Sunday, 1 July 2018

Elliott O'Donnell: Strange Cults and Secret Societies of Modern London

O'Donnell
7.45pm Thursday 30 August 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

In 1934 Elliott O'Donnell, the world-famed prince of ghost hunters published Strange Cults and Secret Societies of Modern London. It tells strange stories behind many covert organisations including the Thirteen society, the Black Brothers, Chinese secret societies and black magic, the Mafia, the Tree cults, the Suicide Society, the Cult of Cruelty, The Goats and Sophienism. 

Fr Alan Walker revisits O’Donnell’s classic book in the light of modern thinking about religious cults, moral panics and enthusiasm for the esoteric. Is his work fiction masquerading as fact, or should it be read more critically as a picture of contemporary fears and social experiments?

7.45pm Thursday 30 August 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Marvelous Mushrooms, Toxic Toadstools and Fortean Fungi

7.45pm Thursday 26 July 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East



The world of fungi is a world of the weird and wonderful. From microscopic organisms to the largest living thing ever, the fungal kingdom has it all. Folklore beyond belief – bizarre tales of the devil, poisonings, witchcraft, enchantment and Santa Claus – is only matched by reality. 

Author, frequent contributor to Fortean Times and founder of the our older cousin Edinburgh Fortean Society, Gordon Rutter reveals some of the ways in which the world of the fortean has been enriched by fungi.

7.45pm Thursday 26 July 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Who Put Bella in the Wych Elm?

7.15pm Thursday 19 July 2018
£5 plus booking fee (
Advance tickets)Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
Facebook event page


Awesome portrait of Cathi Unsworh by Etienne Gilfillan
Cathi Unsworth is the author of six pop-cultural crime novels based on real-life unsolved or controversial cases. Her latest, 'That Old Black Magic' (Serpent’s Tail), interweaves the true stories of the Hagley Woods mystery of 1943 and the trial of Helen Duncan, the last woman to be prosecuted for witchcraft in the UK, in 1944.

Real life characters mingle with the imagined in a secret history of spiritualists, stage magicians and spooks of all persuasions under the blackout of Britain’s bleakest hours.

7.15pm Thursday 19 July 2018
£5 plus booking fee (
Advance tickets)Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
Facebook event page

The Haunted City: Modern Monsters and Urban Myths

Join the London Fortean Society in London’s dark heart for a day of modern monsters and urban myth including Spring-heeled Jack, Cthulhu, Slender Man, subterranean London folklore, the Crying Boy and more.

Our cityscapes are full of strange wonders, terrors and tales. Come hear of them.

Saturday 30 June 2018

10am - 5pm
£20 / £16 concessions (Advance tickets)
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
Facebook event page

Mike Dash – Spring-heeled Jack

Andrea Kitta – Slender Man

Dr David Clarke – Tears for Fears: The Curse of the Crying Boy

Justin Woodman - Pulp Fiction to Pop-Nihilism: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the Making of a Modern Monstrous Myth.

Antony Clayton – Subterranean London

Gail-Nina Anderson - The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle upon Tyne

Tina Rath – The Hackney Bear Hunt

Scott Wood – The Legend of the Hidden Insult





Mike Dash – Spring-heeled Jack


Ever since his earliest appearances in 1837, Spring-heeled Jack – a demonic bogey who breathed fire at his victims, tore at their clothes with iron claws, and leaped over hedgerows and houses to evade pursuit – has been one of the strangest and most unsettling mystery attackers in the Fortean and folkloric canon.

Mike Dash has been researching the case since 1983, and presents an overview of the evidence that sets Jack in his contemporary contexts, explores his antecedents, and asks whether he is really as unique a figure as he seems to be. 

Dr Mike Dash is an historian and long-time member of Fortean Times’s legendary Gang of Fort. Educated at Cambridge and King’s College London, he is the author of seven books, including Borderlands, an overview of strange phenomena reviewed by New Scientist as “exhaustive, erudite and superb.” He now runs a company devoted to improving critical thinking in schools and universities. 

Andrea Kitta – Slender Man


The Slender Man is a contemporary monster that has stepped out from the digital world and out in to the physical. Dr Andrea Kitta discusses the beginnings of Slenderman on the Something Awful forum and other venues for creepypasta, there is a shared aesthetic and, at times, a shared experience that taps into something deeper than mere play. Just as Slender Man himself is complicated, so is belief in Slender Man.

Slender Man is not a simple entity that can be looked at as belonging to a single folk group. He is, possibly, an acknowledgement of the unacknowledged common experience of being watched. The reason why he “feels real” to so many people is because he helps to give a voice to a real experience that is difficult to understand otherwise. Like legends, which are not literally true but rather “typify life in modern society” (Smith 1999), Slender Man also is a part of the experience of life in the modern world.

Andrea Kitta is a folklorist with a specialty in medicine, belief, and the supernatural. She is also interested in Internet folklore, narrative, and contemporary (urban) legend. Her current research includes: vaccines, pandemic illness, contagion and contamination, stigmatized diseases, disability, health information on the Internet and Slender Man. She is co-editor for the journal Contemporary Legend, a scholarly journal published annually by the International Society for Contemporary Legend Research.


Antony Clayton – Subterranean London


Antony Clayton, author of Subterranean City, Beneath the Streets of London and Secret Tunnels of England: Folklore & Fact, will examine aspects of the folklore of underground London. The talk will concentrate principally on some of the stories of the capital’s ancient ‘secret’ passages and tunnels and sightings of ghosts underground.


Dr David Clarke – Tears for Fears: The Curse of the Crying Boy


The Crying Boy (TCB) is a mass produced sentimental print and an example of ‘folk art’ that was popular from the 1970s in working glass families in the UK. It exists in many forms. In 1985 a British tabloid newspaper The Sun published a series of hyperbolic stories reporting the existence of a jinx attached to this hideously tasteless, yet popular print. The source of the stories was attributed fire fighters who had noted the frequent occurrence of the print at domestic property fires in one English community. The intervention of journalists added a supernatural element to the story and created a proto-legend. This talk examines how TCB acquired a narrative and was transformed as it migrated from print to online media.

David Clarke teaches Media Law, regulation and ethics on the undergraduate and postgraduate journalism courses at Sheffield Hallam. As Principal Research Fellow he leads on integrating teaching and research in the Journalism Subject Group.

His publications and wide experience as a broadcaster and consultant/curator for The National Archives UFO project has brought international recognition to the University as a centre of expertise in the study of contemporary legends.



Pulp Fiction to Pop-Nihilism: H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu and the Making of a Modern Monstrous Myth.


Monsters continue to haunt the landscape and imagination of ‘rational’ metropolitan modernity, often in new and unexpected forms which reflect uniquely modern fears and anxieties. Cthulhu – the monstrously betentacled denizen of the deep and H.P. Lovecraft’s best-known literary creation – is one such entity: despite their well-documented origin in the weird fiction of the 1920s, both Cthulhu and Lovecraft’s expanded ‘Cthulhu mythos’ are considered to be an authentic esoteric reality by some – a supposition which has exerted a significant influence upon some of the conspiratorial, cryptozoological, and paranormal beliefs which populate contemporary digital and media worlds.

This talk explores the evolution of Cthulhu from Lovecraft’s own secular expression of modern existential dread, through to its current status as nihilistic occultural and pop-cultural myth, examining its resonance in relation to the angst, unease and alienation often seen to characterise existence in a rapidly-changing and increasingly uncertain world.

Justin Woodman is a lecturer in anthropology at Goldsmiths College (The University of London), where he teaches courses on the anthropology of the paranormal, and has written on the intersection between Lovecraft’s fiction and contemporary occultures.

Gail-Nina Anderson - The Vampire Rabbit of Newcastle upon Tyne

Amongst its fair share of public statuary and sculpted architectural detail, Newcastle counts a unique representation – the Vampire Rabbit. In a quiet corner behind the Cathedral, above the door of a 1901 office building it squats menacingly, complete with lurid claws and fangs. This talk explores the tall tales that have sprung up around our beloved (and still inexplicable) beast and their relation to folklore traditions involving rabbits and hares.


Tina Rath – The Hackney Bear Hunt 

“We were near the football pitches at about five o’clock in the evening when we
saw it,” said Darren Willoughby, aged 12, “It was very close to us, standing on its hind legs and about seven feet tall.”

On 27 December1981 four boys from Lower Clapton took their dogs out for a walk across Hackney Marshes. Past Millfields Road, near the football pitches, the boys encountered “a giant great growling hairy thing”. They met a bear in Hackney.

Tina Rath hunts the story of the Hackney Bear, the police hunt for it and how is returned in 2012 and why a Brit Pop bands may have been involved. Tina gained her doctorate from London University with a thesis on The Vampire in Popular Fiction and her MA with a dissertation on The Vampire in the Theatre.


Scott Wood – The Legend of the Hidden Insult

Did you hear about the insult hidden in the jacket of a prince or inside the car of a queen? Or the insult placed on the front of a City office block or outside Harrods at Christmas? The Hidden Insult is a rude, irreverent piece of revenge folklore.

Scott Wood, author of London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube and host of the London Fortean Society, discusses this fun and sometimes filthy urban legend.



Super-Recognisers: Spotting Faces in a Crowd

7.45pm Thursday 28 June 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East


Crowd Of Faces by Dawn Hudson (Public Domain)
The use of police super-recognisers in London has vastly increased suspect identification rates from CCTV in recent years. They perform exceptionally highly at familiar and unfamiliar face recognition, simultaneous face matching and spotting target faces in videos of large crowds. Non-police super-recognisers are also superior to most people at long-term face recognition, even when faces are heavily disguised. 

Psychologist Dr Josh P Davis of the University of Greenwich explores his research on these very rare individuals and his work with the police and courts

7.45pm Thursday 28 June 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. 
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

Magick and Power in the Age of Trump

7.15pm Tuesday 26 June 2018
£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
Facebook event page

Did positive thinking and mental science help put Donald Trump in the White House? And are there any other hidden powers of the mind and thought at work in today's world politics?

In Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump, historian and cultural critic Gary Lachman takes a close look at the various magical and esoteric ideas that are impacting political events across the globe.

From New Thought and Chaos Magick to the far-right esotericism of Julius Evola and the Traditionalists, Lachman follows a trail of mystic clues that involve, among others, Norman Vincent Peale, domineering gurus and demagogues, Ayn Rand, Pepe the Frog, Rene Schwaller de Lubicz, synarchy, the Alt-Right, meme magic, and Vladimir Putin and his postmodern Rasputin.

Come take a drop down the rabbit hole of occult politics in the twenty-first century and find out the post-truths and alternative facts surrounding the 45th President of the United States with one of the leading writers on esotericism and its influence on modern culture.

7.15pm Tuesday 26 June 2018
£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
Facebook event page

Fooling the World: The Alien Autopsy Film

7.45pm Thursday 31 May 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East


In 1995, filmmaker and magician Spyros Melaris created an illusion of global significance. His mission was to create something so unusual, so disturbing that it would rock the world. “The Alien Autopsy” was not just a hoax. It challenged belief systems. It asked, “Do aliens exist, and are they visiting our planet?”

The film fooled NASA, Kodak and many experts, including leading pathologists in the US, here in the UK and all over the world. It maintained its integrity for 15 years until Melaris and his crew revealed the truth.

Spyros Melaris has prepared slides, film and inside secrets and tonight will answer all questions, shining a light on just how he and his team created the greatest hoax of all time.

7.45pm Thursday 31 May 2018
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East