in the darker half of the year, the magazine descends into darkness to explore its associations with folklore, myth, and legend in The Darkness Issue. I am pleased to have contributed a short article ‘In Search of the English Vampire’ to this. It is beautifully produced, a dark visual delight. The issue also includes work by Alice Vernon, Icy Sedgwick, Chris Esson, Verity Holloway, Keri O’Shea, and Rebecca Lambert.  Cover image by Nona Limmen. Do think of treating yourself this Halloween. You can purchase it for £7.25 here. You won’t be disappointed!  

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OGOM Halloween Event Diary

The spooky season is the busiest time of the year for gothic scholars; here are some of the Halloween events that you can catch up with the OGOM crew at between now and 31st October.

Friday 20th October: OGOM: In the Company of Wolves (online 18.00-21.30)

Thanks to everyone who joined Bill, Kaja and myself, alongside Catherine Spooner and Ivan Phillips, for In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children, an OGOM online symposium and book launch. If you missed out on the symposium the book is a lively and informative read for all gothic scholars and it’s out in paperback from MUP. It’s perfect reading for Halloween; we hope you enjoy it.

Saturday 28th October: Writing the Occult: Vampires, online 1.00-21.00

I am thrilled to be part of this online event for writers and readers in the genre. Sessions include: making the vampire trope your own; vampire adaptations; the vampire as romantic lead; world-building for vampire tales and more! I am going to be presenting on the folkloric vampire and its representation in fiction. You can view the full programme and the speakers here. You can book via this Eventbrite page. Tickets £45 (until 26 October). One of the most exciting things about this event for me is that if features legendary writer Jewelle Gomez, author of The Gilda Stories (1991). Gomez is celebrated this month in The Guardian as ‘the black lesbian writer who changed vampire fiction and the world’. Hope to see you there!

Sunday 29th October: Winged Fiends, 1.30 pm Guy’s Chapel, London, SE1

I’m excited to reveal that I will be speaking on ‘Winged Fiends: The Dark Origins of the Fairy’ at this year’s London Month of the Dead Festival. The setting at Guy’s is phenomenal and ticket holders may visit the crypt below the chapel after the event. The fee of £12.00 also includes a gin cocktail & a 20% donation to the King’s Chaplaincy Trust. You can see the full abstract of my talk on the OGOM blog here. Follow this link to book

Tuesday 31st October: Monsters in the Nineteenth Century, online, 9.45-5.00

Kaja is an invited speaker at this free online event run by Durham University exploring Monsters in the Nineteenth Century through a gothic lens. She will be presenting on ‘Dracula: A Werewolf in Vampire’s Clothing’. Register here to get the Zoom link.

Whatever you are doing at Halloween have a gothtastic time!! Follow the dark fun on social media via @OGOMProject and @DrSamGeorge1 #31DaysofHalloween #OGOMWolves2023

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Invitation to join us in the Company of Wolves

We’re excited to share the fabulous poster for the forthcoming online event In the Company of Wolves: Wolves, Werewolves and Wild Children 2023. We look forward to seeing you and joining you in a lively discussion on representations of wolves and wildness, prompted by talks from five engaging speakers in the fields of literature and culture: Sam George, Catherine Spooner, Bill Hughes, Kaja Franck, and Ivan Phillips.

We will explore the image of the wolf as savage and deceitful, its place in the environment, and how through the figure of the werewolf it illustrates ideas of human animality. Questioning the idea of the wolf as monstrous and duplicitous, we will ask if the Big Bad Wolf can be redeemed. Then, for those inspired to creative writing, you’ll have the opportunity to express these ideas afterwards in short pieces of flash fiction.

This event commemorates the life and work of the late Marcus Sedgwick, novelist, who contributed to the book and had been a generous collaborator with the OGOM Project from its inception.

We are making available a comprehensive set of resources and there is a special discount for guests of 30% on the paperback of our book In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children (ed. by Sam George and Bill Hughes).

Book now to avoid disappointment! Tickets are available here; booking closes 19 October.

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CFPs: Divine disasters, Poe, Byron, James Hogg, narrative

Some CFPs for forthcoming conferences:

1. CFP: Divine Disasters: Exploring distressed landscapes in literature and theology

University of Warwick, 24 February 2024
Deadline: 27 October 2023

This conference proposes “divine disasters” as a new lens for examining the interrelationship between theology, ecology, and literature. We invite papers that consider how ideas of faith, religion, the divine or the sacred are challenged during ecological crises. [. . .] This conference welcomes explorations of “divine disasters” in various forms, from imagined apocalyptic landscapes in literature to the religious implications of real-life post-disaster recovery

2. CFP: Poe and the Global Gothic: New Perspectives

Panel at 2024 ALA Conference in Chicago (May 23-26).
Deadline: 12 January 2024

Poe’s works have often been analyzed from the perspective of the Gothic. Many studies focus on Poe’s response to the eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century traditions, both in Europe and in the United States. Another common approach is to consider Poe’s reception by other Gothic writers, his contemporaries, or his successors. As we now talk about Global Gothic, thus expanding and crossing boundaries and genres, what place does Poe occupy?

3. CFP: Teaching Poe and (No) Nature

Panel at 2024 ALA Conference in Chicago (May 23-26).
Deadline: 12 January 2024

We now seek proposals that explore ways of teaching Poe by highlighting his contributions to current debates on the Anthropocene, posthuman(ism), extractivism and global depletion, or that suggest pedagogical uses of Poe’s work in various contexts such as university classrooms, artistic endeavors, and public-facing projects on our current environmental crisis.

4. CFP: ‘Byron: The Pilgrim of Eternity’: 48th International Byron Conference

International Association of Byron Societies, Athens – Messolonghi, Greece, 1-7 July 2024
Deadline: 22 December 2023

Two hundred years after Byron’s death, the International Association of Byron Societies, representing over a dozen nations, will assemble in Greece to honour Byron, discuss his work, assess its place within the Romantic movement, and explore his afterlife and lasting impact on global culture.[. . .] The Academic Committee solicits proposals of roughly 250 words for presentations considering any aspect of Byron’s life, work, and influence, with particular emphasis on bicentennial reflections on Byron as’Pilgrim of Eternity’.

5. CFP: Devils and Justified Sinners

Romancing the Gothic, on line, 24-25t August 2024
Deadline: 1 March 2024

In 1824, the Ettrick Shepherd, James Hogg, wrote his The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner. Its intricate narrative structure, complex interrogation of theological extremism, and unforgettable depiction of the demonic made it a pivotal novel in the development of the British Gothic and a distinct Scottish Gothic tradition. This year’s conference seeks to mark the anniversary of the novel’s publication.

6. CFP: 2024 annual conference of the International Society for the Study of Narrative

Newcastle University, 17-19 April 2024
Deadline: 1 November 2023

paper and panel submissions relating to any aspect of narrative theory and practice, in any genre, period, discipline, language, and medium. We are particularly interested in papers from colleagues in the Global South, from colleagues working on narrative forms before the twentieth century, and from colleagues working on narrative in relation to social justice.

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Writing the Occult: Vampires, 28th October, 2023 Online

I am thrilled to be part of ‘Writing the Occult: Vampires’; it is taking place online on Saturday 28th October, 1pm-9pm (UK time). It features a wide range of speakers and sessions for writers and readers in the genre including: Making the vampire trope your own; Vampire adaptations; The vampire as romantic lead; World-building for vampire tales; Gothic feminism; And more! I am going to be presenting on the folkloric vampire and its representation in fiction. You can view the full programme and the speakers here (and listed below)

You can book via this Eventbrite page. Early bird tickets £40 (until 30th September). Regular tickets £45 (until 26 October).

One of the most exciting things about this event for me is that if features legendary writer Jewelle Gomez author of The Gilda Stories (1991). Gomez is celebrated this month in The Guardian as ‘the black lesbian writer who changed vampire fiction and the world’

Her book deconstructs and recasts the vampire in the shape of a Black lesbian bloodsucker. It was the first novel in the US to be published with such a protagonist. Gomez takes as her starting point Sheridan Le Fanu’s 19th-century vampire heroine Carmilla, reimagining her as an enslaved black child taken in by a vampire coven. She navigates desire, violence and oppression within the marginalised communities in which she finds herself, from 1850s Louisiana through the feminist movements of the 70s and 80s, to the dystopian future of 2050.

I first came across references to Gomez in Miriam Jones’s essay ‘The Gilda Stories: Revealing the Monsters at the Margins’, in Blood and Roses: The Vampire as Metaphor in Contemporary Culture (1997), pp. 151-169 and she’s also discussed in Gina Whisker’s essay ‘Love Bites: Contemporary Women’s Vampire Fiction’, in David Punter’s Companion to the Gothic (2001), pp. 167-180. Her novel is still being celebrated for defining a whole generation of supernatural tales:

The Gilda Stories’ vampire mantra of “we take blood, not life, and leave something in exchange” defined a new generation of supernatural storytelling. It also exemplified the tenets of inter-community solidarity that Gomez had become accustomed to as an activist in the Black Power, feminist and LGBTQ movements of the 70s and 80s. “Writing speculative fiction has been a political act for me,” she says. Since The Gilda Stories’ release, Gomez’s character has popped up in various other short stories and on stage in her play Bones & Ash. She is set for a return in a “more interior” sequel Gomez is penning called Gilda: Blood Relations (Hannah Flint, The Guardian, 6 Sept, 2023)

This immortal cult classic has been re-released this month; you can browse the new edition online via Penguin. Do sign up and meet with us online, along with the other speakers, on 28th October at Writing the Occult.  

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In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children 2023

Online Event: Friday, 20 October 2023, 18.00–20.30 BST


OGOM cordially invites you to our next event, In The Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves, and Wild Children. Tickets are limited. Please book early to avoid disappointment. 

This event invites you into the company of wolves to listen to their voices as they sound in ‘our interpreted world’. You will be drawn into innovative research on the cultural significance of wolves, wild children and werewolves as portrayed in different media and genres.

In this evening of lively illustrated talks, we will situate the werewolf in a broader context of animality and sociality, challenging the simplistic model of the werewolf as the ‘beast within’, and embracing the werewolf as ‘spectre wolf’ instead.

This is your chance to take part in a challenge to redeem the wolf, join a discussion on wolves and lies based on the late Marcus Sedgwick’s essay on writing wolves and lies, and participate in werewolf flash fiction writing (40-50 words). We are launching the paperback edition of the OGOM Project book In the Company of Wolves which will be available at 30% discount to all our delegates.

Speakers are Dr Sam George,:Prof. Catherine SpoonerDr Bill HughesDr Kaja Franc, and Dr Ivan Phillips.

For full details of the programme, see here.

Attendees will have access to special resources including a suggested reading list, a timeline of wolves and werewolves, and PDFs of werewolf stories and relevant articles.

Follow event on Twitter with #OGOMWolves2023

This event is dedicated to the memory of Marcus Sedgwick (1968–2022), acclaimed writer and friend of OGOM. Marcus gave a keynote on children raised by wolves at the In the Company of Wolves conference and contributed the chapter ‘Wolves and lies’ to the book.


£8.00 Full rate

£5.00 Concessionary (for students and unwaged)

Tickets are available from here via Eventbrite

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Sam George, The Dark Origin of the Fairy, at London Month of the Dead, 29th October, 2023

London Month of the Dead, is an annual festival of arts to inform, entertain and provoke on the subject of death and the city; it is now a decade old. This year’s grand calendar boasts a haunting array of over 60 talks, walks, workshops, and performances, each meticulously curated to ensnare hearts and minds alike. Placed throughout the hidden crevices of this ancient metropolis, you will be entertained by an enigmatic cadre of writers, artists, historians, experts, academics, practitioners, and performers—bearers of secrets and whispers from the shadowy depths.

Ever mindful of the passage of life’s ephemeral moments, this festival donates a solemn tribute of 20% of their ticket revenue to the very cemeteries and venues that embrace these spectral affairs. In this solemn gesture, they honour the spirits that linger, immortalising the places that embrace the duality of existence.

Access the full London Month of the Dead Programme for 2023. Be quick, if you are booking as events are selling out fast.

I’m excited to reveal that I will be speaking at the festival for the second time. This year I am presenting on ‘Winged Fiends: The Dark Origins of the Fairyon 29th October. The setting is phenomenal and ticket holders may visit the crypt below the chapel after the event

Tickets also include a gin cocktail & a 20% donation to the King’s Chaplaincy Trust. Follow this link to book

Here’s an abstract of my talk. I’d love to see OGOMER’S there. I hope some of you can make it.

Sam George: Winged Fiends: The dark origins of the fairy

The prevalent innocent idea of fairyland is far from the shadowy realms of the dead, and yet there are many resemblances between them. Despite their wands and glitter, fairies have a dark history, and surprisingly gothic credentials. In The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies (1682), fairy minister and folklorist Robert Kirk argued that fairies are ‘the dead’, or of ‘of a middle nature betwixt man and angels’. This association is particularly prominent in Celtic lore. Writing in 1887, Lady Jane Wilde popularised the Irish belief that fairies arefallen angels […] the devil gives to these knowledge and power and sends them on earth where they work much evil’.

It was widely believed in society at that time that fairies inhabited a shadowy spirit world. However, when Peter Pan debuted in the early 1900s with its prominent character of Tinker Bell, fairies began to lose their malevolence and became increasingly confined to the nursery. This is far from the notion of dark fairies with their shadowy history in folklore. Folkloric fairies steal children, drive people insane, blight cattle and crops – and drink human blood. Barrie, of course, was aware of their dark side. Despite the fairy dust and glamour, Tinker Bell is dangerous and vengeful like a deadly fairy temptress. At one point in the story, she even threatens to kill Wendy.

In folklore, fairies are often a demonic or undead force; one which humans need to seek protection against. As folklorist Katharine Briggs has noted in her Dictionary of Fairies. What is more, Fairyland has a hunger for human blood. This links fairies to the vengeful dead and to vampires. Diane Purkiss’s history of fairies, includes a Scottish Highland legend which warns that you must bring water into the house at night, so the fairies don’t quench their thirst with your blood. Very old fairies, like vampires, were said to wrinkle and dry up without fresh blood. The Baobhan Sith are vampiric Scottish fairies. These beautiful green banshees have hooves instead of feet, they dance with and exhaust their male victims then tear them to pieces. Like many fairies, they can be killed with iron. Dearg-Due are Irish vampiric fairies or “Red Blood Suckers”. They were thought to be influential on Sheridan Le Fanu’s female vampire tale Carmilla (1871).

Halloween is supposedly a time when the veil between our world and the shadow world is extremely thin. A time when encounters between humans and fairies are likely. This talk offers a warning to the curious, if you go seeking winged friends, they might not be as benevolent as you think!

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In the Company of Wolves: Werewolves, Wolves and Wild Children – out in paperback August 2023

We are delighted to announce that the OGOM publication In the Company of Wolves is out in paperback from MUP this month priced at £20.00. The book connects together innovative research from a variety of perspectives on the cultural significance of wolves, wild children and werewolves as portrayed in different media and genres.

We begin with the wolf itself as it has been interpreted as a cultural symbol and how it figures in contemporary debates about wilderness and nature. Alongside this, we consider eighteenth-century debates about wild children ­- often thought to have been raised by wolves and other animals – and their role in key questions about the origins of language and society. The collection continues with essays on werewolves and other shapeshifters as depicted in folk tales, literature, film and TV, concluding with the transition from animal to human in contemporary art, poetry and fashion.


Preface – Sam George
Introduction: from preternatural pastoral to paranormal romance – Sam George and Bill Hughes
Part I : Cultural images of the wolf, the werewolf and the wolf-child
1 Wolves and lies: a writer’s perspective -Marcus Sedgwick
2 ‘Man is a wolf to man’: wolf behaviour becoming wolfish nature – Garry Marvin
3 When wolves cry: wolf-children, storytelling and the state of nature – Sam George
4 ‘Children of the night. What music they make!’: the sound of the cinematic werewolf – Stacey Abbott
Part II: Innocence and experience: brute creation, wild beast or child of nature
5 Wild sanctuary: running into the forest in Russian fairy tales – Shannon Scott
6 ‘No more than a brute or a wild beast’: Wagner the WerewolfSweeney Todd, and the limits of human responsibility – Joseph Crawford
7 The inner beast: scientific experimentation in George MacDonald’s ‘The History of Photogen and Nycteris’ – Rebecca Langworthy
8 Werewolves and white trash: brutishness, discrimination and the lower-class wolfman from The Wolf Man to True Blood – Victoria Amador
Part III: Re-inventing the wolf: intertextual and metafictional manifestations
9 ‘The price of flesh is love’: commodification, corporeality, and paranormal romance in Angela Carter’s beast tales – Bill Hughes
10 Growing pains of the teenage werewolf: Young Adult literature and the metaphorical wolf – Kaja Franck
11 ‘I am the Bad Wolf. I create myself’: the metafictional meanings of lycanthropic transformation in Doctor Who – Ivan Phillips
Part IV: Animal selves: becoming wolf
12 A running wolf and other grey animals: the various shapes of Marcus Coates -Sarah Wade
13 ‘Stinking of me’: transformations and animal selves in contemporary women’s poetry – Polly Atkin
14 Wearing the wolf: fur, fashion and species transvestism – Catherine Spooner

I have a deep fondness for this book as it developed from the legendary OGOM Werewolf conference (above), which was probably the best fun I’ve ever had at an academic conference. The conference web page is here, and you can check out the PDF programme here (click on arrows at the bottom of the first page to turn the pages). This event was a fantastic 3-day wolf extravaganza, there were lively papers, compelling keynotes & contributors, a visit to the grave of Peter the Wild Boy (reputed to be raised by wolves), encounters with real life wolves at our visit to the UK Wolf Trust, and a Lycanthropic Lantern of Fear or Magic Lantern Show (featuring werewolves), oh and wolf cupcakes!!

The plenary panel on wolf children, or children raised by wolves saw me in conversation with novelist and long-term friend of OGOM Marcus Sedgwick, who sadly passed unexpectedly in 2022 (we shared a fascination with wolf children myths). Mouse from Marcus’s novel The Dark Horse is one of the most compelling ‘wolf children’ I have ever encountered in fiction; it was very special for me to share this stage with him.

The hardback of the book coincided with COVID and so we never really got to promote it beyond the gothtastic book launch at the Odyssey in St Albans before lockdowns took hold. Maybe now it will finally have the opportunity to send a HOWL out into the world (there are two supermoons this month, plus a rare blue moon, so it seems fitting).

We hope those who have an interest will purchase a copy and support the project. We will be putting together a new online event to celebrate the paperback publication in October to tie in with Halloween and offering a 30% discount to all our attendees (details to follow soon).  

***Follow the link to book for our special online In the Company of Wolves event on 20 October ***

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