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Haunted Air [Hardcover]

Ossian Brown , Geoff Cox , David Lynch
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: £25.00
Price: £17.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

28 Oct 2010

The roots of Hallowe'en lie in the ancient pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, a feast to mark the death of the old year and the birth of the new. It was believed that on this night the veil separating the worlds of the living and the dead grew thin and ruptured, allowing spirits to pass through and walk unseen but not unheard amongst men. The advent of Christianity saw the pagan festival subsumed in All Souls' Day, when across Europe the dead were mourned and venerated. Children and the poor, often masked or in outlandish costume, wandered the night begging 'soul cakes' in exchange for prayers, and fires burned to keep malevolent phantoms at bay.

From Europe, the haunted tradition would quickly take root and flourish in the fertile soil of the New World. Feeding hungrily on fresh lore, consuming half-remembered tales of its own shadowy origins and rituals, Hallowe'en was reborn in America. The pumpkin supplanted the carved turnip; costumes grew ever stranger, and celebrants both rural and urban seized gleefully on the festival's intoxicating, lawless spirit. For one wild night, the dead stared into the faces of the living and the

living, ghoulishly masked and clad in tattered backwoods baroque, stared back.

The photographs in Haunted Air provide an extraordinary glimpse into the traditions of this macabre festival from ages past, and form an important document of photographic history. These are the pictures of the dead: family portraits, mementoes of the treasured, now unrecognisable, other. Torn from album pages, sold piecemeal for pennies and scattered, abandoned to melancholy chance and the hands of strangers.

Frequently Bought Together

Haunted Air + Heavenly Bodies: Cult Treasures & Spectacular Saints from the Catacombs + The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Jonathan Cape (28 Oct 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0224089706
  • ISBN-13: 978-0224089708
  • Product Dimensions: 22.1 x 19.6 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 104,273 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"bewitching collection of found American Halloween photographs from 1875-1955." --VMAN Magazine

Book Description

A collection of anonymous Hallowe'en Photographs from America, c.1875 - 1955

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Customer Reviews

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4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Americana gone weird 29 Oct 2010
It's all there in the subtitle - 'A Collection of Anonymous Hallowe'en Photographs America c. 1875 - 1955' ... this is a wonderful book, culled from Ossian Brown's collection of Halloween photos from the America of yesteryear.
Deeply weird and strangely poignant, these anonymous images are strongly redolent of the work of Diane Arbus or Charles Gatewood (minus the body -modification and full-on nudity, of course), naive but at the same time very sinister. It's the homespun quality, both of the photos themselves and of the costumes that imply these qualities. A small child dressed up as a cat appears to be about to take a leak against a gatepost, an older youth (in pantaloons?) wearing a dog's head poses against a rural backdrop, a small boy in carnival mask poses between two older boys - the photo carries the dedication "the one that scares you is Donnie", but which one is Donnie - and what did he get up to?
Almost every image here implies something odd is about to happen, just seconds after the photo was taken. But what? That's up to you. Most of these photos appear to be taken in the 'burbs - what was going on in small town America? Is it any wonder that David Lynch was sufficiently enamoured to write a (typically odd) foreword?

Ossian Brown is a polymath - artist, occultist, collector and musician, most notably with Coil and Cyclobe, and he has put together a memorable collection of images.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Creeping Horror Of The Everyday 16 Jun 2011
By Chankos
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ossian Brown's incredible collection of found Halloween pictures is an absolute must for anyone with an affinity for the extraordinary. Looking through this book is like stumbling across a bizarre family album depicting an alternate reality where the American suburbs of yesteryear were descended upon by gangs of diminutive creatures somehow captured on film before they retreated into the shadows.

The sepia-toned, awkwardly-framed and hazy images convey a nightmarish intensity. Many of these photographs predate the mass production of Halloween masks and costumes, lending the crudely improvised outfits a genuinely sinister aura. Most chillingly of all, these evil clowns, merry demons and hessian-cowled figures inhabit the everyday: they pose on picket-fenced lawns, leaf-strewn porches and in living rooms, nestled comfortably in rocking chairs beside the fireplace.

This beautiful hardback is bound in appropriately sombre black cloth, with each photograph presented uncropped, one per page. David Lynch fittingly contributes the introduction (who better to preface a collection of images conveying the creeping, fantastical dread lurking behind the seemingly everyday?). Geoff Cox's eloquent afterword poetically traces the origins of Halloween, the ancient tradition reinterpreted most wondrously of all in America.

Thanks to Ossian Brown, this long-dead group of disparate amateur photographers and their subjects have created the best photography book of 2010. "Haunted Air" belongs in the library of anyone with an interest in photography and the shadows that lurk within.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Uncanny Characters 1 May 2012
By Pipster
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Beautiful book! Gorgeous vintage black & white photographs from the dark-side. David Lynch is on form as ever writing the introduction. If you are a Lynch fan, or just a fan of strangeness, you need this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sublime 28 Oct 2011
With a backdrop of Southern dirt farms, barren dry landscapes this collection of photographs are horrifying. The images look like the kind of nightmarish figures that you catch out of the corner of your eye. The sort of images that shouldn't be able to be caught on camera. Whilst looking at them for a time you feel that some figure in a blacked up face, conical hat and blank eyes could be staring through the window and vanish as you glance up. A genuinely disturbing book , a must.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully eerie. 2 Mar 2012
By Octo7
Haunted Air is a beautiful hard-cover collection of Halloween photographs from America's past. There's something very strange and even magical about this book. The introduction by David Lynch is short, sweet and beautifully written; then we get straight to the photographs. The pages are of high-quality paper and the print-job is perfect; the photographs jump out from centre of their plain-white surroundings, right into your mind. There is on average, one photo for every two pages, the left page is often blank while the right contains the image, it's so minimal and effective, and gives each image the attention it duly deserves. I'm not going to try to explain the images, they just need to be seen.
So fans of the macabre, weird, dark, fantastical, and wonderful should find something to enjoy here. If you have even a mild interest in the contents of this book, I know you will love it.

(Also, as a Coil fan, I thought it was nice to see this book is dedicated to Jhon Balance.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Passport to another realm 12 May 2013
By Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles TOP 100 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Reminded me firstly of the Pop Group album cover, depicting a tribe of people immersed within their own ecstatic religion. These photos however are from America, sepia along with black and white images of children and adults steeped in their own pagan reverie. Bringing out the eerie other world, the pictures are of varying quality, but these bridge the pavement to this other world - where religion is put safely to one side and people communicate on another deeper surreal level.

So within, are the ghosts of the past, rising up, before the Old Testament was plastered over these people as ball on chain on the imagination. As such this book brings the historical realm back to the present and it makes the full realisation, people are suspended forever within their silent dreams.

These photos make the internal connection to Coil and David Lynch.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good purchase thanks.
Published 29 days ago by Gary
5.0 out of 5 stars For all you Spooky Spoon Heads out there......
A unique book collecting together such wonderful treats, some people have complained about the pictures not having any information, I would agree that would be nice, but I find the... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C F Haine
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
This book is the pride of my mini library at the moment :) i am showing it to anyone who will look. The book itself is made to a very high standard a hardback and lovely cloth... Read more
Published 7 months ago by marmitelover
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Photos
Wow some of these images are really eerie and haunting!
They have the feeling of belonging to some kind of secret cult and really fascinating to see the imagination of the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by C. Sanalan
4.0 out of 5 stars very nice
really like this book. It's well presented and gets the imagination working! Scared a friend a little bit, some of the pictures are a little bit creepy but am happy with my... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Bezza
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, intriguing and disturbing
This book is simply stunning. It is simply a collection of old photographs (some very old) showing some utterly amazing halloween costumes from the past. Read more
Published 17 months ago by A. Ruben
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning collection of eerie vintage Americana
I received this book as a birthday present, and the moment I opened it, I knew I had to look at every page before I even thought about opening my next gift. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Joanne Sheppard
5.0 out of 5 stars Creepy... I love it!
I keep picking this up for a flick through. Some of the creepiest pictures ever! A great talking point to bring out with friends too.
Published 21 months ago by Turlinator
5.0 out of 5 stars a baroque carnival
Having seen 9 reviews of 5 stars each, I had to see for myself what this was all about - and I am not disappointed. Read more
Published 23 months ago by M. Bridgeman
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeously Creepy!
After seeing a few of the photos from this book on another website, I knew I had to buy this! And I'm so glad I did! This book is gorgeous and creepy and wonderful. Read more
Published on 31 Aug 2012 by Gordon S
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