Annual Utley Lecture: Chris Woodyard on "The Many Roads to Fairyland"

Chris Woodyard
February 22, 2019
All Day
180 Hagerty Hall

Join the Center for Folklore Studies and the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies for the annual joint Francis Utley Lecture, hosted this year as the keynote address for the Popular Culture and the Deep Pastannual event!

Abstract: Just as the Fairy Queen showed Thomas of Erceldoune three roads, there are many highways and byways in fairylore. Our keynote address will begin with a case of fairy abduction, followed by a brief history of the transformation of early malevolent and dangerous fairies to the present-day twinkling guardians of nature as seen in popular culture, including tales directed at children. 

The striking parallels between the fairies of the Medieval period as described in poetry, ballads, and exempla and the fairies of the 19th century will be examined.  Themes addressed will include: the recurring conflation or confusion between the Queen of Heaven and the Queen of Fairyland; archaic fairy fashions; the fairy blast; and the relationship between fairies and the dead. 

As the corpse road is one of the lesser-known roads to Fairyland, we find ghostlore and fairylore overlapping in reports of White Ladies, Banshees, spook-lights, and Boggarts. The address will conclude with thoughts on the renewed interest in fairies in the 21st century, including the revival of the Fairy Investigation Society and its new Fairy Census, fairy cosplay, and Faerie as a spiritual path. 

Bio: I was doomed to be a writer. I wrote (well, dictated) my first book in first grade. It was about a witch and I’ve been writing about the supernatural ever since.

My formal education includes a degree in Medieval & Renaissance Studies. My ongoing studies are eclectic: dressed religious images, folklore, jewelry, costume history, doll houses and miniatures, Hispanic Colonial art, nuns (particularly cloistered orders).

I’ve done a fair number of jobs in my life: I’ve been a housecleaner (discovering a friendly neighborhood counterfeiter with a printing press in the basement), a church organist (accompanied by a ghost who sometimes sits in the dark church, listening to me practice), a technical editor and writer of children’s textbooks (yes, I wrote story problems!—the Horror….), and owner of a vintage clothing store (haunted by a ghostly man who pushed my assistant down the stairs.) It’s a full life….

I’ve written a series of books on the ghosts and ghostlore of Ohio: The Haunted Ohio series. These consist of Haunted Ohio, volumes 1 through 5 (I-V) as well as Ghost Hunter’s Guide to Haunted Ohio and Spooky Ohio: 13 Traditional Tales for younger readers and storytelling. Haunted Ohio volumes I-V are available both in paperback and e-book for Kindle. Ghost Hunter’s Guide and Spooky Ohio are available in paperback.  The first of my newest series, The Ghosts of the Past, is The Face in the Window: Haunting Ohio Tales, a scrapebook of Victorian hauntings and horrors. The second in the series, The Headless Horror: More Haunting Ohio Tales was published in January 2013, tells of ghosts, as well as fortean wonders and mysteries.  The third, which expanded coverage to the US, is titled The Ghost Wore Black: Ghastly Tales from the Past.  My latest book is The Victorian Book of the Dead, a macabre collection of the morbid and the mournful from the Victorian era. Ghosts, petrified corpses, undertaker interviews, and tales from the crypts.

I’ve also published a collection of short stories, A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales, as an e-book for Kindle. In these neo-Edwardian tales you’ll meet a sentimental succubus, a ghostly seamstress with a lethal reputation, a vindictive aunt demanding respect from beyond the grave, and a homicidal Edwardian housekeeper. Think Downton Abbey meets Dexter.

I grew up reading writers like Saki, Wodehouse, and Dickens and classical ghost stories by authors like M.R. James and E.F. Benson. I like subtle ghost stories and stories with details about sewing and costume history (see “Stitches” and “Crape”, in A Spot of Bother), because of my fascination with vintage clothing. “Crape”, for example, is a story about Victorian mourning conventions gone horribly wrong.

I’ve got a number of projects in the works including more books in the Ghosts of the Past series, the Killer Budgie blog, and a new fictional collection: Suction: Tales of Domestic Horror. The title story is about a haunted vacuum cleaner, reflecting my horror of housework.

I’m always happy to hear from my readers. The quickest way to reach me is to visit my Facebook page: Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard.  And please visit my Killer Budgie Blog at

Thanks for reading my books and happy hauntings!

This event is free and open to the public. If you require assistance at this event, please email Nick Spitulski at