Supernatural Cities: Enchantment, Anxiety, Spectrality

Karl Bell (Editor)

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Far from being a static or eroding cultural inheritance from the past, the supernatural has continually been appropriated and updated to accommodate and express social, cultural, economic and environmental anxieties.

Since the Enlightenment, supernatural beliefs and practices have largely been derided as ignorant and un-modern - even anti-modern - and cities, being the ultimate symbol of progress and rationality, have not been thought to harbour magic. Scholars have long assumed that the world of the supernatural withered under the impact of urbanisation; yet, as numerous books, films and T.V. series from Hellboy to Being Human to the Harry Potter franchise show, contemporary culture remains fascinated by urban-based legends and fantasy. 

This collection seeks to spur interest in the urban supernatural and argues for its prevalence, importance and vitality by presenting a rich cultural history of the complex relationship between supernatural beliefs and practices, imagination and storytelling, and urbanisation. Grouped around themes of enchantment, anxiety and spectrality, it explores urban supernatural cultures on five continents between the late eighteenth century and the present day. The book advances a ground-breaking exploration of the communal and cultural function of urban supernatural ideas, demonstrating how they have continually been appropriated and updated to express and accommodate socio-cultural, economic and environmental anxieties and needs.

Drawing together a diverse range of academic approaches, with contributions from historians, geographers, anthropologists, folklorists and literary scholars, it makes an important contribution to our understanding of how urban environments, both past and present, inform our imaginations, cultural insecurities and spatial fears.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell and Brewer Ltd
Number of pages323
ISBN (Electronic)9781787446052
ISBN (Print)9781783274413
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • supernatural
  • urban history
  • folklore
  • ghosts
  • magic
  • international


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