Inspired by a love of monsters and gore, Tampa, Florida author Chris Kullstroem spent a year traveling and documenting her visits to eleven countries touring monster festivals and horror attractions. The end result is her book, “Drawn to the Dark,” a travel narrative of her explorations and insights into the universal fascination with fear. The venture took Kullstroem a year of exploring new cities and another year to write.
“I actually loved writing the book as much as I loved conducting the travels,” Kullstroem says, “because it let me include so many people I met and stayed with that year. Wherever I went, there were people excited about sharing their culture with me, and describing what it meant to grow up with these shows.”
Kullstroem has been drawn to the dark side for as long as she can remember. As a child, she always dressed in costume for Halloween but it was years before she left her home-made hobo and scarecrow costumes behind. Her passion for all things scary got stronger through the years and as Kullstroem sees it, it’s a great window into the human experience. She says, “Seeing how monstrous creatures are envisioned around the world is remarkable. It really demonstrates our ability to personify our hopes and fears. And when they’re put together in elaborate shows, it lets entire communities come out and celebrate.”
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Kullstroem's eleven country tour exploring festivals, attractions, haunted houses and ghost tours took her around Mexico, Europe, Japan and New Zealand, and finally a month across the United States. While she enjoyed all of the cities and different events, seeing Krampus, a half-goat, half-human figure who during the Christmas season punishes children who have misbehaved, stands out. In Chapter 2 of Drawn to the Dark, Kullstroem tells the story of her visit to Salzburg, an Austrian city on the border of Germany. The town has several parades, “laufs” as they’re called where Krampus is a focal figure. Locals dress as Krampus and carry “weapons” like a cow or horse tail or a bunch of branches; and as spectators walk by, they hit people. It’s not uncommon to leave with bruises, although that is all part of the allure of Krampus.
Kullstroem is a professor by trade teaching English Composition on-line which affords her a flexible schedule. "Drawn to the Dark" is her fourth publication, all of which can be found at her website www.monstersandbooks.com. She gives lectures on her experiences and likes to demonstrate how scare tourism blends history, theatre, and community. Her upcoming seminar at the Dunedin Public Library is sure to get everyone in the Halloween spirit.
Tuesday, October 24
Dunedin Public Library
Come see Chris Kullstroem in person as she chronicles her travels to eleven countries with personal stories and adventures for everyone to enjoy! If you can't make her event, visit her at Monsters and Books for more on her books and passion for all things scary!