28.4.16

Bye Bye Blues

An intriguing new title from the author of Mrs Wakeman vs. the Antichrist:

Robert Damon Schneck. The Bye Bye Man, and Other Strange-But-True Tales. Tarcherperigee (31 May 2016)

"Don't think of his name..." In 1990, three college students spent a long Wisconsin winter experimenting with a Ouija board; it turned out to be the deadliest mistake of their lives. The board brought them into contact with a psychic serial killer, known only as the Bye Bye Man. Learning his name makes you vulnerable, but thinking about it draws the Bye Bye Man to you. He is a relentless traveller, moving night and day, coming ever closer until the shrill sound of a steady whistle announces his arrival. He might turn up outside your bedroom door, speaking in the voice of a trusted friend, someone who would never hurt you. 

Here is the authentically terrifying, true-life story recounted by historian Robert Damon Schneck in a chapter of his classic underground collection of weird Americana, which formed the basis for the major motion picture, The Bye Bye Man. This unsettling tale is accompanied by seven more chapters of twisted history, and includes the author's new afterword, 'Searching for The Bye Bye Man'.

Morphing Modern Mythology

Andrew R. Bahlmann. The Mythology of the Superhero. McFarland (30 April 2016)

Superheroes have been an integral part of popular society for decades. Over time, superheroes have developed their own mythology. Though scholars and fans have recognized and commented on this myth, the structure of the mythology has gone largely unexplored until now. The lexicon at the heart of this book gives a structure that can be used to identify the mythology as it applies to characters, stories, and other forms of narrative. The lexicon is the first effort to codify the mythology and how it works. 

Included are specific and detailed examinations of the myth in several narratives, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Green Arrow, especially in the CW series Arrow; and Beowulf. It also draws on examples from characters as diverse as Batman, Wolverine, Invincible, and John Constantine. This book is a first step toward recognizing the structure of the superhero and helps explain why the myth matters so much in current popular society, not only in America, but worldwide.

25.4.16

Clowning Around

A topic which has a lot of strange resonances in subjects discussed in Magonia, from UFOs to Satanism:

Benjamin Radford. Bad Clowns. University of New Mexico Press (April 1, 2016)

From the publisher's website: Bad clowns--those malicious misfits of the midway who terrorize, haunt, and threaten us--have long been a cultural icon. This book describes the history of bad clowns, why clowns go bad, and why many people fear them. Going beyond familiar clowns such as the Joker, Krusty, John Wayne Gacy, and Stephen King's Pennywise, it also features bizarre, lesser-known stories of weird clown antics including Bozo obscenity, Ronald McDonald haters, killer clowns, phantom-clown abductors, evil-clown panics, sex clowns, carnival clowns, troll clowns, and much more. Bad Clowns blends humor, investigation, and scholarship to reveal what is behind the clown's dark smile.

22.4.16

Penis Panics and Other Craziness

Frank Bures. Geography of Madness, Penis Thieves, Voodoo Death, and the Search for the Meaning of the World's Strangest Syndromes. Melville House Publishing (28 April 2016)

The Geography of Madness is an investigation of "culture-bound" syndromes, which are far stranger than they sound. Why is it, for example, that some men believe, against all reason, that vandals stole their penises, even though they're in good physical shape? In The Geography of Madness, acclaimed magazine writer Frank Bures travels around the world to trace culture-bound syndromes to their sources - and in the process, tells a remarkable story about the strange things all of us believe.

21.4.16

Hunting the Atlantis Hunters

Mark Adams. Meet Me in Atlantis: Across Three Continents in Search of the Legendary Sunken City. Dutton Books. (26 April 2016)

A few years ago, Mark Adams made a strange discovery: Far from alien conspiracy theories and other pop culture myths, everything we know about the legendary lost city of Atlantis comes from the work of one man, the Greek philosopher Plato. Stranger still: Adams learned there is an entire global sub-culture of amateur explorers who are still actively and obsessively searching for this sunken city, based entirely on Plato s detailed clues. What Adams didn't realize was that Atlantis is kind of like a virus and he d been exposed.

In Meet Me in Atlantis, Adams racks up frequent-flier miles tracking down these Atlantis obsessives, trying to determine why they believe it's possible to find the world's most famous lost city and whether any of their theories could prove or disprove its existence. The result is a classic quest that takes readers to fascinating locations to meet irresistible characters; and a deep, often humorous look at the human longing to rediscover a lost world.

18.4.16

Scotland's Merlin

Examining myth, legend and history in the Arthurian legends.

Tim Clarkson. Scotland's Merlin: A Medieval Legend and its Dark Age Origins. John Donald. (14 April 2016)

Who was Merlin? Is the famous wizard of Arthurian legend based on a real person? In this book, Merlin's origins are traced back to the story of Lailoken, a mysterious 'wild man' who is said to have lived in the Scottish Lowlands in the sixth century AD. The book considers the question of whether Lailoken belongs to myth or reality. It looks at the historical background of his story and discusses key characters such as Saint Kentigern of Glasgow and King Rhydderch of Dumbarton, as well as important events such as the Battle of Arfderydd. 

Lailoken's reappearance in medieval Welsh literature as the fabled prophet Myrddin is also examined. Myrddin himself was eventually transformed into Merlin the wizard, King Arthur's friend and mentor. This is the Merlin we recognise today, not only in art and literature but also on screen. His earlier forms are less familiar, more remote, but can still be found among the lore and legend of the Dark Ages. Behind them we catch fleeting glimpses of an original figure who perhaps really did exist: a solitary fugitive, tormented by his experience of war, who roamed the hills and forests of southern Scotland long ago.

17.4.16

Post-Communist Witchcraft

Alexandra Tataran. Contemporary Life and Witchcraft: Magic, Divination, and Religious Ritual in Europe. ibidem-Verlag, (5 April 2016)

Witchcraft is very much alive in today's post-communist societies. Stemming from ancient rural traditions and influenced by modern New Age concepts, it has kept its function as a vibrant cultural code to combat the adversities of everyday life. Intricately linked to the Orthodox church and its rituals, the magic discourse serves as a recourse for those in distress, a mechanism to counter-balance misfortune and, sometimes, a powerful medium for acts of aggression. 

In this fascinating book, Alexandra Tataran skilfully re-contextualizes the vast and heterogeneous discourse on contemporary witchcraft. She shows how magic, divination, and religious rituals are adapted to the complex mechanisms of modern mentalities and urban living in the specific historical and social context of post-communist countries. Based on years of first-hand fieldwork, Tataran offers fascinating insights into the experience of individuals deeming themselves bewitched and argues that the practice can also teach us a lot about particular forms of adapting traditions and resorting to pre-existing cultural models.