Supernatural Cities is an interdisciplinary network of humanities, social science and arts scholars of urban environments and the supernatural. We aim to encourage conversation between historians, cultural geographers, folklorists, social psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists, and literary scholars as they explore the representation of urban heterotopias, otherness, haunting, estranging, the uncanny, enchantment, affective geographies, communal memory and the urban fantastical. We will share calls for papers, work on collaborative funding bids, and promote relevant research. To facilitate this conversation, we host or co-host an annual conference and are developing an edited book on supernatural cities around the world.

Narrated geographies and spectral histories tend to survive as collective, communal constructions. With that in mind, this project also seeks to reach beyond academia to engage with both creative practitioners and a range of local community groups, with the aim of prompting imaginative interactions with and altering understandings of our urban spaces and places.

Lead researcher: Karl Bell

Karl is a Reader in Cultural and Social History in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature. His research interests focus on the relationship between the fantastical imagination and the urban environment. His previous publications have explored urban magical beliefs and practices, Victorian urban legends, nineteenth-century ghost lore, and the construction of haunted urban landscapes. He is also the co-founder of Portsmouth DarkFest.

Alison Habens

Alison is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of Media and Performing Arts.

Mark Eyles

Mark is Principal Lecturer in the School of Creative Technologies.

Tom Sykes

Tom is Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing in the School of Media and Performing Arts.

Alex Pavey

Alex is Research Assistant to the Supernatural Cities project in CEISR.

Eilis Phillips

Eilis is a PhD History student and part-time tutor in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature. She is currently researching monstrosity and occupational folklore in nineteenth-century Britain.

Beatrice Ashton-Lelliott

Beatrice is a PhD English Literature student in the School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature. She is currently researching Victorian stage magic and representations of stage magicians in nineteenth-century literature

Amanda Garrie

Amanda Garrie is a PhD Creative Writing student and part-time tutor in the School of Media and Performing Arts.

Social media networks

Supernatural Cities runs a discussion group on Facebook. There is also a Supernatural Cities events page.

Supernatural Cities is also on Twitter.

Linked sites

  • Open Graves, Open Minds - Exploring monstrosity across a broad range of media, past and present.
  • Inner Lives Project - A research project which uses interactions with the supernatural to explore the emotional experiences and interior lives of ordinary people between 1300 and 1900.
  • The Paranormal Database - This demonstrates a good attempt to outline a national picture of supernatural phenomena.
  • The Gothic Imagination - One of the best sites around for keeping abreast of developments in the academic study of gothic cultures.
  • The Alchemical Landscape - Based at the University of Cambridge, this ongoing research project explores the creative, aesthetic and political implications of the 'geographical turn'.


Annual conferences

Over the last three years we have held interdisciplinary conferences at the University of Portsmouth, Limerick School of Art and Design, and the University of Hertfordshire. In 2019 we held a postgraduate and early career researchers conference in Portsmouth. 

Portsmouth Darkfest 2019

This cultural festival celebrates the supernatural, the weird, and urban noir, and showcases the wealth of creative talent in Portsmouth. The festival was developed in collaboration between academics from the Supernatural Cities project, and local creative organisations including Portsmouth Writers Hub, 1000 Plateaus art collective, the Front Room, and T’Articulation.

Dark City – edited by Karl Bell and Stephen Pryde-Jarman

The Supernatural Cities project has been working with a group of talented local writers, many of whom are members of the Portsmouth Writers Hub, to produce an anthology of supernatural, weird, crime and horror tales set in Portsmouth.

Further information

Dr Karl Bell, Reader in Cultural History:
School of Area Studies, History, Politics and Literature, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, United Kingdom

Contact us via the Supernatural Cities Facebook group.

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