Along a musky and dingy back alley of London, a queue of people stand with anticipation plastered on their faces, alcoholic beverages quenching their thirst and muffled voices speaking about terror. The queue is growing as the night draws darker, and the sense of excitement builds as the growing audience prepare themselves for an evening filled with fear, laughter and history hosted by the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies.

The evening in question was a masterclass presented by Richard J. Hand who is a professor of Media Practice at the University of East Anglia. Not only does Hand teach, but he’s also a keen writer himself and has penned three of books about his topic of choice for the macabre evening. Horror and Hilarity: Grand Guignol masterclass is a look at the historic theatre that was situated in Pigalle, Paris between 1897 to 1962, which was home to elaborate, terrifying and also hilarious shows that depicted adultery, violence, torture and murder. The shows became notorious for their special effects that were often so gory that members of the audience would find themselves fainting and screaming at the horrors they had just witnessed.

The masterclass about the Grand Guignol was a fascinating history about the “bloody and extreme” nature of the shows, how it came to exist and how it went on to influence modern horror. Hand painted an exceptionally detailed picture of the theatre and the shows with the use of descriptive content and also some exclusive images and video footage, that is difficult to find anywhere online. Even though you could spend hours online looking for information on the Grand Guignol, it doesn’t have the same atmosphere as sitting and listening to someone who knows the facts and presents them in a digestible and engaging way just as Hand did. He shocked the audience with scenes from the gory shows, and then caused us to laugh with his analogies, which kept the tone consistent with the title of the event ‘horror and hilarity’.

The event was situated in The Horse Hospital in Russell Square, which felt perfect for the topic with its cobbled brick walls, dark interior and a chill that rattles your bones all evening (remember to wrap up warm as it is rather chilly). An essential part of every event as a Londoner is the drinks price and you’ll be able to sneak in a few wines or beers with the prices sitting just between £3 – £3.50 for glass or bottle. The event finished at 10pm and with the tube the next street over, it’s conveniently located for those of us who have an early bedtime.

The Horror and Hilarity: Grand Guignol masterclass was an exciting experience which was good for networking with like minded people, learning some general knowledge on a new topic and also for research purposes. You may have missed this evening, but the Miskatonic Institute of Horror Studies have more events coming up which are a must-attend for horror lovers! The next event is happening on Thursday 7th March and is called ‘The Paranoid Woman’s Film’, which will look at how women and feminity during the second World War changed the shape of horror films.

You can find more more information and the other other masterclasses coming up right here