Thursday, October 27, 2016

Halloween Reading List: Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults

Halloween is just around the corner and we’re counting the days. Literally.

UPM has published a surprisingly large amount of books on the frightful topics of horror film, ghosts, witches, and zombies. In the days leading up to Halloween, we’ve asked our staff members to choose their favorite Halloween-themed book. And every day until Halloween, we will post a new staff pick. 

Follow along all week for our curated Halloween reading list.

Craig Gill, Director, suggests picking up a copy of Aliens, Ghosts, and Cults: Legends We Live

Seen any creepy clowns lately? If so, Bill Ellis can tell you why. His book explores the complex relationship between ordinary life and outlandish but oft-told legends. What he finds is startling. In multiple case studies legends become part of life. 

A Pennsylvania high school hums with the rumor that a Satanic cult plans on killing the first four couples through the door on prom night. A horror writer in the Catskills is overcome with grief, alienated from his wife, unable to write, and suffering from recurring thoughts of physical and sexual indignities concludes he has been abducted by aliens. In a Pizza Hut in Ohio, employees refuse to close alone because the ghost of a hanged man haunts the refrigerator.

Real or not, tales such as these urban legends, classic ghost stories, and "true stories, heard from a friend of a friend" inspire people to actions, ranging from playful visits to haunted spots to horrifying threats of violence. When schools, police, governments, and individuals take action, when legends are reported on the local news as fact, the story becomes one of the legends we live.

Ellis traces some contemporary scares to such old tales as the vanishing hitchhiker and murderous gang initiations. In analyzing some newly emerging legend types, such as alien abductions and computer virus warnings, he uncovers connections between earlier types of religious experience and supposed witchcraft. Finally, the book reveals how legends can inspire people to actions, ranging from playful visits to haunted spots to horrifying threats of violence.

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