Volume 8, Issue 2

(Summer 2023)

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Cover image: [untitled] by creatifrankenstein on pixabay: https://pixabay.com/photos/skull-mirror-horror-scary-4248008/

Editors’ Note, by Leah Richards and John R. Ziegler (7-8)


The Field of Spookiness: An Historical Survey, by Stephen Olbrys Gencarella (9-42)


Abstract: This essay argues for greater attention to the concept of spookiness in supernatural studies and related fields. It extends recent insights into “the Spooky” by examining the historical development of spookiness and its evolution through various branches of folklore and popular culture in the United States. Special attention is given to its introduction into the American vernacular during the 1800s from Dutch sources relating to ghosts; its relationship both to Spiritualism and to Halloween; and to “spook shows,” a form of entertainment that burgeoned in the twentieth century. Throughout, this essay contends that comic and related lighthearted manifestations of spookiness warrant analysis and appreciation as much as those aligned with horror and variations of the scary. 

Keywords: spookiness, the Spooky, spook shows, ghosts, Spiritualism, Halloween, folklore 

Inverting Lovecraftian Racial and Sexual Monstrosity in Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water, by Nowell Marshall (43-76)


Abstract: This essay reads Guillermo del Toro’s award-winning 2017 film The Shape of Water as a rewriting and inversion of key racial and sexual tropes about H.P. Lovecraft’s Deep Ones. Rather than abjecting interracial/interspecies and queer forms of desire as Lovecraft did in “Dagon” and The Shadow Over Innsmouth, del Toro’s film deploys an oppositional gaze to recenter the narrative on diverse characters and sexual experiences, ultimately representing Elisa as a hybrid woman who finds a place to belong. 

Keywords: H.P. Lovecraft, Guillermo del Toro, race and the gothic, film adaptation, Deep Ones, The Shape of Water 

Haunted by History: Grant Allen and the Incursion of the Gothic Past, by Erin Louttit (77-100)


Abstract: Grant Allen’s short stories “Pallinghurst Barrow” and “Wolverden Tower,” published in the 1890s, both feature the supernatural. Although better remembered as a writer of New Woman fiction and popular science than supernatural stories, in these works Allen examines some of the same themes and preoccupations evident in his “scientific” writing. In these ghost stories, Allen characteristically contrasts the scientific rationalism of the present with the ostensible superstition and ignorance of the past, but the triumph of progress in these stories is equivocal at best. The Gothic, paranormal forces with which the protagonists contend are not imagined or hallucinatory horrors but the return of a half-forgotten past that practiced human sacrifice. Despite the promise of scientifically founded progress evident elsewhere in Allen’s work, the ritual violence of this fictionalized history threatens and undermines the rational present, bringing to the surface the deeper anxieties that threaten the idea of civil and intellectual advancement. 

Keywords: Ghost story, Victorian, science, England, ritual sacrifice 

Maia Agonistes: The War of the Months in M. R. James’s “The Ash-Tree,by Terry W. Thompson (101-112)


Abstract: M. R. James enjoyed a long and successful career as a professor and administrator, but today, his prolific scholarly writings have been eclipsed by the thirty-plus ghost stories. One of those supernatural tales is "The Ash-Tree.” In this account of the seventeenth-century witch trials in England, James uses two opposing months of the year—one masculine, the other feminine— to add mythological and cultural resonance to his tale of a wronged woman's revenge from the grave. 

Keywords: Mars, Maia, witch trials, revenge 

Poetry (113-116)

“The Changeling of Chaplin, CT” and “Invasive Species, by Aaron Pinnix


I spent fall of 2021 and spring of 2022 in a 200-year-old farmhouse in eastern Connecticut among 140 acres of mixed hardwood forest inhabited by bobcats, coyotes, foxes, flying squirrels, and occasionally a black bear. In addition to my animal neighbors, I was surrounded by the region’s cultures and crafts, with a historic textile industry carried on by local artisans. These experiences guided my poem “The Changeling of Chaplin, CT” as I felt the people and animals around me influence my own thinking and life. On the other hand, “Invasive Species” is very much a poem written about the pandemic and the possibility of infection atop infection, of alien invasion & unintended consequences. 

Book Reviews (117-123)

Choose PDF with all reviews from the print version or click on individual reviews for web versions 

The OA (Constellations: Studies in Science Fiction Film and TV), by David Sweeney, reviewed by Natalie Grove

Encountering Pennywise: Critical Perspectives on Stephen King’s IT, edited by Whitney S. May, reviewed by Richard M. Magee