My name is Heather McCallum, and I’m a teratologist and researcher. For the past four years, I have studied the way we connect to monsters, and how our monsters connect to us. Monster stories were an important part of my childhood, but as I connected with different groups of people, I realised that these monster narratives influenced a vast body of individuals in different and discrete ways. I became excited to see just how important these monsters were.
Monsters are an important part of our storytelling. They help us conceptualize and relate unspoken evils, discuss the formation, violation, or destruction of taboos, and address certain parts of ourselves that we’d rather not look too far into. We see the discussion of what we consider to be a monster, and what our monsters do for us as early as the child-aimed ‘The Monster at the End of This Book‘, up through ratty copies of ‘Goosebumps‘ passed hand-to-hand in middle schools and public libraries, and into splatterhouse films, the delight of teenagers and young adults who want to prove they’re not afraid of the dark. We make fun of our monsters, like in Ghostbusters, or we take them seriously enough to put our own faces on them, like in Silence of the Lambs. Our monsters can have paranormal powers, or be extensions of our own science, or be the paladin of forceful, merciless nature, or be twisted psychological studies.
Depending on the storyteller, our monsters can become hilarious examinations of society, the stuff of nightmares, or romantic ideals. Fear can be named and minimized, or heightened as the ‘essence of things unseen’. But at the end of the day, we create monsters, and we use monsters, and we tell stories about monsters, and my purpose is to figure out their purpose in our lives. What makes monsters so appealing? Why do they sell? Why do women want to date them and men want to be them? How do we use our monsters, and how do we incorporate them into our lives?
Join me as I journey In the Footsteps of Monsters.