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University of Cumbria professor explores the tale of a screaming skull

Professor Robert Williams at Burton Agnes Hall
Professor Robert Williams at Burton Agnes Hall

[P]rofessor of Fine Art Robert Williams’ latest book Calvariae Disjecta: The many hauntings of Burton Agnes Hall, has been launched in the UK.

The book was developed in conjunction with artist and designer James Brook, artist and writer Dr Kate Briggs (American University in Paris/Piet Zwart Institute, Rotterdam) and cultural sociologist Dr Hilmar Schäfer (Europa-Universität Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany).

A popular English ghost story, The Screaming Skull of Burton Agnes Hall demonstrates how an idea and narrative can persist over many years. Drawing from his existing library and decades of research, Robert retells the story, reflecting how it has been presented by more than 100 different sources extending across more than 150 years.

Collaborating with Dr Hilmar Schäfer, Robert resonates the passing down of the story as quoted text, oral tradition and downright plagiarism, as it draws together the many instances of reference across the centuries that combine to tell a story that says as much about cultural and historical traditions, as about a grizzly tale of murder, grave-opening, and screaming skulls.

Patrick Wildgust, curator of Shandy Hall for the Laurence Sterne Trust, Coxwold, Yorkshire, says of the book: “Robert Williams takes a tale of ghosts, skulls and things-that-go-bump-in-the-night and by researching variations and alternative ways of diffusion, explores and demonstrates just how complex the mechanism of telling a simple story really is.”

The book is published by the artists/conceptual writers imprint Information as Material.

168 pages – 12 in full colour – 170mmx215mm

ISBN: 978-1-907468-23-0

RRP £25.00

Available from

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