The American Folklife Center is pleased to announce Traditional Folklore in a Digital World, a two-part symposium on August 17 and 24, 2021, examining some of the ways folklore is spread, discussed, and transformed in the digital environment. The symposium will bring together leading podcasters and influential figures in social media who are helping define what folklore is in the 21st century. It will consist of two Zoom-based panels, one on podcasts and the other on social media. Each panel brings together four compelling leaders in online folklore, who will present a brief rundown of what they do, and then take questions from the audience. AFC staff, including me, will be there to moderate and direct the questions. We hope you’ll join us for a fascinating discussion. Both panels are free and open to the public, but registration is required. (Don’t worry, the links to register are below!)
The podcast panel will take place on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 at 2:00 pm Eastern Time; it will last about two hours and include a short break. The podcasters who will join us include Aaron Mahnke of the very popular Lore podcast, which is also a TV series and a series of books; Kristina Downs, executive director of the Texas Folklore Society and creator of the Crimelore podcast, which looks at true crime through the lens of folklore; Lamont Jack Pearley, a member of the New York Blues Hall of Fame and creator of Jack Dappa Blues Radio and The African American Folklorist; and Mark Norman, creator and host of The Folklore Podcast, Britain’s leading podcast on folklore.
The Social Media panel will take place on Tuesday, August 24, 2021, 10:30 am Eastern Time. It will last about two hours and include a short break. The Social Media world is represented by Dee Dee Chainey, a creator of the twitter hashtag event #FolkloreThursday, which went on to become an online magazine, and which led Chainey to author a series of influential folklore books; Andy Paciorek, an artist and writer who created the Folk Horror Revival Facebook community and Wyrd Harvest Press; and Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, creators of the award-winning Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, which also maintains blogs, a Facebook page, and an online community.
Of course, by now you’re all flocking to the links above to register! But if you’re wondering what the thinking was behind the symposium, read on for some background. And if you want more complete bios of the participants, read even further–you’ll find detailed bios below!
Traditional Folklore in the Digital World: Some Background to the Symposium
In creating this symposium, we’re recognizing that people all over the world use the internet as their first recourse to get news, information, commentary, and opinion, as well as entertainment. While this sometimes involves websites of traditional media such as newspapers and TV stations, it also encompasses a wide range of digital media such as podcasts, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter. We certainly see this in the folklore world, and folklore is a favorite subject of many popular podcasts and social media projects. Whether people want information or commentary on traditional fairy tales and legends, or emergent genres like creepypastas and memes, they’re likely to seek it online in social media groups and podcasts. We’ve decided to pursue these panels on traditional folklore in 2021, and hope to hold a later symposium to look at emergent forms.
In inviting these fascinating speakers, we are recognizing that many podcasts and social media sites about folklore present compelling content and back it up with savvy online marketing. Some have earned their creative talent recognition as folklore experts, and have spun off into published books, TV shows, and other media. By engaging audiences across a range of media, these creative professionals are helping to define what the public thinks of as folklore. As the premiere public folklore institution in the United States, and one that itself engages in both podcasting and social media, we felt that the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress should be engaging with these leaders, learning from them and their experiences, and allowing our audiences to meet and interact with them. That was the inspiration behind these panels. Below, you’ll find more about the participants and links to visit them online.
Participant Biographies and Links
Panel 1: Podcasts
Kristina Downs is the creator and head writer and researcher for the Crimelore podcast, which examines the intersections between traditional folklore and true crime. She is also the secretary-editor and executive director of the Texas Folklore Society and an assistant professor in the Department of English and Languages at Tarleton State University. She holds a PhD in Folklore from Indiana University, an MA in Folklore from George Mason University, and a BA in Latin American Studies from the College of William and Mary. She was managing editor of the Journal of Folklore Research for five years and she is co-editor of the forthcoming edited volume Advancing Folkloristics (Indiana University Press, 2021), which considers current issues in the field of folklore studies. In addition to crime legends, her research includes representations of Indigenous heroines in the United States and Mexico, injury narratives, and amateur crime-solving communities.
Aaron Mahnke is the creator, producer, and host of the hit podcast Lore (Best of iTunes 2015 & 2016). Lore is an award-winning, critically acclaimed podcast about true-life scary stories. Each episode examines a dark historical tale in a modern campfire experience. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares…because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. Lore has garnered more than 33,500 5-star reviews on Apple Podcasts and over 310 million listens. Its popularity led to the creation of a Lore television show on Amazon, with Mahnke as executive producer. Mahnke also spun Lore off into a successful “World of Lore” book series. In addition to Lore, Mahnke founded Grim & Mild Entertainment, which produces other historical and folkloric podcasts, including Unobscured, American Shadows, and Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities.
Mark Norman is the creator and host of The Folklore Podcast, which examines many areas of folklore and folklife: legendary creatures, ghosts and the supernatural, fairies and fairy beliefs, seasonal customs, storytelling, material culture, and more. Each month, Mark interviews guests from the folklore world on one of these topics as well as looking at folklore books on The Folklore Podcast Book Club. Mark is a folklore researcher and author based in the United Kingdom. He is a committee member of the Folklore Society, the longest standing learned society for the study of Folklore. He is one of only a few researchers specializing in the field of Black Dog apparitions, and holds what is believed to be the UK’s largest archive of Black Dog sightings and eyewitness accounts, spanning 900 years. He is the author of the books Black Dog Folklore and Telling the Bees and other Customs: The Folklore of Rural Craft and the curator of The Folklore Library & Archive.
Lamont Jack Pearley
Lamont Jack Pearley is the host of the radio shows and podcasts Jack Dappa Blues Radio and The African American Folklorist. He is an applied folklorist, a blues musician, an ethnographer, a filmmaker, and a historian of African American traditional music. His work documenting African American vernacular narratives, musics, and cultures has resulted in an extensive collection of field interviews with historians, documentarians, blues and folk musicians, and the children of Black music legends. This body of work earned him an induction into the New York Blues Hall of Fame as Great Blues Historian and TV/Radio Producer (2017) and Great Blues Artist (2018). Pearley co-directs the non-profit 501(c)(3) Jack Dappa Blues Heritage Preservation Foundation, through which he explores, highlights and raises cultural and ethnic awareness of African American traditional music and the Black experience. One project of the foundation is The African American Folklorist, a monthly newspaper with associated podcasts and social media. Pearley is enrolled at Western Kentucky University, where he is an African American Studies Ambassador with the African American Studies Department.
Panel 2: Social Media
Dee Dee Chainey
Dee Dee Chainey is one of the founders of #FolkloreThursday. #FolkloreThursday began as a Twitter hashtag day, on which people all over the world post folklore related blog posts, folklore items, folklore-related photos and artworks, and quotations about folklore. #FolkloreThursday then developed a website, which they describe as “an online magazine filled with top folklore articles from the some of the best creatives and academics from around the world!” Chainey is an archaeologist by training. She has worked on community heritage outreach projects within museums, galleries, charities and schools, and volunteered with Berber girls in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco during the Arab Spring. She acted as outdoors education manager in a forest school, as one of four women who led the institution to be named the best in the UK. This journey of connecting people through past and present culminated in the creation of #FolkloreThursday. She now spends her time curating folklore from around the world for digital communities. Her first book, A Treasury of British Folklore: Maypoles, Mandrakes and Mistletoe, was published by National Trust Books. She has since written two more folklore collections, Treasury of Folklore – Seas and Rivers, and Treasury of Folklore – Woodlands and Forests, co-authored with #FolkloreThursday’s Willow Winsham.
Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman
Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman are the founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic, an award-winning online school that offers courses in folklore, creative writing, and related topics. Warman and Cleto earned PhDs in English and Folklore from The Ohio State University in 2018 and MAs from George Mason University in 2012. They have taught dozens of courses, have won numerous awards, and have dozens of academic and creative publications both together and separately. In 2019, Carterhaugh received the Dorothy Howard Prize from the Folklore and Education Section of the American Folklore Society, an award that honors those who “us[e] folklore in educational settings in rich and meaningful ways […] both within and outside the classroom.” In making the announcement, the section dubbed Carterhaugh “a folk school for the digital age.” In addition to formal courses, Carterhaugh spreads information and inspiration about folklore through a blog, a Facebook discussion group, a Twitter page, an Instagram account, and a YouTube channel.
Andy Paciorek, founder of Folk Horror Revival, is an artist and writer who describes himself as “drawn mainly to the worlds of myth, folklore, symbolism, decadence, curiosa, anomaly, dark romanticism and otherworldly experience, and fascinated both by the beautiful and the grotesque and the twilight threshold consciousness where these boundaries blur.” He believes that “the true magick of art is the discovery of the sublime within the mundane, the beautiful within the grotesque, the light within the darkness and all those reversed.” Folk Horror Revival is a self-described ‘gathering place to share and discuss Folk Horror in film, TV, books, art, music, events and other media. The main activity of the Folk Horror Revival community is a Facebook page. They also maintain a website, and produce blogs, a YouTube channel, Spotify playlists, and, increasingly, books, through their imprint Wyrd Harvest Press. Their subject matter is the horrific in folklore, and folklore in horrific art and fiction, including paranormal tales, witch and vampire lore, ghost stories, and murder ballads. Paciorek explains: “Folk horror is less about horror, at least traditional definitions of horror, than may be first thought. What separates ‘Folk Horror’ from the simply ‘folk’ is a certain sense of dislocation from the comfortable world, but it is a dislocation that does not necessarily have to be frightening; it is the difference between a dusty window in an old cottage and that same window framing an indistinct face, peering out.”