Romancing the Gothic Conference 2023 – The Supernatural and Witchcraft in belief, practice and depiction

In 1848, William Harrison Ainsworth published his novel The Lancashire Witches based on the real-life witch-trials in Pendle in 1612. Exploring the background of the trials and executions, it was heavily based on Thomas Potts’ Wonderfull Discoverie of Witches in the Countie of Lancashire (1613). 1848 also saw the publication of Catherine Crowe’s The Night-Side of Nature with T. C. Newby. The book purported to unclose something of this ‘night side of nature’ with all its wonders. After all, she tells us, ‘we are encompassed on all sides by wonders, and we can scarcely set our foot upon the ground, without trampling upon some marvellous production that our whole life and all our faculties would not suffice to comprehend.’ The book featured accounts of dreams, wraiths, doubles, ghosts and more. This year, Romancing the Gothic is marking the 175th anniversary of these publications with a conference dedicated to the subjects which lie at the heart of both texts: witchcraft, the supernatural in history, belief, practice and depiction.

We invite individual papers (20 minutes) or panels (3 x 20 minutes) exploring the fictional, factional and factual depiction or discussion of witchcraft and the supernatural from any period. This conference seeks to focus on the changing ways in which practices and beliefs have been understood and depicted as well as mapping the ways in which discourses of witchcraft and of the supernatural have been deployed in different historical, political, theological and social contexts. We welcome papers discussing all traditions of witchcraft and supernatural belief and depiction and would particularly encourage pre-formed panels discussing specific national or cultural traditions.

We welcome papers on topics including:

The Night Side of Nature and The Lancashire Witches

The wider work of William Harrison Ainsworth and Catherine Crowe

The Lancashire ‘witches’

The depiction of witches in fiction, film, video games etc.

The depiction of witch trials

Histories of persecution

Factual and factional writing on the supernatural

Occult writers

The depiction of the supernatural in fiction and film

Ghost-hunting (historical or contemporary)

Ghost stories

Social histories of the ghost

Real ghosts and hauntings

Supernatural typologies

Queering the Supernatural

Changing theologies of the supernatural

Brujeria and its depiction in contemporary media

Fear and the supernatural

Healing and the supernatural

Histories of ghost (and other supernatural) belief

Supernatural dreaming in fiction and fact

Changing theologies of the supernatural

Internet subcultures related to witchcraft and the supernatural

The conference will be held entirely online on 26th-27th August 2023. We will be accepting abstracts until March 31st 2023. Please send abstracts of 250-300 words and a short bio. We accept and welcome papers from academics and non-academics, including practitioners. We also welcome pitches for ‘workshops’ or interactive activities. For previous conferences these have included: 18th century dance lessons, cooking with Dracula demonstrations, and creative writing workshops. Please send all pitches to the conference organiser Dr Sam Hirst (University of Liverpool/Oxford Brookes University) at

To ensure the conference is accessible to the maximum number of people, there is no fee for presenters. Everyone delivering a paper or workshop will be offered a small honorarium. The event is online, using subtitling and will be recorded so that those unable to attend at various times (for example, due to timezones) are able to access all the events. Please contact me with any questions or requirements related to accessibility at the email address above.

If this is your first conference or you would like support with abstract writing, I will be putting on an online workshop on writing abstracts. Please email me at if you would like to attend.

Published by SamHirst

This started off as a story blog to share the little fictions that I like to write but it's turned into something a bit more Goth! I'm Dr Sam Hirst and I research the Gothic, theology and romance and at the moment I'm doing free Gothic classes online! We also have readalongs, watchalongs and reading groups. And I post fun little Gothic bits when I have the chance. Find me on twitter @RomGothSam

2 thoughts on “Romancing the Gothic Conference 2023 – The Supernatural and Witchcraft in belief, practice and depiction

  1. I am intrigued. I will be following here forward and looking at conferences and lectures. I am not a scholar, rather I studied sociology in college and work as a case manager; but, I am exploring and studying works that are within your specialty hub as they intertwine with my goal to understand a book I’m reading. I’ve been working to understand this particular book since February 2021. It consumes my free time and I am completely astounded by its intricate weave and connections between historic events and literature. In my opinion, this book is a literary work of geniuses. It’s humorous, entertaining, educational and filled with fantasy, goth, horror, history, romance and chivalry. It’s filled with treasures and identifies them in secret code through works of cultural art and history. I believe it will be a acclaimed a masterpiece in due time once it’s treasures are deciphered. It mimics others whereby deciphering mysterious codes gave chase for years. Likewise, this book will be a similar stunning piece of work when it’s depth can be determined. I think you can help me understand this book and open the windows to its true treasures, then move towards opening the doors with its keys.
    Many gratitudes for your posts. I have to get back to my book! 🙂


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