The Everyday Lore Project

15 April 2020 – Shapeshifters

15 April 2020 – Shapeshifters

Today I have spent a delightful hour and a half learning all about shapeshifters. Having a horror obsessed film critic father who used to brandish pitchforks for Hammer, I grew up with tales of Chris Lee, Vincent Price and Peter Cushing, so shapeshifters and their nemeses are very close to my heart.

Originally the plan had been for the London Fortean Society to host the talk at Conway Hall. Instead, over 140 of us gathered tonight online to hear American author, John B. Kachuba talk about the different types of shapeshifters that populate myth, religion and folklore.

And it was fascinating, with John being a real joy to listen to. He took us across the history from Zeus’s questionable seduction techniques to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He went into the psychological and performative aspects (what do you dress up as at Halloween?). And he even gave us a tantalising glimpse of a Dracula Pez dispenser (which I now need). But whatever he was talking about, he made the subject accessible, instructive and highly entertaining.

Plus it wasn’t just vampires, werewolves and Gods that got a shout out. Reptile aliens Queen Elizabeth and Barack Obama, courtesy of David Icke, gave us a scaly wave too. There were so many lovely little stories that it almost felt like a folk horror edition of Jackanory.

The talk was followed by a Q&A. I chickened out of asking who John thought would win in a fight, Dracula or the Wolfman, as the questions being asked were of a much higher calibre (and far more interesting).

And then it was over. John said goodbye from his office in Cincinnati, London Fortean Society’s Scott Wood from his shed, and Jeff from Conway Hall from somewhere in the ether. And I wasn’t faced with a long trek home. I just had to pitch the cat off my lap and wander over to my desk.

Whenever I’ve been to LFS events at Conway Hall before, the speakers and audiences have always been very engaged and open, and despite tonight being online, this still felt the same. So, I’m definitely going to keep a look out for the next talk, and for John’s book Shapeshifters, A History.

I also had a small calamity this morning when the cat (a shapeshifting devil if every I saw one), knocked over my psychic self-defence, which is now mostly in the hoover. Consequently, I’m blaming her for my subsequent toothache….

Bonus shapeshifting Hammer quiz based on the stories my Dad used to tell me…

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Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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