, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 30, 2013

Horror at the Athenaeum: a high-brow Halloween series


Concerns about science were rife in the 19th century when Mary Shelley’s “Frankstein” (1818), Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1886), H. G. Wells’ “The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1896) and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” (1897) were written. Suddenly, the patterns of centuries, including beliefs in God, were being upset by scientific progress, and Schopf pointed to the resulting anxiety.

“People were asking questions about the limits that science should be allowed to go to.”

And after more than a century of scientific progress, including, for example, a revolution in genetics, a scary future doesn’t seem any less likely.

“A lot of these issues have not gone away,” Schopf said.

Her program will end with two nights on what she calls the only “erotic” monster, Dracula. As a concept, the bloodthirsty Transylvanian can be traced back 3,000 years. But he’s a monster capable of drawing people in.

“He uses sucking and drinking and nuzzling the neck as a way of seducing women,” Schopf explained. “He gives the promise of eternal life.” And the hero “has to reason scientifically on how to defeat him.”

Free e-texts of each book are available online, and Schopf can’t resist suggesting that people to do a little home study — read them.

But don’t get the impression she sees all this as work. Rather, it’s pure horror.

“And I thought it would be fun,” she said.

Attendance is $20 per person per night, $5 for students. All five nights can be purchased for $85.

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