Saturday, 18 November 2017

The Haunted Landscape 2017: Folklore, Ghosts and Witchcraft

£20 / plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Saturday 18 November 2016 10am - 50pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
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Book stall by Newham Bookshop and Strange Attractor.

As the year darken the London Fortean Society once again explores the folklore, ghosts and curses of the British Isles with the one-day symposium The Haunted Landscape 2017.

Authors, experts and researchers discuss ghosts, strange beasts and magic. From haunted folk songs to 3000 year old chalk giants, phantom black dogs, Albion’s Goat God and the Queen of the Fairies. Join us at Conway Hall to learn that this green and pleasant land we abide in has dark, strange and uncanny other side.

             
  • The Haunted Landscapes of World War One – Professor Owen Davies
  • The Walking Dead – Dr. Carolyne Larrington
  • The Appearance of Ghosts: shrouds, sheets or see-through? Dr. Susan Owens
  • 'I Shall Goe Unto a Hare' - Isobel Gowdie, Covens, Shamans and Familiar Spirits in Seventeenth Century Scotland – Dr. John Callow
  • Phantom Black Dogs - Mark Norman
  • How to Clean a 3,000-Year-Old Hill Figure - Emily Cleaver
  • The Goat God in Albion – Gyrus
  • Talk of the Devil – Jeremy Harte
  • In the dead of the night, when all people were sleeping: Ghosts in folk songs – Dr. Paul Cowdell

The Haunted Landscapes of World War One – Professor Owen Davies
Details to follow

The Walking Dead – Dr. Carolyne Larrington
The dead don't always stay peacefully in their graves. British folklore and chronicle relates from very early times instances of vampire-like and undead behaviour, spelling disaster for communities. Radical social upheaval – such as the Norman Conquest – spawns narratives about the undead; later chroniclers remark that there are so many tales of the undead it would be tedious to list them all.  Recent archaeological finds seem to confirm the survival of these beliefs right up to the end of the medieval period; time-honoured ways of preventing the dead from walking again offer the best explanation for the unusual post-mortem treatment of some bodies. Nor is it just the British Isles that suffer from the plague of the walking dead; Icelandic sagas have many such tales, and some useful tips about how to settle such revenants once and for all.

Carolyne Larrington is a Tutorial Fellow in English Literature at St John's Oxford and the author of The Land of the Green Man, Winter is Coming: the Medieval World of Game of Thrones and An Introduction to Norse Myths.

The Appearance of Ghosts: shrouds, sheets or see-through? Dr. Susan Owens
The idea that the dead can return to haunt the living is deeply rooted in the British imagination, and ghosts are central to countless plays and paintings, stories and ballads, photographs and films. But why has the appearance and behaviour of ghosts in art and literature altered over time? When did they stop wearing shrouds and put on white sheets or become see-through? And what do these changes reveal about them – and us?

Dr. Susan Owens, former Curator of Paintings at the Victoria and Albert Museum, is the author of The Ghost: A Cultural History (Tate Publishing, 2017).

I Shall Goe Unto a Hare - Isobel Gowdie, Covens, Shamans and Familiar spirits in Seventeenth Century Scotland – Dr. John Callow

The four confessions given by Isobel Gowdie to a Scottish court, in May 1662, are seminal witchcraft texts; bringing folk belief in the faerie, the world of familiar spirits, night flight and the coven to stark prominence. This talk shows how a marginal figure, in her own day, moved towards the cultural mainstream, through the works of modern composers, rock musicians and novelist, and was comprehensively recast in the process.

John Callow is an author, screenwriter and historian, specialising in Seventeenth Century politics, witchcraft, and popular culture including Embracing the Darkness: A Cultural History of Witchcraft (IB Tarsus 2017).

Phantom Black Dogs - Mark Norman
Mark Norman is the creator and host of the Folklore Podcast and author of Black Dog Folklore, Black Dog Folklore, a comprehensive study of the image of the Black Dog in folklore, with an extensive gazetteer of over 700 UK sightings and traditions. He holds the UKs largest archive of black dog material and in this talk, will introduce the symbolism of the Black Dog motif.

How to Clean a 3,000-Year-Old Hill Figure - Emily Cleaver
Emily Cleaver recounts a recent ‘scouring’ of the Uffington White Horse, the traditional cleaning event that has kept the chalk figure from becoming overgrown since its construction in the Iron Age. Exploring the archeological evidence for the origins of the figure, plus local folklore from fertility rituals to furniture arrangement.

Emily is a writer with an interest in folklore, local traditions and history.

The Goat God in Albion – Gurus
Gyrus explores the bonds between the British landscape and the Greek god of nature, Pan. The Victorian obsession with Pan forms a historical backdrop for strange present-day encounters in rural darkness, and synchronicities which unearth Pan's hidden presence in the famed landscape of Avebury.'

Gyrus is the publisher of Dreamflesh  and the author of North: The Rise &Fall of the Polar Cosmos

Talk of the Devil
He builds bridges, he drains punchbowls, he hurls quoits, he preaches strange doctrine from his pulpit. There’s no getting away from the Devil in the English legendary landscape, but who is he really? From his Arse to his Elbow, the Devil of local lore is a strange compound of fiend and buffoon. Those sulphurous hoofprints do not lead to any orthodox theology.

Jeremy Harte is a researcher into folklore and archaeology, with a particular interest in sacred space and tales of encounters with the supernatural. He is the author of English Holy Wells: A sourcebook and Explore Fairy Traditions.

In the dead of the night, when all people were sleeping: Ghosts in folk songs – Professor Paul Cowdell

Traditional songs are full of folklore about ghosts. They tell you why people become ghosts, what ghosts look like, what the living must do to allow the dead to rest in peace. Paul Cowdell, folklore expert on ghosts and a fine singer, will be talking about ghostlore in and around traditional songs, and singing some. Songs may include The Yarmouth Tragedy, The Unquiet Grave and Polly Vaughn.

Paul completed his PhD at the University of Hertfordshire, where hewas looking at contemporary belief in ghosts. The thesis is available online here.

 

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

The Cage St Osyth: Media Frenzy or Haunting to be Taken Seriously?

7.45pm Wednesday 25 October 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
Facebook page

The Cage in St Osyth, Essex is a haunted medieval prison that has recently hit the headlines. “Essex's most haunted house: Could you last a night?” asked Essex Live. “A retired policeman claims to have captured a picture of a ghost carrying the body of a witch on a stretcher” spluttered the Mail Online.

The Cage was the local holding cell whose prisoners included the ‘Witch’ Ursula Kemp who was held captive there prior to her trial and hanging in Chelmsford. But Ursula may haunt the cage still.

This modern-day case particularly involved one woman, Vanessa Mitchell, who felt after several years of phenomena she could neither live there or responsibly let it for residential purposes. She rented it to paranormal groups for investigations.

John Fraser has completed a detailed report on this haunting with collected witness testimony from over two dozen local people and investigators. This talk discusses his findings and the truth of the phenomena behind the national headlines.

John Fraser is a member of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research, and has been’ Vice Chair Investigations’ of the Ghost Club – the two oldest groups in the country that study the subject. His topics of study have been as varied as hypnotic regressions and vampire folklore, as well as more conventional paranormal research.

His 2010 ‘Ghost Hunting, a Survivors Guide’ was one of the first UK books published about the subject since it re-popularisation. Since 2015 John has been working on an extended project of witness testimony regarding the well-publicised phenomena occurring at The Cage in St Osyth Essex, also assessing the validity of witness testimony in spontaneous ‘paranormal ‘cases.

7.45pm Wednesday 25 October 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
Facebook page

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Seeking British Bigfoot


7.45pm Thursday 28 September 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Facebook page

For the past two years Harry Rose has been working on a project exploring evidence the of Bigfoot in the UK; working with experts in the field and hearing of first hand encounters. He will be sharing some of the stories he has come into contact with and the images he has taken in recorded sighting locations.

Harry Rose is a photographer and researcher working at the British Journal of Photography. He has a keen interest in folk lore and mythology.

"I create work base on what is physical and tangible."

7.45pm Thursday 28 September 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Facebook page

Monday, 4 September 2017

My Life with the Alpine Time Travellers

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Monday 4 September 2017
7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
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My Life with the Alpine Time Travellers – or – Sun Ra, Damanhur and the search for new myths


In 2006 David Bramwell went to visit a community called Damanhur, living in the Italian Alps. It was to be the first of many visits and the start of a lifelong fascination with the place.

Damanhur, a 600-strong community, had built the world’s most extraordinary piece of outsider art: an underground temple the size of St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the great architectural wonders of the modern world. The Damanhurians also named themselves after plants and animals, claimed to have taught a rubber plant how to sing and even built a fully-functioning ‘time machine’. Another case of a deluded cult? David didn’t think so.

After many visits (and a Radio 3 documentary), David finally thinks he’s figured Damanhur out. He believes that the Damanhurians have created something important and essential in the 21st century. And the time machine is only a tiny part of it.

What links this extraordinary community with the jazz musician Sun Ra? Is the time machine real? Who is Gorilla Eucalyptus? To find out, come to this talk, complete with astonishing images of the Temples of Humankind, singing plants and of course the community’s time machine.

David Bramwell is a co-author of The Odditorium: The tricksters, eccentrics, deviants and inventors whose obsessions changed the world, and author of two travel memoirs: The No9 Bus to Utopia and The Haunted Moustache. He has toured the UK with two award-winning one-man shows, made radio programmes for the BBC on themes ranging from Ivor Cutler to river goddesses with Alan Moore, and won a Sony Award for ‘best feature’ in 2012.

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Monday 4 September 2017
7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
Facebook event page

Friday, 4 August 2017

Charles Fort's 143rd Birthday in London

The naïve and the pedantic and the bizarre and the grotesque and the sincere and the insincere, the profound and the puerile.
Charles Fort - The Book of the Damned

A gathering to celebrate the 143rd birthday of Charles Fort, the American writer who inspired the idea of being fortean. 


I shut the front door upon Christ and Einstein, and at the back door hold out a welcoming hand to little frogs and periwinkles.
Charles Fort - Lo!

Meet us at 7.30pm on Sunday 6 August outside 39A Marchmont Street London WC1N 1AP, Fort’s home in London, with a reading and toast. We'll then have a drink in his honour at the nearby
Marquis Cornwallis on Marchmont Street, a "Bloomsbury pub of grandiose proportions".

All forteans and friends welcome.

 
I am a collector of notes upon subjects that have diversity—such as deviations from concentricity in the lunar crater Copernicus, and a sudden appearance of purple Englishmen—stationary meteor-radiants, and a reported growth of hair on the bald head of a mummy—and "Did the girl swallow the octopus?
Charles Fort - Wild Talents

Monday, 19 June 2017

We're All Gonna Die: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint

7.45pm Thursday 27 July 2017This event is sold out. Sorry. We shall try and book Andrew the next time he is in the UK.
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Facebook page

Viva La Muerte! Santa Muerte, Folk Saint and Holy Personification of Death, Healer and Protector.

The leading expert on the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas, Dr. Andrew Chesnut will explain how Mexican folk saint, Santa Muerte (Saint Death), has gone from only a few thousand devotees in 2001 to some 12 million today.

Andrew is Professor of Religious Studies and holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He authored the first and only academic book in English on the Bony Lady, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint (OUP, 2012). 

7.45pm Thursday 27 July 2017
This event is sold out. Sorry. We shall try and book Andrew the next time he is in the UK.

The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Facebook page

Conspiracy Theories are for Losers

£5 This event has sold out. We are sorry, please contact Conway Hall to join the waiting list.
Thursday 20 July 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
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Americans have believed in conspiracy theories since before the United States united. A ceaseless array of conspiracy accusations have demonized witches, Freemasons, foreigners, red coats, black helicopters, Mormons, Muslims, Jews, fifth columns, the government, and more recently, Vladimir Putin. The common assumption is that conspiracy theories are nothing more than the delusions of paranoid minds trying to make sense of an ever more complicated world. However, the evidence tells a different story.

In this talk, Professor Joesph Uscinski will show that conspiracy theories follow a strategic logic: they are tools used by the powerless to attack and defend against the powerful. Conspiracy theories must conform to this logic, or they will not be successful. In this way, conspiracy theories are for losers.

Professor Uscinski will highlight his analysis of more than a hundred years of data taken from newspapers, surveys, and the internet. The surprising findings address the following questions: Who believes in conspiracy theories and why? Why are some conspiracy theories more popular than others? What are the dangers of conspiracy theories? Are conspiracy theorists prone to violence? How did conspiracy theories affect the 2016 presidential election? What can conspiracy theories in the United States tell us about conspiracy theories in the United Kingdom?

Joseph Uscinski is associate professor of political science at University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL and co-author of American Conspiracy Theories (Oxford, 2014).

£5 This event has sold out. We are sorry, please contact Conway Hall to join the waiting list.
Thursday 20 July 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
Facebook event page