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Sunday, 3 January 2016

MOVING OUT!

New year, new start. A couple of months ago I moved my blog posts over to WordPress and now, after much editing, my new website is up and running.

You can find all of my old posts from here and my new ones here:


This is where I will be posting from now on, so be sure to follow me on WordPress!

I chose to change blogging platforms for a few reasons, mainly because I wanted to expand my blog and use new design techniques which Blogger doesn't offer. After several years of having Blogger blogs I feel ready to move on and challenge myself with HTML a bit more.

I have loved my time here and the journey I have been on with The Willow Web, and it has inspired me in so many ways. Thank you to all the lovely, beautiful people who have read and commented on my blog, and I hope you will continue to follow me on my blogging journey. I'm very grateful for all of your support, and I'm going to work hard and can't wait to see what my future on WordPress holds!

I'm not a student any more. It's time to jump into life, with both feet, and with eyes closed. And trust myself not to fall...


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Three Years: How I Really Paid for my Degree, and What it's Really Taught Me

This is a sort of reprise of this post from last year, about why I sometimes find writing hard because of a condition called Trichotillomania.

There is always something. Work experience. Holidays. Job interviews. Family days out. Parties. Whatever it is, I know it’s coming. I know how many weeks until it happens. I know how many weeks I need to leave my eyelashes alone in order for them to grow in time.

And I never make it.

Most recently, it was graduation. Graduation means photos, attention, wearing a posh dress. Bald eyelids. Ugly.

But let’s just stop and think about this. Graduating means getting a degree - and a First Class one at that. Over the last three years, I have worked and studied and pushed myself to my limits for this. I didn’t do my degree to get a job or impress anyone. I did it for myself, to try and prove to awkward, useless, 19-year-old Amy that she could do something. And well, I did it. I proved it when I moved 5 hours away from home, and when I walked into classes full of strangers and made friends, even though all I really wanted to do was stuff a paper bag over my head. I proved it by learning to do laundry, to do my own cooking, to rent a house, and get a job.

And I did all of this without eyelashes.

I remember the weeks before I moved to university. Counting them down, one pluck at a time. Desperate for a new start, but not wanting more whispers behind backs and being labelled a 'freak' again. Because in most of my experience up until that point, that's all you got for being different. No support, or sympathy. Just 'freak.'

Regardless of this, I lost most of them. I collected my keys and moved into halls eyelash-less and terrified. But I made myself get on with things. Let them grow back a little, as I settled in. Started writing my first assignments and yanked them out all over again. Trichotillomania is just like that. I get so far, and then it’s as though I have to pay for whatever success I’m having. My degree has been paid for not just with student loans, but with hundreds of eyelashes, strewn across desks, the floors of my accommodation, and the pages of my notebooks.

Whilst Trichotillomania has the power to make me feel ugly, hate myself, and make getting things done more of a struggle, it doesn’t have the power to stop me. Having eyelashes isn’t a requirement for UCAS, or for being a writer. It’s not a requirement to make friends, either. And if it is, then I’ve realised I was trying to make friends with the wrong kind of person.

All those events I’ve attended, I haven’t enjoyed any the less for having no eyelashes. I’ve made my peace, and moved on. Until next time, when I have to remind myself all over again that it's okay and I'm okay. Because maybe I owe it to Trichotillomania, for forcing me to keep fighting, for providing the Universe with enough personal sacrifice in order for good things to happen.

When I walked down the aisle in the cathedral to collect my degree, I didn't look down. Instead, I smiled. And I smiled in every photograph that was taken, and let my friend put my hair up for our night out even though that meant I wouldn't be able to hide behind my hair. I arrived at university without eyelashes, and I've left it without them, too. And next time something comes up and makes me anxious to grow them, I won’t panic. I know that I’ll be fine no matter how long they are. The length of our hair doesn’t define us, but our actions do.



Monday, 2 November 2015

BalletLORENT's Snow White

There's just something about ballet and fairy tales which go together, and BalletLORENT are really flaunting it! Two years ago, I was mesmerised by their production of 'Rapunzel.' So when I saw a new show listed in my local theatre's brochure, I was straight down to the ticket office.

This time, BalletLORENT chose to adapt Snow White. Like their Rapunzel show, the scenario was written by Carol Ann Duffy and the whole thing was a pretty, Gothic, energetic delight.


I was able to attend a pre-show talk, where the director, Liv Lorent, talked about why she chose Snow White and her creative decisions. Lorent said that often she can 'see' characters in her dancers, and this inspires the stories she picks. The choreography must also reflect each character and feel right for them in that moment. There's no point in putting in a lot of impressive moves if they don't match the situation or personality of the character; storytelling is key to the whole process, and the dancing should develop organically.

When researching Snow White, Lorent said the most interesting thing she learned was that in the Grimms' original version of the story, it was Snow White's real mother and not a stepmother who wanted her killed. Outside of folklore circles, not many people know this version of the story. I love that Lorent used it in her ballet, because it gives a stronger dynamic. It's easy to say a stepmother dislikes her stepdaughter and misses her deceased husband, but to say a biological mother hates her daughter to the point of poisoning her is intense! Also, it brings in some family values. Throughout, clear that Snow White has inherited her mother's vanity. This makes the ending scene (where the Queen gives her daughter the doll she was making at the beginning) much more chilling - almost like she's passing the torch.
One bite is enough...
Aside from the mother, other elements of the original story also remain intact - the tight laces and poisoned comb which come before the apple, seven dwarfs (or in this case, hunchbacked miners) who live in the forest, and even the Queen having to dance in red-hot shoes as a repentance for her wickedness.

The programme contains a booklet with Carol Ann Duffy's version of Snow White written for BalletLORENT, which is a lovely thing to keep as a souvenir. Most theatre programmes get recycled or shoved in a box, but this one can sit proudly in the fairy tales section of my bookshelf and no doubt be re-read in the future. The artwork is beautiful, too!
Cover for the booklet. Artwork by Sam Zuppardi.
What I loved most was when Lorent talked about making her shows for a family audience. She said that when working with fairy tales, she realised that if she took the adult content out then they would work for all age groups. But this was something which had to be consciously done. Fairy tales were not originally meant for children. They have to be moulded to accommodate different consumers.
The Queen offers Snow White the apple
I'm no dance expert (or even amateur!), but I thoroughly enjoyed Snow White for a number of reasons. Visually, it was very warm and colourful to watch, and the story was a fresh take but lost none of the original charm. If this show happens to be coming to a theatre anywhere near you, then I definitely recommend going to see it. If not, then check out BalletLORENT's website and YouTube for some stunning images and videos of their work.



(poster image taken by me, Snow White image from Cast in Doncaster, booklet image from Brushing Up, Snow White and Queen image from Kully Thiarai on Twitter)

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Frights, Lights, and Ancient Rites by Kimberley Ford

This final Halloween guest post was written by Kimberley Ford, and it's all about the history of Halloween and Jack o' Lanterns. Perfect to get you in the mood for the big day!

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Today, Halloween is seen as a time to munch on candy corn and scare the neighbours with the freakiest trick you can find. A time when pumpkins with terrifying faces lurk on porches, and spider webs, black cats and witches are everywhere you look. 

But why is it that Halloween is associated with being scary? And why do we carve pumpkins?



Scary Spirits: A short History of Halloween

Halloween has its origins as an ancient Celtic festival of the dead known as Samhain. It is a time when the veil between the living and the dead is believed to be thinnest. This festival is still celebrated by Pagans today, although many also celebrate it as marking the end of summer and the beginning of the new Celtic year which starts on the first of November. It is believed that, on Samhain, those who have died during the year will be able to walk as ghosts amongst the living before their souls pass through to the underworld. Death is respected by Pagans as a natural and necessary part of life rather than something to be feared, so the spirits of recently departed loved ones are welcomed and honoured. Those born during the past year are also welcomed into the community.

In the time of the Celts, Samhain was celebrated with a feast of harvest fruits and vegetables which the spirits of recently deceased relatives were often invited to attend - as well as the sacrificing of animals in aid of helping the spirits on their journey. It was also a time when the presence of these spirits was believed to help priests make predictions about what would happen in the future. During the celebration, people would wear costumes made of animal skins and attempt to divine each other’s fortunes, whilst bonfires were built to scare away unwanted spirits that could also get through the veil. After the festival, homes would be lit with flames from these bonfires for protection and to keep warm.


The Celts lit bonfires to scare away evil spirits.
The idea of scaring the unwanted spirits away still lingers today in the way we dress up and place candles inside pumpkins.
Pumpkins are still carved today to scare away evil spirits - a
remnant of the ancient Celts beliefs.


Jack of the Lantern: How Pumpkins Became Jack o’ Lanterns

Pumpkins are now so synonymous with Halloween that you can’t get away from them come October, but pumpkins weren’t always used at Halloween. When a mass immigration of Irish people to America occurred in the 1800’s, they brought with them the tradition of carving turnips and other vegetables, such as beets, and placing an ember inside them to ward away malicious spirits. But, upon their arrival in America, they discovered that pumpkins, which they had never seen before, were much bigger and easier to carve. And so, the jack o’lantern as we know it now was born. 

Turnip Jack o' Lantern
The name ‘jack o’lantern’ actually comes from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack (or ‘Jack of the Lantern’) who invited the Devil to have a drink with him. But, living up to his name, Jack refused to pay for his drink and convinced the Devil to transform into a coin he could use to purchase their drinks. But, once the Devil had become a coin, Jack decided to keep it and put it in his pocket, along with a silver cross which prevented the Devil from regaining his previous form. Eventually, Jack did free the Devil, but only on the condition that he wouldn’t bother Jack for a year or claim his soul if he died. 

However, the following year, Jack tricked the Devil again by sending him up a tree to pick some fruit. Once the Devil was up the tree, Jack carved a cross into the bark so the Devil couldn’t come down unless he promised not to bother Jack for ten more years. 


Stingy Jack with his turnip lantern
Jack died soon after, but God would not allow such a bad fellow into heaven and the Devil, despite still being angry, would not let Jack into hell either as he’d promised not to claim Jack’s soul. So, Jack was sent out into the night to roam the earth with only a burning coal from the flames of Hell inside a carved-out turnip to show him the way. And he’s been roaming ever since.

People from Ireland and Scotland then began to replicate Jack’s turnip lantern, giving them spooky faces and placing them by doors and windows to ward off the spirits of the dead - as well as Stingy Jack himself. 

The tradition still continues today, and is my favourite part of Halloween! 


The Griffith Pumpkin House - part of the C-K AutumnFest in West Virginia, U.S.A.
With the help of volunteers, 3,000 pumpkins are carved and displayed every October
for families to come and see.  

What’s your favourite part of Halloween?

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Kimberley Ford is a Creative Writing graduate and book blogger. She writes YA, and is currently working on her first novel. You can follow her on Twitter @kimwritesthings and visit her blog at http://earthcallingkim.blogspot.co.uk/.



(Candy corn image from EatGeekPlay, bonfire and turnip images from Reporting Live From Limerick Ireland, pumpkin image from The Telegraph, Stingy Jack image from Subversify, Griffith Pumpkin House image from C-K Autumnfest.)

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Uncanny: Black Dog Stories

Last week, Kristin's fabulous guest post discussed how folklore is used to motivate children's behaviour, particularly through fear.

Most of us can probably remember being told 'don't do that or the (insert monster here) will get you!' That got me thinking about when I was little. I grew up on the East coast of England, in  the county of Norfolk. It's a place of marshes, big skies, lonely beaches, and ancient flint churches built on even more ancient burial grounds. Shells of broken windmills stand in the perpetual wind from the North Sea, which somehow tears across the countryside no matter how far inland you go.

It is no wonder, then, that Norfolk is rife with legends. We have it all: smugglers, headless horsemen, witches, will-o'-the-wisps, and phantom highwaymen. Enough stock to write several Halloween blog posts with leftovers. But for this one, I am going to focus on my favourite: Black Shuck.
The Black Shuck by PirateoftheCaribbean on Deviantart

Variations of black dog legends exist throughout the UK, with differing names and attributes. In Essex, he's called Galley Trot. Up in Yorkshire, you'll find Barghest. In Somerset, it's simply Gurt Dog which means 'great dog.' In Scotland there's Cù Sìth (fairy dog), in Wales there's Gwyllgi (dog of darkness). In Norfolk, he's called Black Shuck. As a child, my brother would torment me with Black Shuck stories. They scared the living daylights out of me at the time, but now I find the wider implications of them more interesting.

Despite all the different names and locations, all black dogs are fundamentally the same:

Black
Bit of an obvious one given the name! Black dogs always have black fur. This is usually shaggy.

Ghostly
Black dogs are spirits, and behave as such. They appear and disappear, their footsteps are silent, they have supernatural features such as red eyes, and sometimes seem to float on a cloud of mist. Some also glow a spectral green.


The Scottish Black Dog, Cù Sìth, is a ghostly figure whose fur glows with a green tinge.
Big
Black dogs are usually described as being the size of a great dane, but looking more like a wolf (yes, it would make much more sense to say they are wolf sized and like wolves, since there's not much difference in size between a wolf and a great dane. But we just don't do that!) Some stories also say that black dogs are the size of donkeys.

Appear on journeys and in lonely places
Many accounts of black dogs involve travellers. They commonly appear at crossroads, or follow people along empty paths. In Norfolk, Black Shuck is said to haunt the empty coastlines and the flat, soggy plains which are carved up by the Broads.


Lonely landscape of the Norfolk Broads. Easy to imagine all kinds of folklore figures lurking around here,
especially a huge ghostly dog!
Based on all of this, black dogs don't sound like the sort of creatures you want to meet. At the very least, they are regarded as harbingers of misfortune. It is uncertain whether they merely warn of bad things to come, or if seeing one is what draws the bad things to you. Either way, they are not good omen. A common belief in Norfolk is that if you see Black Shuck, you must say a poem backwards three times to ward off evil.

Another local story tells of how Black Shuck terrorised the village of Blythburgh, Suffolk, in the 1500s. In fear, the villagers ran into the church and bolted the door to protect themselves from him. Black Shuck clawed at the door, and eventually broke in and mauled several people before leaving. As he made his exit, the church tower collapsed. Nowadays, this incident is attributed to being the work of a storm. But to superstitious country folk, on an eerie winter's night, it's easy to see why they would have believed old Shuck was about. However, there is the matter of the scratch marks which remain on Blythburgh's church door...


Claw marks on the door of Blythburgh
Church

Black dog symbol in the town centre of Bungay, Suffolk




















...and the skeleton of the giant hound, which was recently discovered in an unmarked grave during an archaeological dig at nearby Leiston Abbey. So maybe there is some truth to this story. We'll never know for certain, which I'm okay with, because where's the fun in that?

As a species, dogs are renowned for being playful. Throw a stick, they'll fetch it. Put them together, they'll play fight. Have some food? Look away for a minute and you won't have any more! In some stories, black dogs also reveal their playful side. One of my favourite examples of this is the fairy tale 'The Rose Tree,' which is a gender-swapped variation of the Grimms' grisly classic 'The Juniper Tree.' In this, a girl is sent out to fetch things for her stepmother and a black dog steals them. Such a innocent, puppy-like thing to do, but it causes a lot of trouble for the girl (as those of you familiar with 'The Juniper Tree' can well imagine!) So in this sense, the black dog is a sign of misfortune. But also a sign of being a dog, and thinking 'cor, I'd quite like to chew on those candles!'

However, Black Shuck isn't always bad. Like many other folklore characters, black dogs have an ambiguous nature. Sometimes they are portrayed as watchful creatures, who accompany travellers home instead of harming them. In The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, it states that a black dog 'is a guardian of the place that it haunts.' If this is true, then maybe it's our fault for stumbling onto their turf and disturbing them - the impending misfortune is payment! Also, dogs are loyal, territorial creatures. Just look at Gelert and Greyfriar's BobbyIt makes sense that their restless spirits would want to guard somewhere which was significant to them in life.

Black dog stories are curious, because there is the potential for truth in them. Dogs are real animals, and you do get ones with black fur. If their owner lets them out onto the beach for a wee on a moonlit night, then anyone with knowledge of these legends is going to be afraid! Even now, over a decade after my brother told me about Black Shuck, if I see someone walking a big black dog my brain instantly has a mini freak-out. Because that's the power stories have. They turn something as everyday as a dog into a mysterious, spooky being.


'Oh, this is just my day job. I'm really a terrifying ghostly hound!'
What do you think of black dogs - good or bad? Real or not real? Are there any black dog legends where you come from?



(Black Shuck image from DeviantartCù Sìth image from Portal Dos Mitos, Broads image from Getty Images, Blythburgh Church image from Tumblr, Bungay town image from Bungay-Suffolk, dog with bone image from Favim)

Friday, 16 October 2015

Scary Folklore: Motivating Children's Behaviour by Kristin

Following on from the folk horror post by Bethany Scott, I have another Halloween guest post for you! This one was written by Kristin from Tales of Faerie. Kristin is a folklore and fairy tale blogger from Chicago, and she's come over to The Willow Web to discuss how folklore is used to manipulate children.

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When we read fairy tales and legends we tend to think of them as archaic beliefs that our modern, intellectual society has left far behind. Yet even in this scientific and technological age, there are supernatural characters that are still presented to children as real. Especially at this time of year, I'm fascinated by this holiday season in which we celebrate fear.

Certain folkloric characters are still used to scare children into good behavior. In a conversation a while back, I was surprised to hear one friend say that his mom used to threaten himself and his brother with the Boogeyman if they didn't behave. I didn't think that people my age would have been raised to fear him-to be honest I only have vague notions of who he is (and those perceptions mainly came from the Veggie Tales song "God is Bigger than the Boogeyman" and the Oogey-Boogey Man from "Nightmare Before Christmas.") But the Boogeyman or related monsters are pretty universal-just check out this list of Boogeyman variants and beliefs around the world! Whether children have trouble with eating their food, not staying out after dark, or sucking their thumbs, most cultures have a grotesque monster who might kidnap them and often will try to cook and eat them.


1920s photograph showing an interpretation of the boogeyman.
Alongside these male monster figures, we are familiar with related the female version, witches who might lure children in and even try to eat them as well. Another friend, who grew up in Poland, said that as a child she was regularly threatened with Baba Yaga! Though not so well known in America in general, Baba Yaga is definitely well known in fairy tale circles. The witch was a common figure in folk tales in Russia and countries like Poland as well.  Agnieszka recalls, "I was definitely threatened about Baba Yaga coming to get me if I misbehaved, that she would take me back to her house on a chicken foot. I definitely believed it and it scared the heebie-jeebies out of me so I behaved! "

The Baba Yaga and Vasilissa the Fair, by miloneuman on Deviantart
I don't know how I feel about the idea of parents scaring their children with monsters and villains if they don't behave. Not only does it sound a little cruel to give them such terrifying lies, but it seems like parents are avoiding the blame for disciplining their children themselves.

And yet, we do see the opposite happening with supernatural characters who get the credit for rewarding good behaviors-most notably Santa Claus (although I recently overheard one mother say, "No way am I going to let Santa get the credit for all my hard work!"). I imagine it would be a little frustrating for parents not to receive thank yous from their children for all the time spend shopping and wrapping and often sacrificing to make Christmas morning wonderful for their kids...


A Christmas card from the early 1900s. The text says 'Greetings from
the Krampus!' In German folklore, Krampus is a horned figure who
punishes naughty children at Christmas.
Although not quite as popular, one more character I think most people grew up believing in (at least in America) is the Tooth Fairy. And although getting money in place of a tooth would seem like a win-win for children (I used to get quarters, but the Tooth Fairy, from what I hear, has gone up in her giving to keep up with inflation, my students get a dollar for each tooth...) there are some children who are legitimately afraid to imagine some woman entering their room while asleep and taking something that used to be a part of their bodies. It is kind of gross to imagine the Tooth Fairy's large stash of teeth somewhere and what purpose she has for collecting them all...

I heard one cute story involving the Tooth Fairy. A student of my mom's didn't want the Tooth Fairy to come and take his tooth, so he set up his Lego men around the tooth to guard it. When he woke up in the morning, the tooth was still gone, and his Lego men were tied up-with floss :).

While that has humor for the adults hearing it, I imagine it might have been somewhat terrifying for that little boy. I admire his creativity in thinking of a way to keep his tooth safe, and yet I would think he felt somewhat helpless when seeing his best efforts thwarted. The fact that the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus only come at night, when we're asleep, not only gives adults ammunition for getting their kids to actually go to bed on exciting nights, but also is a reminder that we humans, even the strongest and bravest of us, are pretty helpless and weak for that third of our lives when we sleep.
The tooth fairy visits children as they sleep. Whilst her intent is benign, the idea of a supernatural being
visiting whilst asleep is naturally scary for some children.

But really, especially with Halloween approaching, those of us of all ages tend to find enjoyment in trying to scare ourselves and others. Although it may seem like a strange tradition, when people decorate their lawns with skeletons and other scenes that are violent and morbid, each time we watch horror movies, go to haunted houses, or participate in Halloween activities and emerge victorious, we are symbolically conquering our fears. Scary movies are like a personal challenge-will this movie terrify me or will I defeat it? Maybe creatures like the Tooth Fairy, even the Boogeyman and Baba Yaga, provide children with the important rite of passage of realizing they don't believe/aren't afraid any more. I didn't get the sense that my friends who spoke of being threatened as children were upset with their parents or traumatized-it was seen as more of a cultural myth than their parents being cruel.

How about you? Did your parents threaten you with a dangerous character when you misbehaved? What lengths did they go to to convince you that those creatures were real? And is it all right for parents to frighten their children unnecessarily?



(Boogeyman image from Buzzfeed, Baba Yaga image from Deviantart, Krampus image from Wikipedia, tooth fairy image from Polly Becker)

Monday, 12 October 2015

Harvest Time: Folk Horror & Our Fear of the Countryside by Bethany Scott

IT'S OCTOBER! With Halloween in sight, now is the time us folklore bloggers to go into hyper-drive mode. This is our time, to share, post, research, and tweet about all things weird and spooky. And trust me, we know a lot of weird and spooky things...

With this in mind, I thought I would recruit a few of my writer friends to join in with the Halloween blogging festivities by writing some guest posts. Starting us off is this article about English horror by Bethany Scott.

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Something odd happened to Britain in the 1970's.

The hippie movement was turning sour. Scientists furthered new environmental research and people began looking inward to their country surroundings. Urban sprawls butted against farmland, creating unsettling, unfamiliar spaces, and there was a surge of interest in dark folklore of the British Isles. The mantras of peace and love were abandoned. Innocence fled the fields.

The peak of the folk horror movement in the 70's left a taste in British mouths that we have never been able to get rid of, most vividly in fiction. The notion of a terror from within toppled the reign of the ghoulish Hammer horrors and set the stage for films such as The Wicker Man and Blood on Satan's Claw. No one was scared by Gothic castles adorned with clanking chains any more: the real horror was to be found right outside your front door in the piercing sunshine of the summer solstice.


Still from The Wicker Man (1973)
The most effective folk horror fiction puts nameless fears into words. It reminds us of our fear that, for all our quantifiable facts and study, there will forever be a shapeless realm like a veil between ours and whatever dead place lies on the other side. M. R. James was an early example of folk horror's timeless appeal, penning several contributions to the genre in the early 20th century. His Ghost Stories of an Antiquary usually featured an unnamed narrator sat by a cosy fire in some Oxford clubhouse, relating a woeful tale of horror to rapt companions. James was fully aware of the power of bringing the supernatural into familiar surroundings.

In James's View from a Hill, a scholarly archaeologist is called to the country to examine artefacts and finds a ghostly abbey, ruined during the Reformation, visible only through binoculars. The dark forces still dormant in the fields around the abbey nearly kill him. In O Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad, an affable gentleman named Parkin retires to the seaside for a restful break. On a walk, he finds an ancient bone whistle in a graveyard and, pleasantly unaware of the consequences, blows a note. It heralds the arrival of a featureless spectre that haunts him just beyond his scope of vision. The story was adapted for television in 1968, and traumatised the British public with a dream sequence involving Parkin pursued by the spectre along an endless stretch of bleak Norfolk coast.


Still from O Whistle and I'll Come to You, My Lad (1968)
Folk horror even pervaded public service announcements which highlighted to children the danger of seemingly everyday situations. These broadcasts have become notorious, and many adults have been unable to shake their memories. The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water was one such film created to prevent accidental drowning, and featured a Grim Reaper-style hooded figure lurking nearby as children swam or attempted to retrieve a ball from a flooded quarry. Needless to say these broadcasts were very effective.

Still from The Spirit of Dark and Lonely Water (1973)
The popularity of folk horror continues, with books such as Simon Maginn's Sheep shining a light on the innate fears unique to British culture to this day. We are an island nation, naturally distrustful of strangers and blanketed by a beautiful yet perilous and often lonely countryside with a pagan past that has left little by which it can be understood. Our increasingly technological lifestyle means the forces of nature, seen and unseen, are more removed from our everyday lives than ever, and that leaves us wondering – were our solstice celebrations really as innocent as we once claimed?

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Bethany Scott is an author living in Scotland with her military husband and three civilian cats. Her folk horror novel Twitmisery is due to be released around summer solstice 2016. She tweets at @bethanyrscott and blogs at bethanyrscott.com.

A massive thank you to Bethany for such an insightful contribution! Be sure to check back over the coming weeks for more scary folklore, including a 1920s boogeyman, pumpkin stories, and Black Dog legends.



(Wicker Man image from Crypticrock, O Whistle image from Moonbase Central, Lonely Water image from Noise to Signal)

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