Category: halloween

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Ghosts, Friendly and Otherwise

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While sometimes our stacks can certainly feel like they're haunted, the only ghosts we know live here are the ones in our books!  From Casper the Friendly Ghost to the Headless Horseman, our shelves are inhabited by a large variety of spirits.  We even have books claiming to be written by ghosts, such as the Ghost Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, and collections of ghost stories spanning the years.

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Automatic writing allows a person to channel the supernatural to produce written words without consciously writing.  In this case, allowing the figure of Lazar to write pages worth of witty epigrams from the spirit of Oscar Wilde.

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In this pamphlet, a speech is recorded from the ghost of Lord Haversham, who was so disturbed by some of the carrying-ons of the Parliment that he returned as a ghost after his death to give this speech to the House of Lords in 1710.

ghosts0008 Even Holmes and Watson join the fray in the fight against evil spirits in these crossover comics that pit the famous consulting detective and his biographer against the opera ghost, or the Phantom of the Opera.

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One of the more well-known ghosts in American literature is that of the Headless Horseman from Washington Irving's short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."  Also a terrifying figure in other European folktales, a common theme among all depictions is that, where this spirit shows up, death usually follows.

So if these books make you want to take up ghosthunting this October, you know who to call.  (Hint: it's us, Special Collections!)

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Posted in Comic Collection, Rare Book Collection, Special Collections

Bats, Rats, and Spiders

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Oh my!

Throughout October the Fantastic Beasts series will be taking a turn for the creepy as each week in October we feature spooky creatures and things that go bump in the night.  For the first week we'll start with some of the tamer creepy-crawlies that lots of us see on a daily basis: bats, rats, and spiders.  Each of these are commonly featured in tales of terror, and are associated with death, disease, or mystery, among other things.  They can also serve as familiars to witches and sorcerors, which is where they picked up a lot of their negative associations.  Truth is, many of these fears are largely unfounded, as bats, rats, and spiders are important parts of any ecosystem and for the most part are either scared of or not a threat to humans.  Giant versions of any of these (such as those pictured below) are, of course, another matter entirely.

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Posted in Special Collections

Halloween Hoodoo

"To catch a spirit, or to protect your spirit against catching, or to release you caught spirit – this is the complete theory and practice of hoodoo."

The above quote opens the five volume set of books entitled Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork : beliefs accepted by many Negroes and white persons, these being orally recorded among Blacks and whites by Harry M. Hyatt that can be found in Special Collections.  Published in 1970, these books represent the culmination of years of interviews conducted by the author over a large portion of the Southern United States.

Not to be confused (as it commonly is), with voodoo or vodou, which are both religions derived from West African religions with a dash of Christianity thrown in, hoodoo is often classified as folk magic and is practiced mainly in the Southern United States.  The difference between hoodoo and voodoo and vodou is similar to the distinction between Wicca and witchcraft.  Also similar to Wicca and witchcraft is the fact that people often use all these terms interchangeably, though they have different meanings. Thus, one can belong to the voodoo religion and practice hoodoo, but they don't have to, and vice versa.

In hoodoo, a practitioner draws upon the spiritual power residing within them to perform a ritual to bring about power or success.  Today's mainstream culture often portrays hoodoo as a negative thing because of the common misconception that all who practice it are greedy or corrupt.

Hoodoo–conjuration–witchcraft–rootwork is a record of people's interactions with hoodoo, containing many accounts about how the interviewee was affected by a conjure or how someone they knew was affected.  One woman relates the experience she had when her neighbor put a conjure on her by burying a bottle containing  sulfur, hair, a bluestone, and roots of some sort.  According to her, this was the reason she was unable to stay up past ten o'clock each night.  She proceeds to relate how she destroyed the bottle and its contents and was able to stay up much later the following night while the next day the woman next door had to go to the hospital due to a major problem with her leg.  Another interviewee tells the author about a common practice of putting sulfur and ashes from the fireplace in a bag and keeping it in your pocket to ward off those that would do you harm.

Whether or not you believe that hoodoo works, these books make for interesting reading and are a comprehensive relation of a common practice here in the United States that most of us are largely unfamiliar with.  So if you get a chance between your Halloween celebrations, come see us at Special Collections where you can find the books mentioned here along with many others!

 

"Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo." Difference Between Hoodoo and Voodoo | Difference Between | Hoodoo vs Voodoo. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.differencebetween.net/miscellaneous/culture-miscellaneous/difference-between-hoodoo-and-voodoo/>.
"Haitian_Vodou." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Haitian_Vodou>.
"Louisiana_Voodoo." Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Louisiana_Voodoo>.

 

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Posted in Closed Collection, Special Collections
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