Suffering Souls

Writing for Halloween by Leslie Wilson, John Sturrock, Thomas Jones, Michael Newton, Marina Warner and Gavin Francis.

Broom, broom

Leslie Wilson, 2 December 1993

The witch is also a nature goddess, like Frau Holle who shook the feathers out of her bedding and made it snow. Holle was once a powerful deity, sometimes called Hulda, sometimes identified with Diana-Hecate, Queen of Witches: she made the crops grow, brought babies, and sent her followers out to cure sickness and reward good housewives. She led a furious army through the sky, candidates for the original flying witches.


John Sturrock, 3 July 1980

The cucurbits are victims of repression. Those of us who, before we took up this book, hadn’t thought the pumpkin and its unhappy kind were ridiculous, or erotic, or even taboo, had simply failed to look them in the face – we were operating the well-known taboo on taboo subjects.

Necrophiliac Striptease: Mummies

Thomas Jones, 6 February 2014

‘As weary academic Egyptologists often explain,’ Roger Luckhurst says, ‘Ancient Egyptian culture actually had very little concept of the curse.’ The real mystery that he has set out to solve has nothing to do with why so many people died horrible deaths after plundering the tombs of the pharaohs. For a start, it’s not clear that so many did: Douglas Murray only lost an arm, though the ‘Unlucky Mummy’ supposedly responsible for his misfortune was also rumoured to have been on board the Titanic when it sank. In fact it was sitting quietly in the British Museum, where you can still go and see it – object no. 22542 – if you dare.

The Thrill of It All: Zombies

Michael Newton, 18 February 2016

My friends’ toddler staggered towards the zombies; the zombies staggered towards him. Soon they were among us. Blood congealed around eye sockets; cuts slashed down cheeks; eyes whited out. One cadaverous Belgian lurched towards me, unfastening his jaws as if to take a mouthful. I wondered how far the play-acting would go. What if this man really thinks he’s a zombie?

Many of the phantoms explore their own condition, pondering what it means to be a ghost. One revenant explains that he can speak, though tongueless, by resonating the words in his chest; another that the penalties he suffers are real, the fires of purgation all too corporeal, and though he has no body, he feels them terribly; yet another that the dead continue to know their friends from the world above, but make no other acquaintance in the underworld. 

Awwooooooooooooooooo! Lycanthropy

Gavin Francis, 2 November 2017

‘It must be a full moon,’ colleagues remark when a night in the emergency department is particularly blood-soaked or there are an unusual number of psychiatric admissions.

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