The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean: Book Review

https://popreadsreviews.files.wordpress.com/2020/12/screen-shot-2020-12-07-at-1.32.40-pm-2.png

The ‘X’ in Generation X (those born roughly between the early 1960s and late 70s/ early 80s) must surely refer to the X certificate formerly bestowed upon horror movies or ‘X’ as in X Files in relating to spooky paranormal mysteries. The other title bestowed by writer and broadcaster Bob Fischer upon the folk born of these times – ‘The Haunted Generation’ would seemingly confirm this.
Maclean’s novel, ‘The Apparition Phase’ is set in the 1970s and pays homage to the creepy things that deliciously traumatised those of us of a certain age. Told from the viewpoint of Tim Smith, reminiscing on his teenage years in that era, we see that as with the title of Dave Lawrence and Stephen Brotherton’s excellent encyclopedic work about those times, our narrator is indeed ‘Scarred For Life’.
The tale begins with Tim and his twin sister Abi plotting to fake a photograph of a ghost. Their inspirations for this experiment / prank are the photos that I would flick past fast and then slowly sneak back to look at in Usborne’s ‘Mysteries of the Unknown: Monsters, Ghosts and UFOs’ (despite my Catholic education and unbeknownst to the nuns, the true bible of my youth) – those being the Brown Lady of Raynham Hall (a semi transparent figure descending some stairs), the Spectre of Newby Church (a tall, skull faced monk near an altar) and the one that possibly freaked me the most, the Chinnery car (the dead mother-in law in the back seat). In creating this hoax, they stir up more than they can ever expect when they show their creation to a girl at their school who, unknowingly to them, is sensitive to otherworldly happenings.

https://coolinterestingstuff.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Brown-Lady-of-Raynham-Hall-660x1024.jpg
The most famous ghost photographs ever taken
https://tse1.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.HEHpQeAelAtfb_hJMxPIUQHaFj&pid=Api

As the story progresses (through events I will not spoil for you) we are taken to a paranormal investigation conducted in an old large house in the countryside. This aspect of the book is very reminiscent of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ and Richard Matheson’s ‘Hell House’ novel and subsequent cinematic adaptations. But despite this familiarity, Will Maclean does mark the proceedings with his own voice and creates a page-turning tale that will evoke nostalgia in many of us Generation Xers but would also likely appeal to young adult readers now as its themes of ghosts, grief, haunted minds, mystery and coming of age are timeless.

The Apparition Phase by Will Maclean
Publisher : William Heinemann (29 Oct. 2020)
Language : English Hardcover : 416 pages
ISBN-10 : 1785152378 ISBN-13 : 978-1785152375

https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/1119138/the-apparition-phase/9781785152375.html

Penguin turns 75



Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

PODCAST SPOTLIGHT: LOREMEN.

  Do you hear it? It’s on the wind. It is echoing across the empty valleys. The sound of screaming and despair. The Banshee has come for us all… Nope. I was wrong. That will be the sound of me and many many other parents screaming in frustration as we try to home school our kids. Pass me the whiskey… 

 Anyway! Welcome to the Folk Horror Revival Podcast Spotlight. Where I help ye get your fix of ghosts, pixies, goblins,strange customs and whatever else fellow Revivalists might find yourself into. The podcast world is a massive black hole so sit back and let us do the work for you. 

 This week we have Loremen. An odd podcast from two comedians Alasdair Beckett King and James Shakeshaft. The about me describes them both as two tall white men (You can get a picture of how this podcast is going to be already) and with their podcast they ‘investigate’ local legends and folklore along with other guest comedians. Looking through the subjects of episodes we find a wide range of topics such as sheep murders, dusty places, monsters, mass hysteria, prophets and lots of other less well covered phenomena. But if the obscure doesn’t appeal to you they also discuss the more well known like The Lambton Worm, Sawney Bean, The Mabinogian, Geff the talking Mongoose and lots of others. They have you covered basically.

 This is an extremely entertaining podcast. A nice break from the usual more academic discussions and serials that we have had so far. Each episode clocks in at just under an hour and they fit in quite a good bit saying that they have a tendency to go off on unrelated tangents for minutes at a time. The episode ‘Everything happens for the best and the pickled parson’ with guest Sindhu Vee is a great example of this as we are told all kinds of anecdotes and stories that may or not have anything to do with why everything happens for a reason. I don’t mind though as it is always funny.      

  So when you have no hair left to pull out from trying to solve your kids maths assignments take a break and tune in to this for a bit for a nice bit of stress relief.  

http://www.loremenpodcast.com

http://www.jamesshakeshaft.com/

Home

The Repeater Book of the Occult: Book Review

https://i0.wp.com/pagesofhackney.co.uk/webshop/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/71cFmVbBWLL.jpg?fit=528%2C800&ssl=1

For a clearer picture of this book you need to look at the subtitle ‘ Tales From The Darkside’ as it may be presumed from the main title and the the pentagram design on cover that the book may be a history of discourse on the occult traditions of witchcraft, ‘alternative religion’ and ceremonial magic. This is not the case as the book is in fact an anthology of classic and lesser known short tales of the supernatural and psychological.
It takes the term ‘Occult’ in the wider sense of being hidden or secret; of being occluded.
In the more common usage of the term to denote dark magic, only a few of the stories peripherally allude to this and I wonder whether the name ‘The Repeater Book of the Uncanny’ would have been a more apt description of the greater tone of the contents.
Nomenclature and cover aside, the book will still likely be of considerable interest to many Revivalists.

Each story is selected and prefaced by writers who have penned works for the Repeater publishing house and I found these introductions to be most interesting. It is intriguing to discover why they selected the particular stories they did and also the commentary on the lives and mindsets of those that scripted the strange tales. I also approve of each story being preceded by an illustration.

Included within the volume are two stories from the pen of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu ~ ‘Squire Toby’s Will’ and ‘Green Tea’.
Squire Toby’s Will concerns itself with a family feud between two brothers regarding inheritance upon the death of their father and the dark emotions and vices that arise from greed and bitterness. The other tale featured ‘Green Tea’ is the more well-known and I think stronger of the two. Its premise revolves around the popularity of Green Tea a beverage that was popular in the time of the Romantic and Gothic poets and the story’s strength is bound not to its narrative, which really doesn’t go anywhere, but its hallucinatory energy. Within the tale the drink is in part demonised as a psychotropic that causes the decline of mind of the character Jennings who drinks lakes of the stuff but in another aspect it is seen as a key to opening the mind. Jennings was also a reader of the works of mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (providing the book with one of its stronger associations to the Occult in the narrower sense) and had earmarked a passage about opening the inner eye. Alas for Jennings, the opening of his mind’s eye released madness or something perhaps worse – an actual manifestation of his shadow self. A malevolent alter-ego that appeared in the guise of a grimacing, muttering monkey. Now this may sound absurd, but consider if you were haunted by such a beast, disturbing your peace and even urging you to commit suicide!
I wonder personally whether Le Fanu should have only had one story within the compendium as with the other featured authors, and another writer to have been featured in place, but as the book revolves upon the choice of Revolver writers in selecting stories that spoke strongly to them, then it is understandable how one storyteller could feature more.

In keeping with simians and also another story with a stronger occult theme, the classic WW Jacobs’ tale The Monkey’s Paw also features in the compendium. As is the case with the author Carl Neville who selected it, this is a story that has been with me since childhood. Basically it is a moral of being careful what you wish for. A family come into the possession of a taxidermy piece – a preserved monkey’s paw that can bring desires into fruition. Sounds like a blessing but the mitt reveals itself to be more of a curse. It is a simple tale but in its telling of what lurks beyond the door of grieving is a powerful piece of horror writing.

A short segment of contemplation by the author Mary Shelley ‘On Ghosts’ is short but sweet and had space permitted I would have been interested to read more writers’ musings on supernatural matters and delivering anecdotes of creepy tales they’d heard.

Virginia Woolf’s ‘A Haunted House’ is another brief inclusion that also serves to make the book something a bit different. It is more a reverie, a daydream, a description of sensations of being in a house that may be haunted – more perhaps a prose poem than a short story as such, but it continues a mood whilst also acting perhaps as an interlude in the book.

‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ by Charlotte Perkins Gilman is one of the more well known stories in the book, but deserves to be known more widely still both in horror literature and other circles of discussion. Brave and ahead of its time (when I first read it as a teenager, I thought it had been written well into the 20th Century, rather than in 1892 and actually still upon reading it as the images play out like a film in my mind, I visualise it not in Victorian fashions but those of a later date). This is certainly due to both its timeless quality, its courageous questioning of womanhood and postnatal depression in that patriarchal era and the spectre of ‘hysteria’ that cast like a shadow over women of the period. The horror in it is not explicit – we are not told this is a definitely demon,a ghost, a vampire doppleganger or whatever but left to consider that it may very well be an inner demon manifest as a woman virtually imprisoned in her room obsesses over the yellow wallpaper in there and begins to see it take on a life of its own. Either way its build-up of dread and strangeness as the tale progresses marks it as horror as well as being an important piece of literature in other ways.

A more obscure gem in the book is Marlene Dotard’s ‘Par Avion’ from 1928. Taking as its premise the spirit communication between a living lover and one who has passed over. It does however introduce the unsettling suggestion of how malady – a virus is transmitted from the world of the dead into our world by mediumship and spreads through time. Interspersed within passages of the tale are shots of lyrical description blending scientific processes with an almost feverish mystical beauty.

A more well-known author Mark Twain, broaches contagion also in his tale Punch, Brothers, Punch’, befitting this Covid age. It is a peculiar witty story, that preceded the book and film ‘Pontypool’ by many decades, and though a beast of different tone deals in the same territory of language of words becoming viral. Tristam Adams’ introduction to his choice of tale, also struck a chord with me beginning as he does with talk of INMI (Involuntary Musical Imagery) – i.e. Ear-Worms! Because at the time of reading and for too many days surrounding I for some unfathomable reason was dealing with the song ‘Twelve Thirty (Young Girls are Coming to the Canyon)’ on a constant loop in my head. It’s a good song but damn, it got a bit much! He also speaks of another subject close to my heart (hopefully not literally) – Parasites! When working for The Wildlife Trusts in a past life, in doing environmental education activities when school groups visited the reserves, one of my perks of the job (which I must say the vast majority of kids seemed to enjoy) was telling them about the weirder, grislier, grosser wonders of nature. I must admit that in talking about the world of parasites my skin would crawl too, but damn (again) they are really fascinating creatures. And that is a joy of this book, the peculiar twists and turns the selecting writers take in the delivery of their story of choice.

Bizarre creepy-crawlies and the apparent dissolving of ‘reality’ into a psychotropic nightmare are again themes that reoccur in Francis Stevens Unseen -Unheard and again why I question if this work should perhaps have been called The Repeater Book of the Uncanny, as many of the stories seem to dwell in the moments where something happens or something encountered is not quite right and then becomes increasingly wrong.

Edgar Allan Poe’s The Black Cat is more familiar territory though for readers of horror short fiction. The classic tale of whereby a man’s cruelty and callous arrogance come back to bite him or rather in this case incriminate him for woeful wrongdoings.

The book ends with the brooding novella The Willows by Algernon Blackwood. This tale of being at the mercy of nature is apt in these days of Climate Change and is an eerie, atmospheric classic of folk horror / weird fiction in its own time and own right. The author Algernon Blackwood was himself a scholar of Rosicrucianism and a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and I wonder whether perhaps a chance was missed here as other authors of supernatural material such as Arthur Machen, WB Yeats (who wrote extensively on folklore as well as being a great poet) and even E. Nesbit were members also of The Golden Dawn. As was notoriously for a while Aleister Crowley – though certainly not the best writer (and definitely not the best poet) he did pen some short fiction and his life is certainly an interesting topic, regardless of whether your opinions on his character or literary ability are foul or fair. Perhaps should an extended edition ever come about more tales by writers actively involved in the occult in their own lives could be a factor.

As it stands, The Repeater Book of the Occult: Tales From the Darkside is a solid enough anthology of short horror, that combines some well-known classics of the tradition with some unfamiliar and offbeat fare and is enriched further by each tale being preceded by diverse and intriguing introductions and also by illustrations.

Publisher : Repeater Books; New edition (9 Feb. 2021)
Language : English
Hardcover : 350 pages
ISBN-10 : 1913462072
ISBN-13 : 978-1913462079

https://repeaterbooks.com/product/the-repeater-book-of-the-occult-tales-from-the-darkside/

https://i0.wp.com/pagesofhackney.co.uk/webshop/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/71cFmVbBWLL.jpg?fit=528%2C800&ssl=1

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Podcast Spotlight: Bone and Sickle.

Good evening my fish god obsessed cultists and welcome back to the Folk Horror Revival podcast spotlight. Firstly, I must apologize for being away so long. Christmas gluttony, frontline worker levels of tiredness and a weird case of podcast rabbit holes has kept me away. I’m back now so let’s see what we have this week: Bone and Sickle.

I believe that this particular podcast will be quite familiar with a lot of us already but for those of you who don’t know here’s a little background. Presented by folklorist Al Ridenour with his co-host Sarah Chavez, Bone and Sickle tackles stories of folklore and horror that pulls information from a wide variety of sources to give you a unique look at topics from multiple perspectives. Al covers historical, mythological, cultural and contemporary angles as he explores subjects of ghosts, devils, fairies, possessed nuns and other phenomena. I listened to a few episodes but the once concerning Banshee’s is a great example as I also covered The Irish Folklore Podcasts episode about her as well. Whereas the Folklore podcast was a fantastic academic discussion of the Banshee with lots of discussion on its history and theories on its evolution we have something totally different here. Al discusses the mythology surrounding her and Sarah does some great readings of some interesting stories and legends involving her. The episode wraps up with The Banshee on film, which to be honest I’d never given much thought to but it was great to hear especially with the audio clips included. I must watch that old Disney film one day.

On a side note I must comment on how good the presentation of this show is! You can tell that a lot of work goes into each episode. Not only through all the research and audio clips but the sound and production quality is great.

https://www.boneandsickle.com

https://instagram.com/boneandsickle?igshid=jmd48trcybf3

The Art of the Devil & The Art of the Occult: Book Reviews

https://i.thenile.io/r1000/9782374951171.jpg?r=5e9cd9203d321
https://www.azuregreen.net/Images/BARTOCC_Z.jpg

Demetrio Paparoni’s The Art of the Devil and S. Elizabeth’s The Art of the Occult are two richly illustrated collections of visual imagery dedicated to dark and hellish subjects and both are great additions to the weird / wyrd art bookshelves.
Both feature a fascinating array of images dating from centuries past to contemporary representation and therein lies a slight bone of contention for me with both books. For the art of bygone times I have no issue but raise an eyebrow at some of the choices for modern inclusion. For instance upon recieving The Art of the Devil I opened it at random and was presented with a full-page photo of popstar Robbie Williams adorning a pair of devil horns. For one, it being a personal thing and knowing that someone should not be judged by their looks, but I’m sorry I just don’t like Robbie William’s face. It could be that he frequently looks smug but whatever the reason of dislike, his smirk is not what I expected or desired to be presented with upon opening the book. Secondly there is ample choice for modern representation of devilish beings, many of which are depicted in the book, from the devil of the Legend film to Hell Boy, that a former boy-band singer seems a very weak choice for inclusion. The nearest he has probably come to the devil is living next door to the occultist musician Jimmy Page!
That aside there is some excellent art included in the book with a high quality of reproduction and both The Art of The Devil and The Art of the Occult score fairly well in my book for being relatively light on text. My personal preference for art monographs, exhibition catalogues and visual anthologies is large quality illustrations with a minimum of textual content.

https://i1.wp.com/www.romantisme-noir.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Giovanni-da-Modena_Inferno-4.jpg
Giovani de Modena: Inferno c1410
https://thegenealogyofstyle.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/temptation.jpg
Max Ernst: The Temptation of St. Anthony 1945

On this score I would’ve preferred the dimensions of The Art of the Occult to have been a slightly larger format. Again I question some of the choices of contemporary artists included. I will mention no names but leave it for readers to make up their own minds, as they may very well disagree with me but it just seems that some totally sit comfortably with the representations by old masters featured and belong to that tradition whereas others have featured occult or devilish themes apparently on a passing whim without any deeper association or interest in the subject matter.
Regarding past masters of occult art, sadly due to usage rights not being made available to the author and publishers the book alas does not feature Austin Osman Spare or Rosaleen Norton – two of the most important and powerfully impressive artists in the field. Also missing is Norman Lindsay, whose work is sublime and exquisitely crafted, but whose own contentious and unappealing opinions and ethics in life may very well have tarred him with his own brush, making it unsurprising why publishers may choose to give him a wide berth.
Aside from certain unavoidable omissions and some perhaps questionable inclusions (which as in much of art is personal taste), for the most part both books do include some glorious and grotesque powerful and intriguing works and are worthy additions to any library of the strange and wondrous.

https://i.pinimg.com/736x/c9/b9/d0/c9b9d00945f2a6ba89bea0a52b41d5eb.jpg
Marjorie Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman. 1951
https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/ab/Fleurs-du-mal_revolte.jpg
Carlos Scwabe: Revolte. 1900
The Art Of The Devil: An Illustrated History by Demetrio Paparoni


The Art of the Devil: An Illustrated History
Demetrio Padaroni
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 1st 2019 by Cernunnos
ISBN 2374951170 (ISBN13: 9782374951171)
https://www.abramsbooks.com/product/art-of-the-devil_9782374951171/
~
Art of The Occult: A Visual Sourcebook for the Modern Mystic
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published October 13th 2020 by White Lion Publishing
ISBN 0711248834 (ISBN13: 9780711248830)
https://www.quartoknows.com/books/9780711248830/The-Art-of-the-Occult.html?direct=1

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

A Taste of Urban Wyrd Cinema

Urban Wyrd: A mode not a genre. A sense of otherness within the narrative, experience, image or feeling concerning a densely human-constructed area or the in-between spaces and edge-lands bordering the bucolic and the built -up: Or surrounding modern technology with regard to another energy at play or in control: be it supernatural, spiritual, historical, nostalgic or psychological. Possibly sinister but always somehow unnerving or unnatural.

This is not an exhaustive list of Urban Wyrd films but merely a taster, concentrating on cinema releases rather than television offerings.

Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

https://img.moviemaya.com/xxrz/1200x600/204/13/4e/134ee5b20f2129303123d2e6b685c55a/134ee5b20f2129303123d2e6b685c55a.jpg

Directed by Roy Ward Baker.
No Urban Wyrd list would be complete without the featuring the work of writer Nigel Kneale and in cinematic examples this tale of the eminent scientist Bernard Quatermass and his research into ancient alien artefacts found beneath London is a neat fit. Beyond simply being hidden in the English capital’s subterranea, the influence of the extraterrestrials is discovered to be nestled deep within humankind’s psyche.

Berberian Sound Studio (2012)

https://d2ycltig8jwwee.cloudfront.net/reviews/25/fullwidth.efcb5762.jpg

Directed by Peter Strickland. A quiet British sound engineer accepts a job at an Italian film studio specialising in violent cinema. As he becomes immersed into a world of sound and intense working practice, he also finds himself immersed into the brutal world unfolding onscreen.

Dead Man’s Shoes (2004)

https://filmdaily.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/Dead-Mans-Shoes.jpg

Directed by Shane Meadows. Returning to his home town, a hardened soldier tracks down the gang who tormented his vulnerable brother whilst he was away. A brutal kitchen-sink revenge thriller with a twist in its tale.

The Apartment Trilogy:
Repulsion (1965)
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
The Tenant (1976)

https://folkhorrorrevival.files.wordpress.com/2021/01/028ea-repulsion7.jpg
Repulsion
https://i0.wp.com/clothesonfilm.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/12/Rosemarys-Baby_Mia-Farrow_plaid-scarf_Gatsby.bmp.jpg?resize=800%2C477
Rosemary’s Baby
https://www.starkinsider.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/the-tenant-roman-polanski-film-apartment-paris.jpg
The Tenant

Directed by Roman Polanski. Polanski’s career and creation has been overshadowed by the heinous crimes commited by him and there is no morally sound defense of the man. Whether art and artist can be divided however is a personal decision, yet films are a sum of parts – cast, crew, director; and The Apartment Trilogy is a significant element of cinema invoking the Urban Wyrd mode.
In Repulsion we see madness envelop and absorb a young woman within her apartment in London, whereas in Rosemary’s Baby (shot at the Dakota building in New York that has its own real-life urban wyrd history) a young couple move into a building where the husband falls under the spell of his overbearing elderly neighbours whilst his wife falls pregnant but all may not be fine with her baby.
The Tenant is the least known and possibly weakest of the trilogy, but this tale of a man moving into a Parisian apartment where the neighbours are somewhat off, is certainly well worth a watch, but as it does star Roman Polanski himself, some viewers may choose to bypass this one.

Possum (2018)

https://i1.wp.com/setthetape.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/possum-cover.jpg?fit=1200%2C460&ssl=1

Directed by Matthew Holness. Following a scandal, a puppeteer moves back to his childhood home where his past and present continue to haunt him. A child vanishes whilst the marionette maker is tormented by one of his own creations. The shooting locations and Radiophonic soundtrack of this psychological thriller add to its dank unsettling atmosphere.

Eraserhead (1977)

https://rantbit.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/eraserhead_7.jpg

Directed by David Lynch. Henry, a nervous quiet man discovers that his girlfriend has given birth but the baby is deformed, sickly and incessantly crying. In a mix of domestic strangeness and factory surrealism, Henry is caused to confront life in Lynch’s weird and grotesquely beautiful cinematic debut.

Under the Skin (2013)

https://i2.wp.com/images.fandango.com/MDCsite/images/featured/201309/Scarlett-Johansson-in-Under-the-Skin-2012-Movie-Image.jpg

Directed by Jonathan Glazer. This loose adaption of Michael Faber’s book of the same name quite possibly owes more to Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth as it does the source novel, concerning itself with an alien on earth with a purpose but discovering more about itself whilst discovering humankind. One of the oddest road movies out there, this film features some atmospheric and impressive photography and sound work.

Crash (1996)

Crash (1996) | JPK's Adventures in Cinema

Directed by David Cronenberg. A good portion of Cronenberg’s films have an urban wyrd edge, so which to go for here? Let’s opt for 1996’s Crash which has perhaps the most unconventional narrative, dealing as it does with the world of symphorophilia – the kink of being sexually aroused by observing and even orchestrating disasters – most pertinently in this film in the form of automobile accidents. Based on a novel by maestro of the urban wyrd JG Ballard, this is perhaps not the most joyful or comfortable watch but is an intriguing shard of cinematic history.

Themroc (1973)

Themroc (Claude Faraldo, 1973) - obscure objects of desire

Directed by Claude Faraldo. The 1973 French movie Themroc is another curious piece of cinema. It follows a day in the life of titular character Themroc, but not just any day. It is the day that he grows weary of his humdrum job and his apartment block existence and turns instead to incest with his sister, the cannibalism of a policeman and destruction on a scale that soon extends beyond anarchy but into a chaotic riotous regression into a primitive existence.

Films selected by Andy Paciorek
See more here




I Am The Dark Tourist by H.E. Sawyer: Book Review

https://125226589.r.directcdn.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/I-Am-the-Dark-Tourist-600.jpg


This book really makes you think, at least it made me think.
Following on from my recent reading of Peter Laws’ The Frighteners (review here) where in wider terms questions and considerations are made regarding as to why some individuals are drawn towards macabre subjects; H.E. Sawyer takes this enigma into a more specific territory – not that of fiction but in the physical visitation of real life sites of tragedy and trauma.

H.E. Sawyer is a Dark Tourist, his time and money is spent upon excursions to places such as Hiroshima, New York’s 9/11 Ground Zero, The Killing Fields of Cambodia, the Chernobyl / Pripyat atomgrad (see also) and even deep sea diving to explore shipwrecks that lie among the fishes on the ocean floor. Within his book and visits – he questions what it means to be a Dark Tourist and the motivations and morals of such a pursuit. To some people Dark Tourists may seem like glorified ambulance chasers – sick ghouls seeking pleasure from the pain of others – Some probably are and some are perhaps shameful in actions of naïveté, as pointed out by Sawyer in his observations upon people taking less than respectful selfies at Auschwitz and other areas of mass death, but humankind is a complex race and the aspect of Dark Tourism is multi-layered and diverse in its individual motivations.

Some people maybe think it is wrong to visit such sites, that it is disrespectful to the dead and their families, but could it be a case that they just feel uncomfortable themselves at facing death and would rather not dwell on such thoughts and such places? Perhaps in some cases, but not all as individuals have different motives, intentions and expectations and Dark Tourism is a complicated business. ‘Business’ being an operative word – places like Auschwitz and the World Trade Centre memorial facilities want you to visit and want you to even buy mementos. Their motivations however are not simply dark capitalism as they want to educate people about what happened, they want people to remember and not forget and like the Hiroshima and Nagasaki rememberance centres to influence people to strive for a more peaceful world.

Like it or not, as a species humankind does have a death obsession – watch a day’s TV and see how much threat to and loss of life is covered in the news bulletins and how many lives are lost in the fiction of films and TV shows. Death is an everpresent fact of life and Dark Tourism is an aspect of that. It is not unnatural for people to be fascinated by large traumatic events that have left a mark on our collective psyche and history. Some places where tragedy has struck encourage people to come visit but others such as the Aokighara ‘suicide forest’ in Japan want tourism but promote the great natural beauty of the place as the lure rather than the fact that it has gained notoriety as a place where many people have chosen to end their own lives. Aberfan in Wales, the small mining village that in 1966 found greater prominence on the map when a pit spoil collapsed causing a flood of slurry and stone to cascade into dwellings below; most notably the local primary school, is also a matter of great consideration. The disaster claimed 144 lives; 116 of them children. Though half a century has passed, the grief is still very intense and the village seeks privacy to mourn. With other sites particularly the ones that seek visitors, the feelings of the victims’ families may be mixed; but places such as Aberfan cause Sawyer to question whether he is right and whether he has any right to visit places where the mourning is more insular.

Motivation and action are key factors in the consideration of Dark Tourism both for the individual traveller and to those looking upon them and forming their own views on the practice. Why are you going? What will you do there? What will you do upon your return? With Aberfan, Sawyer reveals that upon hearing the breaking news of the tragedy as a child, it alerted him to the fact that death may not be far away from anyone and that children are by no means immune. That moment stuck with him and though he knew nobody personally affected by the disaster it may be said that he feels a connection to the tragedy. Whilst there he mostly kept his head down, visiting the place of rest and laying flowers upon the grave of one child but in the heart intended for all. He spent time at the local library there, learning about the disaster – its cause and effect and how it was reported to the wider world. It seems that Sawyer educating himself not only about Aberfan but about all the sites, is not simply for the book – though the knowledge he shares about each location is extremely fascinating and captivating – but because he seems to feel it is right to know and understand the place, the devastating event and the people both alive and dead that it affected as best as he possibly can. He is not simply there to take selfies.

From his travels he has brought back a book – a very good book, that informs about these locations and the tragedies that befell them but also that openly questions his own motivations and his own life-experiences that may have inspired him to specifically seek out and visit sites of tremendous sorrow and death. In reading this book, it may cause others , like it did me, to question themselves as to how they really feel about such matters as Dark Tourism and if they too perhaps share a saturnine, even morbid interests, then why this may be.

But Sawyer is also honest and witty enough to to share his opinion of the cafes and facilities (including the toilet facilities) and his interest in purchasing souvenirs from the sites that sell them. He is a tourist after all – He is the dark tourist.

Product details

  • Publisher : Headpress
  • Language: : English
  • Paperback : 292 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1909394580
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1909394582

Reviewed by Andy Paciorek

Podcast Spotlight: Folklore.

 Happy Christmas all you Goblins and Wraiths out there in internet land. I hope you are all keeping well and not letting the Christmas cheer turn you into piles of ash. We have a special treat for you this week as we were given the opportunity to hear a new podcast that is due to be released soon. It’s name is Folklore and is from Tamsin Wheatley……Or is it? 

  I’ll be honest. Much like the structure of the podcast itself the way this has come about is just as mysterious. We get a message informing us of this new podcast and were offered a chance to hear it before it’s unleashed upon the public. Who is this Tamsin? Why does she want us to hear it? (If another review doesn’t get posted next week you’ll know it didn’t end well.) Anyway… Tamsin is a radio presenter and an avid fan of crisps. (Whether she is a harbinger of doom for blogger ups remains to be seen.) This is her first foray into the world of podcasts and by what I heard it’ll be a grand one too.

Or is she any of this at all? I honestly don’t know what’s real and what’s fictional about this. But you know what? That plays in its favour. Go on to Tamsin’s Twitter account and you’ll see requests for ghost stories and weird tales you have to be submitted and a countdown of excitement for it’s release. And then you sit down and listen to it….. 

 From the description on its website I was expecting to hear a discussion on local Wiltshire based folklore and hauntings but instead of that I was surprised to find I was listening to an audio drama about a mysterious set of tapes and the impending investigation that goes on around them. I don’t want to give the plot away too much but we follow the narrator retracing the footsteps of her old college professor and the locations of incidentshe documented on the tapes. If you are a fan of The Lovecraft Investigations, The Black Tapes and The White Vault you are going to like this and it easily holds up to the production levels of those as well. 

 Folklore is released on 26/12/2020 so keep your eyes and ears peeled and definitely give it a subscribe. 

https://mobile.twitter.com/TimTamWheatley

Charity Donation: Winter Solstice 2020

❄🌞Winter Solstice Greetings 🌞❄

To mark the occasion Folk Horror Revival / Wyrd Harvest Press / Urban Wyrd Project have again charitably donated sales profits from our books to a Wildlife Trusts project voted for by some members of this group.This time around we are happy to grant The Scottish Wildlife Trusts £800 to help with their Beaver reintroduction project. Thank you to all who voted and especially Thank You to those who have bought our books. Not only have you purchased works by and featuring some of the greatest contributors to folk horror, urban wyrd and other associated fields, you have helped to benefit wildlife conservation work.
Very Best Wishes.

To buy our books – https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek

To donate directly to the Wildlife Trusts

https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/donate-appeal

Beavers, mammals animals antique illustration

Podcast Spotlight: Ghosts and Folklore of Wales with Mark Rees.

Boglins and Boggarts! Fire breathing dogs and hairy hands in the fog! Welcome all to this week’s Folk Horror Revival podcast spotlight. This week we head into the mountains of Wales where Journalist and writer Mark Rees presents his very own podcast about its haunted landscape. 

Mark is a journalist that has been covering the Welsh arts for many years now. His work appears in many publications and he has even had his own work adapted to the stage in the form of a play called Phantoms that was based on his writing. He has also written a few books. A few of which should be of particular interest to us here and they are Ghosts of Wales: Accounts from the Victorian archives, The A-Z of Curious Wales and Paranormal Wales. His next book will be about Welsh folklore and is titled Illustrated Tales of Wales and will be available in 2021. As if that isn’t enough though he also hosts Ghosts of Wales- Live! An evening of all things paranormal and Welsh. Sounds good to me! 

 The podcast itself is a great lighthearted look at everything that goes bump in the night, or day, in Wales. I am only nine episodes in but so far we have two headed phantoms, ghostly dogs, a strange and possibly paranormal statue, abusive ghosts and an entertaining episode about hoaxes. There is lots of information packed into each episode as Mark clearly does a lot of research and has a lot of extra background information to expand on the subjects. He dedicated the whole of October to Welsh Halloween related tales and he looks to be doing the same for December. I saw an episode dedicated to the Folk Horror Revival’s favorite horse; the Mari Lwyd and another on the tradition that everyone could do with more of. The ghost story for Christmas Eve. 

Well there isn’t much more to add except for saying that I enjoyed it. I look forward to listening to more and I recommend giving it a listen.