Lycanthrope fan and The White Devil author Matthew Beresford counts down his Top Ten Werewolves in Film and Fiction over at the Huffington Post!
In preparation for this year’s Halloween festivities, we got in touch with Halloween aficionado, Bram Stoker award winner, and Trick or Treat author Lisa Morton to ask her a few questions about this oft-misunderstood holiday. We learned a lot! And yes, the subject of horror movies and candy came up.
UCP: How did your interest in Halloween start?
Lisa Morton: Well, of course I’ve always loved it. When I was a kid, it was something my whole family enjoyed, with Mom and Dad helping me craft costumes and then putting on their own to hand out candy to trick or treaters. I was the odd little girl who preferred monsters to princesses, so it was the one night a year when I could pretend to be the spooky things I watched on television. As an adult, I started collecting vintage Halloween books in the late ‘90s – just before the explosion of interest in Halloween memorabilia – mainly because I was delighted by the quaint, whimsical graphics. That collection led to my first Halloween book, The Halloween Encyclopedia, and it’s all kind of snowballed from there.
UCP: As you have dug into Halloween’s history, what have you learned that has grabbed your attention or surprised you the most?
LM: There were two things that I discovered while researching Trick or Treat that were pretty jaw-dropping. The first was finding out that the entire mistaken notion that Halloween is based on the Celtic worship of a “Samhain, Lord of Death” can be traced to one man, an eighteenth-century surveyor and not-very-good historian named Charles Vallancey; two centuries later, that misconception is still widespread, amazingly (and sadly!). The second revelation was how much Halloween has spread around the globe in just the last decade. When I’d researched The Halloween Encyclopedia in the first few years of the new millennium, it was still little known in most of Europe and Asia…but that’s no longer the case.
UCP: In the book, you discuss how the Americanized version of Halloween has spread to Europe and beyond (with mixed results) since the 1990s. Are there aspects of the holiday’s past, or from other countries’ celebrations, that Americans might bring into their Halloween fêtes?
LM: If I could make one big prediction for Halloween’s future, it would be that we’re going to see Halloween and Dia de los Muertos merge more and more. Up until recently, Dia de los Muertos celebrations in the United States were confined largely to areas with significant Spanish-speaking populations, but we’re starting to see a lot of the iconography – the colorful skulls, often decorated with floral designs – cross over into Halloween products now. Those wonderful, eye-popping images turn death into something playful, and I think that fits in perfectly with Halloween.
UCP: What do you do on October 31 every year?
LM: I know it will surprise people to hear that I’m not really into costuming – I think I’m too much of a perfectionist! What I love, though, is seeing what people have done with their yards; “yard haunts” have become a true kind of folk art. I spend a few weeks before Halloween searching online for tips on the best local yard haunts, then on the night itself I visit as many of those as I can. I’ve got photos and videos of some of my favorites at Halloween: lisamorton.com.
UCP: What is your favorite horror flick? Do you have any recommendations for some lesser-known films or books that Halloween fans should check out?
LM: My favorite horror movie is, without question, The Exorcist (which actually does have a brief nod to Halloween!). A seasonal movie that a lot of folks might have missed that I’ll recommend is Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat – it’s an anthology film with several different stories that explore aspects of Halloween ranging from urban legends to costuming to jack-o’-lanterns to trick or treat, all done with tremendous style, genuine chills, and a real sense of glee.
UCP: What is, hands down, the best Halloween candy?
LM: That’s a tough one, but I think I have to go with mellowcreme pumpkins. I’m sure I gain a pound every October just from those alone.
If you like vodka and books and are located somewhere within driving distance of Barrington, RI, then you need to head over to Barrington Books tomorrow night to hear from Vodka: A Global History author Patricia Herlihy!
Hear Sex and Buildings author Richard J. Williams discuss his search “for the places form meets libido” in this Times Higher Ed podcast! THE calls the book “an adventurous sex-travelogue, beautifully written and pleasurable from cover to cover.”
A hint: with whiskey.
This fall’s The Modern Art Cookbook opens a window into the lives of artists, writers, and poets in the kitchen and the studio throughout the twentieth century and beyond. From Joyce to Manet, Mary Ann Caws explores a panoply of artworks of food, cooking, and eating from Europe and the Americas, while supplying numerous recipes from these artists.
This week the Huffington Post features a slideshow of these artworks and recipes from this “mouthwatering” book, calling it “the perfect gourmet tour through art history.” Enjoy a first look at this gorgeous volume!
"As Ribbat points out, neon has often become the site of dispute between those who want to celebrate modernity and those who resist it. Its bright glow screams artifice. However, the paradox is that neon lightmaking is an artisanal craft."
Slate discusses the complicated history of neon in this review of Christoph Ribbat’s “intriguing” Flickering Light.
Fittingly, July is National Hot Dog Month. Most foods only get a day, but hot dogs are special. With the Fourth of July, afternoons at the ballpark, and summer evening cookouts (let’s ignore that it’s sixty degrees today), ye olde frankfurters are a staple of the season. As Bruce Kraig reports in Hot Dog: A Global History, nearly two billion hot dogs are consumed by Americans annually in this month alone.
Here in Chicago, we will hit you with evil eyes if you get ketchup anywhere near your hot dog—what a perverse thing to do! Mustard and neon green relish are the only acceptable spreads. Kraig discusses our superior version, along with other regional varieties—like New York’s mustard and sauerkraut combo—and provides a lot of info about the origins of this all-American food. Pick up this “clever and entertaining” book (thanks, HuffPo!) and impress your friends/parents/date at your cookout tomorrow.
Have a safe and happy 4th!
This question, posed in a review by the UK’s Times, isn’t entirely the one that Erik Butler is trying to answer in his new book, The Rise of the Vampire (though it might be one we all ask ourselves—no offense, Twihards). But no one can deny that we have been surrounded by bloodsucking demons for the past five years, and Butler is out to explain why (he does have some things to say about Twilight, too).
As the Times writes, “Just to say the word ‘vampire’ now is to make some readers shudder, and not for the right reasons. But reading a new study—Erik Butler’s The Rise of the Vampire—we realise that was is interesting isn’t just the vampires themselves but why they appear in the first place.”
Popmatters.com continues the praise. “The breadth of Butler’s sources is a particular strength throughout the book… . The vampire is held up as a mirror to the human psyche, representing not only the unknown in others but also that which is unknowable in ourselves. It is for this reason that vampires have been such an enduring construct, and one which we have felt compelled to flesh out and adorn.”
From the sea to the sky, the color blue is quite literally (and figuratively) all around us. Carol Mavor reflects on the color in her new book, Blue Mythologies, in which she “draws upon many artists and writers” in her exploration of all things blue. Publishers Weekly calls out its beautiful illustrations, adding, “This fine, multidisciplinary work explores the color’s aesthetic and emotional resonances from a fresh perspective.”
Ever wondered what some of the world’s foremost television personalities have said about breakfast?
"And who is the man who loves Humperdinck’s lumpy pumpernickel crumpets beyond all things?”—Scooter (as Porthos), The Muppets
"Mmmm, forbidden donut."—Homer Simpson, The Simpsons
"Mmmm, noodle soup."—Joey Tribbiani, Friends
"Okay, this cereal has lost all its molecular integrity. I now have a bowl of shredded wheat paste."—Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory
"I’m never gonna get used to the 31st century. Caffeinated bacon? Baconated grapefruit? ADMIRAL Crunch?”—Fry, Futurama
Okay, we jest a bit. But what all these foods has in common is that somewhere out there, they are eaten for breakfast (well, maybe not caffeinated bacon, but how amazing would that be?). In The Breakfast Book, Andrew Dalby tells the entire story of our morning meal, following the toast crumbs of its evolution throughout history—and, as Publishers Weekly writes in their review, it “presents a wonderful sampling of breakfasting around the world today, such as how they breakfast on churros in Spain or anise-flavored ground cereal in Libya… . Interesting details abound.”