This vibrant collection of award-winning supernatural stories from around the world offers something for every taste in the uncanny. Yes, there are ghosts. But you’ll also find pieces involving revenants or reanimated corpses of different sorts, including—but not limited to—zombies, as well as stories that make literary use of fairies, vampires, demons, The Devil Himself, snakes (talking, and otherwise), time slips (aka unintentional time travel), mystery animals, ancient curses, contemporary curses, a plague even scarier than the coronavirus, Santería, and a number of haunted objects, including fine dinnerware, some smoky panes of old window glass, and a stuffed rabbit with a bad attitude. We’ve got several stories that fit the category of magic realism, a couple that are just plain hard to categorize, and one that has to do with dragons. Each of these 30 stories, in addition to providing the reader with a thrill, a chill, a laugh, or a new perspective on life and death, is also a small literary gem that you’ll want to revisit again and again.
Having proved a big hit on the film festival circuit Kier~La Janisse’s magnus opus is now available to buy. At over 3 hours long, Folk Horror Revival creator Andy Paciorek and Co-founder & project manager Darren Charles were honoured to be part of this fantastic, bewitching award- winning documentary which also features music by our esteemed colleagues Grey Malkin and film footage by John Chadwick. Nestled among a wealth of talent such as the directors Piers Haggard, Robert Eggers & Lawrence Gordon Clark, actors Alice Lowe and Ian Ogilvy, screenwriter Jeremy Dyson and a whole host of horror historians and revivalists including Gail-Nina Anderson, Mark Pilkington, Kat Ellinger, Lindsay Hallam, Ian Cooper and many, many more.
Covering folk horror from numerous different angles and locations across decades, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched is not only one of the most thorough horror media documentaries across the board but specifically is a must-watch for all disciples of the old ways. Kier~La Janisse has poured heart and soul into this epic venture and has created a classic out of a cult. Highly recommended.
It is available to purchase as a stand alone Blu Ray or as part of the impressive Severin Films folk horror box set All the Haunts Be Ours which boasts 20 feature films – including a new 4K scan from the original negative of the long-unavailable EYES OF FIRE – over 70 bonus features, a soundtrack CD, a spoken word album of Arthur Machen’s THE WHITE PEOPLE read by Linda Hayden of Blood on Satan’s Claw with an original score by Timothy Fife, and a book introduced by Folk Horror Revival’s Andy Paciorek, and featuring new writing by Dawn Keetley, Sarah Chavez, Stephen Volk, Dejan Ognjanovic, Stephen Bissette, Mitch Horowitz, alongside archival pieces, all beautifully designed by Luke Insect.
Hurry though as the even more special special edition set The Witches Bundle which also featured a poster, Owl Service plate, Key-rings, an Oracle deck and other goodies has already sold out.
After having to cancel last year’s Winter Ghosts due to our old friend Covid-19 we are pulling out all the stops to ensure this year’s event is a sumptuous feast for the eyes and ears. This year’s event features the usual selection of talks and music as well as some pretty exciting performances, that we’re keeping a little bit under wraps for the time being, as well as a classic film that we will be unveiling in the very near future.
As many of us are based in wyrm country, up in the North East we have chosen a cryptid theme to this year’s event. So, expect to be regaled with tales of dragons, serpents and sea monsters.
Anyway, without further ado, here is our first lineup announcement. We are keeping all the juicy details close to our chests for now, but we wanted to share with you the supremely talented individuals who will be set to entertain you across the weekend of November 27th and 28th.
First up on the speaker list is an old friend of Folk Horror Revival, Dr Sarah Caldwell Steele – proprietor of The Ebor Jetworks, Gemologist, jewellery designer and expert in all things Jet. Sarah will be presenting a fascinating new talk for us.
The Shrouded Republic is a performance piece inspired by Rev. Robert Kirk of Aberfoyle author of “The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies: A Study in Folklore and Psychical Research” and brings together once again the team that were responsible for the rather wonderful Leasungspell. Led by poet and author Bob Beagrie this promises to be a fascinating piece that needs to be seen.
Up next is Dr David. R Rowe or “Doc” for short. Doc Rowe is an archivist and collector, who has been recording and filming cultural tradition and vernacular arts, folklore, song and dance of Britain and Ireland since the 1960s. His collection currently represents the most extensive collection of audio and video material to celebrate the variety and richness of traditional folk culture of these islands. We look forward to revealing more details about his talk.
We are also incredibly proud to announce that Richard Freeman – Cryptozoologist, writer of both fiction and non-fiction and one of the world’s leading experts on all things Dragon will be joining us to present a talk on what lies behind the dragon legends and is there a possibility that these were more than just folklore?
We are also joined by The Hazelsong Theatre, whose work is rooted in the songs, stories, myth and folklore of the North and the Borderlands and the many cultures that have made the North their home. Hazelsong creates performances which bring together music, storytelling, puppetry and theatre borne of the knowledge that these stories and songs are very much alive. For us they will be presenting a talk on John McKinnell with a vaguely tame wyrm or two in attendance.
Evening Music Lineup
Our evening musical lineup is also very strong and features some of the most interesting performers working within the field today.
Folk Horror Revival are really pleased to be working with one of the brightest new lights in electronic music, Everyday Dust. Everyday Dust is a producer based in Scotland, who uses analogue synthesizers, effects and tape machines to create his own unique narrative-driven music. His most recent album for Castles in Space records, Black Water is a deeply immersive electronic album of sonar explorations which celebrate the ongoing search for the creature at large in Loch Ness. We think you’ll love what could well turn out to be his debut live performance.
Nathalie Stern and the Noizechoir are local legends in the Newcastle music scene, mixing drones and lush harmonised vocals Nathalie and the choir perform music to invoke elder gods to. Why not have a listen to last year’s Nerves and Skin album by Nathalie, that should give you an idea of what to expect from what is a hotly anticipated set.
Our final musical act are darkwave and industrial legends Attrition, after more than 40 years of producing interesting dark electronic music they remain as strong as ever, continually adapting and honing their sound, the group led by Martin Bowes remain at the cutting edge of modern day electronica and remain as influential on today’s artists as they ever have. We are very excited to see what they have in store for us at Winter Ghosts.
Ok that’s almost it, apart from one more artist, a super-secret film screening that we will be announcing in the not-too-distant future, and the relaxed Sunday lineup that is also coming soon. I hope that has whetted your appetite for this year’s Winter Ghosts. Tickets are available now from our Eventbrite page below priced at a modest £13 for the whole weekend. We hope to see many of you there.
Richard Skelton is an artist, musician and writer from Lancashire in northern England. His work is informed by landscape, evolving from sustained immersion in specific environments and deep, wide-ranging research incorporating ecology and geology, folklore, myth and language. He currently runs Corbel Stone Press with his wife, the Canadian poet, Autumn Richardson.
Folk Horror Revival’s John Pilgrim recently caught up with Richard to make a few routine enquiries on matters of mutual interest and fascination. The responses set the scene for a reflective review by Foster Neville of Richard’s second novella ‘And Then Gone’.
FHR: Deepening the sensory connection with landscape is a central preoccupation in your work. How has your experience of landscape changed over the years and has it been different for you over the last year or so?
I’ve become increasingly interested in physicality — touch, weight, attrition, decay — and the internally transformative effect of contact. What you might call ‘contagious magic’. I’m also drawn more and more to the non-corporeal analogue of the physical. I’m not conventionally religious, but these lines from Paracelsus say it better than I can:
‘It is opposed to all true philosophy to say that flowers lack their own eternity. They may perish and die here; but they will reappear in the restitution of all things. Nothing has been created out of the Great Mystery which will not inhabit a form beyond the aether.’
As so much else has fallen away in the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to explore my local landscape more than ever before. Being restricted to a particular area has sharpened my focus, and I’ve been making more films and visual works as a result.
FHR: Please can you tell us about Corbel Stone Press – what is its purpose and how has it evolved over the years? Are there any publications or recordings which you would particularly recommend to those of a folk horror persuasion?
We publish books, pamphlets, music, artworks and editions that focus on landscape and the natural world. We’re particularly interested in the folkloric and mythical. ‘Reliquiae’, our biannual journal of prose, poetry and translations, might be of interest because, over the course of the past eight years, we’ve been trying to shed light on the other-than-human, primarily through the lens of world mythology. My previous novella, ‘The Look Away’, and its poetic companion, ‘Dark Hollow Dark’, might also appeal to your readers, as, like ‘And Then Gone’, they both present an immersion in the rural landscape that is far from bucolic.
FHR: You once buried and exhumed a violin. Can you say more about this and what you gained from the experience?
Yes, back in 2014 I interred a violin at Ouseburn, Newcastle, as part of a commission for the AV Festival. It was something I’d done privately before — albeit obliquely documented in my book, ‘Landings’ — and represents my most obvious experiment with contagious magic. I wanted the land to impart itself viscerally on the music that I was to create. It was a ritual surrender to telluric energies; an exchange with the genius loci.
FHR: We live in troubled times. Your work – whether sonic, written or visual – appears to offer a therapeutic aspect. Is this something which you have consciously developed?
It’s probably a truism to say that all artistic endeavour is therapeutic for the artist involved — so much so that for me it’s a compulsion. I feel ill at ease if I’m not working on something. But I don’t think about it beyond that. I try not to reflect on how a work might manifest whilst I’m working on it. In any case, much of what I create often doesn’t see the light of day. The process of creation itself is nearly always private. It’s a continual process, like an underground river that occasionally surfaces here and there.
FHR: What are your current projects and future plans?
I’ve spent much of the past 3 years researching a book that will be published on the summer solstice. It’s called ‘Stranger in the Mask of a Deer’, and it’s a kind of literary seance between the present and the Late-Upper Palaeolithic, some 15,000 years ago. This was the time when the land that became Britain began to emerge from the ice that covered northern Europe. I wanted to think about how humans of that time related to the land, and to plants and animals. It’s full of fear, violence and blood, but also a sense of equality and respect between humans and the other agencies of the natural world. There will also be an accompanying short film, entitled ‘Before Albion’.
Review of ‘And Then Gone’ by Foster Neville
Richard Skelton’s second novella, ‘And Then Gone’, charts the journey of a woman travelling back to her childhood home through a landscape which but for its lack of people would have been familiar to Northumberland poet Basil Bunting. The disaster which prompts this journey is never named but the protagonist’s ‘dense violent dreams/Dreamed with soul and body’ suggest perhaps the aftermath of a war; the woman returning like a ghost ‘to tell the story/Until the dawn command’1. Her special relationship with the emptied landscape is akin to a survivor and also that imagined of bog bodies, with their supposed deep involvement in the cycles of birth, death, harvest and renewal.
“In the country, where one can often see an entire parish from boundary to boundary, one can also often see one’s entire life. It is comforting – and painful”. (Roland Blythe, Divine Landscapes)
Just as the title itself works backwards from the last line, ‘And then gone’, one can profitably examine Richard Skelton’s book in light of its own back matter question: “Are our minds like the land? Bounded.” It is part of the deftness of touch evident in this work that the idea of mind as a narrative and the way such a narrative must break the rules of English sentence construction to communicate itself are allowed to shape this eloquent, poetical little book (205 pages of widely spaced ‘paragraphs’).
A cursory flick through the pages, a sensual pleasure not to be underestimated in this age of diminishing bookshops and physical contact, reveals beneath the thumb short, stanza-like ‘paragraphs’ which immediately made me think of ‘Vägmärken’ by Dag Hammarskjöld with its flashes of an inner history put into words. ‘And then gone’ however, is a work of creative fiction and therefore to be considered much more than a collection of pensèes. The reader, like a pilgrim, follows a path into a layered story which is very much concerned with flesh and spirit. It also has often a strong feel of initiation to it, together with the disorientation of the senses which accompany formal rituals. To understand this is the better to appreciate what comes next.
Picture a zoetrope, the vertical slits allowing only brief glimpses of images to give the illusion of the movement which is the definition of life. Between each slightly different image however, there is blackness, shadow. To slow down the movement of the zoetrope is to become more aware of the resonant space between. ‘And then gone’, as the title demonstrates, draws on the fact that there is no renewal in nature without loss; no light without shade. ‘And then gone’ also points to the erosion of things and how with that erosion come new stimuli. To continue a cinematic, or rather a theatrical analogy, the occasional Italics come across like stage directions: read in the wings and therefore contrasting the bright and thrilling light of the active stage. This is very fitting for a work which despite the fragmentary presentation (ambient sound – and the eerie silences found at old execution places, all manner of light and perfume), maintains dramatic development.
My old university tutor had a party trick, which was to take a copy of any book by Dickens and open it in the middle to show that here was to be found either the peak of action or the most telling point of the whole work. We were all quite convinced until later we discovered Dickens originally published in monthly parts, yet the habit to throw open a book in the middle and see what presents is hard to give up. Page 111 here feels like midway and we find:
His dreams now, full of her, her voice, the shape of her body. The longing of youth, a fire by the waters of adulthood. Revel in it, though it burns the skin.
The writing is never less than poetic. Rather suggestively, instead of the usual roman number IX – i.e. ten minus one – for nine, page 111 is preceded by a chapter/part marker of VIIII; breaking another rule, this time the rule of repeating ‘1’ more than three times being invalid. And this ahead of page 111. More ritual, more disorientation? But what I want to draw attention to here is why this is a particularly good book to read right now, because as of 2020 we have all developed skin hunger: we want the reassurance which comes only from human touch. As a book presented in stages, though leading to disappearance, this particular extract and where it appeared did make me reflect upon that brain surge which occurs at the ages of 14-17, and the connection to the next, higher brain level.
‘And then gone’, in spite of – or perhaps because of – its title is a far-seeing book. But it does not present a conventional way of looking any more than it presents a traditional way of laying out a book, or of organising words into sentences and those sentences into paragraphs. It is too easy to say the work is ‘impressionistic’, and in any case the details are always very clear and I have tried to emphasise that what one senses is less the light than the dark between. Certainly though there is landscape, there are textures. This is from the penultimate page:
The mist is thicker now. Rubbing at the shapes of things. Gathering about her.
And this is from ‘Vägmärken’ again:
“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing”. – Meister Eckhart.
Truth, as I think most of us acknowledge now, is likely to be found at the edges of things. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say it is something we encounter at the edges of things, as to say ‘found’ is to suggest that such a truth could be possessed and somehow carried away from such a point with us (I’m conscious of straying into Damaris Parker-Rhodes territory here, and yet the pilgrim in us all should not be neglected and journeys are no longer the preserve of saints or great visionaries). Whatever our beliefs, we aspire to self-knowledge and to greater knowledge of the world about us; we seek places of revelation (Pendle, Lindisfarne) as we seek enlightenment. Our minds do appear to us a limited territory, to go beyond which means what many term madness. If we therefore can say our minds are bounded by sense, then by playing with that sense we can go beyond our minds to a different consciousness. The temporary dislocation from our normal perceptions and everyday world (close as that is to a working definition of Folk Horror; ) one could argue is an important part of the reading of any work of fiction, as it is of any ritual initiation ceremony.
What is it we encounter, once we move from our comfortable world? Field, hill, forest, river are sketched across with man’s symbols from earlier traditions. And not only his symbols. Were one to note all of the psychic happenings that have been recorded across England, there is not a single natural contour would be without a haunting of some sort. Telepathy has been suggested for that age-old phenomenon of the dying being seen by loved ones, often at great distances. Psychic happenings are all around us, and within us.
‘And then gone’ is available from corbelstonepress.com in paperback for £12.00.
The forest is a potent symbol in the human psyche, it represents the primal, beyond civilisation, life giving but also harbouring unseen dangers. In his introduction to this collection of forest themed weird fiction, William P. Simmons notes that it can be treated in three major ways in such tales- as an eerie setting, whereby it’s remoteness allows cover for all manner of horror, a domain where witches, werewolves and demons can hide; that occult forces be born of it and act as the personification of nature, such as satyrs and elementals or that nature itself is a sentient being beyond human understanding. The tales collected here represent all three.
The tales are drawn from the late 19th century & early 20th century. Some are likely to be well known to folk horror fans, such as Arthur Machen’s The White People and MR James’ View From A Hill, both frequently anthologised but always welcome, while others are completely new to me, such as The Dead Valley, by Ralph Adams Cram, an eerie tale of a deadly landscape, high in the Swedish mountains.
The death of Pan is something often quoted, but judging by some of the tales here, he’s very much alive and lurking, Algernon Blackwood’s The Touch of Pan has him as nature personified, way beyond our concepts of good and evil, and he also turns up in Algernon Blackwood’s The Touch of Pan and E.M. Forster’s The Story Of A Panic.
The collection is rounded out with an appendix reprinting an essay on sylvan horrors by the ghost hunter Elliott O’Donnell, who, while not necessarily the most reliable source as a researcher, spins a great yarn. This makes for some eerie entertainment, with accounts of pixies and haunted trees.
This is a great collection of sylvan horror tales, ideal late-night reading, when the wind is whipping branches against your windows…
Grimoire Silvanus is a relatively new zine but they’ve put out three issues in around 6 months, which is a pretty commendable work rate. It’s not just quantity either, each issue has been really high quality. Much of their content focusses on interactions with the landscape, and in this new issue we get LB Limbrey on suburban weird, encountering the strange in brownfield and edgeland sites, haunted houses and residual ancient presences in suburban woodland. Gradior Inlustria contributes an article on the joys and trials of visiting lesser known or forgotten stones circles, what they lack in ease of visiting they can make up for in atmosphere and sense of power. In a similar vein, Quisdeus Fortis gives us an account of seeking out carvings of sun goddess on Bidston Hill in the Wirrall. I always particularly enjoy people delving into their local weirdness.
The issue is rounded out by an article on the folklore of freshwater mermaids- often the spirits of drowned women as well as supernatural creatures like the Rusulka of Eastern Europe, an article on the significance of water in tarot and one on making maps to reimagine an area. It also includes a timely reminder that there’s no place for fascists and racists in our cultural space, which is great to see (though sad it needs to be said).
This is all presented on nice, thick paper, with lots of full colour, atmospheric photographs and it looks fantastic.
Another great issue of what’s become one of my favourites of the current crop of folklore zines. Copies can be ordered here.
Having previously reviewed John Towlson’s wonderful Candyman monograph from the Devil’s Advocates series from Auteur books, I was delighted to receive another two books from the collection with some serious folk horror credentials. The books in question are David Evans-Powell’s monograph of The Blood on Satan’s Claw and Brandon Grafius’ treatment on The Witch.
The Devil’s Advocates range is aimed at exploring the classics of horror cinema, and the contributors are generally firmly entrenched in that world via careers in academia, journalism or through their own contributions to the literature of horror. What is evident from the very beginning is that those who have been asked to write these books are passionate and knowledgeable about their subject matter and whilst the books have a certain academic quality to the writing they are never overly wordy or impenetrable.
The Blood on Satan’s Claw by David Evans-Powell
One of the unholy triumvirate of films that are deemed the very cornerstones of the Folk Horror movement, Blood on Satan’s Claw (1971) is a supernatural horror movie set in a small rural English village in the 18th century. After the discovery of a sinister looking skull in a freshly ploughed field, a series of bizarre occurrences take place among the village’s young people culminating in a ritual rape and human sacrifice. In recent years the film has become a classic of the Folk Horror genre and David Evans-Powell’s monograph is a thorough and interesting delve into the film’s history, looking at its position within the Folk Horror oeuvre, its relationship to the landscape and nature, and its socio-political message, particularly its relationship to the late 60s and early 70s counterculture.
The book is divided up into series of different sections, the first provides a brief synopsis of the film and an introduction that places the film within the context of the time it was made, and in relation to other films of the time. The next section looks at the film’s production and reception, this introduces the reader to some of the key figures involved in making Blood on Satan’s Claw such a runaway success. There are sub-sections on cinematographer Dick Bush, director Piers Haggard, composer/musician Marc Wilkinson and screenwriter Robert Wynne-Simmons, as well as the film’s production that provide a lot of valuable information about the film’s genesis and how it all came together. The next couple of sections deal with the importance of the landscape and how it is used in the film, as well as looking at nature and the way the setting juxtaposes the simple superstition of the rural setting with that of the rational, enlightened city (London).
Beyond that Evans-Powell delves into ideas about a past the refuses to be forgotten, the concept of “reviving forgotten horrors” to paraphrase the great Patrick Wymark in his role as the judge. This section is interesting and provides some fascinating and detailed discussion of our pagan past. The final section is called Anarchy in the UK and features a fairly in-depth discussion of the film’s relationship to the counter-culture movement of the 60s and 70s, particularly the darker side of that movement with a focus on the Manson murders and English child murderer Mary Bell.
Evans-Powell has written a powerful and fascinating monograph that is very readable. He manages to cram a lot of intriguing detail into such a short book yet it never feels as though the reader is overloaded with information, and it always feels relevant and interesting.
The Witch by Brandon Grafius
The second of our two books is a monograph based around the Robert Eggars film The Witch. Much like Blood on Satan’s Claw the film has become synonymous with the Folk Horror movement and has achieved a similar status as a classic of the genre. If Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Wicker Man and Witchfinder General are the classic unholy triumvirate, The Witch is one of the titles that fits the bill as their modern equivalent, alongside films like Kill List, November, In the Earth and Midsommar it sits at the forefront of the Folk Horror revival.
Brandon Grafius is a Professor of Biblical studies at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary in Detroit, and is well noted for his writing on the subject of religion and horror. The book is heavy on facts and Grafius provides some tremendous background information about the time in which the film is set. Eggars himself spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on researching the period in order to bring the film a realness. Grafius does much the same for the study of the film, and after delving into New England’s puritan past and considering the context of the witch trials that took place in the late 17th century, he takes the reader on a whistle stop journey through the realms of literature, cinema and folklore in order to place The Witch within the context of what we call folk horror. The sections on The Witch as folk horror and the folklore associated with the film and witchcraft in general are excellent, well researched and kept me hooked in. These are followed by a section discussing the film’s main characters, that features some interesting analysis of not only the family and their flawed existence but even Black Philip himself.
Much like Evans-Powell’s Blood on Satan’s Claw, The Witch is a well-researched and beautifully written monograph that provides a fascinating and in-depth study of a classic film in around a hundred pages. As with the previously reviewed Candyman it has be said that Auteur have really come up trumps with this wonderful series of short monographs looking at the classics of horror cinema. I have already started to build a list of the other titles in the series that I need to check out.