At the weekend, Judith and Peter went to London to take part in the Folklore and the Gothic Conference at Kingston University. It was the Folklore Society's AGM and we were really pleased to take part. Peter talked about the Museum and how visitors perceive the Museum as Gothic. He used modern folkloric sources: tripadvisor reviews and comments from our visitor comment box. He also explored how the founder of the Museum, Cecil Williamson, could be considered as having a Gothic style. Peter included this quote from Cecil (about Joan Wytte) as an example.
‘The whole thing could be a hilarious jape – or so the Governor thought. The séance commenced and all was proceeding as planned, when suddenly the door to Joan Wytte’s cupboard burst open and with a whoosh like the sound made by a gust of wind, her bone for supposed rapping took to the air and at the same instant the other two bones held by the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ persons wrenched themselves from the hands holding them. Then a poltergeist like attack began in earnest. The three flying bones struck and belaboured the heads and shoulders of the audience as if they were hand-held cudgels. Pandemonium broke out. Then as suddenly as it started the attack ceased. So much for William Hick’s evening of practical joking.’
He also explored how Joan Wytte has become an icon by looking at websites such as this:
The talk was well received, with many people seeming keen to visit the Museum afterwards and it goes to show how there is always more to think about when it comes to the Museum and its collection. As Cecil himself said, "A Museum is like a magnet" and we are always hearing new ideas and seeing people form new relationships and connections with it.
Judith spoke about Halloween as a Gothic festival. She began by speaking about modern Halloween as a possible survival of older traditions. Trick or Treating could be linked to ancient rituals of guising or souling. Carved pumpkins (or Jack O'Lanterns) may be linked to stories of will o the wisps etc. She then went on to consider the influence of Gothic literature and the Gothic aesthetic and tone on the festival citing key texts such as Young Goodman Brown, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Edgar Allan Poe's Black Cat as key influences.
Judith took this quote as the key message of her talk. While to many October 31st is a day to respectfully remember the dead (Samhain) the majority of mainstream Halloweeners are more influenced by the Gothic.
“When death did return to Halloween, it was largely…the product of the silver screen, often a reworking of the Gothic fascination with violence, eroticism, and the poltergeists of the imagination, themes that were the staple fare of nineteenth century writers…Death as part of the cycle of life was not something that Halloween chose to commemorate. It confronted it only as a by-product of the uncanny and the repressed.”
Nicholas Rogers, From Pagan Ritual to Party Night
There were lots of questions about the nature and origins of Halloween and again many people were keen to see the exhibition (which runs throughout 2016).
On Monday, we had a visit from Sky TV. They were filming for a series called "Into the Unknown". They spent several hours in the Museum with Peter. They were intrigued by their visit. We will let you know when the programme is to be aired.
On Thursday, Steve Patterson led a walk for the Museum as part of Boscastle Walking Week. It was a small but select crowd (which included Tom the dog) and they went to nearby St Nectan's Glen and Rocky Valley. Steve ran a very successful day tour of Cornwall a couple of weeks ago with a group of American tourists and we hope he will be doing more tours and walks with the Museum in future (watch this space!)
Above: Steve delivers deadpan joke and Tom the dog has a laugh.
Above: The coin tree at St Nectan's Glen, it really is a magical place.
Above: Tom pounders the clouties on the tree.
Above: Labyrinth carvings at Rocky Valley.
Above: a nice photo of Tom (no other reason to include this photo!)