Newsweek: The CIA and ESP

NewsweekNewsweek for November 20, 2015, has a cover story on the CIA and its research into paranormal activity. The essay, "Paranormal Activity: CIA Dimension," looks at the work of Edwin May, and his work in studying remote viewing for various U.S. government agencies for use in intelligence gathering. An excerpt:

"Twenty years ago this month, the CIA released a report with the unassuming title, 'An Evaluation of Remote Viewing: Research and Applications.' The 183-page white paper was more like a white flag - it was the CIA's public admission, after years of speculation, that the US. government agencies had been using a type of of ESP called 'remote viewing' for more than two decades to help collect military and intelligence secrets. At a cost of more than $20 million, the program had employed psychics to visualize hidden extremist training sites in Libya, describe new Soviet submarine designs and pinpoint the locations of U.S. hostages held by foreign kidnappers."


Call for Papers: Promises of Monsters

Promises of Monsters
28-29th of April 2016 University of Stavanger, Norway  

Confirmed keynote speakers:
Professor Margrit Shildrick (Linköping University, Sweden)

Assistant Professor Surekha Davies (Western Connecticut State University, US)

Monsters are back, or perhaps they never went away. They haunt popular culture and social media. They lurk as images of dread and terror in politics, and figures of thought within academia. As shadows of the past they reappear as the potential biotechnological realities of today. They roam the in-between, making borders and boundaries tremble and shatter; whether these be borders of nation states or bodies, or categories of race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, self and other. In this sense, the monster seems to embody a promise of disturbances and change, as Donna Haraway argued in her 1992 text “The Promises of Monsters”.

Haraway’s text heralds the 1990s rapid increase in academic engagement with figures of ghosts and monsters, the spectral and the monstrous, encompassing publications such as Derrida’s Spectres of Marx (1994) and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s anthology Monster Theory (1996). Now, on the other side of the millennium-threshold, the popularity of monsters has flared up again, inspiring publications such as for example Ashgate’s Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous (Mittman and Dendle 2012). 20 years after Haraway’s essay, “The Promise of Monsters” (2012) is evoked yet again, this time by Cohen, to point to the strange temporalities and disturbing messages of the figure of the monster as it haunts the margins of reality and human subjecthood. Messages that may well be promises, but of what?

The interdisciplinary conference Promises of Monsters invites contributors to think critically with and through the figure of the monster. What does the monster promise? What contradictions, uncertainties, anxieties, desires and disturbances haunt the shifting landscapes of monsters?

How might the monster help unsettle and rethink traditional ontology, epistemology and ethics? In other words: how might the monster help one think and imagine the world differently? Indeed, what does the monster index in a rapidly developing technological globe where inequalities are ever-more apparent and expanding? How do monsters come to represent the very racialised, sexualised, ableist, gendered and homophobic injustices of historical and contemporary modes of belonging and migrating? And how do monsters haunt disciplines differently and why?

Promises of Monsters invites all, including researchers, artists and practitioners, to engage on an interdisciplinary level with the subject of monsters and the monstrous. As well as traditional academic style presentations, we also welcome creative submissions across all genres and forms.

The following are possible themes for panels, papers and artistic contributions, but we welcome you to think beyond these suggestions:

Animal studies Art, popular culture
Critical race theory
Digital technologies and social media
Disability studies
Gender and feminist theory
(Im-)materiality, embodiment
Medical humanities
Postcolonial studies
Queer and sexuality studies
Science fiction, horror, and fantasy
Technology, medicine
Xenophobia, the Other

We accept submissions for papers and panels. Please get in touch about artistic submissions. Send your abstract (250 - 300 words and a 50 word bio) and/or questions to:

For updates, see our website:
Deadline for submissions: 15th December 2015
Promises of Monsters is organized by The Monster Network. You can find and join us on Facebook. Conference art by Tove Kjellmark.

Lecture on horror and religion at University of the Pacific

university_of_the_pacificNext Wednesday, November 11, I will present a guest lecture at University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. I was invited by Professor Alan Lenzi to present on "Religion and Transcendence in Horror and Science Fiction." My presentation will involve a PowerPoint that incorporates film clips and commentary, not only on Abrahamic religions, but also on minority religions in America, including esotericism. The presentation will be in Raymond Great Hall 3545 Rudkin Way at 7:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the department of religious and classical studies. A promo for the lecture can be found on UOP's calendar of events.

"Dracula and Philosophy" review

518Od6x8BALI have a brief review of Dracula and Philosophy: Dying to Know (Open Court, 2015), edited by Nicolas Michaud and Janelle Pötzsch at The Englewood Review of Books, currently as a feature review. It can be read here.

RUE MORGUE and the Ouija Board

11909378_576432975830678_238907741_nEach year I look forward to the Halloween issue of RUE MORGUE magazine. This year's was a real treat given its cover story "Spirits, Demons, Superstition: 125 Years of the Ouija Board." There are several elements included in their coverage, including an overview, "Take Me to the Other Side" by April Snellings that also includes an interview with three folks with ouija board expertise, "Ghost Writers" also by April Snellings that involves a discussion with Brandon Hodge on the history of talking boards like the ouija, and "Cinema Ouija" by Ronni Thomas that looks at the portrayal of talking boards in film.

I appreciate that RUE MORGUE covered this topic, and the various aspects of their coverage. I would have liked to have seen more discussion of the religious dimension of ouija boards, however. While the magazine did mention it in connection with Spiritism, there is much more they could have mentioned. This would have included things like Jane Roberts, a medium who used the ouija board early on in her communication on behalf of an entity named Seth who would go on to reveal a whole body of teachings called the Seth Material, and which helped usher in the New Age Movement.  Then there is the importance of the ouija board to various forms of American folk magic and teen rights of passage, which has been discussed by Bill Ellis in his books Raising the Devil: Satanism, New Religions, and the Media (University of Kentucky Press, 2000), and Lucifer Ascending: The Occult in Folklore and Popular Culture (University of Kentucky Press, 2004).

Regardless of the perspective in which the ouija board and other talking boards are discussed, they represent an important part of understanding American religion and the paranormal.

"I ain't afraid of no ghosts"

tumblr_mviqk8f7ud1qhcrb0o1_1280The other day I watched Disney's animated cartoon, Lonesome Ghosts (1937). I caught a line in it I hadn't noticed before. Each of the main characters has their encounter with a ghost, from Mickey to Donald to Goofy. In connection with Goofy's spectral encounter he says, "I ain't afraid of no ghosts." In light of Ray Parker Jr.'s past legal troubles in connection with his "Ghostbusters" song in the film of the same name, I wonder whether Parker lifted this line out of a cartoon from his childhood. The line of dialogue is word for word as it appears in the song, and this seems too much for coincidence.

Titles of Interest: The Art of Horror

art_of_horrorThe Art of Horror: An Illustrated History (Applause Theatre & Cinema Books; Ill edition, 2015)

Stephen Jones, editor

Amazingly, there has never been a book quite like The Art of Horror a celebration of frightful images, compiled and presented by some of the genre's most respected names. While acknowledging the beginnings of horror-related art in legends and folk tales, the focus of the book is on how the genre has presented itself to the world since the creations of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley first became part of the public consciousness in the 19th century. It's all here: from early engravings via dust jackets, book illustrations, pulp magazines, movie posters, comic books, and paintings to today's artists working entirely in the digital realm. Editor Stephen Jones and his stellar team of contributors have sourced visuals from archives and private collections (including their own) worldwide, ensuring an unprecedented selection that is accessible to those discovering the genre, while also including many images that will be rare and unfamiliar to even the most committed fan. From the shockingly lurid to the hauntingly beautiful including images of vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, demons, serial killers, alien invaders, and more every aspect of the genre is represented in ten themed chapters. Quotes from artists/illustrators, and a selection from writers and filmmakers, are featured throughout.

Extraordinary Tales animation coming to a theater near you

Extraordinary Tales, a new animated horror piece of animation is coming to theaters and On Demand on October 23, right in time for Halloween. As reported by

Directed by former Disney animator Raul Garcia, TALES adapts Poe’s classics “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Masque of Red Death” and “The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdemar,” each rendered in its own unique style of animation inspired by everything from Universal monster classics to EC-style horror comics.

Narration for the tales will be provided by a ghoul’s gallery of horror legends – including filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro (CRIMSON PEAK) and Roger Corman (THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER), actor Julian Sands (WARLOCK), and immortal horror icons Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi.

Call for Papers: Characters of 'The Walking Dead'

In 2014 the Characters of The Walking Dead book project began. The co-editors received several submissions, but the project encountered difficulties. A new co-editor has joined the project, and we are now issuing a new call for papers in the hopes of receiving additional submissions to fill in the blanks in character treatment. Of particular interest are Lori, Glenn, Maggie, Sasha, Beth, Tara, Abraham, Eugene, and Rosita. We will also consider other possible character treatments. As the title indicates, we are seeking chapter submissions that focus on the characters of The Walking Dead television series and uses the characters as springboards into discussions of larger themes developed within the character, the television series, and connected to the broader culture. Abstracts of 200 words or further inquiries on this volume should be sent to John Morehead ( and Arnold Blumberg (the14th by November 15, 2015.

Titles of Interest - Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney

9780415709309Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney
International Perspectives
Edited by Jack Zipes, Pauline Greenhill, Kendra Magnus-Johnston (Routledge, 2016)

The fairy tale has become one of the dominant cultural forms and genres internationally, thanks in large part to its many manifestations on screen. Yet the history and relevance of the fairy-tale film have largely been neglected. In this follow-up to Jack Zipes’s award-winning book The Enchanted Screen (2011), Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney offers the first book-length multinational, multidisciplinary exploration of fairy-tale cinema. Bringing together twenty-three of the world’s top fairy-tale scholars to analyze the enormous scope of these films, Zipes and colleagues Pauline Greenhill and Kendra Magnus-Johnston present perspectives on film from every part of the globe, from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, to Jan Švankmajer’s Alice, to the transnational adaptations of 1001 Nights and Hans Christian Andersen.

Contributors explore filmic traditions in each area not only from their different cultural backgrounds, but from a range of academic fields, including criminal justice studies, education, film studies, folkloristics, gender studies, and literary studies. Fairy-Tale Films Beyond Disney offers readers an opportunity to explore the intersections, disparities, historical and national contexts of its subject, and to further appreciate what has become an undeniably global phenomenon.

Table of Contents

Foreword and Acknowledgements Jack Zipes Preface: Traveling Beyond Disney Kendra Magnus-Johnston, Pauline Greenhill, and Lauren Bosc 1. The Great Cultural Tsunami of Fairy-Tale Films Jack Zipes 2. "My Life as a Fairy Tale": The Fairy Tale Author in Popular Cinema Kendra Magnus-Johnston 3. Spectacle of the Other: Recreating A Thousand and One Nights in Film Sofia Samatar 4. British Animation and the Fairy-Tale Tradition: Housetraining the Id Paul Wells 5. The Fairy-Tale Film in France: Postwar Reimaginings Anne Duggan 6. The Checkered Reception of Fairy-Tale Films in the Germany of the Brothers Grimm Jack Zipes 7. Fairy-Tale Films in Italy Cristina Bacchilega 8. The Fairy-Tale Film in Scandinavia Elisabeth Oxfeldt 9. "To Catch Up and Overtake Disney?" Soviet and Post-Soviet Fairy-Tale Films, Marina Balina and Birgit Beumers 10. The Czech and Slovak Fairy-Tale Film Peter Hames 11. Polish Fairy-Tale Film: 130 Years of Innovation and Counting Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak and Marek Oziewicz 12. Not Always Happily Ever After: Japanese Fairy Tales in Cinema and Animation, Susan Napier 13. The Love Story, Female Images, and Gender Politics: Folktale Films in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Jing Li 14. "It’s all a Fairy Tale": A Folklorist’s Reflection on Storytelling in Popular Hindi Cinema, Sadhana Naithani 15. The Fairy-Tale Film in Korea, Sung-Ae Lee 16. Stick Becoming Crocodile: African Fairy-Tale Film Jessica Tiffin 17. Australian Fairy Tale Films Elizabeth Bullen and Naarah Sawers 18. Fairy-Tale Films in Canada/Canadian Fairy-Tale Films Pauline Greenhill and Steven Kohm 19. The Fairy-Tale Film in Latin America Laura Hubner 20. Beyond Disney in the Twenty-First Century: Changing Aspects of Fairy-Tale Films in the American Film Industry Jack Zipes

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