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August Online Symposium Will Feature Folklore Podcasters and Social Media Leaders

Head and shoulders portrait of two women

Brittany Warman (left) and Sara Cleto (right) are the founders of the Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic. Photo courtesy of Carterhaugh.

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.

Register at this link for the podcast panel!


Head and shoulders portrait of a man

Aaron Mahnke is the creator of the Lore podcast, TV show, and books, as well as other podcasts. Photo by Gage Skidmore, shared to Flickr with a Creative Commons License.

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.

Register at this link for the Social Media Panel!


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

A man on stage plays the guitar and sings into a microphone.

Lamont Jack Pearley. Courtesy of Lamont Jack Pearley.

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

Head and shoulders portrait of a woman

Courtesy of Kristina Downs

Kristina Downs

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.

Visit the Crimelore podcast here.

Visit the Texas Folklore Society here.

Waist up portrait of a man sitting in an armchair

Courtesy of Aaron Mahnke

Aaron Mahnke

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.

Visit the Lore Podcast here.

Visit Aaron’s Grim & Mild network here.

Head and shoulders portrait of a man

Courtesy of Mark Norman

Mark Norman

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.

Visit The Folklore Podcast here.

Visit The Folklore Library and Archive here.

Waist-up portrait of a man

Courtesy of Lamont Jack Pearley

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.

Find the Jack Dappa Blues Podcast here.

Follow The African American Folklorist here.

Panel 2: Social Media

Dee Dee Chainey

Head and shoulders portrait of a woman

Courtesy of 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.

Follow #FolkloreThursday on Twitter.

Visit #FolkloreThursday here.


Portrait of two women holding books

Brittany Warman (left) and Sara Cleto (right). Courtesy of Carterhaugh

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.

Visit The Carterhaugh School of Folklore and the Fantastic here.

Join the Carterhaugh Discussion Group on Facebook.

Andy Paciorek

Pen and ink drawing, head and shoulders portrait of a man

Self-portrait of Andy Paciorek

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.”

Visit Folk Horror Revival here.

Join the Folk Horror Revival Discussion Group on Facebook.

Langston Hughes on the Folklife Today Podcast

Season 3, Episode 8 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! Find it at the link from this post to the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. In this episode  John Fenn and I, along with guests Langston Collin Wilkins and Sophie Abramowitz, look at Langston Hughes as a “Hidden Folklorist.” As usual, I’ll present links to the relevant blog posts and audio selections in this post!

Hidden Folklorists and Hidden Spirituals on the Folklife Today Podcast

Our latest podcast looks at three “Hidden Folklorists” from Louisiana with special guest Joshua Clegg Caffery from the Center for Louisiana Studies at the University of Louisiana Lafayette. The Hidden Folklorists are Becky Elzy and Aberta Bradford, two spiritual singers who had been born in slavery, but who years later sang over a hundred spirituals for collectors; and E.A. McIlhenny, the head of the Tabasco Sauce company, who first collected their spirituals into a book. We recount details of how a microfilm of unique, unpublished manuscript spirituals by Bradford and Elzy came to be part of the American Folklife Center archive, and how Bradford and Elzy came to be recorded on audio discs for the Library of Congress by Alan Lomax in 1934, with the resulting recordings also coming to the AFC Archive. It’s an amusing story in which the 19-year-old Alan Lomax is forced to leave his father, the seasoned collector John A. Lomax “by the side of the road” and drive 40 miles with the 73 year old Bradford to try to find the 82 year old Elzy so they can sing together for the Library’s recording machine. The episode also presents several of their spirituals, and ends with the very moving recording of two women who had been born in slavery singing “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, got free at last!”

The Green Book and African American Travel with Candacy Taylor on the Folklife Today Podcast

Season 3, Episode 4 of the Folklife Today Podcast is ready for listening! In this episode, John Fenn and I interview Candacy Taylor, whose latest project is documenting sites associated with the Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel guide for African Americans during the Jim Crow era. Taylor discusses the dangers inherent in travel for Black people during an era where racial discrimination was legal and open racism was common. She fills us in on the origins of the Green Book. We discuss sites such as Dooky Chase’s restaurant in New Orleans, where owner Leah Chase slapped the hand of President Barack Obama for adding hot sauce to her famous gumbo, and where she fed a young Michael Jackson her signature sweet potato pie. We also discuss the historic Hampton House, a Jewish-owned hotel in Miami, where a young boxer named Cassius Clay met Malcolm X and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and where Martin Luther King, Jr. practiced his most famous speech.

American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress Launches Podcast ‘America Works’

The American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress is delighted to announce a new podcast:  “America Works.” It is based on our Occupational Folklife Project collection, and tells fascinating stories of American workers. You can listen to a trailer for this exciting new series in the player below: Listen and Subscribe to “America Works” […]

Homegrown at Home and Home Archive Challenge on the Folklife Today Podcast

Episode 19 of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 7) is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher.  As usual, I’ll use this blog post to direct you to fuller audio and video of the items we mentioned in the podcast, […]

Getting Inspired from Home on the Folklife Today Podcast!

Episode eighteen of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 6) is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on Stitcher, iTunes, or your usual podcatcher. It’s the first episode of the podcast that we’ve created from our homes, while unable to return to our offices or studio in the Library of Congress due to the social distancing measures imposed by Covid-19.  In the episode, John Fenn and I talk to three AFC staff members, Allina Migoni, Michelle Stefano, and Maya Lerman, about folklife collections and items that have been inspiring to them in this strange and difficult time.  We also talk about some of the materials that have been inspiring us. As usual, there are lots of audio excerpts from tunes, songs, and interviews in AFC collections.

Podcast: Episode 17, on Transcribing Lomax with By the People, is Ready for Listening!

Episode seventeen of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 5) is ready for listening! In the episode, John Fenn and Stephen Winick talk about a campaign called “The Man Who Recorded the World: On The Road with Alan Lomax.” It’s an effort to crowdsource transcriptions Alan Lomax’s fascinating field notes. Through this campaign, you can help out the Library of Congress and music fans worldwide by increasing access to Lomax’s field notes through transcribing and reviewing pages. Anyone can get involved at the link provided in the blog. The podcast and blog feature music from throughout Lomax’s career as well as descriptions of his notes.

Podcast: Part 2 of Winter Songs!

Episode 16 of the Folklife Today Podcast (or Season 2, Episode 4) is ready for listening! Find it at this page on the Library’s website, or on itunes, or with your usual podcatcher. Get Your Podcast Here! We’re also happy to announce that we’re now available on Stitcher as well–use this link here! In the episode, […]