October 2014 | Barbara Basbanes Richter

Demons and Goblins in the Stacks

Children around the globe are no doubt rejoicing that Halloween falls on a Friday this year, giving them ample time to indulge in sugar-coated treats.  Adults have plenty of opportunities get in on the fun as well, with libraries offering macabre literary spectacles.  As part of a larger series of lectures, presentations and parties devoted to understanding Gothic subculture and mythology, The British Library is hosting a ticketed event this evening called LATE at the Library: The Sorting. For fifteen pounds, (roughly 24 dollars) visitors are invited to attend a very special funeral - their own.  U.K. theater company Les Enfants Terribles repurposed the Library as a funeral parlor, where attendees will be greeted by an undertaker as make their way through the afterlife, all the while enjoying live music and libations.

Le Vampire,engraving by R. de Moraine

Le Vampire,engraving by R. de Moraine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Library will also open its latest installation Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination tonight. It includes two hundred objects ranging from Mary Shelly's manuscript for Frankenstein to stills from Clive Barker's 1987 thriller Hellraiser  and celebrates Gothic literature's icy grip on public imagination. Since Bram Stoker's Dracula is part of the exhibition, the Library is offering visitors a chance to win a trip to Transylvania.  Through the end of January, visitors can continue exploring Gothic tradition by attending a lecture on a rare Victorian era vampire slaying kit, (similar to the one Christie's auctioned in 2013) or panel discussions on Gothic art's inspiration for contemporary designers, artists and musicians.  

Stateside, library patrons can slake their thirst for ghastly art at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, which recently opened an exhibition of European prints and drawings culled from the Library's holdings.  Various works on paper depict images of witches, goblins, demons and various monsters in order to explore how Europeans conceptualized horror from the Renaissance through the 19th century.  This exhibit runs through December 15th, and includes works by masters like Goya, Dürher and Boyle.