Tuesday, 16 May 2017

We're All Gonna Die: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint

7.45pm Thursday 27 July 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Viva La Muerte! Santa Muerte, Folk Saint and Holy Personification of Death, Healer and Protector.

The leading expert on the fastest growing new religious movement in the Americas, Dr. Andrew Chesnut will explain how Mexican folk saint, Santa Muerte (Saint Death), has gone from only a few thousand devotees in 2001 to some 12 million today.

Andrew is Professor of Religious Studies and holds the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University. He authored the first and only academic book in English on the Bony Lady, Devoted to Death: Santa Muerte, the Skeleton Saint (OUP, 2012). 

7.45pm Thursday 27 July 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Monday, 15 May 2017

Abbé Boullan: Paris’ Satanic Priest

7.45pm Thursday 29 June 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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This evening Madeleine Ledespencer will present the notorious heretical priest and accused satanist, Abbé Joseph-Antoine Boullan (1824- 1893), who came to be known as a bogeyman of the 19th century Paris magicians who misrepresented his occult Catholicism.

In his lifetime, Boullan went from a rising star within the church of Rome to a defrocked priest running his own ministry of mystical Catholicism in which women were consecrated bishops and preparations were made for a coming new age of Luciferian feminine power. He was hugely famed in his day, and served as an inspiration for artists and occultists as varied as JK Huysmans, Michael Bertiaux, and Maria de Naglowaska.

Tonight we will look at the life, work, and impact of this most fascinating figure and his spiritual partner, the mysterious Julie Thibault.

7.45pm Thursday 29 June 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Glamour and Mystery: 100 Years of the Cottingley Fairies

£8 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Tuesday 18 July 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn
Directions
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London Fortean Society, in partnership with Conway Hall, present a night marking the centenary of the Cottingley Fairies case.

In July 1917 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, 16 and 9 years old, took a photograph. It showed Frances in their garden with four fairies dancing in front of her. In 1920 Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about them in the Strand Magazine:

The recognition of their existence will jolt the material twentieth century mind out of its heavy ruts in the mud, and will make it admit that there is a glamour and mystery to life.

The Cottingley Fairy photographs were not revealed as a hoax until Elsie and Frances confessed in 1983. But they still claimed that they did find fairies at the bottom of the garden.

https://www.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/about-usMichael Terwey of the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford discusses how the photographs were taken and how they fitted in to the Spiritualist culture of the time. 

Professor Diane Purkis asks why Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with many others, so wanted to believe in fairies? Further panelists to be confirmed.

Tessa Farmer will be discussing her own contemporary fairy art and we shall be showing some of her wonderful yet terrifying fairy films on the night.

Tessa was born in 1978 in Birmingham and  lives and works in London. Her work has been exhibited worldwide and is in many collections including those of The Saatchi Gallery, London, The David Roberts Collection, London and The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Tasmania.

She is the great granddaughter of the influential writer of supernatural horror Arthur Machen.

Michael Terwey - The Cottingley Fairies: a photographic hoax
In July 1917, in a small village on the fringes of the industrial city of Bradford, two young women perpetrated one of the most successful photographic hoaxes in history. Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths convinced first their families, then many of the general public, that they had successfully photographed the fairies and gnomes that that claimed inhabited the woods at the back of their garden. It was only in the 1980s, nearly seventy years later, that they admitted their deception, and to this day there are many that believe that at least one of the photographs is “real”.

The National Science and Media Museum in Bradford holds important collections relating to the hoax, including copies of the photographs and the cameras used. In this talk Michael will explore the photographic technologies and techniques that are at the heart of the story and describe how they were used to such convincing effect, as well as looking more widely at the context of spirit and supernatural photography in the early twentieth century.

Michael Terwey is Head of Collections and Exhibitions at the National Science and Media Museum.

Professor Diane Purkis - Why did Conan Doyle want to believe?
Professor Purkis will be demonstrating that, odd though it may seem to us, for
the Victorians as for early modern Britain's of Shakespeare's generation, the existence of fairies with comforting and satisfying proof of the existence of a world of spirits.

Fairies could also represent the angry, restless, and hungry dead, and Diane will be suggesting that Conan Doyle's interest in spiritualism meant that he was especially anxious and guilty about the dead of the First World War, an anxiety that he shared with most of the literate society of his era.

Diane will be comparing the Cottingley pictures to Abel Gance’s 1919 film J’Accuse; she will also be referring to TS Eliot's poem The Waste Land which came out the year the Cottingley pictures were printed in the Strand magazine.

Diane Purkiss is Fellow and Tutor of English at Keble College, Oxford. She specialises in Renaissance and women's literature, witchcraft and the English Civil War.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Gef the Talking Mongoose

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Tuesday 6 June 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
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On the eve of his 165th birthday (“I was born June 7th 1852, near Delhi, India…”), the London Fortean Society present for your delectation the strange story of Gef the Talking Mongoose.

In the early 1930s and for several years thereafter, an isolated farm in the rural south west of the Isle of Man became the focus of international media attention. Psychic investigators, spiritualists, psychoanalysts and reporters were all drawn to the lonely farm of Doarlish Cashen, whose inhabitants, the Irving family, steadfastly maintained that they were being ‘haunted’ by a super-intelligent weasel or mongoose by the name of Gef.

This mysterious entity was allegedly able to speak English and other languages, sing popular songs and hymns of the period, and would engage the family in nightly conversations about religion, the supernatural, and the afterlife.

Numerous people claimed to have heard the strange, high-pitched voice of Gef; a few even claimed to have seen him. Despite the absence of definitive proof, the case still remains an enigmatic one today.

Throughout the remainder of their lives, the Irvings - James, Margaret and daughter Voirrey - all insisted that the story had not been a hoax, and was true in all respects.

Christopher Josiffe, author of the definitive and official biography of Gef, will be giving an overview of this case, unique in the annals of paranormal research. He will also be examining some lesser-known aspects of the story - the parents, James and Margaret, not native to the Isle of Man, claimed to have previously enjoyed a more prosperous life in the city of Liverpool prior to their ill-fated ‘Good Life’ move to Man just after WW1. Is this true? And why were they forced to relocate?

In addition to Chris’s presentation and readings from his Gef! the Strange Tale of an Extra-Special Talking Mongoose book, writer and musician Chris Hill will be reading extracts from James Irving’s unpublished letters and diaries, giving an unparalleled insight into the family’s daily life with their extraordinary house-guest.

Copies of Chris's biography of Gef, published by Strange Attractor Press, will be available on the night.

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Tuesday 6 June 2017 7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
Facebook event page

Friday, 12 May 2017

Fortean London: Camlet Moat and the Crouch End Spriggan

7.45pm Thursday 25 May 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Our short talks on fortean London returns with speakers discussing the ghosts and legends of Camlet Moat and the Crouch End Spriggan.

Camlet Moat: Ghosts, Legends and Witchcraft

Camlet Moat Enfield (Wikicommons)
Nobody knows much about Camlet Moat in Trent Park, Enfield. Little wonder then that it should have become the focus of legends, ghost stories and modern-day witchcraft. My talk will take us on a journey from fact to fiction and folklore.

Jason Hollis is the author of Haunted Enfield (History Press 2013) and is currently writing a follow-up book concerning ghosts and haunted places within the London Borough of Barnet.

The Crouch End Spriggan

A trip down an abandoned rail line brings us face to face with a strange creature emerging from the brickwork of an old station arch. Its story is one of Lovecraftian synchronicity, urban legends, permaculture, and cough syrup hallucinations.

Gyrus is a writer based in south London. Creator of the journals Towards 2012 and Dreamflesh, and author of North, an epic cosmological history. He runs the website Dreamflesh.


The 'Spriggan' on the Parkland Walk by fiomaha.
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Thursday, 11 May 2017

The Green Children of Woolpit

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Tuesday 16 May 2017 (Please note the new date!)
7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
Facebook event page

Image by John Clark
One summer in the 12th century harvesters in the fields of the Suffolk village of Woolpit were amazed when two children suddenly appeared, as if out of the ground.

Their skin was green, and they spoke an unintelligible language. Later, when they had learnt enough English to communicate, they said they came from a land called St Martin’s Land, where the sun never shone.

The ‘Green Children of Woolpit’ have inspired short stories, novels, plays, poems, pop songs, a teaching resource in drama on the theme of ‘Community cohesion and the prevention of violent extremism’, and an opera. They have been identified as fairy-folk, as extraterrestrials, as strays from a family of Flemish weavers, or as descendants of humans once abducted by aliens, returned to earth via a matter transmitter.

John Clark, formerly curator of the medieval collections at the Museum of London, returns to the original texts to disentangle the ‘facts’ of what has been described as ‘a classic of forteana’, and to consider the pros and cons of some of the many ‘explanations’. He does not promise a solution!

£5 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Tuesday 16 May 2017 (Please note the new date!)
7.30pm
Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions
Facebook event page

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Deception Day: Hoaxes, Lies and Fake News

£20 plus booking fee (Advance tickets)
Saturday 1 April 2017 10am – 5.30pm (Registration from 9.30am)

Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
Tube: Holborn

Directions


Orion: The Man Who Would be King
From hoax hip-hop stars and haunted houses to military deception, fake news, cancer myths and a joke that may have started World War III join the London Fortean Society and Conway Hall Ethical Society for an April Fools Day of hoaxing, deceit and unreal things. Some may be charming, others are terrifying.

1st April is the traditional day for hoaxing and japes but deception and deceit riddle everyday news and communication.


 
Fake News discussion with Padraig Reidy, James Ball and Peter Pomerantsev
Ghostwatch: The scariest TV show ever made? Stephen Volk and Lesley Manning
Orion: The Man Who Would Be King & The Great Hip Hop Hoax. Jeanie Finlay

The Hoaxes of Crass. Penny Rimbaud

Fake Cancer Cures and Anti-Vaccination Myths. Dr David Robert Grimes
Magic, Deception and the Abuses of Enchantment. Mark Pilkington

Full details below.

Fake News
What are the consequences of fake news now being as easy to access as genuine reporting? It is pranking, propaganda or a reflection of the publics already jaundiced world view?

Padraig Reidy of Little Atoms chairs a discussion on fake news; what it is, where is comes from, what is means for communication and informed democracy in the twenty-first century?  The panel will include James Ball, BuzzFeed UK Special Correspondent and author of Post-Truth: How Bullshit Conquered the World and Peter Pomerantsev, author or Buy Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia.

Ghostwatch: The scariest TV show ever made?
Image result for ghostwatch
On Halloween 1992 BBC1 viewers watch a chilling live transmission from a haunted house that went terribly wrong.  Sarah Greene. Mike Smith and Craig Charles were terrorised. Michael Parkinson ended the program far worse than that.  The drama, depicted as a documentary, was frightening, controversial and not shown for another ten years afterwards.

Ghostwatch writer Stephen Volk and director Lesley Manning show excerpts and discuss the making, impact and influence of Ghostwatch on its twenty-fifth anniversary. 

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King & The Great Hip Hop Hoax 
Jeanie Finlay is an artist and film-maker who creates intimate and personal documentary films and artworks. She will be telling the stories of, and showing excerpts from, two of her films: the Bifa winning Orion: The Man Who Would Be King, Panto!, Bifa and Grierson-nominated The Great Hip Hop Hoax.

Orion: The Man Who Would Be King
Silibil n' Brains. Hadn't seen as much sunshine as they first made out.
From Jeanie’s Director’s statement: “A roller coaster tale of the Nashville music scene in the wake of Elvis Presley’s death, taking in deception, a quest for success, a search for identity and ending in brutal and tragic murder. […] Even if you’ve never heard of Orion, you probably know about the Elvis is Alive myth. What I uncovered was that the story of Orion is the story of how that myth got started.”

The Great Hip-Hop Hoax
Californian hip-hop duo Silibil n' Brains were going to be massive. What no-one knew was the pair were really students from Scotland, with fake American accents and made up identities.

The Hoaxes of Crass: The Thatchergate Tapes and Loving Magazine.
Spend some time with Penny
1980s anarcho-punk band Crass were more than a shouty protest band. Their 1983 ‘Thatchergate’ tape supposedly caught Margret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan discussing Europe becoming the US’s battlefront against the USSR and the sacrifice of HMS Sheffield during the Falklands war.

The hoax was a pre-Cassetteboy prank of spliced tape that the CIA thought was by Soviet 'produced to destroy democracy as we know it'. The hoax did not set-off World War Three.
 
In 1981, in the build up to the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diane, Crass convinced the magazine Loving to carry a free flexi disc of the song Our Wedding.
 
Ex-Crass Member Penny Rimbaud described the lyrics as “frightful, banal shit about the social fantasy of marriage” that the magazine fell for “hook, line and stinker”.
Join Penny as he discusses these hoaxes.

Fake Cancer Cures and Anti-Vaccination Myths

The news and internet are forever full of fake cancer causes and cure offering simplistic solutions to a complex and terrible illness. The 'alkaline diet' can prevent cancer Sugar can cause cancer. A carbohydrate-free diet can throttle cancer. Homeopathy, cannabis oil and natural remedies can treat cancer. Household electromagnetic radiation causes cancer.
Vaccination has been hated and feared since at least 1867 and the formation of the Anti Vaccination League and has had a recent resurgence following the false autism scare of the MMR vaccine.

Where is the truth amongst the myth?
 
Dr David Robert Grimes is a physicist and cancer researcher at Oxford University. He was a joint winner of the 2014 John Maddox Prize for Standing up for Science.

Magic, Deception and the Abuses of Enchantment
Mark Pilkington looks at two formerly secret documents, published six decades apart,
Mark Pilkington, definitely in front of a secret UFO base
that reveal the methodologies of psychological manipulation and deception practised by American and British intelligence services. “The Art of Deception, Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations”, an internal presentation for the UK’s GCHQ, was leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden earlier this year, while “The Exploitation of Superstitions for Purposes of Psychological Warfare” was published by USAF’s RAND Corporation in 1950.


The similarities between the two papers demonstrate that while the world we live in has changed dramatically in the intervening years, the human mind, and the techniques for manipulating it, have remained very much the same; both papers discuss the exploitation of belief systems and fortean phenomena.
Mark is the author of Mirage Men (2010, now a feature documentary) and runs Strange Attractor Press.

 

 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Living with Ghosts


7.45pm Thursday 27 April 2017
This event has now sold out, sorry. All being well we shall run this event again in the autumn.

The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
Facebook page
 

Haunted Hotel Room by Chris Combe licensed for reuse 
How does it feel to live in a ‘haunted home’? How do you negotiate living in a home which might be ‘co-habited’ by the strangest form of stranger?

 
Geographer Dr Caron Lipman decided to find out through a series of interviews with inhabitants of ‘haunted homes’ in England and Wales – all of whom had experienced some form of ‘uncanny’ event.
Caron will offer some examples and insights from her case studies, describing how such experiences are interpreted, how far the experience of uncanny events challenges existing beliefs (or non-beliefs) in ghosts, and what these events reveal about the domestic interior.
 
7.45pm Thursday 27 April 2017
This event has now sold out, sorry. All being well we shall run this event again in the autumn.
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street.
Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
Facebook page

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Everything You Know About Science is Wrong


7.45pm Thursday 30 March 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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Think that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light? That Darwin was the first to
put forward a theory of evolution, or that Watson and Crick discovered DNA?

Former scientist and editor-at-large of Londonist Matt Brown picks apart some of the best known 'facts' about science, drawing on his book Everything You Know About Science is Wrong. Find out why your kettle never boils at 100 degrees, how no astronaut has ever experienced zero gravity, and several reasons why you may not be who you think you are.

7.45pm Thursday 30 March 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (
Advance tickets)The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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Monday, 6 February 2017

Monumental memories: Indigenous memory and Stonehenge


7.45pm Monday 27 February 2017
This event has now sold out. We are sorry if you did not get a ticket.

The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Without writing, indigenous elders memorised a vast amount of factual information on which survival depended both physically and culturally: knowledge of thousands of animals and plants, astronomical charts, vast navigation networks, genealogies, geography and geology … the list goes on and on. How did they remember so much? And why does this explain the purpose of ancient monuments including Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Nasca Lines? Can we use these memory methods in contemporary life?

This talk will focus on the transmission of scientific and practical knowledge among small-scale oral cultures across the world, drawing on Australian Aboriginal, Native American, African and Pacific cultures.

Dr Lynne Kelly, author of The Memory Code, will explain the exact mechanisms used and why this explains the purpose of many enigmatic monuments around the world. We have a great deal to learn from the extraordinary mnemonic skills of indigenous cultures.
 
7.45pm Monday 27 February 2017
This event has now sold out. We are sorry if you did not get a ticket.

The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East

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Saturday, 4 February 2017

Killer Clowns: Moral Panic and Urban Myth

7.45pm Thursday 23 February 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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Knife-wielding clown chased terrified schoolgirl through south London park

Trinity School pupils warned of possible 'killer clown' attacks at Michaelmas Fair

'TRY NOT TO GET STABBED' Chilling ‘killer clown’ threat to school pupils leads to kids being shut inside at lunchtime

This clown may kill you, we're not sure.
In October 2016 the UK was terrorised and fascinated by the Killer Clown craze. Fear of them not only dominated newspapers but crept in to the public consciousness with rumours and stories being shared on social media and in school playgrounds.

Scott Wood, host of the London Fortean Society and author of London Urban Legends: The Corpse on the Tube attempts to dissect these clowns to see what they and their myths are made of. He will look at the origins of the scares from hoaxed to guisers to earlier mythical terrors such as Spring-heeled Jack and the Chelsea Smilers.


23 February 2017
£4 / £2 concessions (Advance tickets)
The Bell, 50 Middlesex Street, London E1 7EX.
Train and Tube: Liverpool Street. Tube: Aldgate, Aldgate East
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