'spooky action is real'
















Photograph by Ann Parker from Ephemeral Folk Figures: Scarecrows, Harvest Figures, and Snowmen by Avon Neal and Ann Parker, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. NY, 1969. Image found at Family Business.

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I reached out my hand; thought and memory flew out of my enemies' heads like a flock of starlings;
My enemies crumpled like empty sacks.
I came to them out of mists and rain;
I came to them in dreams at midnight;
I came to them in a flock of ravens that filled a northern sky at dawn;
When they thought themselves safe I came to them in a cry that broke the silence of a winter wood ...

Susana Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norell.


Detail from the left panel of Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights, 1490-1510.

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June Crisfield Chapman: Mrs. Ogmore Pritchard and Her Two Ghostly Husbands, ca. 1960s.

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Excerpt from Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood." (Listen here.)

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A grandmother's prediction machine, ca. 1929-1932.

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Ginseng root.

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Eadweard Muybridge: Animal locomotion, plate 535, 1887.

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‘It makes me creep to think of it even now,’ she said. ‘I woke up, all at once, with that dreadful feeling as if something were going to happen, you know! I was wide awake, and hearing every little strange sound for miles around, it seemed to me. There are so many strange little noises in the country for all it is so still.’

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Giant Wistaria." Quoted at Cunning Folk in an interview with Melissa Edmundson, editor of Women's Weird: Strange Stories by Women, 1890-1940. 

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The Times reported in 2005 that a property developer in Perthshire, Scotland, had been prevented from breaking the ground for some houses on land he had acquired because there was a fairy stone standing on it. Local people were seriously protesting against its removal: the rock was ancient, it covered the entrance to a fairy fort or hill, and it was extremely unlucky to move any such ancient monuments because the fairies would be upset… and take their revenge. The Times reporters joked, dubbing the locals’ beliefs “MacFeng shui”. They quoted the chairman of the local council with responsibility for granting planning permission: “‘I believe in fairies,’ she said, ‘but I can’t be sure they live under that rock.’ For her, the rock had historical and sacred importance because it was connected to the Picts and their kings had been crowned there.” 
The builder’s bulldozers were stopped; since then, there has been no more news from St Fillan’s Perthshire.

Marina Warner, "The Man Who Taught Us to Believe in Fairies." The New Statesman, 7/3/2019.

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It’s a recurring motif in folk horror that the countryside beckons to the characters as a place of hope. That events often culminate in graphic violence is a given: this is horror, after all. What is more interesting is the way in which these stories show how we’re seduced by the idea that the natural world is where we’ll find some kind of restoration, enlightenment and, ultimately, peace.

Andrew Michael Hurley, "Devils and debauchery: why we love to be scared by folk horror." The Guardian, 10/28/2019. 

(Skip Midsommar, unless you really like flower crowns and hate grad students—it was too long and not scary; watch the deeply creepy 1973 Wicker Man instead.)

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Marianne Moore's fairy tales: "A wily cat, a strange romance, detestable daughters ..."

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Hokusai directs his attention away from the Japanese landscapes he was most famous for depicting, inwards towards a realm of vengeful ghosts and demonic cannibals ... The series is fruit of the tradition Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai [A Gathering of One Hundred Supernatural Tales], where Japanese friends would meet to share fantastically frightening tales from folklore and their own experience. Having lit a hundred candles, they would give their blood-curdling accounts, one by one, blowing out a candle after each, plunging themselves deeper into darkness. Upon the last candle going out, a spirit was said to appear.

The Public Domain Review, "Hokusai’s Ghost Stories (ca. 1830)."

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