23.5.16

Unseen and Uncanny

Susan Lepselter. The Resonance of Unseen Things: Poetics, Power, Captivity and UFOs in the American Uncanny. The University of Michigan Press (30 May 2016)

The Resonance of Unseen Things offers an ethnographic meditation on the “uncanny” persistence and cultural freight of conspiracy theory. The project is a reading of conspiracy theory as an index of a certain strain of late 20th-century American despondency and malaise, especially as understood by people experiencing downward social mobility. Written by a cultural anthropologist with a literary background, this deeply interdisciplinary book focuses on the enduring American preoccupation with captivity in a rapidly transforming world. Captivity is a trope that appears in both ordinary and fantastic iterations here, and Susan Lepselter shows how multiple troubled histories—of race, class, gender, and power—become compressed into stories of uncanny memory.

21.5.16

No Stone Unturned

Christine Zucchelli. Sacred Stones of Ireland. The Collins Press. (16 May 2016)

From the publisher's website: Sacred stones and stone monuments feature the world over and Ireland is no exception. Our landscape is dotted with them, from the Blarney Stone in Cork and Maedhbh's Grave in Sligo to St Patrick's Chair in Tyrone and the Royal Pillars of Tara in Meath. Since prehistoric times people have acknowledged their special nature, an unbroken link from ancient sun-oriented monuments to the present. Christine Zucchelli explores their secrets, myths, legends and folk-tales, many persisting to this day. Some are considered the abodes of deities or other-world ladies, some are memorials to mythical heroes and historical kings, others reminders of the miracles of early saints. Originally published in hardback, this is a wonderful reminder of our spiritual past as some of these stones and monuments enter their fifth millennium and the wisdom of the Celtic tradition re-emerges.

6.5.16

White Horse Weirdness

Odd stories from a beautiful corner of the country.

Mike White. The Veiled Vale. Two Rivers Press. (2 May 2016)

What historical tragedy could possibly make a young Wallingford girl daub a wall with her own tears? What really happened to the family who encountered a UFO in Stanford-in-the-Vale? What made a Highworth Squire's ghost choose to be banished to a barrel of cider? And what does the Uffington White Horse get up to once every hundred years?

The Vale of the White Horse and the beautiful countryside of South Oxfordshire is a landscape steeped in thousands of years of legends, history and mystery. Here are witches, monsters and ghosts; old legends and modern-day tales of strange encounters with the unknown. From the mildly curious to the frighteningly inexplicable, The Veiled Vale is a treasure trove of fabulous folklore and modern mysteries.

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.