A group of local academics are ready to spook listeners while also setting them straight on some slightly strange topics.
Leading up to Halloween night, the fifth annual Bigfoot Haunt lecture series, Spooks Real & Imagined, is offering free, daily presentations at Spokane Falls Community College, a campus appropriately home to its own Bigfoot mascot.
The Bigfoot Haunt is organized by SFCC history professor Monica Stenzel, a self-proclaimed Halloween superfan. One of her research focuses is the history of witchcraft.
"I just really love Halloween," Stenzel reiterates. "And when I started talking to people, as we talked about our disciplines, I got this idea that it would be kind of fun to have an academic but kind of lighthearted series of talks at the college" that all somehow relate to scary, Halloween-ish topics.
On this year's schedule of lectures, held weekdays between Oct. 25-31 (see sidebar for details), are discussions about witchcraft, animal graves, organic decay, supernatural horror, comic book monsters and Martians. Faculty presenters have backgrounds in anthropology, astrology, creative writing and forensic science.
All talks are free and open to the public, though Stenzel says campus guests will want to make sure to park in a metered lot. All but one talk begins at 8:30 am, and held in campus building 24, room 110. The final presentation, on Halloween, is at 11:30 am in the college's planetarium.
Stenzel's presentation is titled "Witchcraft: Diabolic Pacts or Doting Parents?" It kicks off the series on the morning of Thursday, Oct. 25.
"Mostly what I look at is Renaissance and early modern European witchcraft, and American colonial — the Salem trials and other American trials in Connecticut," Stenzel explains. "There are two traditions of [belief] where magical powers come from: inherited, like Harry Potter, or, one of the big traditions of European witchcraft is they persecuted people because they thought they got powers from making pacts with the devil."
Anthropologist Sarah Martin, who's giving the talk "Grave Tales: Ancient Animal Burials," on Monday, Oct. 29, meanwhile, is sharing some of her research on ancient world cultures known to have practiced ritualistic and intentional animal burials.
Perhaps one of the more gruesome Bigfoot Haunt topics, Stenzel says, is Anna Ballard Wilson's "Bone-ified Tale of Decomposition," on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Wilson also works for the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab.
"I've heard Anna talk before, and she's done a lot with forensic entomology. When [the WSP] finds dead bodies, they find out how long they've been dead by what bugs are crawling through them," Stenzel notes.
Stenzel is excited to bring together experts across varied academic disciplines to share some of the darker elements of their work.
"With interdisciplinary talks, it's great to find common ground and holidays are a great way to do that," she says. "Someone can find something in common with science, or food and the language of Halloween." ♦
Bigfoot Haunt Speaker Series: Spooks Real & Imagined • Oct. 25-26 and Oct. 29-31; times vary • Spokane Falls Community College • 3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr. • bit.ly/2Mfavf2
BIGFOOT HAUNT SPEAKER SERIES
Thu, Oct. 25 at 8:30 am
- "Witchcraft: Diabolical Pacts or Doting Parents?" by Monica Stenzel
- "Monsters & Murder & Drugs, Oh My!: Comics and Moral Decay" by Tim Greenup
- "Grave Tails: Ancient Animal Burials" by Sarah Martin
- "Bon-ified Tale of Decomposition" by Anna Ballard Wilson
- "A Short Tour of Browning County: Readings from Supernatural Horror" by Jay Gunter
- "War of the Worlds: Mars Then and Now" by John Whitmer