A further selection of images from The 2018 Whitby Krampus Run
organised by Elaine Edmunds and Louse Mitchell of Decadent Drawing
To see more
A selection of images from The 2018 Whitby Krampus Run
organised by Elaine Edmunds and Louse Mitchell of Decadent Drawing
Again to make it VERY VERY CLEAR Folk Horror Revival is against all bigotry and always has been.
Do NOT think for a second that this is virtue signalling- it is NOT! , there are very personal reasons for us taking this stance and recent occurrences have prompted us to speak out loud and clear!
It is clearly stated in our Facebook group rules and description –
“No hate speech or bullying
Make sure everyone feels safe. Bullying of any kind isn’t allowed, and degrading comments about things such as race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender or identity will not be tolerated.”
We wanted Folk Horror Revival to be as apolitical as possible, but the recent threats made to a friend and associate of ours by Neo-Nazi Heathens has forced our hand to clearly and undoubtedly state that FOLK HORROR REVIVAL IS AGAINST FASCISM!!
Yet some folk have completely wrongly accused us or implied otherwise.
Our admins work extremely hard to keep posts from fascist factions out of the group and to refuse admittance to people of that ilk who request to join. They are sneaky bastards though and sometimes creep in as wolves in sheep’s clothing. As soon as we are aware they are gone in a cloud of dust.
Other folk without reading our group description or rules have misunderstood some posts. To clarify – “The posting of Tribal, folk custom and / or other cultural items is allowed but not intended to be seen as ‘horror’ but is shared for inspirational and educational purposes. No offense is intended by the sharing of such material and respect should be accordingly granted in response.” We will discuss the matter with members who question the material. However if they do it in a hostile manner, they are also breaking group rules and that must be addressed. We will handle the issue but we will NOT tolerate being abused by anyone.
We reserve the right to censor and delete comments (even those we may agree with). That does not make us a Totalitarian regime, it is us making Our group a safe, pleasant place and not yet another internet battleground that the arrogant think they have a right to soil with their arguments. There are plenty other places to do that, Not FHR.
Any post that a person has issue with can be reported to Admins and we will deal with it. Don’t take matters into your own hands. This provokes fights and it is not what we want for our group.
It is Our group – Our Rules . Break them and your comments and in some cases your membership will be removed. We will not tolerate bullying to the Admins or other Members. If anyone has a problem with that, they are free and welcome to leave the group. We have blocked more people than many other groups will ever have joining them, so numbers matter little to us.
Our rules and stance are not up for debate – abide or leave, either through your own choice or ours.
I also want to push further the point about our stance from my personal perspective.
I – Andy Paciorek – am the creator of Folk Horror Revival – I am of mixed nationality. I am a mongrel, a nomad and as such Nationalism is abhorrent to me and therefore it is frankly very obvious that my creation, my project would not support that. Especially as my father was lucky to survive passing through Auschwitz and being interred in Belsen as a teenager prisoner before being forced into hard labour. He was lined up to be shot until last minute a Nazi said they needed more ditch diggers on the front line, where an SS officer pushed him into the mud and walked across the length of his back. So hardly likely my project would tolerate nazism.
I grew up suffering racism – not ‘is this facebook post a bit appropriated’ racism but spat upon, punched in the face, hearing monkey noises, eggs thrown at windows at three in the morning and so forth racism!! So hardly likely my project would tolerate racism.
So anybody who accuses or implies that Folk Horror Revival has any sympathy towards nazis, neo-nazis, racism and any other bigotry is so far off the mark.
It is not only entirely incorrect to make those accusations or implications against us, it is actually very hurtful and harmful. so I hope this post is read and makes our stance and the truth of the matter very very clear!
While many Neolithic sites have become sterile, their power lost amid roads and modern noise and the footfalls of thousands, Carrowkeel retains it’s depth and energy.
To crawl on your hands and knees through the portal and to sit inside is to understand true liminality. On certain days the energy within has been overwhelming, crawling out dizzy, disoriented to sit in thoughtful recovery for a while.
New from Wyrd Harvest Press ~
Fleet by Jane Burn
“Fleet is a ‘weltersong’ of desire and otherness. An epic saga of shapeshifting enchantment and an all too familiar drama of longing, banishment, abuse, survival and love. Jane Burn brings her unique vision, wild wordplay and stunning image-making to the evocation of the folklore of the Witch-Hare, and the voices of Motherdoe, Fleet and Daughterhare with the full force of mythic tragedy and Ovidian metamorphosis.” – Bob Beagrie, poet
The Whitby Krampus Run is rapidly becoming one of the annual must see events in the Whitby calendar. Organised by a couple of ne’er do wells and mischief makers Elaine Edmunds and Laurence Mitchell of Decadent Drawing, this fabulous event grows year on year, raising much needed funds for the amazing work done by the team at the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary. We were lucky enough to drag Elaine and Laurence away from their preparation for this year’s event to discuss the event’s history, legacy and what the future holds.
FHR: The Whitby Krampus Run seems to be growing in popularity year on year. How did it all come about? I believe it has something to do with one of your Decadent Drawing art sessions?
We used to put on monthly themed life drawing/performances at La Rosa. The story of Naughty Little Hans was our festive special in 2013 featuring our very first Krampus. The mask was made by Neal Harvey of Rubber Gorilla. The following evening was actually the Eve of the Feast of St Nicholas, it seemed a waste not to use the costume again so we took him for a stroll through Whitby. We started Whitby Krampus Run proper in 2015 with a few friends and it’s developed from here. Once we started getting attention it was time to put it on as a public event with approval of the authorities
FHR: The event raises much needed funds for the The Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary, can you tell us how the connection between you and the sanctuary came about, and could you possibly tell us a little about the amazing work they do?
A local charity dear to our hearts because of the sheer dedication and expertise. It’s not just a rescue but a valued educational resource. Every year the work grows and the need for funding increases. They provide an excellent service not just for Whitby but across the NorthEast. I’m honoured to be one of the Trustees.
FHR: Krampus was a little known folkloric figure hailing from Austria and Germany until the last few years when we have seen a rise in interest in him. I am sure your event along with Al Ridenour’s wonderful book The Krampus and the Old Dark Christmas are among the myriad of reasons for that growth of interest. For those that know little of Krampus, can you give us a brief introduction to his story?
Certainly little known outside the Austrian and German towns and villages that held the events. Which looking back is quite incredible really. A brief history of Krampus? But considering only slight variations in the Alpine folklore there does not appear to be one definitive answer to his origins but it would be reasonable to say he’s pre Christian pagan and a protector. Krampus mythology had persisted enough throughout the Christianising of Germany to become incorporated into the 16th/17th century Christian narrative. St Nicholas was a popular Saint in Germany with his feast day in early December and Krampus became the good saints side kick, the one that dished out the punishment. Krampus’ appearance is generally anthropomorphic goat a horned hairy beast. Chains on one hand to possibly signify the devil bound by Christianity. Sometimes with a long pointy tongue sometimes without. A modern addition of basket on his back to place naughty children and a bundle of birch twigs to smack them with. No Krampus is complete without bells. Loud bells which would alert you to his coming among the alpine villages and towns. The story is now quite set but Krampus’ image develops with the times…but not for traditionalists.
FHR: I believe you make the costumes you use for the run yourselves. Creating such elaborate costumes must involve an enormous amount of work on your part? Can you tell us a little bit about the process, and how the costumes have changed since the event was introduced?
We’ve now got a wooden Austrian mask as well as the latex originals from Neal Harvey. The costumes and props do take a lot of time and effort. The participants put in so much work and enthusiasm into their own costumes and there’s some stunning creations. We are all quite skilled at recycling materials and problem solving. I made a mask last year based on the Star Carr Mesiolithic antler headdress which turned out very well especially as I didn’t know what I was doing. Lisa Eagleton has been very inventive using a horse hoof from a pet shop to put on her prosthetic leg. Interestingly more than half the participants in our group are women. The less ‘traditionalist’ Austrian and German costumes have evolved to become more realistic and orc like…I like them to have more of an older homemade feel…I think it makes for a much odder appearance…much more folk art. We are still to solve the problem of being able to see.
FHR: I have heard that Whitby Krampus Run 2018 promises to be the biggest and best yet. Can you tell us about anything new and exciting you have planned to take place on the day, or any ideas you may be working on?
It’s an interesting year for us in building on the success. We’re clear that we are an interpretation and not a direct copy. This allows us to incorporate ideas specific to the local and ideas that just seem like mad fun. If they work they can stay if not plenty more where they came from. Really happy to have more Krampus involved this year and see them creating their costume/character. Those involved are all enthusiasts, we all have skill sets but this is new to us all. This year we are really delighted to have a troupe of experienced drummers lead the way bringing a small bit of order. We also have the market place throughout the day where you can bag some merch and we can carry out our parade finale as intended. The market place is a great backdrop and would be perfect to use it for a play or film at night in the future….then one day there’ll be Viking ships, submarines, giant snowballs/toboggan down the donkey path, meat raffles…ideas are no problem just the usual limits of finance and or health and safety.
Thank you to Elaine and Laurence for taking time out of their busy schedule to chat to us about The Whitby Krampus Run 2018. The amazing work they do in making people happy and raising money for a cause like the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary is something that deserves to be applauded.
The Krampus Run takes place on Saturday December 1st around the streets of the beautiful town of Whitby. Several members of the FHR team will be in attendance at this event, and we hope to bring you photographs and reviews of the day for those who are too far away to make it to what will be one of the North of England’s must-see events in the Wyrd calendar for 2018. Hope to see some of you there.
If you would like to find out more about the Krampus Run check out Elaine and Laurence’s Kramus blog here:
Their Decadent Drawing blog is at the link below:
For more information and for details on how to donate to the Whitby Wildlife Sanctuary:
If you’re still craving more information about Krampus Al Ridenour’s excellent book is available from the following Amazon link:
Wyrd Harvest Press the publishing arm of Folk Horror Revival has over a dozen titles available featuring contributions by talents such as Susan Cooper, Ronald Hutton, Shirley Collins, Robin Hardy, Philip Pullman, Kim Newman, Reece Shearsmith and many more
– visit here for more details
All sales profits from Wyrd Harvest Press / Folk Horror Revival after manufacturing and distribution costs are donated seasonally to The Wildlife Trusts.
£15 + Shipping
Tote bags – £6 + £4 shipping UK.
made by Tyrant Design & Print
To purchase these fine cups ~
Contact Steve via the Midnight Mugs Facebook Group
or email at email@example.com
or buy direct from E-bay by clicking on image of selected mug style below.
Click on image to select mug style on Ebay –
Note: Folk Horror Revival is non-profit. After manufacturing and distribution costs all sales profits from T-shirts, tote bags, mugs and Redbubble items go towards funding Folk Horror Revival events and projects.
All sales profits from books after manufacture and distribution costs are donated to charity at seasonal intervals.
Folk Horror Revival
Viewing guide (October 2018)
Welcome to the FHR Viewing Circle – a bit like a book club but with no books and you don’t actually get to meet the other members. Click on the link below, sit back and watch and then come back to this thread and add your thoughts and comments below and join in the discussion……
The idea behind the Viewing Circle was to post links to some folk horror viewing (accessible on-line) with a brief introduction listing original release/broadcast dates, notable actors, directors and composers, a brief synopsis and the occasional review from its original release. The hope was that like with a Bookclub those folk horror revivalists who watched the suggested viewing would then discuss it adding their own thoughts or questions to the original FHR Viewing Club thread.
It was decided to pilot this idea in the month of October in the run-up to Halloween alternating between Film and TV programmes every 2-3 days. If this proved successful the Viewing Circle could possibly continue with the potential for some exclusive viewings of new works in the future.
What follows is the introduction section for each of the FHR Viewing Circle recommendations from October 2018.
1 – Our first Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is episode 4 of Series 2 of `Shadows’
`Shadows’ was a British Supernatural television anthology series produced by Thames Television for ITV between 1975 and 1978. Extending over three seasons, it featured ghost and horror dramas for children.
Guest actors included John Nettleton, Gareth Thomas, Jenny Agutter, Pauline Quirke, Brian Glover, June Brown, Rachel Herbert, Jacqueline Pearce and Gwyneth Strong. The series was also notable for reviving the character of Mr. Stabs who first appeared in Ace of Wands.
Notable writers for the series included J. B. Priestley, Fay Weldon, Penelope Lively and PJ Hammond.
This episode – Dark Encounter – was written by Susan Cooper and stars Alex Scott, Shelagh Fraser (who played Aunt Beru in Star Wars), Brian Glover, Hugh Morton, Margot Field, Carolyn Courage, and Graham Kennedy. It was first aired on 18th August 1978.
`A middle-aged Londoner returns to the remote village that sheltered him as a child from the London blitz. He realizes that he’s afraid of the woods around the village, but can’t remember why.’
2 – Our second Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Juniper Tree’ – A Dark Tale of Witchcraft & Mysticism.
Note: The Juniper Tree is no longer available to view on YouTube
`The Juniper Tree’ is a 1990 Icelandic fantasy art house drama film directed and written by Nietzchka Keene. Based on the fairy tale “The Juniper Tree” collected by the Brothers Grimm, it stars a small cast of five actors, Björk, Bryndis Petra Bragadóttir, Guðrún Gísladóttir, Valdimar Örn Flygenring and Geirlaug Sunna Þormar.
Margit and her older sister, Katla, flee their homeland in Iceland after their mother is killed for practicing witchcraft. Needing a place to stay, Katla casts a spell over a young farmer named Jóhann which makes him fall in love with her, ensuring the wellbeing of herself and Margit. Jóhann’s son, Jóhas, sees through Katla’s plan and pleads for his father to make her go away. To help Jóhas in his struggle, Margit’s mother appears to Margit in visions and provides a magic amulet of protection for the boy. Will Jóhas be able to rid his family of Katla or will she continue to control them with her witchcraft?
`The Juniper Tree’ was shot in Iceland with an extraordinarily small budget in the summer of 1986, but because of financial problems later on in the editing room, it was not released until 1990, when it competed for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The film was shot in black and white to highlight its dramatic content and as a resource to place the story in the Middle Ages. Some scenes were filmed in the Seljalandsfoss, Iceland.
Note: The Juniper Tree is no longer available to view on YouTube
3 – Our third Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Beast’ – a classic episode from `West Country Tales’
Shown in the early 80s by the BBC `West Country Tales’ was a rural Tales of the Unexpected. The twist was that the stories were apparently based on letters collected by the producer recounting real life experiences.
The most memorable was `The Beast’ which aired on 1st March 1982. `A city dweller returns to the Cornish farmhouse of his youth, only to find that the current occupants are being stalked by a strange creature.’
Most of the cast and indeed the director (Kevin Crooks) seemed to have worked solely on `West Country Tales’ but Milton Reid who played the Beast had an interesting career appearing in `The Spy who loved me’, `Dr.Phibes rises again’, `The Return of the Pink Panther, `The Goodies’ and `Cannon and Ball’ as well as an uncredited role in Folk Horror classic `Blood on Satan’s Claw’.
The Narrator for all episodes was Jack Watson who in his 45 year career appeared in `Sky’, `The Changes’, `Arthur of the Britons’, `The Gorgon’ and `Peeping Tom’ as well as countless war films such as `North Sea Hijack’, `Wild Geese’, `The Devil’s Brigade’ and `The Hill’.
4 – Our forth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `Psychomania’ ( AKA The Death Wheelers).
“A stone cold classic with a great cast and superb soundtrack.” – J.Peters
A gang of young people call themselves the Living Dead. They terrorize the population from their small town. After an agreement with the devil, if they kill themselves firmly believing in it, they will survive and gain eternal life. Following their leader, they commit suicide one after the other, but things don’t necessarily turn out as expected……what’s not to love?!
Released in1973 it was George Sanders last film (He had previously won an Academy Award for his role in All About Eve and was the voice of the malevolent man-hating tiger Shere Khan in Disney’s The Jungle Book.) and also featured the late great Beryl Reid as well as Bill Pertwee (of Dad’s Army fame) and Robert Hardy. The soundtrack was by John Cameron who had previously worked with Donovan as well as writing the masterful `Kes’ soundtrack. An interview with John as well as a review of the soundtrack can be found in `Harvest Hymns’ from FHR publishing wing `Wyrd Harvest Press’.
It wasn’t critically well received at the time but has since become a cult classic and has seen fans of the film making pilgrimages to Walton-on-Thames to hunt down the filming locations.
5 – Our fifth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `Moondial’ – the complete series.
`Moondial’ was a six-part serial made for children by the BBC and transmitted in 1988. The series was written by Helen Cresswell, who also wrote the 1987 novel on which the series was based
Regarded as a nostalgic favourite by followers of 1980s BBC children’s drama, `Moondial’ employs extensive location filming (in the grounds of Belton House in Lincolnshire) and fantastical, dreamlike imagery. It also boosts an evocative soundtrack and memorable titles scene.
“Teenager Minty expects to spend a quiet holiday near historical Belton House with her mother’s godmother, “Aunt” Mary. However, soon after leaving Minty, her mother is involved in an accident and lies comatose in the hospital. Distraught, Minty begins wandering the Belton grounds. When she touches the sun-dial/moon-dial in the garden, she is transported through time. First to the late 19th century where she meets Tom, a sickly and abused servant. Second to the 18th century where she meets Sarah, a mysterious cloaked child who is in danger. Can Minty find a way to help these ghosts of the past?”
It included in its cast the late great Arthur Hewlett and Jacqueline Pearce – who sadly passed away just last month.
Arthur Hewlett (12 March 1907– 25 February 1997)
He is best remembered for his roles on television, including Quatermass and the Pit, The Avengers, The Saint, The Changes, Blake’s 7, Doctor Who (in the serials State of Decay and Terror of the Vervoids) and The Black Adder
Jacqueline Pearce (20 December 1943 – 3 September 2018)
Jacqueline was best known as the villain Servalan in the British science fiction TV series Blake’s 7. Of interest to this group she also starred in The Plague of the Zombies and The Reptile, which were filmed simultaneously on the same location and both released in 1966.
Sit back, turn down the lights and prepared to be taken back to 1988 when a nation of school children were entranced by this wonderful tale……
6 – Our sixth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Devil’s Widow’.
Released in 1970 `The Devil’s Widow’ was based on ancient Scottish folk song, The Ballad of Tam Lin. It starred Ava Gardner and Ian McShane as well as featuring the talents of Stephanie Beecham Sinead Cusack, Joanna Lumley and Madeline Smith and was Planet of the Apes regular Roddy McDowall’s only directorial credit The film had original music by Stanley Myers (responsible for some classic horror soundtracks for House of Whipcord, Frightmare, House of Mortal Sin) and a musical version of the original poem recorded by Pentangle.
“McDowall builds a broodingly enigmatic sense of menace out of stray allusions and apparitions that hover without ever really being explained or over-exploited: the snatches of [Robert] Burns intimating the presence of diabolic machinations; the girl terrified by her own unspoken Tarot prophecies; the dialogue that rings like blank verse, as though it had been used over and over again. Above all, though, this menace is effective chiefly because it is rhymed with a mounting sense of quiet decorum, as though reality, the world of the ordinary, everyday banality, were suddenly present to Tom for the first time.”
— Tom Milne, Monthly Film Bulletin, June 1977
7 – Our seventh Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Flypaper’
This was the first episode in series 3 of `Tales of the Unexpected’ and was first aired on 9th August 1980. Adapted from a story by unappreciated English writer Elizabeth Taylor, `The Flypaper’ is as usual introduced by Roald Dahl, who wryly admits that the story is so effectively grim, that he wishes he had written it. It features the not inconsiderable acting talents of Stephanie Cole (Talking Heads, Waiting for God, Doc Martin) and Alfred Burke (Children of the Damned, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – his final film role)
`The police are dragging the marshes for a missing school-girl and a sinister man is approaching other young girls. Young Sylvia is on a bus on the way home from school when a friendly old man begins to talk to her. A woman steps in to help and brings her to her caravan home to call for the police…….’
“A lean, paranoid and gently merciless tale that will affect you and stick with you for a very, very long time.” – Chris Alexander
(It would be interesting to read your thoughts on this as a piece of `Folk Horror’ so please come back and leave comments in the thread below.)
8 – Our eighth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Coming’ (aka “Burned At The Stake”)
Released in 1981 the version online is an old VHS print…so picture quality may be a bit dark in many night scenes…..but it all adds to the atmosphere and harks back to the days of bootleg videos of hard to get hold of horror films.
In 1692 a young girl in Salem, Massachusetts, accuses several residents of being witches, and they are burned at the stake. In 1980 a young woman who is a descendant of the accuser believes she is being terrorized by the ghost of the father of the women who were burned as witches.
The cast for this film is made up of various character actors who had extensive careers on American TV but are not noted for any particularly well-known movies except for Susan Swift who appeared in Audrey Rose and Halloween: The cures of Micheal Myers. It was directed by Bert Ira Gordon (Mr B.I.G) who was a major name in the giant monster B-movies of the 50’s and 60’s responsible for such classics as The Amazing Colossal Man, Village of the Giants and Earth Vs The Spider
Its theatrical release was both scattered and limited and it was through a slot as a CBS Late Night Movie in 1988 that The Coming attained its biggest audience and its reputation started to grow.
9 – Our ninth Folk Horror treat for the lead up to Halloween is `The Exorcism’
First broadcast on 7th November 1972 `The Exorcism’ was the first episode of BBC2 series `Dead of Night’
Dead of Night ran for a single series in the autumn of 1972. Of its seven 50-minute episodes, only three—”The Exorcism”, “Return Flight”, and “A Woman Sobbing”—are known to exist today in the BBC’s archives.These were released together on DVD by the British Film Institute in 2015, with the scripts for the missing episodes of the series included as PDF files on the disc. The Stone Tape (1972) was conceived and made as an episode of this anthology series, but was removed from it before being transmitted and shown as a standalone television play instead.
It features a moving performance by Anna Crooper (1938 – 2007) who made a name for herself as a character actor in various TV crime dramas such as Poirot, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple but is perhaps best known in this group for her role in 1970’s Play for Today `Robin Redbreast’. This episode also featured Edward Petherbridge who you may know from the 1961 TV version of the Ben Jonson play `The Alchemist’, 1975’s The Ash Tree or more recently `Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell.
Perhaps the biggest name of this very limited cast was Clive Swift. A great British actor born in 1936 he has starred in The Stalls of Barchester, Death Line (1972 the movie), Nigel Kneale’s Beast, Twice in Doctor Who, Tales of the Unexpected, Excalibur and TV series Shadows that featured earlier in suggested viewing for the FHR Viewing Circle. He is however probably best known as long suffering Richard in `Keeping Up Appearances’
`Two couples are having a dinner party in their country cottage (this is of course the 1970s) when strange events begin to hamper their middle-class evening. The Exorcism has a number of wonderful moments as well as some entertaining period features. While the atmosphere becomes more and more suspenseful as the cottage seems to become possessed, it is still extremely difficult for one to ignore and not get distracted by Clive Swift and Sylvia Kay’s hyper-1970s clothing. Swift also brings to mind his role as Dr. Black in two of the BBC Ghost stories, making the series feel part of a natural family…’ Adam Scovell (2013)
‘Frolic in Brine: Goblins Be Thine.’
The 1964 movie Kwaidan (Ghost Stories), directed by Masaki Kobayashi, as well as being a beautiful and atmospheric piece of cinema, is curious in the sense that it is a Japanese movie based on an English book of short stories translating Japanese folk tales. The translator of these tales was Lafcadio Hearn, a man of travel and words.
Born of Irish and Greek parentage in the Ionian Islands in 1850, Hearn grew up in Ireland under the care of his great-aunt following the tumultuous breakup of his parent’s marriage. The re-stationing of his surgeon-major father to Suez (where he died of malaria) and the internment of his mother in an insane asylum in Corfu meant that young Lafcadio never really knew his parents. His great-aunt, however, was intent that the child should have good schooling and also learning from an interesting life. So time was spent between her Irish home and another residence in Wales. His great-aunt was a devout Catholic and keen that Lafcadio’s education led him on a theological path, yet tales of mythology inspired the boy more than the Bible. He was enrolled at a Catholic state school in France and then at the Catholic College at Ushaw in County Durham, England. It was there that Hearn suffered an eye injury in a sporting accident. Partially blinded and mildly disfigured, Hearn became very self-conscious of his eye and preferred to be photographed in profile so that it could not be seen.
Via London, Hearn moved to the USA and became a journalist in Cincinatti, concentrating mainly on murder reports but also whenever possible outlining the plight of the poor. In 1874 Hearn married Alethea Foley, a young woman of African-American descent. This was not only contrary to much of the racial attitudes commonly held at the time but also shamefully illegal at the time. So the marriage was cited as the reason for his dismissal from the newspaper, but it has been suggested that they were irked by Hearn’s tone on matters regarding social and religious issues (he had grown estranged from his Catholic education). He did find work with another press, but his marriage lasted only three years.
Hearn then moved to New Orleans, where he lived and worked as a journalist for several years. It is at this time that his mind turned again to nuances of culture and folklore and as such created several books on Creole culture and cuisine. Following that, he lived in the West Indies, writing a book there about the life of a slave.
In 1890 he moved to Japan, a place that more than any other sealed his place in literary history. Working there as a teacher, Japan carved a place deep in his heart. He converted to Buddhism, became known locally as Koizumi Yakumo and married Koizumi Setsu, the daughter of a Samurai family, who in turn bore him four children. Furthermore, he wrote numerous books on Japanese culture and folklore, including Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan (1894), Japanese Fairy Tales (1898), In Ghostly Japan (1899), Shadowings (1900) and, most famously, Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (1903). Lafcadio Hearn died aged 54 of heart failure and was buried in Tokyo in 1904; his legacy lives on, however, with his writings, because through his work old tales of ghostly Japan were brought to the West. Through the media of film, Japanese Horror would continue to weave a strange web.
Notably, the 1964 movie Kwaidan bears the strongest association to Hearn. The movie is divided into four parts: ‘The Woman of the Snow’ and ‘Hoichi the Earless’ are both featured in the book Kwaidan: Stories and Strange Things (a beautiful and peculiar collection that diverts from folklore into studies of insects for its final part), but the other cinematic episodes of Kwaidan, ‘The Black Hair’ and ‘In a Cup of Tea’ are taken from Hearn’s Shadowings and Kottō: Being Japanese Curios, With Sundry Cobwebs (1902), respectively.
‘The Woman of the Snow’ tells the folk tale of a father and son who take refuge from a wild winter storm only to be visited in the night by Yuki-onna, a beautiful but deadly female personification of winter. In ‘Hoichi the Earless’, a blind musician is called before a strange court to play ballads of ancient sea battles. It is feared, however, that his audience may be more than they seem, and in order to protect himself from any maleficence they may cast towards him, he is tattooed head to foot with a protective Buddhist sutra. ‘The Black Hair’ relates the tale of a swordsman who abandons his wife in favour of another but returns home years later to find his first wife forgiving and welcoming of him, or so he thinks. The final tale in the film, ‘In a Cup of Tea’, is the strange story of a writer who keeps seeing faces in, as the title reveals, a cup of tea.
Kwaidan was not the only movie to share the ghost tales (kaidan) of the Heian, Edo and Meiji periods of Japanese history. Historical horrors of Japan have a visual heritage in the Hell Scrolls of the Heian period (8th to 12th century) and in the more phantasmagorical examples of Ukiyo-e (‘pictures of the floating world’), the vibrant woodblock prints and paintings of the 17th to 19th centuries. Ghost stories would feature in illustrated books called kusazoshi (‘grass tales’). Masters such as Utagawa Hiroshige, Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kunisada and Tsukioka Yoshitoshi all created works of a spectral narrative, but perhaps the grand master of floating world horror was the visionary artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi, whose oeuvre was as prolific as it was fantastic.
In film, such horrors of the Japanese landscape and imagination were also presented in movies such as Kenzi Mizoguchi’s 1954 classic Ugetsu Monogatari (Tales of Moonlight and Rain), based on Ueda Akinari’s 1776 book collection of folk tales of the same name, and Kaneto Shindo’s Onibaba (1964) and Kuroneko (1968). Onibaba (Demon Hag) is a strange and sinister folk horror tale of two women (one old and the other young) who live in a remote hut during the 14th century civil war and eke out an existence by stealing the possessions of dead and dying soldiers. If it is their own actions that cause the soldier to be in such a state, then so be it. However, the lives of the women are thrown into turmoil when a samurai wearing a hannya (demon mask) appears in a local swamp.
Shindo’s later film Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko (A Black Cat in a Bamboo Grove)—often shortened to Kuroneko—is a tale of revenge as two women who are raped and killed by samurai return to claim vengeance. Mizoguchi’s and Shindo’s movies are beautifully shot as well as being creepily atmospheric historical dramas.
Perhaps lesser known but certainly worthy of a wider audience is Masahiro Sinoda’s 1975 Sakura no Mori no Mankai no Shita (Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees). This bizarre movie is based on a short story by Ango Sakaguchi. It is not an ancient folk tale but certainly has the feeling of such, as it is a rural murder ballad of a mountain man who rids himself of numerous wives but becomes besotted and slave to the demands of his eighth wife, who may be even more bloodthirsty than he.
Also popular in this Japanese subgenre of historical folk horror are various cinematic adaptations of Yotsuya Kaidan, a kabuki play written in 1825 by Tsuruya Nanboku IV. Although there are variations on the tale as seen through the eyes of different directors, the basic storyline relates to a young woman, Oiwa, whose husband, Iemon, is coveted by another woman, Oume. Oume sends Oiwa a face cream that is actually a poison, causing her to become disfigured. Horrified by his wife’s appearance, the shallow Iemon arranges for his wife to be raped, so that he can claim a divorce on the grounds of her ‘unfaithfulness’. The would-be rapist, however, takes pity on her and does not rape her. However, he alerts Oiwa to her facial deformity, of which she has been unaware. In her hysteria Oiwa accidentally kills herself with a sword. The death, therefore, gives Iemon opportunity to marry Oume. But just because Oiwa is dead is no reason to assume that she will let the marriage continue peacefully. Movies based on this tale include Nobuo Nakagawa’s 1959 Tôkaidô Yotsuya Kaidan (The Ghost of Yotsuya) and Tai Kato’s 1961 Kaidan Oiwa no Borei (Ghost Story of Oiwa’s Spirit).
Although eclipsed often by Japan’s kaiju eiga (‘monster films’, a popular science fiction / horror sub-genre that has continued from the 1930s to recent years, many of which feature daikaiju—giant abominations such as Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidora), demons and ghosts have never wandered too far from Japanese expressions of the imagination. In Japanese mythology and folklore yōkai are entities whose general name comes from the words for ‘weird’ and ‘otherworldly’. There are, however, many strange and wonderful forms of yōkai that range from ghosts of the dead to devils and include such peculiar abominations as the flesh-eating kappas who are turtle-like humanoids that live in lakes and have a hollow basin on the crowns of their heads; tanuki, which are racoon-dogs with colossal testicles; karakasa, which are sentient old parasols; and tengu, which are bird-headed goblin men. Oni are demons that often try to seize the souls of dying people or corrupt them during their lives. They can vary quite considerably in appearance and have been depicted in various forms in manga and anime, the popular Japanese comic books and animations, as well as in Saiyūki, a great television series of the late 1970s based on the 16th-century Chinese novel, A Journey to the West by Wu Cheng’en. Saiyūki is much better known in the West by the name of its main character, Monkey.
Of all the yōkai, perhaps it is the yurei who have had the longest-lasting influence on Japanese horror both at home and abroad. yurei are the ghosts of people who have died a sudden violent death or in a state of considerable negative emotion such as hatred, sorrow or a lust for revenge or who have been denied proper funerary rites, thus binding them to this world, or at least until the cause of their haunting is properly negated. There are numerous types of yurei, such as zakishi-warashi, which are the mischievous ghosts of children; funayurei, which are the souls of those who died out at sea; and jikininki, which are ghosts that feed on the corpses of the recently deceased. Of all the yurei, it is the onryō, the vengeful ghosts, which are most familiar to fans of horror films—and not only Japanese horror films, as some of the films have been remade by Hollywood.
Onryō walk the Earth to seek retribution for wrongs that were committed to them in life, and in cinema at least their hunger for revenge may be so strong that it is inflicted upon anyone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, rather than just the person or persons directly responsible for causing them suffering. However, the dynamic of the storytelling is changed from the spirit being a sorrowful victim lashing out in emotional pain from beyond the grave to an indiscriminate monster if being revived for the sake of sequels. There is a tradition of describing onryō as predominantly female, dressed in a white kimono or robe (the colour of the dead), long black hanging hair (in old Japanese tradition, women would wear their pinned up, but it would be loosened following death) and generally floating above the ground or at least having their feet unseen.
Oiwa was an onryō, a particularly recognisable one due to her disfigured eye, as was the wife of the swordsman in ‘The Black Hair’ and the two women of Kuroneko. Though Yukki-onna fits the physical description of an onryō, the story of her earthly demise is not known though some consider that she is the spirit of one who died in the snow. Other theories place her more as an embodiment of wild winter or possibly a snow goddess.
The cinematic representation of Yuki-onna certainly draws some comparison to the onryō that were to follow. Of these in recent times none have had a greater impact than Sadako Yamamura. Sadako first appeared in Ringu, the first book of Koji Suzuki’s Ringu trilogy and in the subsequent 1995 television adaptation and the more famous 1998 cinematic film directed by Hideo Nakata.
Unlike the onryō films of previous generations, Ringu is set in contemporary times and has the subplot of a curse that is spread like a virus with the watching of a mysterious videotape. Following viewing the tape, the victim has seven days to live unless they copy the tape and show it to someone else, thus transferring the curse. It is discovered that the curse originated with the death of a well-known psychic, Shizuko, who committed suicide after a claim that she had faked her powers. It becomes evident that her daughter Sadako has no need for fraudulence and is feared and loathed by her father. However, in seeking a cure for the curse, it is discovered that Sadako vanished whilst still little more than a child.
An excellent creepy character of horror fiction, Sadako (like Count Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster before her) has alas been watered down by numerous sequels, American remakes (Sadako now renamed Samara Morgan—Samara actually being a nice name for its similarity to samsara, a word used in Buddhism and other Eastern religions in reference to the cycles of death and rebirth and sometimes used to indicate earthly suffering, although I don’t know whether the similarity is intentional or not) and a large host of other onryō movies to follow in its wake such as Ju-on: the Grudge and Muoi: The Legend of a Portrait. Some of these other onryō films are not bad, but few come close to the cold eeriness of Ringu, which resurrected the Japanese horror film industry for a new generation.
Other films utilising the vengeful ghost theme created not only in Japan but also in other Asian countries such as South Korea and Thailand as well as American remakes of Asian horrors vary in quality. That is not to say onryō films are the only recent examples of a Japanese resurgence in horror, for there are diverse examples of tales of terror that shine brightly from the Land of the Rising Sun. These include the cyberpunk body-horror Tetsuo (Tetsuo: The Iron Man, 1989); Odishon (Audition, 1999), a powerful, unsettling tale of a man seeking a new wife; the pre-Hunger Games story of schoolchildren pitched against each other and forced to become merciless killers, Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale, 2000); the surreal horror Uzamaki (Spiral, 2000); and Imprint (2006), an episode of the television anthology series Masters of Horror in whch a search for a missing young woman turns into a grotesque nightmare. However, it is probably through the modern revisiting of the past folk tale theme of vengeful ghosts explored in Ringu, that horror again was given was given a new lease of life in ghostly Japan.
Essay by Andy Paciorek.
From the book
Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies (second edition)
Available now from – http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/andypaciorek
Specters, Ghosts and Sorcerors in Ukiyo-e
Ukiyo-e Ota Memorial Museum of Art
The Toho Studios Story: A History and Complete Filmography
By Stuart Galbraith IV. Scarecrow Press, 2008
Ghosts and the Japanese: Cultural Experiences in Japanese Death Legends
By Michiko Iwasaka & Barre Toelken. Utah State University Press, 1994
Wandering Ghost: The Odyssey of Lafcadio Hearn
By Jonathan Cott. Kodansha International, 1992
Lafcadio Hearn and the Vision of Japan
by Carl Dawson. Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992
Horror!: 301 Films to See Before a Zombie Sucks Out Your Eyeballs!
By Marriott James & Kim Newman. Carlton Books, 2010
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