On the outskirts of nowhere
On the ring road to somewhere
On the verge of indecision
I’ll always take the roundabout way
Marillion – Blind Curve
There is something about that Marillion quote which captures the road outside Dreghorn Travelodge quite well!
Just realised I never finished my review. Well I’ll quickly whiz through the remainder of the day. Last talk before lunch was ‘No More Ghosts!’: The Regency Phantasmagoria by Dr Mervyn Heard. I used to DJ a goth night, my own goth night in fact which I named Phantasmagoria — I intended it as “a gathering of Ghosts”, (and it’s also the name of an album by The Damned as I recall?) but in the 18th century it meant something quite different – a sort of haunted house- meets- theatrical entertainment. This was a fascinating, lavishly illustrated talk, and I really enjoyed it — I would have liked ot pick up Dr. Heard’s book, to learn more about this ancient precursor of our modern Horror movies. Here is his website – http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~s-herbert/phant-web.htm
We had lunch in a pub which certainly reflected the diverse character of Edinburgh (read “it was full of loonies”) and returned at 2.15 for the afternoon session, which kept up the day’s high standard. Actually one of my favourite talks of the day, and possibly the most entertaining to many of us in the audience was Imaging the impossible: The truth about spirit photography by Gordon Rutter of the Edinburgh Fortean Society. It was a fun and funny romp through most of the classic ghost photos, with explanations as to their context and how or what they represented in many cases, and there were some which were new to me. I’d love to reproduce them but I can imagine (c) Mary Evans Picture library being attached to almost everyone and having no desire to take up piracy at this stage in my life (and the cats would eat my parrot) I’ll just link to Richard Wiseman’s Science of Ghosts blog where you can see many of them. Can’t really do justice to this talk without the photos, but for once I don’t seem to have any quibbles! However the main thrust of the talk, and it was incredibly entertaining as Spirit Photography always is was the fraudulent 19th century spirit photographers, especially William Mumler. Do have a look at this, it’s amusing!
Next up was “Dialogue with the Dead”: Creating ghosts for television” by Stephen Volk. I was really looking forward to this one – I recall Volk’s play about The Fox Sisters, and of course the infamous Ghostwatch Halloween drama that caused incredible outrage in the early 90′s, and more recently Afterlife, which I only really saw the end of. Was interesting to hear that the US show Medium that was on air at the same time was just a completely coincidental thing – noone was doing “Psychic detective drama” then two come along at once. Well probably more now, its own little genre, reflecting the Zeitgeist. Once Derek Acorah took the psychic reading thing out of the studio and on ot “haunted locations” it was inevitable that someone would write it?
Anyway I took notes as Volk led us on a biographical journey, and then through various screen writing tricks for writing horror. I scribbled half a page in Becky’s notebook, hoping to use some of it while running horror roleplaying games, and it was a solid entertaining talk lavishly “illustrated” with video clips. I wanted to talk to Stephen Volk afterwards but did not get the chance (we had to dash to make an appointment) but it was great to hear him speak and a thoroughly enjoyable session. Volk revealed that he does not believe in ghosts, and rather gently stated his sceptical position — he seemed almost apologetic – but he did state that in Afterlife his sympathies were with (Robert?) the psychologist, but that ultimately the storyline had to end with Robert facing his own death and mortality issues, and so his death led to the medium “winning”. I only saw the last three episodes, but it struck me as a really gripping series, and let’s face it I have no life and don’t watch TV. (Well not quite true – I watch very little TV!)
I wanted to ask him about the cancellation of the series, and if they had to shorten the story arc, and a lot else besides but it’s a bit intimidating to ask questions of the chap who wrote Ken Russell’s Gothic so I left it. Great fun though, and i felt sorry for him when he described the moral panic which gripped the nation after Ghostwatch. Who knows, we might have had Most Haunted ten years earlier if it had not been for that Halloween drama? It looks like Ghostwatch might soon have a documentary of its own – see here for details on the official Ghostwatch homepage. OK just two more talks to go and my review finally ends!