23 March 2018



The Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international educational community through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective. Taken from their website.

Imagine if you could go to horror school. I mean, imagine if you, as the horror buff and lifelong fan of horror books and movies I know you to be, could actually go to horror school. Attend classes and seminars and take courses where people sit around listening to lectures about brilliant old horror flicks or sub-genres of horror, or where you can join in a lively discussion about your favourite horror director or a particular period in history that spawned a certain genre of book or movie. Well, that's what you can do at the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies, a link to whose website I'll include at the conclusion of this article. Here's a little extra information:

Named for the fictional university in H.P. Lovecraft’s literary mythos, the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies is an international organization that offers university-level history, theory and production-based masterclasses for people of all ages. The Miskatonic is a non-profit endeavour through which established horror writers, directors, scholars and programmers/curators celebrate horror history and culture with a unique blend of enthusiasm and critical perspective. Taken from their website.

Stacey Abbott has just this week given a masterclass at the Institute on Richard Matheson's horror novel, I AM LEGEND, which popularised both the zombie-vampire genre of horror and also the concept of a grim post-apocalyptic future after most of the world's population has succumbed to a horrible plague or disease. Now, doesn't that sound grim?

Numerous horror films were influenced by Richard Matheson's book, two of my favourites of which are THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964), starring Vincent Price, and George A. Romero's NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (1968), which needs no introduction from little old me, lol. It is one of my favourite films of all time, though.

Stacey Abbott, by the way, is one of the Institute's instructors. She is Reader In Film And Television Studies at the University of Roehampton, and has penned the following books: 
Celluloid Vampires (2007), Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century (2016), and co-author, with Lorna Jowett, of TV Horror: The Dark Side of the Small Screen (2012). No doubting her credentials, then...!

Speaking of instructors at the Institute, they certainly count some bonafide members of horror writing and critiquing royalty amongst their number. The full list of instructors is on the website, but the few who caught my eye are as follows:

Stephen Jones, the horror/fantasy writer and editor, some of whose excellent anthologies grace my own humble shelves; Ramsey Campbell, the English horror author, editor and critic with about a million books to his name; and Kim Newman, the author, film critic and broadcaster with a slick sartorial sense and a great sense of humour.

I must tell my Kim Newman story. Forgive me if you've heard this one before. Forgive me, but don't stop me, lol. During July 2016, the Irish Film Institute here in Dublin held a folk horror film festival. Folk horror is pretty nearly my favourite sub-genre of horror, although I adore haunted house movies too. Anyway, I nearly wee-wee-d with myself with excitement when I heard about this festival, pardon my enthusiasm.

The films screened included THE WICKER MAN, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, BLOOD ON SATAN'S CLAW, NIGHT OF THE DEMON, VALERIE AND HER WEEK OF WONDERS (a gorgeous Czech film that I'd never heard of prior to this festival) and Hammer's QUATERMASS AND THE PIT.

This is a fantastic horror film starring Andrew Keir as the gruff, bearded Professor
Bernard Quatermass, James Donald as palaeontologist Dr. Matthew Roney and the divine Barbara Shelley as his assistant Barbara Judd. Ms. Shelley has her tits out on the promotional poster but I can assure you that such an indecent exposure does not occur in the film. Naughty film people, trying to lure people in with the sight of luscious bouncing bosoms...

Anyway, all of the above are called in when some mysterious remains and one hell of a spacecraft are spectacularly uncovered during some extensive works on the London Underground. Further investigations unearth the corpses of some rather hideous-looking insectoid creatures with horns who bear a freaky resemblance to images of Old Nick.

You know, Satan. The Devil. The Evil One. He Whose Name Must Never Be Spoken. No, wait, that's Formico, from THE SIMPSONS, lol. In the episode where Moe pretties up his bar to the disgust of regulars Homer, Lenny and Carl. That's a great episode. It's got the lads from REM in it, doing their environmentally-friendly recycling thing. 'Let's recycle these shards and get out of here...!' Let's indeed.

Anyway, Kim Newman came to introduce the film, in which he has a special interest and on which he's summat of an expert. He was lovely, chatting away like he was entertaining friends in his own living-room, and looking exceptionally sharp in a snazzy waistcoat and wide-brimmed black hat. Well, he had trousers on as well of course, he wasn't just wearing a waistcoat and hat...

We were having a heatwave at the time. It was sweltering hot in the cinema and I really needed the loo, which was the only reason I didn't hang around after the screening to get Mr. Newman's autograph and engage him in a really long and complex conversation concerning his in-depth views on every film ever made. Give reasons for your answers, class, and include a bibliography...! 

I deeply regret that now, that I didn't get to meet him in person. I can't wait until the next opportunity to meet him at an event or convention presents itself. Damn my tiny bladder and my inability to handle the tiniest bit of heat. I clearly wouldn't do well in hell.

Moving on, upcoming events at the Miskatonic Institute include a fantastic show-and-tell lecture on the process of restoring F.W. Murnau's NOSFERATU (1922), one of the creepiest and best of all the silent movies. This event takes place in April. I personally prefer Werner Herzog's 1979 re-imagining of the story, for its haunting soundtrack and glorious visuals, but this 1922 version will always remain a stone-cold classic.

It's going to be super-technical, this lecture, going right into the nitty-gritty of the restoration process, so I foresee this event being extremely popular with the horror lads. These are the ones with the beards and the glasses and the cool horror T-shirts they've bought at conventions who love to ask very nit-picky questions that only an expert of long-standing could possibly answer. (Like the nerds who quizzed Lucy Lawless/Xena the Warrior Princess in THE SIMPSONS episode about Stretch Dude and Clobber Girl...!) Well lads, now's your chance, lol. Roll up, roll up, take your places at the ringside and see the magic being made for yourselves...

Also upcoming is a superb-sounding event in May 2017 entitled: NO SENSE MAKES SENSE: GURUS, CULTS, MURDER AND MOVIES. Check out what the website says:

This class will examine the rise of alternative religious movements/cults in California in the 1960s and 70s which spawned an ongoing sub-genre of the horror film. The focus will be on the Manson Family, not only the most notorious of these groups but also the one with the greatest cultural impact. This is due to a number of factors including the nightmarish, random violence, the involvement of a number of high-profile artists and celebrities, from Roman Polanski and Dennis Wilson through to Dennis Hopper and Angela Lansbury and the dark glamour of Manson himself, quotable, photogenic and always willing to play up for the cameras.

Cool, huh?

The Spring Semester at the Miskatonic Institute is already underway, with monthly classes taking place on the third Thursday of the month. You can register for the entire Semester or just for individual classes, which is pretty damned decent, isn't it?

There's a small registration fee and a number of scholarships yearly, courtesy of the (un)lovely peeps at DIABOLIQUE magazine, for folks who might have trouble with the fees. The fees are really respectable, though. I'll tell you something for nothing. I've pissed away more in a lunchtime many's the time on a fancy latte and panini from one of those damned hipster places...!

The Institute sounds like a ridiculously fun place to me. I'm here in Dublin so the chances of my being able to attend any of the brilliant events would be slim, but there's literally no
excuse for all you lads (and ladettes!) who reside in the UK. I'll leave you guys with the web address and I want to hear that you've all been signing up in your droves. If the quality of the instructors is anything to go by, you won't be wasting your time or your money.


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:


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