Borley Rectory: The Most Haunted House in England – a Zoom talk by Sean O’Connor

Borley Rectory, an ordinary-looking (some would say ugly) red-brick Victorian house, perched on a ridge near the north Essex–Suffolk border, is to this day spoken of in hushed tones – even though it was demolished more than three-quarters of a century ago. Completed in 1863, the signs were unpromising from the start, with the death of a 17-year-old labourer – who drowned in the local river during the house’s construction – setting the tone for what was to come, and causing mutterings among the superstitious locals about bad omens. 

Classic English haunting tropes soon became associated with the house: a ghostly horse-drawn coach driven by two headless men was seen; the grounds were allegedly the site of an ancient plague pit; and a spectral nun was said to promenade through the garden… 

In 1928, Eric and Mabel Smith arrived from India to take over the lonely parish of Borley, 60 miles northeast of central London. Soon after moving into Borley Rectory, Mrs Smith made a gruesome discovery in a cupboard: a human skull. Before long, the house was electric with ghosts. And within a year, the Smiths had abandoned it and the Rectory became notorious as the ‘most haunted house in England’.

When the next incumbent of the Rectory, the Reverend Lionel Foyster, moved into the house, he experienced a further explosion of poltergeist activity – with an increasing violence seemingly directed at his attractive young wife. Marianne Foyster was a passionate woman isolated in a village haunted by ancient superstition and deep-rooted prejudice. She was to become the key figure at the heart of the haunting, alongside the Rolls Royce-driving ‘psychic detective’ Harry Price. 

Borley was the case that was to make Price’s name as the most-celebrated ghost-hunter of the age. And the case that, later, would cast that hard-earned reputation into serious doubt…

Sean O’Connor is a writer, director and producer who has worked in theatre, radio, television and film. He has worked as showrunner on several major TV series including EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Minder. He produced Terence Davies’ film version of Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea, starring Rachel Weisz and Tom Hiddleston. Handsome Brute, a study of the 1940s murderer Neville Heath, and The Fatal Passion of Alma Rattenbury, shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award (2020), were both published by Simon & Schuster, as is The Haunting of Borley Rectory, his most-recent book. 

 

Your host for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

Early Paranormal Theories of the Late Nineteenth Century – a Zoom talk by Dr Robert Radakovic

Beyond Faith and Reason – Early Paranormal Theories of the Late Nineteenth Century

This talk explores the complex culture and history of the late nineteenth century and how the earliest theories of the paranormal were developed.

While considering the fundamental questions of nature and humanity’s place within the universe, many of the key thinkers of the late-Victorian period found science or religion alone as inadequate individual tools with which to help with the answers. Some of them, who were often from the cultural elite – scientists, academics, politicians, clergy, writers – combined these existing domains with research into paranormal phenomena, which they found provided more comprehensive and cohesive theories. This talk takes a historo-cultural look at some of what took place at the time, highlighting the key early paranormal theories, and asks what relevance there is for today’s paranormal researchers.

 

Your speaker for this event is Dr Robert Radakovic, an ex-astrophysicist and ex-management accountant who left the corporate world over a decade ago to study for an MA in Western Esotericism, followed by a PhD which considered the interplay between Science, Religion, Philosophy and the Paranormal in the nineteenth century. He has had a lifelong interest in ghosts, UFOs and psychic phenomena, and undertakes independent research in each of these. He has been a council member of The Ghost Club (1862) since 2019.

Your host and curator for this event will be the writer Edward Parnell, author of Ghostland: In Search of a Haunted Country. Edward Parnell lives in Norfolk and has an MA in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. He is the recipient of an Escalator Award from the National Centre for Writing and a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship. Ghostland (William Collins, 2019), a work of narrative non-fiction, is a moving exploration of what has haunted our writers and artists – as well as the author’s own haunted past; it was shortlisted for the PEN Ackerley 2020 prize, an award given to a literary autobiography of excellence. Edward’s first novel The Listeners (2014), won the Rethink New Novels Prize. For further info see: https://edwardparnell.com

 

The Creative Life of Tirzah Garwood Ravilious by Lotte Crawford

The Modern Women Artists series

The Modern Women Artists series of collectable books reveals an alternative history of art, telling the story of important female artists whose art might otherwise be overlooked, overshadowed or forgotten. Working across a range of disciplines and artistic styles in the first half of the twentieth century, all of the women included in this series were modern. Read together, these books begin to redress the untold history of modern art, connecting stories of female creativity which the history books have all too often left out.

TIRZAH GARWOOD (1908 – 51) excelled in marbling, wood-engraving, collage and a style of painting which fused English romanticism with her domestic life.

Marriage – to the artist Eric Ravilious – and motherhood curtailed her artistic ambitions but not her imagination: she found creative expression and commercial success with intricately patterned papers created on teh kitchen table and in the bathtub.

In Garwood’s early wood-engraving and later paintings dolls houses, train journeys and shop fronts are infused with her acerbic wit. Overshadowed by her husband’s success, this book celebrates the story of Tirzah Garwood as an artist in her own right.

Eiderdown Books is an independent publisher making books about female artists written by leading female writers, art historians and cultural commentators.

Hosted by:

Harriet Olsen is the founder of Eiderdown Books. She established the independent publishing house specialising in books about women artists after more than a decade in musuem publishing (and having lost count of the number of books she’d produced about male artists). Harriet is also Head of Publishing at Pallant House Gallery in Sussex.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Adventure of the Cottingley Fairies – Merrick Burrow

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Adventure of the Cottingley Fairies

When Frances Griffiths (aged 9) and Elsie Wright (aged 14) took photographs of ‘fairies’ in the Yorkshire village of Cottingley in the summer of 1917 they meant simply to play a practical joke on their parents. But when, three years later, prints of the photographs found their way into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, they ignited a controversy that led to the most enduring photographic hoax of all time.

Many have since wondered how the creator of the supremely rational Great Detective could have been so deceived and why he would have risked irreparable damage to his reputation by giving his endorsement to the photographs. Some point to Conan Doyle’s public conversion to spiritualism as a sign that he had turned his back on facts and reason in later life. Others have suggested that his judgement was impaired by the impact of personal tragedies during the Great War. But neither of these explanations fully explains the facts of the case, and neither gets to the heart of the accidental conspiracy at the heart of the mystery. In this talk Dr Merrick Burrow, Head of English and History at the University of Huddersfield and an expert on Conan Doyle, will explore the details of this fascinating story and attempt to answer the puzzling questions it poses.

Bio

Merrick Burrow is Head of English and History at the University of Huddersfield. He is a literary and cultural historian of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth centuries. His publications include book chapters and journal articles on detective fiction, Conan Doyle and spiritualism. Merrick curated ‘The Cottingley Fairies: a Study in Deception’ to mark the centenary of Conan Doyle’s publication of the photographs in the Strand Magazine in 1920, which was the first major public exhibition of materials from the archive held at the Brotherton Library. He is currently writing a book on the history of deception.

Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website http://www.amyhale.me.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Stone Club: Rediscovering Ancient Sites – Lally MacBeth and Matthew Shaw

Founded by artists Lally MacBeth & Matthew Shaw, Stone Club was set up as a place for stone enthusiasts to congregate, to muse and most importantly to stomp to stones. Stone Club believes the journey is as important as the destination and encourages people to pause and think about place in new ways; connecting ancient sites through community and conversation Stone Club aims to bring new perspectives to prehistory in a collaborative and inclusive way.

In this talk Lally & Matthew will take you on a journey through the history of Stone Club exploring along the way the resurgence of interest in ancient landscapes, stones and what it means for our collective futures.

Bio

Lally MacBeth is an artist, writer and researcher living in Cornwall. She founded The Folk Archive in 2020, and co-founded Stone Club in 2021. Lally’s work wanders the line between the real and the imaginary, taking in history, folklore, performance, ritual, and artifice along the way. She is interested in the links between high and low cultural artefacts and how these lines are often blurred in archives. Lally is currently working on her first book.

Bio

Matthew Shaw is an artist, author, composer and producer. Alongside solo composition Matthew has worked with a series of collaborators including The Pop Group, & Richard Norris as well as Shirley Collins & Brian Catling on Crowlink, with an EP released by Domino Recordings, & an audio installation that premiered at the Barbican followed by a week at Charleston house in Sussex. Atmosphere of Mona, a book of poetry and photography was published by Annwyn House in 2020. Matthew is the co-founder of Stone Club.

Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website http://www.amyhale.me.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Mesmerism, Mediumship, Magic and the Mystical: Britain’s Visionary Sisters in Art – Vivienne Roberts

Mesmerism, Mediumship, Magic and the Mystical: Britain’s Visionary Sisters in Art

In this richly illustrated talk Vivienne will share her research and take us on a journey that spans the Century, beginning with the start of the Modern Spiritualist Movement and ending with the Festival of Britain in 1951. Along the way we will encounter some of the incredible women who fought against societal constraints and found an innovative outlet for their verve and creativity. They were true visionaries in that they not only drew visions of the otherworldly, but envisioned with clarity a new purpose for their art and lives. It was not a path for the faint hearted as some of the obstacles these intriguing and fearless women had to overcome were ridicule, persecution, and fear of being committed to an asylum or prosecuted under Britain’s archaic witchcraft laws. Among the artists in the talk will be Anna Howitt Watts, Georgiana Houghton, Ethel le Rossignol, Florence Seth and Madge Gill.

Bio

Vivienne Roberts is the curator and archivist at The College of Psychic Studies in London, where she cares for their large collection of spirit inspired art, photographs and artefacts from 1850 to the present day. This unusual archive, along with the College’s specialist esoteric library, has offered Vivienne the opportunity to immerse herself in a wealth of primary material and has been instrumental in helping her curate a series of large exhibitions, including: Encounters with the Spirit World (2016), Art & Spirit: Visions of Wonder (2019), Strange Things Among Us (2021) and Creative Spirits (2022). Vivienne’s art specialism is the history of mediumistic art with particular attention to its women practitioners. She has established the websites mediumisticart.com, georgianahoughton.com and madgegill.com and has published several articles and exhibition catalogue contributions. Vivienne is a member of the Visionary Women Research Group and the British Art Network.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Supernatural Tales from Scotland – Allison Galbraith

Allison shares stories from the River Clyde. Known as Clutha, an ancient Pagan goddess worshipped for her cleansing powers by the Celtic tribes who settled along her banks. Wraiths, mermaids, wizards and a multitude of demons feature in these little-known tales of the Scottish supernatural.

Bio

Allison Galbraith grew up with storytelling. Her mother, an actress, taught her stagecraft. Her sea-faring father nurtured her curiosity for unusual and tantalizing tales. Allison honed her storytelling skills through various guises, including directing Live Art shows, training to trapeze, teaching rave dancing in the 90s, and performing in theatre, TV and radio. With a Master’s degree in Scottish folklore, Allison has spent the last ten years collecting, writing and sharing traditional folktales. Her books include: Dancing With Trees, Eco-Tales from the British Isle, co-author. (2017 The History Press), Lanarkshire Folk Tales (2021, THP) and Funny Folk Tales for Children (2023, THP). She lives in the Clyde Valley of Lowland Scotland, surrounded by mythical landscapes, alive with magic and ancient lore.

Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website http://www.amyhale.me.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Sekhmet: The Revival of an Ancient Egyptian Goddess – Ronnie Pontiac

In the 1970s the only places to encounter Sekhmet were museums, ancient Egyptian ruins, scenery in old movies, Egyptology tomes, and John and Yoko’s apartment in NYC. Today online we can buy Sekhmet icons, jewelry, statues, books, throw pillows, fine art, and a beer. A lineage of priestesses, tattoos. game and movie characters, band names, a temple in Nevada, yet many of her followers report first meeting her in a dream.

Informed by research that has included interviews with devotees we’ll contrast ancient and modern visions of Sekhmet. Reports of Sekhmet statues moving in museums are common so we’ll look to Iamblichus for insights into the possible existence of living statues. We’ll ponder the nuances of deities, metaphors, egregores, and archetypes, and how they relate to what Robert Anton Wilson called reality tunnels.

Bio:

Ronnie Pontiac‘s new book American Metaphysical Religion (Inner Traditions) is both a comprehensive menagerie and a curio cabinet of esoteric Americana. Manly Hall’s research assistant, screener, and substitute lecturer for seven years, he has produced award winning documentaries, and has written for Invisible College Magazine, Metapsychosis, Occult of Personality, and the original Reality Sandwich.

Hosted by

Dr. Amy Hale is an Atlanta-based anthropologist and folklorist writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall in various combinations. Her biography of Ithell Colquhoun, Genius of the Fern Loved Gully, is available from Strange Attractor Press, and she is also the editor of the forthcoming collection Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses from Palgrave Macmillan. Other writings can be found at her Medium site https://medium.com/@amyhale93 and her website http://www.amyhale.me.

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

Magic in Greek and Roman Literature – Prof Marguerite Johnson

Magic & Witchcraft in Ancient Greece & Rome – Prof. Marguerite Johnson – 7 Lecture Course

In this special seven-part series, Marguerite Johnson takes us on a magical mystery tour of magic and witchcraft in ancient Greece and Rome, with a sprinkling of Egyptian occult practices. Each lecture introduces a particular type of magic; is extensively illustrated with archaeological evidence; features excerpts from ancient writing; and includes a fascinating reading list for those interested in pursuing the topics in more detail. 

Magic in Greek and Roman Literature: Sept 24th – Lecture VII

In the west, the stereotype of the witch as a hag or, alternatively, as a femme fatale, has a long history that extends as far back as ancient Greece and Rome. Beginning with Homer’s exotic goddess-witch, Circe, to the murderous Medea, through to the truly horrifying and abject witches of Latin literature, we trace the origins of this stereotype and consider some of its most dangerous and deadly legacies as evident in the persecutions of later centuries.   

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at, read Caroline Tully’s ‘Erichtho: Wicked Witch of the West’, Necropolis Now, October 16, 2016: https://necropolisnow.blogspot.com/search?q=Erichtho%3A+Wicked+Witch+of+the+West 

You may also like Shelby Brown’s ‘Potions and Poisons: Classical Ancestors of the Wicked Witch Part 2’, Getty, October 31, 2015: http://blogs.getty.edu/iris/potions-and-poisons-classical-ancestors-of-the-wicked-witch-part-2/ 

Evelyn De Morgan, The Love Potion, 1903, De Morgan Centre, London

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day

The Tools of the Ancient Magical Practitioner – Prof Marguerite Johnson

Magic & Witchcraft in Ancient Greece & Rome – Prof. Marguerite Johnson – 7 Lecture Course

In this special seven-part series, Marguerite Johnson takes us on a magical mystery tour of magic and witchcraft in ancient Greece and Rome, with a sprinkling of Egyptian occult practices. Each lecture introduces a particular type of magic; is extensively illustrated with archaeological evidence; features excerpts from ancient writing; and includes a fascinating reading list for those interested in pursuing the topics in more detail. 

The Tools of the Ancient Magical Practitioner: Aug 27th – Lecture VI

While we may think that magical wands, effigies or poppets, spell books and animal parts are the stuff of our imagination when it comes to witchcraft, all such things were used to work magic in the ancient world. From the magisterial wands from Mycenaean Greece to the exotic ingredients required for spells (including hair and other items from an intended victim, to bats, toads, feathers and eggs), the practitioner of magic possessed a cornucopia of tools. In this talk we consider some of these necessary items in the magician’s tool kit and think about the ways in which they were used.  

For a peak preview of some of the topics we’ll be looking at, read Kiran A. Williams’ ‘The Wand Chooses the Wizard: Distinctions of Greco-Roman Staffs, Rods, and Wands in Ritual and Myth’, The Macksey Journal, 2021 https://mackseyjournal.scholasticahq.com/article/28009-the-wand-chooses-the-wizard-distinctions-of-greco-roman-staffs-rods-and-wands-in-ritual-and-myth 

don’t worry if you miss it – we will send you a recording valid for two weeks the next day